What are adaptogens?
Adaptogens are a special group of antioxidant-rich herbs and mushrooms that may help to increase the body's resistance to physical, chemical or biological stress.
Read on to discover some of our favourite adaptogens and how they can give your overall health and wellbeing a boost!
A small, evergreen shrub that grows in India, the Middle East and parts of Africa, ashwagandha has been used as an herbal treatment in traditional Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years.
Extracts or powder, predominantly sourced from the plant's root, are used to support your health in a variety of ways, including reducing stress, boosting memory and concentration, increasing energy levels and balancing your mood.
In one study of chronically stressed adults, those who supplemented with ashwagandha had significantly greater reductions in cortisol (the stress hormone), compared with the control group. Those taking the highest dose experienced a 30% reduction, on average (1).
Reishi, a Chinese herbal mushroom commonly known as the 'mushroom of immortality', is often found in dried powder form and can either be taken as a supplement if bought as capsules, or simply sprinkled into soups, smoothies and other dishes. Not to be confused with mushrooms that you'd cook in a stir-fry!
Reishi is thought to support your immune health, improve sleep and increase your energy levels.
Test-tube studies have shown that reishi can affect the genes in white blood cells, which are critical parts of your immune system (2). It has also been used to help treat viral infections, like the flu, anxiety, high blood pressure, hepatitis, insomnia and asthma (3).
Also known as tulsi, this Ayurvedic herb is a completely different plant to the basil we commonly use in our favourite Italian dishes! Some holy basil plants are green, others black and green and some plants are even black and red.
Holy basil can bring balance to the body and is a very calming herb, helping the body to normalise its stress response, which over the long-term will help you to feel more stable, peaceful and grounded.
Scientific studies have shown that holy basil can counter metabolic stress by stabilising blood glucose levels (4). When your blood sugar levels are steady, your mood tends to be too. And when your mood is steady, it’s easier to deal with stress (5).
This plant, also referred to as Eleuthero, is used to boost mental and physical performance. Many people enjoy this herb as a morning stimulant to replace their usual cup of coffee, with the added benefit of no-mid morning crash that you typically experience from caffeine!
Siberian ginseng has also been used to treat symptoms of depression such as appetite changes, sleep disturbances and headaches (6).
The herb is sold in the forms of capsules, tinctures and powders and can be supplemented or simply added to smoothies etc.
Siberian Ginseng is extracted from the plant’s bark, stems, leaves, or roots. There is evidence to show that this herbal adaptogen was first used as a natural remedy in China nearly 2000 years ago!
Siberian ginseng has more scientific studies than most other herbs due to its array of amazing health benefits.
Rhodiola rosea is an herb that grows in colder climates, typically in the mountainous regions of Europe and Asia. It's been used for centuries by people in Russian and Scandinavian countries to help treat anxiety, fatigue and depression.
In a recent study, 100 people with chronic fatigue symptoms received 400 mg of rhodiola every day for eight weeks. They experienced significant improvements in stress symptoms, fatigue, quality of life, mood and concentration (7).
Just to note...
Herbal adaptogens are generally considered safe, but it's always good practice to check with your doctor before you try anything new, particularly if you're taking prescription medication.
Herbal adaptogens should not be substituted for consuming a variety of fresh, wholesome foods, which is the best way to maintain your health! We like to view them as healthy add-ons to boost our nutrient levels.
Have you experienced the health benefits of adaptogenic herbs and mushrooms? Or perhaps you're excited to give them a try? Let us know in the comments!