How Adaptogenic Mushrooms Can Help You Deal With Your Stress
What’s the buzz about adaptogenic mushrooms? How can they help our hormonal health? In this blog, we’re gonna break down the science and the stories about adaptogens, mushrooms, and hormones.
Adaptogens are herbs or mushrooms that help the body adapt to and handle physical, mental, and emotional stressors. They have been studied to support the function of the endocrine system, immune system, nervous system, and circulatory system. They also help to regulate the hypothalamus and adrenal glands, also known as the HPA axis. (4)
Herbalist David Winston, in his book Adaptogens, Herbs for Strength, Stamina and Stress Relief, states that ”adaptogens help the human body adapt to stress, support normal metabolic processes, and restore balance. They increase the body’s resistance to physical, biological, emotion and environmental stressors and promote normal physiologic function.”
Adaptogenic mushrooms and herbs have been utilized throughout traditional medical systems around the world for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. They are often known as rejuvenating herbs, qi tonics, rasayanas or restorative tonics. Physicians and herbalists of the past knew these adaptogenic mushrooms and herbs well, and often used them to effectively support the health of their communities. (1)
Hormones, Stress, and the HPA axis
Hormones are the chemical messengers that send signals throughout the body about how the body is doing moment by moment. They communicate about your physiological state and regulate behavioral activities like digestion, metabolism, breathing, sensory perception, sleep, excretion, stress, reproduction, and mood.
Essentially, hormones communicate our sensations of hunger, arousal, joy, fear, and stress between the brain and other organs in the body so that we can safely interact and adapt to our environment.
The hypothalamus gland is the part of your brain that recognizes stress. When you are stressed, the hypothalamus signals the pituitary gland, and they both signal the adrenal glands to produce and release stress hormones. This is called the hypo-pituitary thalamus adrenal (HPA) axis.
The primary function of the HPA axis is to regulate the stress response. When we experience something stressful, the HPA engages and a series of hormones are secreted, including cortisol.
Cortisol, commonly known as the stress hormone, is what courses through our veins when we are in flight or fight mode. It makes our blood vessels dilate allowing for more blood to pulse to our extremities, it makes our senses sharper, dilates the pupils, and prepares us to handle a fight or flight situation.
Cortisol is great when we need it to hyper-focus all of our energy on survival, making it possible to think on our feet to avoid an accident or fight for our life. However, cortisol disrupts the signaling of other hormones that regulate the function of our digestive and reproductive systems and sleep cycle. If your body is constantly pumping out cortisol, it may help you survive, but it won’t help you thrive.
The modern lifestyle is stressful AF, but instead of the occasional survival stress that our Paleolithic ancestors experienced when they had to hunt for their meal or scare off a wild animal to stay alive, we experience mild stress more frequently. The stress of our go-go-go way of life has thrown off sleeping schedules, unbalanced our diets, and messed with our mental health.
Chronic stress keeps the HPA axis constantly working. This means that your adrenals are constantly pumping out cortisol and your body is working hard to meet the demands.
Adaptogenic Mushrooms Can Help
Most mushrooms are adaptogenic because of the many ways they support the overall health of different body systems, including the immune system, endocrine system, and circulatory system. Let’s examine one of the most studied adaptogenic mushrooms, cordyceps.
Cordyceps is considered a national treasure in China, and is becoming more common in the United States, too, where it is popular amongst athletes, students, and busy moms who are looking for natural options to support their energy and stamina.
Research shows that cordyceps improves the function of the adrenal cortex and strengthens the resiliency and integrity of the HPA (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal) axis. (5)
A Chinese study conducted on mice — a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial — investigated whether oral administration of cordyceps results in enhanced endurance and resistance to fatigue. After three weeks of administration, the groups given cordyceps were able to swim significantly longer than the control groups. The results of the study were dose-dependent with results of one group on a higher dose showing a 30% increase in endurance and the second group showing a 73% increase in endurance. (3)
When it comes to sourcing Cordyceps, you want to know that you’re getting the real deal. Mushroom Revival is the largest Cordyceps farm in the Americas, growing organic, high-quality Cordyceps mushrooms. Our Cordyceps are carefully grown and handpicked. Check out our dried cordyceps mushrooms here and learn how to make cordyceps tea!
Adaptogenic mushrooms and herbs can help regulate and support the healthy function of the HPA axis, even in trying times. Reigning in our stress levels and lowering our cortisol levels helps balance out many of the other hormones in the body too.
Beyond Adaptogenic Mushrooms
In addition to trying adaptogenic mushrooms, like Cordyceps tea or tincture, we recommend picking up a stress-relieving practice like deep breathing, meditation or yoga. Getting regular exercise has been shown to play a huge role in regulating hormonal health and stress levels because cortisol is stored in our adipose fat tissue. That means that burning fat is literally burning stress! Maintaining a healthy diet full of fresh veggies and fruits, high-quality fat, nuts and seeds, and lean proteins can support your overall wellness and ability to withstand periods of stress.
We hope that this has been a helpful article and that you are resourced to handle the daily stressors in your life! We want you to not only survive but THRIVE! Leave us a comment below and tell your biggest take-away from this blog. Make sure to follow us on facebook and instagram to learn more! Mush love!
(1) Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief by David Winston, RH
(5) Healing Mushrooms by Dr. Georges M. Halpern, MD