Imagine going through your whole day in discomfort, unable to do the things you love, and then being unable to get a good night’s rest because you’re still in discomfort. That’s what it feels like when you’re in pain.

Although pain is often necessary and is a sign of progress in certain areas, it becomes limiting and severely discomforting when it is severe or chronic. Acute pain affects 1 in 5 people, and 1 in 10 suffer from chronic pain. Therefore, people are always searching for means to manage pain, making pain killers some of the most prescribed medications by doctors. Unfortunately, most of these pain killers are synthetic compounds that may have harmful short and long-term effects. However, natural products known as adaptogens are now gaining popularity in pain management.

What are Adaptogens?

Adaptogens are non-toxic herbs and plants that have powerful medicinal properties. These herbs were primarily used in ancient Indian traditional medicine, known as Ayurveda, but have now found their way into many modern medical shelves upon new-found discovery of their numerous benefits.

Adaptogens primarily act as stress relievers. As their name implies, these herbs stimulate the body’s ability to adapt to various stressors by normalizing cortisol levels and improving sleep. These herbs help reduce the effect of stress on the body and, in doing so, help treat many other ailments. Adaptogens were traditionally produced as teas and tinctures of the leaves. Today, these herbs are still sold as teas and tinctures but are also prepared as capsules, powdered extracts, drops and other pharmaceutical dosage forms. 

Traditionally, there are nine known adaptogens, including ginseng, holy basil, ashwagandha, and basil. However, many other herbs have been discovered in recent times to possess adaptogenic properties

pain and inflammation foods

How Do Adaptogens Help Chronic Pain?

Millions of people globally suffer from various types of pain. Pain may result from tissue injury, inflammation or nerve damage. Sometimes, pain may be idiopathic (i.e., there is no obvious cause). However, every type of pain is marked by a significant inflammatory (or stress) response, and this is where adaptogens come in.

Cortisol is the body’s major anti-inflammatory hormone and helps to reduce the inflammation that occurs in acute or chronic pain. If cortisol levels are too low, the body will be unable to respond to stress, and there will be no anti-inflammatory activity. Conversely, if cortisol levels are too high, the body will not respond to its effects, and the anti-inflammatory cascade fails.

Adaptogens work by regulating cortisol levels, ensuring that the body can deal with stress optimally. Once cortisol levels are regulated, they can carry out their anti-inflammatory actions, reduce pain and promote healing of the pain originator. In a way, you could say that adaptogens are cortisol thermostats, helping to ensure that cortisol is regulated and functioning appropriately.

Apart from their effect on the stress pathway, adaptogens may also contain antioxidants and other chemicals that reduce inflammation or act directly on the pain pathways.

Which Adaptogen is Good for Pain?

There are tens of adaptogens available which are effective in helping with pain relief. However, the most important adaptogens identified for this purpose include;

white willow bark

White Willow Bark

There are several varieties of the willow tree, including the white (Salix alba), black (Salix nigra) and purple (Salix purpurea). Willow bark is often made from a combination of the bark of these trees but sometimes can be made from a single species. White willow bark contains salicin, a chemical similar to aspirin, and several flavonoids that work synergistically to reduce inflammation and pain.

White willow bark is traditionally used in treating back pain, osteoarthritis, fever, flu, muscle pain, and other conditions. However, it is often needed in high doses, and it may take some time before its effects are observed.

 

Possible Side Effects

Willow bark is typically safe when used for up to 3 months. However, some people experience mild side effects like diarrhea, heartburn, and vomiting. Others may experience allergic reactions resulting in itching and rashes.

Precautions

Pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers should avoid willow bark. There is not enough information to back up the safe use of willow bark for pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers; hence, it should be avoided to be on the safer side. Willow bark is also unsafe for children. Salicin has similar effects as aspirin and may cause Reye’s syndrome when used for treating viral flu in children.

White willow bark should also be avoided in people with bleeding disorders, kidney disease, asthma, stomach ulcers, gout, and people with salicin allergies.

Interaction

You should avoid taking willow bark with some drugs, as these drugs may cause some reactions in your body system, which can be debilitating. For example, do not take willow bark with medications that slow blood clotting, such as warfarin. Willow bark itself causes slow blood clotting, then taking willow back with warfarin can increase your chances of bleeding excessively after a cut.

