The Power of Adaptogens
With so many health kicks, crazes, tips, and trends out there, it can be incredibly difficult to wade through them, let alone find something that works for you. Some of it can be trial and error, but it can also be fun to try out new products and plants that have the power to make you feel your best. You may have heard the term “adaptogens” floating around. You might even have a general idea of what they are, or what some examples are. Or you might have no idea what we’re talking about. Either way, we’re here to clear up any confusion and offer clarity on the topic of adaptogens. What exactly are adaptogens? How do they work? And of course – what is considered an adaptogen, and how can you integrate them into your self-care routine? So get ready to nerd out and learn about an awesome new way to optimize your health and humanness.
What Are Adaptogens?
Adaptogens might sound like a fancy term, but their job is implied in the name – they help you and your body adapt. Adapt to what you ask? All sorts of things. Adaptogens help the body be able to better handle all sorts of changes, whether they be physical, mental, physical, chemical, or environmental. These are typically plant-based molecules that work to help promote homeostasis and overall balance in the body. These incredible tools often get compared to thermostats thanks to their ability to regulate hormones like a thermostat regulates temperature. Using your thermostat, you can make it warmer if it’s too cold, and cooler if it’s sweltering outside. Adaptogens can be thought of as a thermostat for your hormones.
While they might seem like a new trend in the wellness world, adaptogens are nothing new. They have been used in traditional systems of medicine, like Chinese medicine and Ayurveda (originating in India), for hundreds of years – if not more. The Chinese medicine philosophy around adaptogens is that they ground you so you can get your roots back, helping to restore balance in the body and mind. Adaptogens can be thought of as your favorite self-care tools for your insides. These powerful plants go where they need to go in your body so that you can feel your best.
What Are The Benefits of Adaptogens?
While there is limited scientific research on the benefits of adaptogens, what is available shows promising effects. Not to mention the hundreds of years of human experience utilizing these plants. More often than not, if you’re feeling out of balance, stressed, or fatigued, it typically comes down to your hormones. Figuring out how to balance your hormones can just add stress to any you’re already feeling. That’s why it can be so helpful to have a tool like adaptogens. Researchers have found that adaptogens work their magic thanks to their stress-protective ability. By working on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, adaptogens can help increase endurance and attention, as well as your ability to tolerate stress.
Adaptogens enhance your overall balance and may also help:
- Nourish the adrenal glands, regulating your body’s stress response
- Increase endurance
- Boost the immune system
- Regulate mood, appetite, and metabolism
- Increase focus and cognitive function
- Regulate blood sugar
- Lower blood pressure
- Boost your sex drive
- Increase longevity
If you’re someone who is constantly reaching for caffeine or fighting chronic fatigue, adaptogens can help bring you to a place where your body can maintain its own energy levels.
Adding Adaptogens into Your Life
There are more than 70 known kinds of adaptogens – so you’ve got plenty of options! Different adaptogens have their own specific benefits, but overall they all tend to go where they need to go. Meaning you don’t have to worry about trying a million different products, try a few and stick with what works for you. There are plenty of different ways to ingest adaptogens. They typically come in capsules, powders, whole herbs or mushrooms, or tinctures – aka dissolved in a liquid. Tinctures are easy to take under the tongue or add to a drink. Powders you can easily add into your morning beverage, smoothie, or even sprinkle on a salad.
These are some of the most common adaptogens out there:
- Maca: Increases energy and sex drive
- Ashwagandha: Regulates aging, decreases anxiety, and helps with sleep
- Rhodiola: Stress relief and focus
- Cordyceps: Good for liver, kidneys, and heart health
- Tulsi (holy basil): Boosts immunity, helps you to manage stress, enhances digestion and metabolism
- Ginseng: Lower blood sugar, reduces stress, promotes relaxation
- Astragalus: Boosts the immune system, may help prevent heart disease
Try taking your adaptogen of choice every day for a few weeks to notice a difference, although you might notice it sooner. It’s recommended to take them in the mornings with breakfast unless you’re taking one specifically for sleep. Add one adaptogen at a time to notice differences before experimenting with new ones. If you’re on any medications, be sure to consult your medical provider before adding adaptogens into your life.
Natasha (she/her) is a full-spectrum doula and health+wellness copywriter. Her work focuses on deconstructing the shame, stigma, and barriers people carry around birth, sex, health, and beyond, to help people navigate through their lives with more education and empowerment. You can connect with Natasha on IG @natasha.s.weiss.