That headline is not a joke or an exaggeration. I’m really excited for this today’s topic on the benefits of adaptogens (WARNING: lengthy post ahead) because it’s truly something I am so passionate about, and it’s something that has had a tangible, positive impact on my life.
Adaptogens have so many benefits and you should be taking them!
Before I get into what the heck those are and why I love them so much…let me say that this all goes back to stress. I know we’re all feeling it more than usual lately. I’m very familiar with stress and the harm it can cause… you can read more about that HERE. And I know I’m not alone. In fact, studies show more than three-quarters of Americans feel stressed out on a daily basis. Now, it’s important to note that not all stress is equal and it’s not all evil either. Sometimes stress is necessary (it is a survival instinct after all). But it can also be very beneficial. However, chronic stress, ongoing stress that stems from the myriad of triggers around us today (from politics, to the economy, to the climate, etc.) can have lasting physical and mental damage.
These are stressful times…
I’ve been treating my chronic anxiety in different ways for about a decade. I’ve tried all kinds of things, from changes in my exercise to my diet to medication to therapy and more. The first secret I learned is that there is no one quick fix to treat chronic stress. A combination of all of those things I mentioned above and more may be required to bring your mind and body back into balance.
The other secret I learned…is that there is no secret. Womp womp. Stress is an individual battle for everyone, and what works for one person may not work for another. Let me say that again for the people in the back. EVERYONE NEEDS THEIR OWN UNIQUE CARE. And yes, for many people, including myself at various points in my life, medication is the right answer. No matter what, if stress is affecting your sleep, your appetite, or any other aspect of your functionality…. you consider having a conversation with your doctor.
Okay let’s get back on track here…
Now that I’ve made myself clear… back to the point. I’ve come to love and appreciate the benefits of adaptogens as a natural way to help me manage my stress and anxiety, and feel energized and clear-headed every day. I love these plants because there are so many different types you can take and different ways to take them to fit your needs and your lifestyle best.
For me, I’ve incorporated supplements into the teas that I drink daily, as well as into my morning coffee.
I’ve noticed that I feel better and more energized in the mornings, I’m sleeping more deeply, and I’m in better spirits overall throughout the day.
It’s all about balance…
Now, for me, the benefits of adaptogens have also come hand in hand with other lifestyle changes for me, including getting more and better sleep, incorporating more exercises into my week, and eating less processed foods.
And as a result, I have been able to safely wean off of the prescription SSRI I was taking, replacing it with herbal supplements that have many me feel even better than before. (If you’re thinking of doing this….GO BACK AND READ MY INTRO AGAIN ABOUT TALKING TO YOUR DOCTOR).
So I would highly recommend adaptogens for anyone who feels stressed (wait who doesn’t? I’d like to meet you!), or is dealing with new or continuing anxiety in their day to day life. Whether or not you are also treating in other ways, adaptogens are natural warriors have so many qualities to give your body and mind a gentle boost.
So what exactly are adaptogens?
At the base level, I’m referring to a category of herbs here. Adaptogens are plants that, unsurprisingly, help your body adapt to stress. More technically speaking, these herbs work by supporting your body’s production of stress hormones and neurotransmitters.
And how do they work?
According to the National Institutes of Health, “Adaptogens can affect different tissues and organs, and adjust each of these parts to attain homeostasis.” One of the main benefits of adaptogens – and one of the major ways differ from conventional medications that treat stress – is that they are modulating herbs. That means they can help your body increase or decrease the functions of certain systems (i.e. in the nervous system) based on whatever your body needs. For example, if you’re producing too much or too little of a hormone, adaptogens can help your body increase OR decrease the production of that hormone.
These herbs work best over time, and you’ll find that you notice the benefits of adaptogens after you’ve been taking them consistently for a while. They offer a range of benefits to our health, especially in conjunction with a healthy diet and lifestyle.
Additional benefits of adaptogens also include support for fertility, libido, mood, immune function, vitality and so many other health factors that are… what do you know… connected to our stress levels.
Are there any risks I need to be worried about?
Most adaptogens are generally extremely safe and non-toxic, especially when taken in proper doses. Even taking too many adaptogens isn’t necessarily dangerous, according to health experts… but it can throw off some of your bodily systems… you know what they say about too much of a good thing. So, the key takeaway is to only take what you need and take it in the suggested amounts to get the maximum benefits. Otherwise, what’s the point?
Also, some herbalists caution that it is better to take stimulating herbs in the morning, to decrease the risk that they interfere with your sleep.
Gimme some examples of these magical adaptogens…
Adaptogenic herbs can be broken down into two basic categories….those that are more calming and balancing (especially helpful for those whose stress tends towards anxiety)…and those that are more uplifting and energizing (which can benefit those who get fatigued, unmotivated and depressed by stress…a common manifestation).
Examples: Stimulating Adaptogens
Examples: Calming Adaptogens
- Holy Basil
- Gotu kola
- Licorice Root
This is by no means a complete list of all the adaptogenic herbs… but certainly a compilation of some of the most popular, studied, and easily available ones out there. If you want to read more about all of these herbs and more… I’d love to point you to information from those who have studied this well more than I have and have the qualifications to prove it. Check out these resources to the right to get tons more info on different types of adaptogens and how they work!
