What are Adaptogens?
I was rolling these Chocolate Chip Matcha Energy Balls at my parents’ house the other day when my grandparents showed up. I needed some taste testers so I asked everyone to try them. My grandpa actually loved them and he and my dad started to ask what was in them. I told them one ingredient, “adaptogens.” Total wonder emerged across their faces. They thought, “what the heck are adaptogens?” Adaptogens are basically herbs and mushrooms that help the body adapt to stress.
I’ve been adding them to my diet for a little while now and definitely notice a difference. I feel energized throughout the day and focused on the tasks at hand. I think my stress levels have gone down and it is easier for me to fall asleep since adding these to my diet. A lot of my friends have been mentioning stress levels lately and I’ve been recommending adaptogens. They’re really easy to consume with your normal routine and the benefits are out of this world!
Adaptogens have been around for centuries in Chinese and Indian Ayurvedic medicine but they are just now getting the recognition they deserve. You can buy your adaptogens from Moon Juice, Sun Potion, and Mountain Rose Herbs. I like the dusts from Moon Juice because they are mixtures of different herbs and medicinal mushrooms that help the body adapt to specific times throughout the day. Adaptogens have a balancing effect on the brain, hormones, and inflammation levels. They may be the next big thing in fighting anxiety and insomnia.
People often rely on sugar and caffeine to keep their stress levels at bay throughout the day. This creates a cycle in the body in which your energy levels spike when that soda, cookie, or coffee is consumed and a crash occurs a few hours later, in which you’ll repeat the cycle all over again. This puts stress on your adrenals and creates a rollercoaster ride for your emotions. Your adrenals are responsible for balancing the body’s hormonal response to stress.
According to Dr. Frank Lipman, “Adaptogens work a bit like a thermostat. When the thermostat senses that the room temperature is too high it brings it down and when the temperature is too low it brings it up. Adaptogens can calm you down and boost your energy at the same time without overstimulating.” Some other benefits of adding adaptogens to your diet include:
- Regenerating brain cells
- Alleviating depression and anxiety
- Protecting the liver
- Balancing the immune system
- Decreasing fatigue
- Lowering cortisol levels
It is unlikely that you would “OD” on adaptogens. It is recommended to start with ¼ teaspoon per day. A 150-pound person would have to ingest about 95 pounds a day of the Rhodiola adaptogen to experience toxic side effects. Licorice is the only adaptogen that should be approached with caution. It contains glycyrrhizin, which can increase blood pressure by affecting kidney function. You can buy de-glycyrrhizinized licorice to avoid this. Adaptogens are not effective on their own. You also must have a healthy lifestyle with nourishing foods. Focus on plant-based foods, high-quality proteins, healthy fats, meditation and exercise.
How do I consume these adaptogens?
You can put your adaptogens in smoothies, teas, hot chocolates (try this adaptogenic healthy hot chocolate), and soups. I love to throw them in my energy balls and toasted granola. You can make a tea with the adaptogenic whole herbs, powders or a brand that puts them in tea bags. You can also eat them whole, like consuming a mushroom. Use about three adaptogens at a time, about ½ teaspoon of each. Rotate the three you consume. Here are many ways you can include adaptogens in your diet:
- Ice cream
- Hemp milk
- Baked goods
- Hot chocolate
- Energy balls
- Smoothie bowls
What adaptogens could I add into my diet?
Ashwagandha is an Ayurvedic super herb that helps with nerve growth factors for Parkinson’s just like Lion’s Mane. It helps to reduce physical, emotional, and mental stress and fatigue. It can promote a positive mood and mind. Support hormone function in both men and women by adding ashwagandha to your diet. It is a rich source of iron so it supports you during your menstrual cycle. Herbalists recommend it for people with high blood pressure. It is good for infertility as well. Try mixing it with cacao, the rawest form of chocolate. You can put 1 tsp into a tea, coffee, or hot chocolate. Avoid if you are pregnant, taking sedatives, or have severe gastric irritations or ulcers. If you are sensitive to nightshades, take caution when eating Ashwagandha.
Astragalus is considered The Great Protector. It can strengthen and protect skin health, metabolism and digestion, immune response, and energy levels. It can enhance whole body function. It is traditionally valued to support heart health in healthy individuals. Add it to your tea, smoothie, or shake. You can also sprinkle it on your food. There are no known precautions but consult with a healthcare practitioner if you are pregnant, nursing or on any other medications.
