Adaptogens are compounds found in plants that can help the body to manage stress. We know they’re present in roots, herbs, and other plant substances. But a lot of people don’t realize that there are also adaptogenic mushrooms! Knowledge of adaptogens is relatively new. But people are becoming increasingly interested in them for themselves and their animal companions. Let’s look at what adaptogens are, how they benefit health, and two great adaptogenic mushrooms for dogs and cats!
What Are Adaptogens?
Researchers discovered adaptogens when looking into compounds that could reduce the negative effects of acute and chronic stress. They found certain herbs and mushrooms that could promote health by reducing the impact of stress on the body. To qualify as an adaptogen, the researchers decided that a plant substance must:
- Be non-toxic when given in normal therapeutic dosages
- Create a nonspecific state of resistance to stress, allowing the body to better resist a wide range of stressors
- Restore homeostasis (balance to the body’s systems)
How Adaptogens Work
Brekhman and Dardymov1 published the above definition of adaptogens in 1968. Since then, more research has revealed other defining aspects of these herbal compounds.
In 19992, a group of researchers discovered that adaptogens affect stress hormones. The adrenal glands make stress hormones and are controlled by two other glands: the pituitary and the hypothalamus. These are endocrine glands in the brain that produce hormones.
The combined function of these three glands is the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. It regulates most hormonal functions in the body. It also supports or helps regulate the:
- Nervous system
- Immune system
- Cardiovascular function
- Response to acute and chronic stress (including the fight/flight/flee response)
- Sex hormones and sexual function
By impacting this complex system of hormones, adaptogens change how a body responds to stress.
Why Adaptogens and Adaptogenic Mushrooms Are Popular with Pet Parents
Ongoing stress increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, inflammation, high blood pressure, and more. By helping the body to manage stress, adaptogens help promote overall health, happiness, and longevity!
Further, many adaptogens also have properties that protect the liver and the heart. For example, they protect the body from ionizing radiation and chemotherapy. They also have anti-tumor effects and anti-inflammatory properties.
Adaptogenic Mushrooms That Are Safe for Dogs and Cats
Common adaptogens you may have heard of include:
- Ginseng (Asian, American, and Siberian)
- Licorice root
People consider most mushrooms adaptogens because they meet the definition. However, only two, Reishi and Cordyceps, are true adaptogenic mushrooms with an effect on the HPA axis. They also meet all the other criteria for adaptogens.
Real Mushrooms has superior Reishi and Cordyceps extracts for pets. Along with being adaptogenic mushrooms, they also have many other health benefits for dogs and cats. Visit Real Mushrooms today to learn more!
1Brekhman, I., Dardymov, V. New Substances of Plant Origin which Increase Nonspecific Resistance. Ann Rev Pharmacol. Vol. 9:419-430.
2Panossian, A., Wikman, G., Wagner, H. Plant Adaptogens. III. Earlier and More Recent Aspects and Concepts on Their Mode of Action. Phytomedicine. 1999;6(4):287-99.
Dr. Robert J. Silver is a 1982 graduate of Colorado State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. He has pioneered the use of diet, herbs and nutraceuticals in his small animal integrative practice in Boulder, Colorado for the past 25 years. He writes and speaks both domestically and internationally to veterinary audiences on the value of blending holistic modalities with conventional medicine, and is a consultant to the pet food industry. He is also the Chief Medical Officer of Real Mushrooms for Pets.