Three natural adaptogens to curb prolonged stress and its symptoms

  1. Why we talk about adaptogens against stress.
  2. How stress affects the nervous system.
  3. Symptoms of chronic stress 
  4. Stress-related illnesses
  5. What is good for stress relief

What are the consequences of prolonged stress and its symptoms? 

Chronic stress has been shown to contribute to high blood pressure, promote the formation of artery-clogging deposits and cause brain changes that can contribute to anxiety and depression, which in turn play a role in ageing. 

Among the ravages of stress, a meta-analysis involving 300 studies concluded that chronic stress has the potential to damage our immune response.

This confirms the physical symptoms described by the father of stress, the physician Hans Selye, in a 1936 article in the British Journal Medicine: tiredness, difficulty sleeping, a weakened immune system and digestive problems.

Natural adaptogens to restore balance

These natural substances have been studied throughout history to balance our bodies and improve our response to stress, fight fatigue and improve our attention span. They also play a key role in balancing the immune system (immunomodulatory). 

Although there are also plants and seeds, at the adaptogenic level three medicinal mushrooms stand out 一Reishi, Lion’s Mane and Cordyceps一 since in recent years science has endorsed their application in traditional medicine to improve emotional management and the recovery of balance and harmony in the form of food supplements.

On our quality page you can find out what criteria food supplements developed from medicinal mushrooms must meet, especially in relation to safety, their production – organic cultivation guarantees the absence of toxic substances – and their extraction method – guarantees the amount of bioactive substances in the product. This information is essential when choosing the best supplement.

Do you feel drained, do you find it difficult to cope with everyday life, do you argue more than usual at home or at work? If so, the name you are looking for is stress and it behaves in this way, disturbing your emotional stability.

How stress affects the nervous system

1. Permanent fatigue

People suffering from prolonged stress often manifest exhaustion. Several studies have shown that adaptogens, such as Cordyceps sinensis, in supplement form can be helpful, especially in reducing symptoms of fatigue and tiredness. It has also been shown to help people with thyroid, fertility, and lung problems. In fact, it is one of the few natural products that has a documented potent effect on improving the body’s oxygenation.

Cordyceps’ qualities as an endocrine regulator have also been documented in a double-blind trial. This showed that the fungus helps to normalise the physiological effects of stress on the thyroid and other endocrine glands.

What’s more, the adenosine identified in Cordyceps sinensis can increase resistance to fatigue by 73% after three weeks of minimal intake, making it of particular interest when your body demands more energy.

When choosing a supplement containing Cordyceps, the confidence that the manufacturer offers the consumer is important. In this respect, it is important that the bioactive substances it contains are qualitatively and quantitatively indicated on the packaging. You can find out more about how to choose the best natural supplement in our quality section.

2. Cellular oxidation: stress ages

Chronic stress worsens cellular oxidation, contributes to high blood pressure levels and can lead to anxiety and depression.

Mushrooms with stress-controlling, balancing and stress-relieving properties include Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi), Cordyceps sinensis and Hericium erinaceus (Lion’s Mane). In general, the triterpenes and polysaccharides present in these species have been shown to:

  • improve mood
  • reduce fatigue
  • reduce the incidence of disease
  • promote greater longevity

To find out more about choosing the best Reishi, Cordyceps and Hericium supplements, click here.

3. Headache, migraine headaches due to stress

Surprising as it may seem, prolonged stress and its symptoms are a common trigger for headaches and migraines. This is evidenced by the results of a 1997 study in which this link was found in 50-70% of participants.

Turning to medicinal mushrooms, the triterpenes in Ganoderma lucidum have a calming effect on the nervous system. They are capable of restoring stability to our organism and restoring the overall balance of women, who suffer most from it.

 In studies on animal models, a sedative effect on the central nervous system was observed, which:

  • increases the duration of sleep
  • decreases spontaneous motor activity

4. Insomnia

There is ample evidence of the benefits of Reishi in situations of loss of vital balance resulting from emotional stress, such as nervous agitation, insomnia, neurasthenia and tendency to depression.  

A study published in 2012 showed that Reishi extract significantly increases total sleep time and the non-REM sleep phase without influencing the REM sleep phase. 

In 2015, researchers at the Maria Curie-Sklodowska University in Poland observed significantly better results in antidepressant and anticonvulsant behavioural tests when aqueous Reishi extract was administered. 

Finally, a randomised clinical study of 123 patients, conducted by researchers at the University of New Zealand, concluded that patients with neurasthenia (nerve problems) significantly improved certain symptoms such as feelings of well-being and fatigue when taking polysaccharide extract of Reishi for 8 weeks.

A 2017 study conducted in the USA and published in the scientific journal Nature revealed that only 25% of medicinal mushroom products, i.e. 1 in 4, contain the amount of Reishi that their labelling reflects. The other 75% have only traces of Reishi or no mushroom at all. This is why it is important to demand quality and safety in the production of food supplements. You can learn more about pharmaceutical quality standards and the efficacy of supplements here.

5. Gut-brain axis

We have known for years that the connections between our nervous and digestive systems have more implications than we could ever have imagined. Not for nothing is it said that the gut is our second brain and that the two must be in harmony.

We now know that stress is implicated in the development of irritable bowel syndrome, which is characterised by constipation and/or diarrhoea, abdominal pain and bloating.

