Adaptogens 101 - Why everyone needs them in their daily routine
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Adaptogens have been quite the buzzword in the wellness world for some time now. From adaptogen infused coffee to chocolate reishi cookies, adaptogens have taken the wellness world by storm. But what exactly is this new thing thrown in every direction and newly integrated in so many products? Adaptogens and their specific usages can be traced way back to traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda, the amount of information and usages of these seemingly magical herbs is extremely interesting yet somewhat overwhelming. But don’t worry, we have you covered. The following article is a good starting point in learning how to incorporate adaptogens in your daily routine based on symptoms we most commonly come across in our daily lives.
Adaptogens are herbs used to improve our body’s ability to cope with everyday life stressors (internal and external). As the word suggests, adaptogens help the body adapt and support the body’s hormonal response to stress. Whereas stimulants and certain kinds of medications create a false sense of resilience, adaptogens work in harmony with your body’s ultimate quest to achieve and maintain balance (homeostasis). Not all adaptogens are created equal, their usage and dosage varies, and obviously, as any ancient healing modality, the ethics around their sourcing is important to keep in mind.
Looking to improve your sleep? Increase energy? Reduce stress? Balance your hormones? Here are 5 adaptogens you can begin to incorporate in your daily routine to help your body cope with all the stressors of our modern times.
1- Maca root (the energizer)
Primary use of maca root: hormone balancing, reproductive tonic, fertility enhancer
Especially useful for women who feel that their hormones are out of wack, maca encourages the body to produce or decrease its own hormones by nourishing the master glands of the body (Hypothalamus and pituitary).
- Who should take it? Women who want relief from menopause symptoms, anyone looking to increase their sex drive, mood and ultimately boost performance and energy. Pregnant or breastfeeding women should discuss the integration of this adaptogen to their diet with a health care professional and people with thyroid problems should consider skipping this particular adaptogen due to its potent interaction with the gland itself.
- When to take it? Due to its energy enhancing and mood-boosting properties it would be wise to include the adaptogen to your morning routine and start the day off on the right foot. Consider adding the powdered form of maca to certain smoothies, your bowl of oatmeal or even certain baked goods.
- Where to find it? With nutty and earthy flavors, maca root can usually be found in a powdered form. It is also available in liquid or capsules. Here’s my favorite Maca root product.
2- Ashwagandha (the sleep booster)
Primary use of ashawagandha: brain booster, energizer, supports optimal thyroid function
Working on the central nervous system, this adaptogen has been shown to improve brain function, help the body reach states of calmness and even help with sleep.
- Who should take it? If you are having trouble managing blood sugar levels, reducing cortisol levels and can’t seem to manage stress and anxiety it might be time to try this adaptogen. Once again, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding avoid experimenting with these herbs without consulting a healthcare professional.
- When to take it? Add it to your favorite smoothies or try this adaptogenic infused coffee.
- Where to find it? You can find it under multiple forms in any health food store. Here’s my favorite product.
3- Rhodiola bark (the stress reducer)
Primary use of rhodiola bark: any type of chronic stress, cortisol imbalance or adrenal fatigue
Helping your body heal from being in a constant “fight or flight” mode, this adaptogen is known for its antidepressant and immunostimulant properties. Rhodiola is often recognized as a gentle healer of stress, helping people reestablish a normal adrenal function.
- Who should take it? Anyone feeling like their body would benefit from a little extra help in dealing with daily stressors (don’t we all?)
- When to take it? Prioritize taking this adaptogen in the morning and avoid taking it close to bedtime as it could have mild stimulatory effects. Try making these blissed balls filled with adaptogens and CBD
- Where to find it? Rhodiola is most commonly found in powder, tincture, extract, and pills. Make sure to start slowly and work your way up depending on your needs. It is always a good idea to consult your doctor/naturopath/herbalist to ensure this adaptogen is right for you. Here is my favorite Rhodiola product.
4- Chaga mushroom (the king of mushrooms)
Primary use of chaga: battling sun damage, pain relief, chemotherapy & radiation therapy protection, anti-viral, detoxifying (blood and liver), balancing blood sugar
Belonging to the family of mushrooms, the benefits of chaga are absolutely mind-boggling, everyone and anyone can benefit by incorporating this mushroom daily in their smoothies or food.
- Who should take it? Looking to fight inflammation, support your immune system or lowering cholesterol? this product might be something you want to look into. Whether you take the adaptogen in a powdered form or as a tincture, make sure you check with a healthcare professional the perfect dosage according to your specific needs.
- When to take it? When to take it? Include this adaptogen in various recipes and smoothies. Try this amazing Chaga cold brew recipe
- Where to find it? Investigating the preparation and extraction of the products you purchase is always crucial. For chaga, make sure it is “dual-extracted” and that it isn't in its raw form, which contains little to no medicinal value.
5- Cordyceps (endurance enhancer)
Primary use of codyceps: improve endurance and support workout recovery
Loaded with antioxidants, this adaptogen is often used as a workout recovery and for keeping free radicals at bay
- Who should take it? Anyone looking to boost exercise performance, Cordycepshase been shown to improve the body’s use of oxygen, especially during exercise. In addition, this adaptogen could be beneficial for those looking to fight inflammation and for general heart health.
- When to take it? Whenever feels best for your body, Cordyceps has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries.
- Where to find it? Cordyceps are extremely difficult to harvest and thus usually expensive to purchase. Beyond the higher price range, the supplements usually contain loads of other elements. Make sure the brand you are purchasing carries the NSF international seal and double check the research beyond the company in question. In addition, make sure you aren't purchasing the synthetically grown version called Cordyceps CS-4. Here’s my favorite product
Final thoughts on adaptogens
When it comes to adaptogens, choosing which products to purchase and which to avoid is tricky. As mentioned above, not all companies share the same ethics and sourcing methods, and with the ever-increasing availability of adaptogens, choosing the most potent product can become quite the puzzle. Investing in a well-sourced product might be a little more expensive, but you will definitely get more bang for your buck. As with any form of supplementation, whether adaptogens of vitamins, you should avoid experimenting solo if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or taking mood stabilizers. It is always optimal to consult a doctor, herbalist, or naturopath when considering which herbs and adaptogens are right for you. In addition, make sure your adaptogens come from a trusted source and that they are ALWAYS organic. Look for third-party certifications from the brands you purchase such as the USP or NSF seal to make sure you are taking the adaptogen in its pure form.
On a final note, my personal advice when it comes to taking any kind of supplement is to go with what feels right for you. Follow your gut, listen to your body and check in with yourself before purchasing any product.
Health Enthusiastic and chocolate connoisseur