While adaptogens have primarily been explored in human medicine, there’s increasing interest in their potential benefits for our canine companions. So, what exactly does adaptogenic mean when it comes to dogs? In order to learn the answer to this question fully, you must understand what adaptogens do, what they are, and the different types.
What Does Adaptogenic Mean?
The term adaptogenic refers to a natural substance’s ability to help bodies manage stress and promote homeostasis in bodily processes. Adaptogens are a unique class of healing plants and plant substances, including herbs like ashwagandha, holy basil, and rhodiola, that are renowned for helping balance, restore, and protect the body. They have been used for centuries in the homeopathic realm.
Adaptogens work to counteract the effects of stress in the body by supporting normal hormone production by the adrenal gland. They help to enhance the body’s resilience to physical, environmental, and emotional stress, supporting overall well-being. They’re known as a stress protective activity. Stress protective activities refer to actions, behaviors, or interventions that help safeguard an individual, animal, or organism against the harmful effects of stress.
Health Benefits Of Primary Adaptogens
Primary adaptogens play a pivotal role in enhancing the entire body’s ability to response to manage stress and in balancing physiological functions. They work by interacting with the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and the sympathoadrenal system, both of which are involved in the body’s response to stress.
Herbal supplements that are considered primary adaptogens include:
- Rhodiola rosea
- Panax ginseng (also known as Asian ginseng)
- Siberian ginseng
- Cordyceps Mushroom
Here are a few ways primary adaptogens support the body:
Balance stress response: The active compounds in primary adaptogens may help protect body cells and tissues by supporting the adrenal glands, which produce hormones like cortisol in reaction to stress. By aiding in the balance of these hormones, adaptogens help animals cope with external stresses more effectively.
Enhance energy and stamina: Many primary adaptogens, like Rhodiola rosea and Panax ginseng, helps support stamina and endurance, supports normal recovery time after strenuous activity, and supports normal physical and mental performance.
Supports cognitive function: Primary adaptogens promote a sense of relaxation and mental alertness without drowsiness, supports normal brain and nerve function, and promotes normal healthy brain activity.
Supports a healthy immune system: These adaptogens promotes homeostasis and promotes the body’s innate resistance to pathogens. They support normal detoxification processes and supports normal physical and mental performance.
Supports metabolic processes: By helping support energy production at a cellular level, adaptogens support metabolic processes in the body.
Adaptation to stress: As the name suggests, adaptogens help the body adapt. They help reduce the effects of normal environmental stress.
Normalizing effects: Primary adaptogens have a normalizing effect on the body, helping to promote homeostasis and balance.
Secondary Adaptogens For A Dog’s Wellness Routine
Secondary adaptogens, while also contributing to the body’s stress response, generally possess a more specific set of functions compared to primary adaptogens. They usually focus on supporting the body’s systems and processes in addition to sharing the same benefits of a primary adaptogen.
Herbal supplements that are considered secondary adaptogens include:
- Licorice root
- Schisandra chinensis
- Holy basil
Here’s how secondary adaptogens benefit the body:
Support specific systems: Secondary adaptogens often target specific organs or systems within the body, like the central nervous system. For example, some may primarily help support liver function, while others focus on supporting normal heart and vasculature functioning.
Nutrients in the body: Some secondary adaptogens assist in the digestion and absorption of nutrients, providing vitamin and mineral support for healthy pets.
Fighting free radicals: Many secondary adaptogens provide antioxidant support, helping to reduce oxidative stress and help eliminate free radicals associated with the aging process.
Help maintain calmness: Certain secondary adaptogens can have a profound impact on mood and emotional health, which may help curb destructive behavior, support normal emotional balance, and help keep your pet calm and relaxed.
Support performance and endurance: While not as broad-spectrum as primary adaptogens, some secondary adaptogens can still help support normal recovery time after strenuous activity.
Support a healthy inflammatory response: Secondary adaptogens may help maintain a normal inflammatory response which, in turn, helps maintain the general health of all ages and breeds.
Complementary action: Secondary adaptogens often work best when used in conjunction with primary adaptogens, complementing their actions by working synergistically.
Adaptogen companions, or companion adaptogens, play a supportive role in promoting normal function of primary and secondary adaptogens. They are meant to be used how they sound; as a companion to an adaptogen.
Herbal supplements that are considered companion adaptogens include:
- Holy basil
- Rhodiola rosea
- Reishi mushroom
Here’s how adaptogen companions in normal doses support and promote peak health:
Promote the absorption of adaptogens: Adaptogen companions can help in improving the absorption of primary and secondary adaptogens, helping support the physical and mental well-being of an animal.
