Drew from Black Belt White Hat is on the blog today talking about adaptogens:
I first encountered the concept of an ‘adaptogen’ whilst researching the best ways of dealing with stress. I read an article regarding the herb – Rhodiola rosea. As an alternative to consuming copious amounts of caffeine and sugar to handle mental fatigue and ‘burnout’, these adapta-things are actually supposed to be good for you. Instead of giving you a short term boost like caffeine may do; they actually help (in some scientific way beyond my understanding) the functioning of the body’s response to stress, including but not limited to beneficial affects upon the adrenal system. Rhodiola rosea is a flowering plant, which resides in all the ridiculously cold regions of the world. Including Iceland, North America, the Artic and the UK. Like the good sceptic and all-round cynic that I am, I went straight to Google Scholar to look for some evidence regarding the claims associated with it. To my surprise there are proverbial piles of studies that support it’s anti-fatigue and anti-stress affects; including this study by Darbinyan et al, on the mental performance of physicians on night duty.
Now there are some recipes for Rhodiola rosea, but to be honest, it tastes pretty odd – it actually tastes much like a smelly flower. It is quite nice in a tea however; kind of like Ribena crossed with cough medicine. In fact, I’ll often add a splash of Ribena to the tea. If you don’t like the taste, you can always try the tablets. Taking tablets, as we all know, is not a ‘nice’ habit to get into, but if you are feeling really stressed out, (like I was when I found out I was getting made redundant) then you might not be overly concerned and may not want to start drinking strange teas. Out of all the adaptogens I have tried, I’ve actually found Rhodiola to have the quickest and most noticeable affect on mental stress and anxiety.
Maca Powder Maca powder, along with chia seeds and sweet potatoes, seems to be all the rage in the Crossfit and Paleo community at present. I first saw this product at my own gym, and after asking 99 questions, I bought some and gave it a go. It is actually a lot nicer than Rhodiola Rosea. It is also supposed to be great for both male and female fertility. I just throw it into my (hemp) protein shakes in the morning, I blend it up with unflavoured hemp protein, half a clove of garlic, a banana, some coconut milk, pumpkin seeds and hemp oil. Nom Noms. It’s not overly nice tasting when it is part of that particular concoction, I just neck it, and thing of the health benefits.
There is also a yummy recipe here and 14 more here.
Other Adaptogens of note: Ginseng is the most well known adaptogen there is, and Panax Ginseng is generally regarded as the most potent. There is research to suggest that it improves mental performance and reduces stress levels. Jiaogulan tea,is also known as Gynostemmapentaphyllum(!) This tastes a lot like green tea, and is often referred to as “Southern Ginseng” due to the fact they share similar properties. Although I’m reluctant to mention it as it sounds a little far fetched – this tea, or at least the plant it is derived from, has actually been linked to the death of cancer cells in scientific studies.
I’m not sure exactly how potent the benefits have to be, or exactly what the properties required are to be classified as an adaptogen, but turmeric, ginger, garlic and liquorice root have also been shown to boost immunity in one way or another. Luckily there are dozens of recipes that these can be used in. Do not underestimate the influence of diet on mental function and general well being. Chocolate and sugar may be the food of choice for an immediate comforting reward when we are feeling stressed out, but try and act logically rather than emotionally whenever possible when consuming food, and reach for the maca powder, not the Mars Bar.
Drew Griffiths has a first class honours degree in Sport & Exercise Science from Loughborough University, and a Masters’ degree in Exercise & Nutrition from the University of Liverpool. Drew is a keen martial artist and works in online marketing. He has his own blog – BlackBeltWhiteHat.com
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