What the Heck Are Adaptogens?!
Have exotic powders like “Ashwagandha” and “Rhodiola” populated your favorite blogs and social media feeds lately? Same here! This phenomenon is largely due to the rise in popularity of substances known as adaptogens. These are compounds that – in short – help the body adapt to stress, normalize internal processes, and stay energized.
A Brief Backstory
Adaptogens are more old-school than you may think. They’ve been used in ancient healing practices like Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years. Populations that live in harsh conditions (like Siberia) have also consumed them for many generations to combat bodily stress.
The vast majority of adaptogens are herbs or mushrooms, typically consumed in powder or pill form. Each one has a distinctly different effect when consumed. For instance, some adaptogens are hugely effective at combating inflammation and free radicals. Others help maintain steady energy levels. Still others help us chill out.
Popular Adaptogens and Their Functions
There are dozens of known adaptogens – here are 10 of the most popular ones and their functions:
- Ashwagandha: A root that supports the immune system, improves thyroid function, treats adrenal fatigue, reduces anxiety, and combats stress.
- Reishi: A mushroom that supports the immune system, calms the nervous system, and alleviates allergies via antihistaminic properties.
- Rhodiola: A root that supports the immune system, maintains energy and mental focus, and improves mood by stimulating the release of dopamine and serotonin.
- Ginseng: A root that maintains energy and mental focus, supports physical stamina, stabilizes blood sugar levels, and aids the body in adapting to stress.
- Astragalus: A root that supports liver, heart, digestive, and immune function, and fights inflammation throughout the nervous system.
- Cordyceps: A mushroom that reduces fatigue, boosts energy levels, and supports physical stamina.
- Holy Basil: A perennial plant that supports the nervous system, memory, head trauma recovery, and mood.
- Maca: A root that is rich in antioxidants and supports energy, mood, memory, sex drive, and balanced estrogen levels.
- Mucuna Pruriens: A bean that improves mood, reduces anxiety, and increases motivation and focus.
- Schisandra: A fruit that improves liver function, combats stress, reduces inflammation, boosts cognitive function, and protects the skin.
But Don’t Go Hog Wild Just Yet!
Every heard the expression “the dose makes the poison”? We encourage readers to keep two things in mind when experimenting with adaptogens. Firstly, conduct a bit of research on what a proper initial dose would be (resources like Examine.com are helpful for this), and don’t exceed that amount! Consuming too much of anything – even water – can lead to adverse side effects.
Secondly, be aware of what you’re pairing adaptogens with when consuming them. Certain mushrooms and herbs don’t go well with caffeine, for instance, so keep that in mind. Conversely, some adaptogens can interact beautifully together – our favorite combo for "brain power" is Lion’s Mane + Cordyceps + Rhodiola rosea. Again, sites like Examine.com are your friends here.
…And Here’s an Adaptogen Matcha Latte Recipe!
1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
1 cup water
1 tsp Japanese matcha powder
½ tsp Ashwagandha + ½ tsp Reishi
1 tbs coconut butter
Few dashes of cinnamon
Optional: Sweeten with maple syrup
Bring water and almond milk to a boil, place all ingredients into a blender, and blend for about 30 seconds until all ingredients are combined.