How do you take adaptogens?!
That’s the beauty of it… there are so many options to figure out what works for you! You can take adaptogens in your food, in your drinks, as a tincture on their own, in capsule form, in powder form…the list goes on.
For me, I’m not a big pill person…so I prefer to ingest mine via tinctures and powders that I mix in my drinks. You can take most doses anywhere from 1-3 times per day. I usually take one dose a day and that works for me.
The amount of any adaptogens you take will depend on the form you take them in, as some are less diluted than others.
If you’re drinking them in tea or broth… then it also depends on if you’re using fresh or dried herbs. For instance, a tsp-tbsp of dried herb or a large handful of fresh herbs along with 8 ounces of water would be an average dose.
But if you’re taking a tincture, that’s a more concentrated herb form. One dose would be about 1 squirt from the dropper (about 30 drops), which is only about 1/5 of a teaspoon!
For more on this, check out this beginner’s guide from renowned herbalist Dr. Christopher Hobbs.
Another important note here is to be discerning about where you get your herbal supplements. Do your research and buy from reputable brands that create products that are certified organic and cruelty free. (You can check out my links below for recs to get you started).
A peek at my herbal supplement routine:
I take herbal supplements 4 times a day. Twice in the morning, once in the afternoon and then again before bed. This routine is designed to give me the energy boosts I need throughout the day, and also help me get restful sleep each night (I’m someone who frequently manifests anxiety in my sleep and dreams).
To start my day, I take the stimulating adaptogen ginseng in the morning, along with a dose of balancing holy basil. I take these in tincture form, mixed with my daily ginger turmeric tea (great for digestion and inflammation).
Then I make my morning coffee after working out. I mix in a teaspoon of my energy thrive herbal supplement powder and dissolve it in my mug. It contains Cordyceps, rhodiola, ashwagandha, astragalus, and shizandra.
Below, I’ll explain each of the specific supplements I take and why. Plus, click on the pictures for links to shop these herbs for yourself.
Energy Thrive Powder
Cordyceps, Rhodiola, Ashwagandha, Astragalus, Maca and Shizandra
These are some of the most common, all around adaptogenic champions. Ashwagandha is becoming increasingly popular because of its anxiety reducing qualities. Shizandra specifically also provides a ton of additional benefits to the liver. More HERE and HERE.
Contains ginseng root and Eleuthera root
Ginseng has been revered by traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years because of its ability to increase overall vitality in the body. It’s a great natural source of energy, but without the negative side affects that can come from caffeine consumption (which is a stimulant but NOT an adaptogen). On top of that, research shows it helps slow the aging process. More HERE.
Holy Basil Leaf Extract
Holy basil is beloved by Ayurvedic medicine practitioners for its protective powers. While providing energizing calm, this herb also greatly aids immune health, and is known to help protect your organs and tissue. More HERE.
Gotu Kola Leaf Extract
This herb has a ton of benefits for your brain function as well as helping to modulate stress response. Furthermore, research suggests it helps increase mental function, and improves circulation throughout the body (including the brain). More HERE.
Relaxing Sleep Supplement
Valerian root, Passionflower, Hops, Chamomile, & Catnip
Valerian root and Passionflower are some of the most potent, yet still generally safe, herbal sleep aids out there. Passionflower is a sedative that helps with anxiety, irritability and insomnia. And valerian root is a common sleep aid that you’ll find in many OTC sleep medications. Additionally, it can also help relax muscles and provide pain relief. Chamomile, known for its calming properties, helps tie it all together. More HERE and HERE.
Where to get good quality adaptogens…
plus some of my favorite products.
There are ENDLESS options to buy herbal supplements, mostly because of the internet. It can be overwhelming. While doing your research and reading medical sites to compare information will always be your best bet… here are some of my favorite, reputable brands, all of which have been endorsed by experts in the medical industry.
Some more standout products….
EVEN MORE HERBAL INSPO:
adapotogenic recipes you can try at home!
- MACA SMOOTHIE: Mix 1 cup of frozen spinach with 2 cups of your favorite frozen fruits (berries and bananas perhaps?) along with 1 avocado, honey, 1 cup of almond milk and a teaspoon of Maca powder.
- CALMING GOLDEN MILK: Simmer a cup of milk with a teaspoon each of cinnamon, turmeric, ashwagandha powder, 1/2 tsp of black pepper, and your sweetener of choice for about 5 minutes, whisking well.
- MAGIC MUSHROOM COFFEE: Add hot coffee or espresso to a blender along with 1 tsp of cinnamon, a teaspoon of Reishi or another mushroom powder, and your sweetener of choice. Simmer or steam your milk of choice and then add to blender. Pulse it all until creamy and smooth.
- FLORAL SLEEPYTIME TEA: Add a teaspoon each of chamomile and lavender leaf and flowers, a teaspoon of lemon balm leaf in a tea clamp to a cup of boiling water and steep for at least 5 minutes. Add the juice of half a lemon and honey to taste.
MY MORNING STAPLES
- Organic ginger-turmeric & black pepper tea with honey, juice of 1/2 lemon, and 30 drops each holy basil and gingseng
- Coffee infused with cinnamon, with a teaspoon of Adaptogen powder