There are two major stress responses that occur in the body, with different hormones released in response to immediate stress and to more chronic, long term stress. When one is in a situation of immediate danger (think a car accident or life threatening emergency), the levels of stress hormones epinephrine and norepinephrine surge. These hormones are produced on an “as needed” basis, and quickly dissipate when any sense of threat is over. The body is well adapted to purge them efficiently from the system, as long as they are not being produced on an overly regular basis.
Low-grade, chronic stress however leads to ongoing production of the hormone Cortisol. Cortisol is the body’s response to every day stressors, but chronically high levels of cortisol have extremely negative long term health consequences. Cortisol can be relieved by physical exercise and other healthy lifestyle habits, but in a world where many of us spend hours at a desk with a never ending to-do list, keeping cortisol levels down can be a challenge. Cortisol is produced by the adrenal glands, and if day to day stressors keep the demand for cortisol high, adrenal fatigue or adrenal failure can follow. Chronically high cortisol leads to anxiety, fatigue, depression, mood swings, weight gain, memory loss and premature aging. The immune system can also be affected; the National Institute of Health believes stress plays a role in up to 90% of all illnesses.
Encountering some stressful situations on a day to day basis is unavoidable, and in large part one’s health depends on how well our bodies react to the presence of stress hormones, and how quickly we can return to a state of balance and homeostasis.
Adaptogens are compounds that increase your body’s ability to adapt to stress; that is, to encounter stressful situations without having an unnecessary stress response. This protects the entire adrenal system, and is important for keeping cortisol levels low. Adaptogens have an almost magical ability to return the system to balance: they heighten what needs to be heightened and lower what needs to be lowered. Think of them as a thermostat that senses your specific needs, and are able to “adapt” their function to return the body to homeostasis (it’s natural state of healthy balance). Unlike the common fixes for everyday fatigue and stress (often sugar, caffeine and alcohol in our society) adaptogens can increase energy without overstimulating, and do not lead to crashes or burn outs. They are the great equalizers, bringing cortisol levels back to a healthy range and providing gentle support to exhausted adrenal glands. On a cellular level, adaptogens help cells eliminate toxic byproducts and access more energy, and help the body utilize oxygen more efficiently. That’s a pretty amazing combination of benefits, considering they have limited side effects and can continually build in potency and effect when taken over time. Daily tinctures like our IrieCBD Stress Blend are the best way to create a sustainable level of adaptogens in the system.
Adaptogens are found in a variety of herbs and plants that have been used in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicinal traditions for centuries. In western naturopathic medicine, many herbal combinations have become standard support for increasing adrenal function, and building cellular resilience to stress. Some of the most potent adaptogenic herbs include the ancient Ashwaganda, a staple for stress relief in Ayurveda practice for centuries, which much like CBD is a powerful neuroprotectant, Holy Basil, which lowers blood cholesterol levels, and Black Maca, sometimes known as the Peruvian ginseng, which has a decorated history as a natural remedy for enhancing mood, increasing stamina and energy and even supporting fertility and healthy libido in men and women. (For more information on the benefits of specific adaptogenic herbs, check out this IrieELEMENTS article here.)
Our knowledge and understanding of how adaptogens affect the body, though based on centuries old traditions, has expanded greatly in recent years following the discovery of the Endocannabinoid System. Famed cannabis researcher Raphael Mechoulam, widely credited with being the first to cohesively map the Endocannabinoid System as well as the molecular structure of THC and CBD, describes it as the regulatory system maintaining homeostasis. As science continues to study the ways in which CBD increases the function of cellular communication, works to maintain homeostasis and increases the body’s ability to return to a healthy state after a stress response, our knowledge of all compounds with this property has deepened across the board. A powerful adaptogen in its own right, CBD’s role in protecting against stress responses and high cortisol levels by affecting the endocannabinoid system has led to increased scientific research into how other herbs and compounds may work in similar ways. Research has shown that Maca extract plays a role in supporting the endocannabinoid system as well, and exciting new studies are continually being done in this area.
Managing stress and supporting the body in returning to a state of calm and balance are vitally important for good health, and the ability of natural adaptogenic herbs to control stress hormone levels is an incredible tool. Our immune system, cellular function, mental clarity and response to aging are affected in important ways by the adrenal system, endocannabinoid system and cortisol levels, and these can all be affected by the natural power of adaptogenic compounds. Adaptogens are uniquely able to tailor their function based on the needs of the body at any given moment, and adding them to the diet is a wonderful gateway to the vitality, stable energy and healthy stress responses needed for a joy filled and healthy existence.
To learn more about our incredible Stress Blend, chock full of adaptogenic herbs and pure, terpene rich CBD, head over to IrieCBD.com