Considered the king of mushrooms. According to David Wolfe, it is the most powerful radiation remover of any substance known on earth. It is a grounding herb so use it during travels and moments that you feel anxious. You can make chaga tea in the crockpot! It’s a good coffee substitute. It can also be a substitute for hops in beer. There are no known precautions but consult with a healthcare practitioner if you are pregnant, nursing or on any other medications.
These mushrooms are actually grown on caterpillars which makes them look like a unicorn. Cordyceps enhance athletic endurance, especially at high altitudes. It is used to promote health and longevity, restore energy, and contains antioxidant properties. It boosts sexual energy, fortitude, and muscle tone. Add it into soups, smoothies, raw chocolate, or anytime you want more endurance, sensuality, and mental power. You can prepare it as a broth, extract, tea or in capsules. There are no known precautions. Consult with a qualified healthcare practitioner if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or on any medications.
One of the most valued and most expensive medicinal plants in the world. Has been said to influence metabolism, strengthens the body’s immune response, promotes longevity, and enhances the growth of normal cells. There are three different herbs commonly called ginseng: Asian or Korean ginseng, American ginseng, and Siberian ginseng. Take 1-2 grams per day. It is typically in tea, extracts, or capsules and often found as an ingredient in soft drinks. Caution when combining with large amounts of caffeine and large amounts of ginseng. You may experience overstimulation and gastrointestinal upset. It may cause agitation, palpitations or insomnia in people with cardiovascular disorders. If you take Warfarin, a blood thinner, American ginseng may reduce the efficacy of warfarin and should be used under the supervision of a qualified healthcare professional. Monitor your blood pressure when taking ginseng if you have high blood pressure. It is not recommended for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Nettle is a diuretic, tonic and astringent. It can be helpful for kidney trouble, backaches, or uterine problems. It is good for inflammation so it aids in joint pain due to arthritis. It is anti-inflammatory and improves bone density. You can use it as a tea, tincture, or powdered and encapsulated form. You can also add it into a juice or take it as a shot. There are no known precautions but consult with a healthcare practitioner if you are pregnant, nursing or on any other medications.
Considered the queen of mushrooms. It is helpful for the immune system, longevity, and stress relief. The Chinese traditionally claim that reishi promotes calmness, centeredness, balance, inner awareness and inner strength. It has been used to improve meditative practices. It can lower blood pressure and is anti-inflammatory. Reishi is the most studied natural substance on earth. Science is continuing to discover benefits of this mushroom. You must take it over a longer period of time to get the full benefits. You can eat it whole, mix 1-2 grams in warm water or tea. Add to smoothies, raw chocolates, and soups. You can also sprinkle it on food. It causes no side effects by continuous use according to Shen Nong, a legendary herbalist-emperor. Consult with a healthcare practitioner if you are pregnant, nursing or on any other medications.
This herb helps raise and lower cortisol levels in your body. It can help with brain function, heart health, depression and metabolism. You can use it to balance blood sugar levels, boost your immune system, increase productivity, and protect your heart from stress. It supports adrenal functioning. It may promote creativity. One of its main uses in the Himalayas was for occasional altitude related ailments. Take it in the morning time because it can cause insomnia if taken too late. Avoid if you have manic depression or are bipolar. It is not recommended for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Consult with a qualified healthcare practitioner before using herbal products.
How do you like to consume your adaptogens? Comment below!
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
Lester, Dr. Tiffany. 5 Easy Ways to Feel Less Stressed Right Now. Sept. 11, 2017 https://www.bonappetit.com/story/how-to-lower-stress by
Sun Potion Products Ashwagandha. https://www.sunpotion.com/products/ashwaganda-organic-111g-jar
Adaptogens 101: What They Are + How They Can Help With Your Stress & Fatigue. August 10, 2013. https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-10589/adaptogens-101-what-they-are-how-they-can-help-with-your-stress-fatigue.html
Research Supports Anti-Aging Benefits of “Elite Class” of Tonic Herbs. September 13, 2013.
Moon Juice Adaptogens: https://moonjuice.com/collections/adaptogens
Raw Vitality Lecture with David Wolfe
Staying Healthy with the Seasons by Elson M. Haas, M.D.