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What are adaptogens? Adaptogens are a select group of herbs that support the body’s natural ability to deal with stress. They are called adaptogens because of their unique ability to “adapt” their function according to the specific needs of the body. This may be physical, chemical or biological needs. They have been compared to a thermostat, moderating the body’s stress response like a thermostat controls temperature. They have special compounds that can possess opposing qualities, such as being relaxing or stimulating. The correct response is triggered according to the body’s specific needs. They are often used as a healthy alternative to some prescribed medications and stimulants, anabolic steroids as well as common pick-me-ups like caffeine and sugar.

How do they work? Adaptogens increase resistance to stress, without disturbing normal biological functions. Researchers from the Swedish Herbal Institute believe adaptogens work at a cellular level. Clinical trials have demonstrated that adaptogens exhibit neuroprotective, anti-fatigue, antidepressive, anxiolytic, nootropic and CNS stimulating activity and they can increases mental work capacity against a background of stress and fatigue, particularly intolerance to mental exhaustion and enhanced attention.

Adaptogens do for your adrenal glands what exercise does for the muscles by interacting with the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and the sympathoadrenal system, tweaking hormone production and physiological responses to ensure the body functions optimally.

When the body is subjected to stress, adaptogens help the adrenal glands mount an immediate hormonal response by manufacturing and releasing more stress hormones. Stressors today are chronic such as pollution, unhealthy food, noise, jobs, personal relationships and information most of which don’t demand a physical response. In some ways stress can be very positive, because it can mobilize our body to cope with changes, with challenges. In other ways, though, our systems overreact, which can be damaging to our health. If the stress is prolonged, or if it’s too strong or too damaging, if too much of the stress hormone cortisol is released from the adrenals, you can have all kinds of dysfunction and disease. When the stress stops, however, the adaptogens help the adrenal glands shut down more quickly. In cases where stress is prolonged and/severe, the adrenals reserve their resources by reducing the amount of hormones they release due to adaptogenic restoration by hypothalamic receptor sensitivity. This conserved energy becomes available to continue the body’s response to stressors, thereby delaying adrenal exhaustion.

Gynostemma pentaphylum (ginseng) is is one of the most well-known adaptogenic herbs. It can increase energy, improve cognitive function, act as an anti-inflammatory, aid in erectile dysfunction, prevent flu and lower blood sugar.

This herb contains a family of compounds that upregulate alarmins including sestrins, which are produced during exercise. Sestrins activate an enzyme called adenosine monophosphate protein kinase (AMPk).

AMPk is the master metabolic regulator that instructs the body to start burning fuel for energy instead of storing it and replicates the metabolic and health benefits of exercise. AMPk also regulates metabolic activity in the liver, lipids, muscle, and brain which influences glucose utilization for energy, oxidation, and appetite.

Aspen MetaBoost contains ActivAMP extracted from Ginseng leaf. Panax ginseng alone also acts as an adaptogen increasing the body’s resistance to stress, increases stamina and endurance, and acts as a detoxifying and anti-aging agent. AMPk regulates energy balance at both the cellular and whole-body levels by direct phosphorylation of metabolic enzymes and transcription factors, AMPK switches on catabolic pathways, such as the uptake of glucose and fatty acids, and their metabolism by mitochondrial oxidation and glycolysis. ActivAmp is the metabolic master switch that turns on the same fat burning and energy producing metabolic processes that exercise does.

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