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Adaptogens- What the Heck are they?

What Are Adaptogens?

Adaptogens, a gift from mother nature, have been around and used for thousands of years in ancient forms of medicine from Ayurveda to Traditional Chinese Medicine, even though in Western culture, adaptogens are a relatively new concept. Function by aiding the body to better deal with the many stressors it encounters every day, such as external stressors (toxins, chemicals, pollution, pesticides) and internal stressors (lack of sleep, anxiety, depression).

Adaptogens and Stress:

Adaptogen describes a class of herbs, roots, and mushrooms that shield your body from the side effects stress can bring. Stress, arguably one of the worst epidemics to date, is like an invisible mold inside the body. The side effects of stress are usually unnoticed or ignored until the continuous stress over time causes systems in the body to stop functioning correctly. One stressful day will not cause one to fall sick; a whole month of stress will severely impact the functioning of the immune system and often will result in sickness. When under stress, the body will enter a fight or flight mode, releasing chemicals, like adrenaline, to help the body adapt to what it thinks is a life or death situation. Our body does a lot of amazing things, but one thing it is not able to do is differentiate between the type of stressors. Fight or flight is a mechanism that was vital to human survival thousands of years ago when one was found in life-threatening situations such as getting chased by wild animals or extreme temperatures with little protection. But in society today, getting chased by a wild animal is not as plausible. Stress, more so, comes from other areas in our life, such as money, relationships, and job situations. Today's stressful situations are rarely life or death matters, so the fight or flight reaction is not necessary, and when the body is always in fight or flight mode, adverse effects begin to appear. Resulting in long term issues: headaches, sleep troubles, digestive problems, weakened immune system, anxiety, ADD/ADHD, short temper, addiction, social withdrawal, weight gain, depression, the list goes on and on. This is where adaptogens come into play, aiding in bringing your body back into a state of balance when stress is encountered. Adaptogens offer quite heavy-duty support for the body during stressful times, as well as, are recommended for everyday use as preventative medicine.

What counts as an adaptogen?

Adaptogens are non-toxic to the body's systems, offer widespread support, and help bring the body to a state of homeostasis. All three of those together make an adaptogen. Many plants might have some adaptogenic properties, but only fulfill one of those categories. Such as turmeric, having amazing anti-anti-inflammatory affects on the body, but cannot be absorbed and utilized by the body without the presence of black pepper. So, therefore, turmeric alone does not fit the adaptogen category. There are many different kinds of adaptogens that all function differently. Some stimulate the body, increase performance, and aid in physical endurance, such as Asian ginseng, eleuthero (or Siberian ginseng), Rhodiola Rosea, and maca powder. Others can calm the body, mind, and the adrenal system like reishi, ashwagandha, and holy basil. Some Adaptogens are more focused on immune-boosting properties like Chaga and astragalus.

How to Consume:

Adaptogens are offered in many forms: pill form, tinctures, and powders. There is no specific right way to take an adaptogen. It comes down to personal preference, some of them don't have the best taste (ashwagandha), so mixing it with other things that have a more robust flavor is usually preferred. Commonly enjoyed in smoothies, teas, juices, yogurt, or coffee. How often you should take them is something you and your health care provider can talk about. Adaptogens are non-toxic, so safe to take everyday if wanted or just when stress is high. The benefits will be more substantial with continued use, but either way, if an adaptogen is consumed, your body will thank you. As with introducing anything new into a health care routine- check with your doctor first!


One thing to be aware of is that adaptogens will not provide magical overnight results to the toxic effects of stress that has accumulated for years. Adaptogens are potent but can be slow-acting, so be patient and know they are doing their job.

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