You should also avoid taking willow bark with drugs like aspirin, Choline Magnesium Trisalicylate, Salsalate (Disalcid) and acetazolamide.

Dosing

Adults should use Willow bark in doses of 120-240 mg of salicin by mouth daily for up to 6 weeks,  depending on your condition. You should also check the prescription for the drug and speak to your doctor to know how best to use it.

Yucca adaptogen

Yucca 

Yucca is a common name given to over 40 species of plants in the Yucca genus. Yucca extracts are widely used as foaming and flavoring agent in carbonated beverages. In addition, the roots of Yucca plants have potent medicinal properties and are made as medicine to treat various ailments.

Yucca roots are mainly used in treating various types of pain like osteoarthritis and migraine headaches. They are also used in treating. high blood pressure, colitis, high cholesterol, diabetes, and liver and gallbladder abnormalities.

Yucca can be applied to the skin to treat Sores, skin disorders and infections like dandruff. Topical Yucca also serves as a balm to relieve arthritis symptoms such as pain, swelling, and stiffness.

Possible Side Effects

Yucca is safe when used in the right amounts and the short term. However, it may cause side effects like stomach upset, skin rash, and difficulty breathing, especially in allergic people.

Precautions

Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers should avoid yucca because there is not enough reliable information regarding its safety.

Drug Interactions

Not much is known about Yucca’s interaction with other drugs. However, you must talk to your doctor before using this adaptogen.

Dosing

The dose of yucca depends on factors like the user’s age, health, and several other conditions. Therefore, you should follow the prescription given on the product and talk to your doctor about the appropriate way to use yucca.

ashwagandha

Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is a medicinal shrub native to different parts of Asia and Africa. Ashwagandha is one of the nine primary adaptogens with potent stress-relieving properties. This herb also contains phytochemicals that help reduce swelling, treat pain, lower blood pressure, calm the brain and modify the immune system.

Ashwagandha is powerful in treating stress-related problems and helping the body fight mental and physical stress. In addition, it is used for other conditions like insomnia and anxiety and has potent anti-aging effects.

Possible Side Effects

Ashwagandha is safe to use for up to 3 months. However, an ashwagandha overdose can cause stomach upset, diarrhea, and vomiting. In rare cases, it may cause liver-related problems.

Precautions

Pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid ashwagandha. There is no reliable information to support its use; hence, it should be avoided to be on the safe side. In addition, people with autoimmune diseases and thyroid disorders should avoid ashwagandha, and it should also be avoided before surgery to avoid complications.

 

Drug Interactions

Since Ashwagandha boosts the immune system, it may interact with immune-suppressing medications. You should also avoid using ashwagandha with sedative medications because Ashwagandha might cause slowed breathing and sedation on its own, thus potentiating the effect of the sedative. Other drugs that interact with ashwagandha include thyroid hormone, anti-hypertensives and anti-diabetes drugs.

Dosing

Ashwagandha used by adults should be in doses of 1000 mg daily for up to 3 months. You can also speak with a doctor to know the best dose for your condition.

adaptogens effect on bodybuilding

How do Adaptogens for Pain Aid Bodybuilding

Adaptogens have been proven effective in relieving pain. This is more practical for athletes and bodybuilders. Bodybuilding can be very stressful and tedious, especially weightlifting, with most of the effect on the thigh, legs, arms, and other body parts. The effect can refrain one from continuing the bodybuilding journey. This is where adaptogens come into play.

Adaptogens for pain help relieve bodybuilders and athletes, reduce pain and inflammation, and reduce their recovery time to jump back to the bodybuilding or athletic journey. In addition, bodybuilders and athletes can perform better when they do not feel pain. The result of this is that it helps to improve their performance and endurance during bodybuilding activities.

Summary

Adaptogens for pain are effective in treating chronic pain, especially for those going through rigid and stressful activities like bodybuilders and athletes. Ashwagandha, white willow bark and yucca can be used to reduce pain and inflammation that can interfere with day-to-day activities and bodybuilding routines. These herbs also have several other benefits that make them important for athletes and non-athletes alike.

However, it is important that you talk to your doctor about using the adaptogens depending on your condition for effectiveness.

 

References

Willow bark- side effects, uses and more

Yucca- uses, side effects and more

Ashwagandha- uses, side effects and more

Adaptogens: what to know