Can the stress of modern life be beaten by the taste of ancient herbs and spices?

The question has been posed by two of our major newspapers because of a surge of interest in plants from around the globe that have been called adaptogens. They are all said to control stress by regulating the release of the hormone cortisol from the adrenal gland.

The name adaptogen derives from the belief that each will adapt its response to balance whatever stress levels are afflicting you. The name was first coined by a Russian scientist who was investigating the impact of ancient herbs on the body in the 1940s. Today as well as being marketed as supplements and being added to smoothies they are even cropping up in trendy cafes selling adaptogenic lattes.

But what qualifies as an adaptogen? Some are herbs that have been used in Chinese or Indian herbal medicines. But others are very much more familiar names from elsewhere around the globe. Macca, for example, the ancient root crop from South America.

There are around twenty adaptogens but no definitive list. In its coverage of the subject the Daily Telegraph selection of easily digestible adaptogens included turmeric, ginseng, goji berries, liquorice root and maca powder.

The Daily Mail, while also listing maca, added jujube, tulsi (also known as Holy Basil), rhodiola (a mountain evergreen) and ashwagandha (Indian ginseng).

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