Synergistic effects: Companions work in synergy with other adaptogens, promoting homeostasis throughout the body.
Support specific functions: While they may not help manage normal stress hormones on their own, they may help reduce the effects of normal environmental stress when combined with a primary or secondary adaptogen.
Assists in the digestion and absorption of essential nutrients: By assisting in the digestion and absorption of essential nutrients from adaptogens, adaptogen companions supports the physical and mental well-being of an animal.
Supports energy production: By supporting energy production, some adaptogen companions support normal physical and mental performance.
Supports the immune system: Certain adaptogen companions may provide support to the immune system, helping keep animals in peak condition.
Antioxidant protection: Some companions provide antioxidants. Antioxidants have been shown to aid in the elimination of unstable oxygen molecules called free radicals which supports and promotes long-term health.
Tonic Adaptogens In Your Pet’s Wellness Routine
Tonic adaptogens are a subset of adaptogens that provides supporting nutrients for the health of aging animals. These substances support and promote long-term health and help keep dogs in peak condition.
Herbal supplements that are considered tonic adaptogens include:
Here’s a closer look at what tonic adaptogens do for the body:
Help manage normal stress: Tonic adaptogens help reduce the effects of normal environmental stress, whether they are physical, chemical, or biological, by supporting normal brain and nerve function and helping support normal endocrine, hormonal and enzyme systems.
Assist the immune system: They support the immune system by supporting normal detoxification processes, which helps keep animals in peak condition.
Enhance exercise tolerance: By promoting homeostasis, adaptogens help support stamina and endurance in pets.
Supports normal brain function: Tonic adaptogens have been found to support normal brain function, support normal balanced behavior, and promote a sense of relaxation and mental alertness without drowsiness.
Supports a normal metabolic rate: They help promote normal hormone balance, supporting normal endocrine, hormonal and enzyme systems, and promoting homeostasis.
Antioxidant protection: Many tonic adaptogens have antioxidant protection that help decrease oxidative damage supporting normal bodily functions.
Supporting balanced behavior: Tonic adaptogens can promote relaxation by supporting normal brain function, promoting normal healthy brain activity, and helping maintain normal disposition and alertness.
How Normal Doses Of Modulating Adaptogens Help Pets
Modulating adaptogens primarily promote homeostasis in the body. Modulating plant adaptogens include:
- Maca root
- Moringa oleifera
Here’s a detailed look at what modulating adaptogens do for the body:
Helps keep your pet calm and relaxed: Modulating adaptogens support normal hormone production by the adrenal gland which helps maintain normal emotional balance in dogs.
Supporting the immune system: These adaptogens target the immune system, supporting a healthy immune system in dogs and enhancing organ function.
Supports a normal metabolic rate: By working with the endocrine system, modulating adaptogens support normal cardiovascular, immune and neurological function.
Support mental well-being: These adaptogens contain ingredients known to support a healthy brain which enhances your pet’s brain function, promotes normal healthy brain activity, and supports normal balanced behavior.
Provides antioxidant support: Modulating adaptogens provide antioxidants to the body, preventing free radical damage and reducing free radical formation.
Consult a Holistic Veterinarian About Adaptogen Supplements
While awareness of adaptogens and their potential benefits is growing in both human and veterinary medicine, not all conventional veterinarians may be familiar with or recommend their use. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not officially recognize the term “adaptogen” as a classification for any specific therapeutic agents and clinical efficacy is not established at this point in time. Systematic reviews are not conducted as in depth as traditional medications, in part due to this reason. Adaptogens are more commonly discussed and recommended within the field of holistic or integrative veterinary medicine, which combines both complementary and integrative health.
Conventional veterinarians primarily focus on standard medical practices and pharmacology, and their knowledge of alternative therapies like adaptogens may vary. However, many veterinarians are open to complementary therapies and may be willing to learn more about adaptogens and consider their use if it might benefit the animal’s health.
If you are interested in adaptogens for your pet, it might be beneficial to seek a veterinarian who specializes in complementary and integrative health. These veterinarians typically have a broader knowledge base of alternative therapies, including the use of adaptogens, and are better equipped to guide you on their appropriate use for your pet.
Regardless of the veterinarian’s familiarity with adaptogens, it’s important to have open communication about any supplements or alternative therapies you are considering for your pet to ensure they receive safe and effective care.
Safety and Dosage: Exercise Caution
One of the critical points to consider when thinking about adaptogens for your dog is safety. Because the research is limited, it’s crucial to consult your veterinarian before adding any adaptogenic herbs or supplements to your dog’s diet. The dosage will vary depending on the size, age, and health status of your dog, and not all adaptogens are suitable for all animals.
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