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Adaptogens: do you need them?

  1. We don't know whether we should call it a new hype, but nowadays you read more and more about adaptogens that you should add to your diet. Reason: They are said to help you deal with stress, restore your hormone balance, increase your libido, improve your metabolism and even increase your fertility. What are adaptogens and are they really that healthy?

  1. It sounds nice and complicated, that word adaptogens, but it is nothing more than a collective name for herbs and natural substances that would be able to bring your body into balance. Think things like turmeric, ginger, ginseng and maca. In our Western medicine, these substances are (still) hardly attached to any value, but they are often used in ancient Chinese and Indian (Ayurveda) medicine.


  1. Adaptogens are all strong antioxidants. As the word says, an antioxidant counteracts oxidation. You can compare oxidation to the rusting of iron. Iron oxidizes through contact with oxygen. Such a process takes place in your body, all the time. Because we live, because we exercise, because we breathe and because we get sun on our skin. Oxidation is therefore a natural process. Oxidation releases so-called free radicals - aggressive substances. And in large quantities, these free radicals can damage body cells. By having enough antioxidants in your body, you limit that damage. So adaptogens would be able to do that.

Scientific evidence is missing

  1. Sounds pretty healthy, those adaptogens. But to have effects, large amounts are likely to be needed. With just a little bit of turmeric or ginger in a recipe you don't get such amounts. Adaptogens are therefore also available as supplements in the form of powders and capsules. This allows you to consume large quantities of those substances. However, there is not a lot of solid scientific evidence that these substances make an extra contribution to your health in addition to a healthy diet. Until now, scientific studies have often only been carried out in test tubes and on animals or on very small groups of people. That means there is not enough evidence that it is effective in humans.

Healthy eating

  1. Do you need them? You definitely need antioxidants. But the great thing is that your diet already contains a lot of antioxidants if you eat healthy. If you eat a large portion of vegetables per day (at least 250 grams) and 2 to 3 servings of fruit, you will also get a lot of antioxidants. Furthermore, adding herbs and spices to your diet while cooking is a healthy habit. This increases the antioxidant content even more. The question is whether extra adaptogens can add anything.

If it doesn't help, it doesn't harm either? Unfortunately, it is not always the case that taking extra herbal preparations is healthy for you. In combination with medication, supplements with adaptogens can be harmful. For example, the effect of the medicines can change. This has been demonstrated for, among other things, supplements containing ginseng, turmeric, garlic, green tea and St. John's wort. It is not recommended to use herbal preparations during pregnancy. It is a good idea to tell your doctor that you are taking herbal remedies if you are prescribed any medication. So adaptogens may sound healthy, but they don't always have to be. Don't miss anything?

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