Reishi’s anti-inflammatory capacity may help to control common digestive disorders, but also its sedative capacity because, as a 1991 study shows, patients with digestive problems respond to the common treatment used in cases of stress.

In intestinal disorders, there is often a deregulation of the intestinal microbiota or flora. In this respect, it has been shown that compounds present in Lion’s Mane can help to restore intestinal balance (studies with Hericium powder due to its high fibre content) and regenerate the intestinal epithelium (studies with Hericium extract due to its high content of bioactive substances).

One of the substances of interest in this fungus are the hericenones. Their peculiarity is that they are able to promote the formation of neurons (neurogenesis) and this process is directly related to antidepressant and anxiolytic effects. 

The effect of these substances was evaluated in a scientific study involving 30 women aged around 41, all suffering from various ailments. The conclusion showed that Lion’s Mane can reduce anxiety and depression.

Stress, anxiety and sleep disorders

In 2019, a laboratory specialising in the development of supplements based on medicinal mushrooms conducted a clinical study using its standardised organic extract of Ganoderma lucidum, which improved anxiety, stress and insomnia in its participants. In addition, it was well tolerated and did not cause dependence, withdrawal phenomena or side effects.

In addition to the study with Reishi extract, more recently this laboratory has carried out the HIFAS SIBO study in patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome with SIBO (bacterial overgrowth) with strains of Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) and Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus) selected from its bank of strains. 

In relation to emotional stress, 90% of people supplemented with the selected extracts improved their symptoms and reported “knowing how to manage stress better” and “being calmer” compared to 50% of those who did not take the supplements.

Symptoms of chronic stress: tiredness, irritability and others

Although the symptoms of prolonged stress are varied, there is a common pattern:

Excessive production or inability to interrupt the secretion of the stress hormones adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol.

  • Increased blood sugar levels
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Decreased absorption of nutrients in the gut, decreased digestive strength
  • Increased tendency to inflammation
  • Rapid breathing
  • Mental block and impairment of memory and concentration
  • Suppressed immune system
  • Increased emotional hunger

What’s good for stress relief

Although we have discussed the evidence for the featured adaptogens in isolation, it has been shown that their combination (what we call synergies) can be instrumental in enhancing life balance and emotional stability:

    • For stress, anxiety and improving sleep: Reishi is the mushroom of emotional balance. Studies carried out on the triterpenes of the standardised pure extract of Reishi allude to its calming and relaxing effect. It is also a great cellular antioxidant with an anti-ageing effect.
    • In order to maintain focus, concentration and even prevent memory lapses due to stress, the use of Lion’s Mane, a medicinal mushroom with a neuroprotective effect (it protects neuronal connections and activates those that are lost due to old age or illness), is recommended.
  • And since one of the main objectives of stress is to combat fatigue, it is advisable to use the energy mushroom of Cordyceps.

The combination of these three species can be of great help in regaining lost peace and quiet, managing emotions and stress, and contributing to hormonal and immune system balance.

However, remember that for these three adaptogenic mushrooms to do their job, it is important to consume them in their maximum concentration and with the amount of active biomolecules that have been proven in scientific studies. Click here to find out more.

Stress-related illnesses

Stressful stimuli have three phases common to most mortals: reaction, resistance and exhaustion. First, we are alerted and then we prepare ourselves to cope with the adverse situation. If the adverse situation persists and we are not able to put an end to it within 1-3 months, we move to the third phase. In this phase, the organism is exhausted and depleted, causing serious damage that disrupts our vital functions. 

Stress-related cardiovascular problems

Stress increases the risk of high blood pressure, a common factor in cardiovascular disease. While it is not the direct cause of hypertension, its presence does increase the level of catecholamine, cortisol, vasopressin, endorphin and aldosterone – hormones associated with increased blood pressure. The results of the Interheart study showed that those individuals who reported “permanent stress” were more likely to have a heart attack.

Other long-term effects of stress

Studies have correlated prolonged stress with a loss of stability and:

  • Promotion of depression, anxiety and sleep disorders.
  • Increased muscle breakdown
  • Increased risk of type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure
  • Concentration problems
  • Headache
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Cardiovascular disorders
  • Chronic inflammation
  • Increased risk of infection
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Intestinal diseases
  • Osteoporosis
  • Joint diseases
  • Overweight
  • Infertility
  • Adrenal insufficiency
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome

SUMMARY: 3 adaptogens to combat chronic stress

Adaptogens in the form of a food supplement are an effective remedy against prolonged stress and its symptoms because:

  • They help the body to cope with adverse situations (physical or environmental stress).
  • They also reduce the physical impact of stress 
  • They modulate our immune system
  • They do not impair the normal functioning of the body 

Of particular interest in this respect are the pure and highly concentrated compounds present in the standardised extracts of Reish,i Cordyceps and Lion’s Mane, natural adaptogens used by traditional medicine for centuries and which you can now find on the market with different production criteria. In terms of quality, it is recommended to choose pure standardised extracts.

Also, when choosing a safe supplement from medicinal mushrooms, it is recommended to choose organic formulas (guaranteeing the absence of heavy metals and other toxins) from brands with pharmaceutical quality systems, as they guarantee that the product is safe and complies with production standards for human health care.

 In addition, other criteria can be sought, such as suitability for coeliacs and lactose intolerant people. This also indicates the quality of the contents of the tablet, capsule or tablet: pure bioactive substances are sought, without artificial and unnecessary added ingredients.

Read more about Quality Criteria

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