Invigorating ginseng, super mushrooms, tulsi, ashwagandha and a dozen more complex names – the powders of these medicinal plants were once used only by selected healers, and today they are called adaptogens and are generously added to tea and smoothies. Experts promise that adaptogens will improve our hormonal system, help cope with stress, improve concentration and increase stamina, invigorate or, on the contrary, calm down before bed. How do adaptogens work and how to use them correctly? We tell in this post.
Material prepared by: Daria Bukhman
Why do we need adaptogens?
Adaptogens are a unique group of herbal preparations, including herbs and mushrooms (not champignons! :), which are able to “adapt” (hence the name) their action to the needs of a particular organism. To be officially considered an adaptogen, a medicinal plant must meet these three criteria:
- It should be, in general, safe for health, that is, it should not have a toxic effect on the body, and, therefore, it can be taken in small doses for a long time (including daily);
- It helps us cope with stress (physically, chemically and biologically);
- It helps balance our hormonal system.
Despite the fact that the concept of “adaptogens” is relatively new and first appeared in 1947, these medicinal plants have been used for centuries in the ancient practices of Ayurveda and Chinese medicine. In recent years, a lot of research has emerged confirming the benefits of adaptogens and their ability to lower blood cortisol levels, repair brain cells, reduce anxiety and fatigue, prevent tumors and even protect against radiation.
“Adaptogens work like a thermostat. When the thermostat senses that the room is too hot, it lowers the temperature and vice versa. Adaptogens can calm you down and at the same time give you a boost of vigor. By gently supporting the adrenal glands, they are able to withstand the various effects of stress on the body and normalize any imbalances it may cause. They also help cells get rid of toxic metabolic by-products and use oxygen more efficiently, ”explains Dr. Frank Lipman, one of the leading experts in functional medicine.
“Meditation, yoga, green smoothies are great ways to deal with stress, but I think adaptogens are one of the most effective and quickest ways,” – Kimberly Snyder, nutritionist, author of the bestselling The Beauty Detox Solution.
Holy Basil, Invigorating Ginseng & Super Mushrooms – 11 Popular Adaptogens
Despite the fact that adaptogens are able to adjust their action to the needs of the body, each medicinal plant has its own characteristics and unique effect. Among the most popular:
Ashwagandha: balance of hormones and calmness
Indian ginseng or ashwagandha has been used in Ayurveda for thousands of years to strengthen immunity, increase endurance and relieve chronic fatigue.
Ginseng: a boost of vitality
For a long time, ginseng was considered the most valuable and most expensive medicinal plant in the world. It is perhaps the most studied adaptogen, and its ability to withstand stress and invigorate has been proven in numerous studies.
Rhodiola Rosea: brain tonic
Rhodiola perfectly normalizes the level of cortisol in the blood, and also has the unique ability to saturate brain cells with oxygen. This medicinal plant native to Tibet promises clarity of mind and increased concentration.
Pearl: the elixir of beauty
Yes, it is pearls! For a long time, pearls have been used in China to maintain the beauty of the interior and exterior. It is rich in minerals such as calcium, zinc, iron, as well as amino acids. Pearls contribute to the production of natural collagen in the body, therefore it improves the condition of the skin and hair.
Maca: strength and endurance
This adaptogen, originally from Peru, is incredibly rich in B vitamins, calcium, zinc, iron. Maca is used to increase energy and results can be seen in just a few days. Many athletes add maca to their diet during competition as it increases endurance. Maca is actively used to normalize hormones in women and men.
Holy Basil (Tulsi): relaxation before bed
Tulsi is distinguished by its ability to relax and calm. An excellent drink for those who suffer from insomnia or find it difficult to calm their thoughts before bed.
Ho Shou Wu (Highlander multicolor, Ho Shou Wu): Elixir of Longevity
For a long time, ho-shu-wu has been used in China as an elixir of longevity and youth. It strengthens the immune system, improves memory, nourishes the skin, hair and nails.
Mucuna Pruries (Mucuna pruriens): the elixir of joy
Mucuna Pruries contains the unique amino acid L-Dopa, which is converted in the brain into dopamine, the pleasure hormone. This medicinal plant improves mood, calms the nervous system and improves brain function.
Adaptogenic mushrooms (chaga, reishi, cordyceps)
Medicinal mushrooms, like adaptogens, in general, help normalize hormones and help fight stress, but each of them has its own unique properties.
- Reishi (reishi): Strengthens the immune system, supports liver function, protects against radiation.
- Chaga (chaga): in China it is called “the king of plants”, and in Japan “the diamond of the forest”. Rich in B vitamins, flavonoids, minerals. One of the strongest antioxidants.
- Cordyceps (cordyceps): saturates the body with oxygen, improves brain function, increases endurance.
How to take adaptogens?
Since adaptogens are non-addictive and non-toxic, they can be consumed daily, it is only important to do so in reasonable amounts. It is not recommended to exceed the dose of 2-3 grams per day, which corresponds to half a teaspoon of the powder. Adaptogens are great for adding to tea, coffee, or smoothies.
The use of adaptogens is not recommended for pregnant and lactating women. When starting to use adaptogens, you should be attentive to your own feelings – only you know what works for your body and what doesn’t. For example, if ginseng triggers the same reaction in you as a shot of espresso (blood pressure rises, heart rate increases, and heart starts to beat), then this adaptogen is not for you.
Experts advise changing adaptogens from time to time and taking short breaks in their intake to increase their effectiveness.
Adaptogens can only be beneficial if they are part of a healthy lifestyle, as a supplement to a balanced diet, physical activity, and mental balance.
I asked Daria to share her experience and her favorite recipe for a drink with adaptogens:
“I myself have been using adaptogens for almost six months every day, combining them in different combinations. I used it when I was breastfeeding (but my son was then a year and a half). I had no negative reactions.
I have been experimenting with adaptogens for over six months now. Every morning I start with a glass of hot matcha tea infused with medicated powders. Here’s my favorite recipe:
- 350 ml hot water (but not boiling)
- 1 teaspoon matches powder
- 1 tsp moringa (you can not add, or you can even replace it with a match if you do not tolerate caffeine)
- 1 teaspoon coconut oil or coconut butter (I use coconut butter – it tastes creamy, softer, slightly sweet. You can experiment with the amount and add up to one tablespoon if you like the taste of latte.)
- 1/2 teaspoon maki (for vivacity and restoration of hormonal levels after completing breastfeeding)
- 1/2 teaspoon rhodiola (to turn on the brain in the morning)
- 1/2 teaspoon pine pollen (for hormonal balance)
- 1/2 teaspoon of reishi or cordyceps (for immunity)
I put the powders into a blender, fill in with water and whisk. I adhere to several rules: I don’t use more than four adaptogens in one drink, I alternate them and follow the body’s reaction. This drink helps me to cheer up, gives more energy for morning sports, especially when the children woke up at five in the morning, which happens quite often 🙂 “