Adaptogens are the most ancient modern health trend: steeped in the Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese traditions, adaptogenic herbs have no been used for thousands of years. Looking to jump onto the adaptogen train but still unsure what they’re about? Let’s discover the healing powers of adaptogens! Here’s everything you need to know: what adaptogens are, how they work and how they benefit your health, along with top examples of common adaptogens and our expert tips on how to incorporate them into your life.
What is an adaptogen?
An adaptogen is a classified substance that supports homeostasis, normalizes body functions, and heightens resistance to stress – be it physical, emotional or mental stress, and even stress from environmental toxins and pollution. In other words, adaptogens help reduce the impact of stress in a non-specific way. They accomplish this without overly taxing organs or bodily systems, but rather by supporting the body and mind as a whole.
Adaptogens are stress response modifiers. Adaptogenic herbs and substances (such as certain fungi) work by affecting the HPA axis (hypothalamus – pituitary – adrenals) along with the immune-neuro-endocrine system.
For instance, adaptogens such as eleuthero, schisandra, ashwagandha, ginseng and rhodiola help regulate cortisol production, strengthen the functioning of body systems, and enhance cellular energy transfer, which trains the body to utilize oxygen, glucose, lipids and proteins more efficiently.
In this way, adaptogens work completely different than say, sedative herbs like valerian or hops, or stimulants like coffee.
How are adaptogenic herbs beneficial to your health?
Adaptogenic herbs benefit your health in a number of ways: all of them help you deal with stress in a more grounded way, increase your body’s resistance to infection and disease, and help provide you with a steadier supply of clean energy – both mental and physical.
Specific adaptogens carry some of the following benefits: neuroprotective, hepatoprotective, antidepressive, endocrine normalizing, anti-inflammatory and even heart-protecting.
What’s more? Adaptogens are by definition safe to use, even in large amounts and over long periods.
Adaptogens include the following herbs and fungi:
- Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera, Indian ginseng)
- Siberian ginseng (Eleuthero)
- Schisandra (magnolia-vine)
- Rhodiola (golden root)
- Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum)
- Astragalus (Mongolian milkvetch)
- Maca (Lepidium meyenii, Peruvian ginseng)
How to incorporate adaptogens into your life
So, you’re ready to try adaptogens – but how do you take theme exactly? There’s no right or wrong way, provided you get your supplements from a trusted source.
Adaptogen powders are easily found on the shelves of your health food store, but it’s important to note that powders quickly lose their freshness and potency. Since you only need a couple teaspoons of adaptogen herb powder per day, a regular sized package will no doubt go stale before you get your money’s worth. That’s why we always recommend using adaptogens in capsule or liquid extract form, which retain the herb’s potency much longer.
Experiment with single herb formulas, or find the blend that suits your needs best. Enjoy the benefits healing powers of adaptogens!
Liao, Lian-Ying et al. “A preliminary review of studies on adaptogens: comparison of their bioactivity in TCM with that of ginseng-like herbs used worldwide.” Chinese medicine vol. 13 57. 16 Nov. 2018, doi:10.1186/s13020-018-0214-9
Panossian, Alexander, and Georg Wikman. “Effects of Adaptogens on the Central Nervous System and the Molecular Mechanisms Associated with Their Stress-Protective Activity.” Pharmaceuticals (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 3,1 188-224. 19 Jan. 2010, doi:10.3390/ph3010188
Panossian, Alexander, and Hildebert Wagner. “Adaptogens: A Review of their History, Biological Activity, and Clinical Benefits.” HerbalGram – The Journal of the American Botanical Council, Issue 90, 52-63. 2011.