What are Adaptogens and Do You Need Them?

It seems as though everywhere I turn, people are talking about adaptogens.  They are a buzzword in the wellness world right now and are popping up everywhere from juice bars to lifestyle blogs to Good Morning America.   If you’re clueless (as I was) when it comes to adaptogens, you’re not alone.  I did a little research to understand what adaptogens are and what they can do for you. Here is a summary of what I found that hopefully will help.

What are adaptogens?

Adaptogens are non-toxic plants that are meant to help the body resist stressors of all kinds.  These herbs and roots have been used for centuries in Chinese and Ayurvedic healing traditions, but they are again gaining popularity.

If you’re a person who feels tired frequently or happens to have a lot of stress in your life (that's probably all of us), adaptogens can be very beneficial in helping our bodies and minds deal with the burden. Adaptogens can have a restorative quality and help the body achieve balance.

Thanks to social media, lack of sleep, too much technology, and busy calendars, maintaining balance can be difficult.  While adaptogens have been around for centuries, because of our current fast-paced lifestyles, it’s clear why they’re suddenly becoming popular again!  It’s probably safe for most people to take adaptogens, but if you're dealing with chronic stress, make sure that you're also getting to the root cause of your stress.  The combination of changing your lifestyle and taking adaptogens is the healthiest combination.  This is where adaptogens come in because they work naturally with your body to help adapt to physical and emotional stress.

 Photo from Bldg 25

Photo from Bldg 25

Some adaptogens can be eaten as part of a meal, and some are taken as supplements or brewed into teas.  Each adaptogen claims to do something a little different, but on the whole adaptogens are said to help your body handle stress. 

 Getty Image

Getty Image

Do adaptogens actually work?

More research is needed, but proponents of adaptogens believe that they work.  Adaptogens may do for your adrenal glands what exercise does for your muscles.  When you take adaptogens, “you’re training your body to handle the effects of stress" says one article.  If you’re interested in the science, check out the studies that show “certain adaptogenic substances can activate the protective mechanisms of cells".  Adaptogens may work with hormone production and physiological responses to stress to ensure that your body functions as it should.

 Photo from Camille Styles

Photo from Camille Styles

What you should know before buying

There is a chance that supplements can interact with other medications you may be taking, so if you’re someone under the care of a medical doctor, you should talk to them about any new supplements you’re going to try, including adaptogens “Especially if you’re on thyroid hormones, you should let your doctor know, because adaptogens might change things.”

Make sure you get your adaptogens from a high-quality brand to ensure that they’ve been properly sourced.  “Look for the USP seal on any bottle or jar of supplements, which indicates that the supplement was verified by the United States Pharmacopeia, or the NSF international dietary supplement certification.”  The most well known brands are from Sun Potion and Moon Juice.

What are the best adaptogenic herbs and how do you add them to your diet?

Maca:  balances stress levels.  Try this chia pudding for a healthy and delicious breakfast.

Reishi: soothes and relaxes. Try it (or any other medicinal mushrooms) in this chocolate latte recipe!

Ashawaganda: reduces mental and physical stress, boosts immunity. Try it in this moon milk recipe that also includes health superstar turmeric.

Rhodiola: improves mental clarity and promotes focus.

Cordyceps: improves stamina, focus, and immune support. Mix it into your coffee!

Asian Ginseng soothes long-term sources of stress and the hormone imbalances that may result from it. Some research has suggested that holy basil, or tulsi, may help lower stress levels.

Each adaptogen is slightly different, so the best one for you depends on the stress you're experiencing. 

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Moon Juice Dream Dust

If you’re looking for a straight dose of herbs, you can sip a calming adaptogen tea or combine tinctures with water. To add adaptogens to the foods you’re already eating, you can buy pre-mixed powder to spice up everything from smoothies to soups to salad dressings.  This can become an important part of self care.

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Everything you ever wanted to know about Adaptogens

 

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I am by no means an expert, so please speak with your doctor before trying adaptogens.

I hope you've enjoyed this article!  Let me know if you've tried adaptogens...leave me a comment in the box below and let me know your experience.