Did you say adaptogens?

The word adaptogens is a bit of a mouthful and even sounds somewhat intimidating. However, adaptogens can be a helpful and gentle way to support the body. This post breaks down what adaptogens are, who might benefit from adaptogens, and how we suggest incorporating adaptogens into everyday life. 

What are adaptogens and how do they work?

Have you ever been confused about what an adaptogen even is? If so, you are not alone! Over the past few years, adaptogens have grown in popularity resulting in many brands and products claiming various health benefits.

 In most cases, adaptogens consist of medicinal mushrooms, herbs, spices, and tinctures. Often, adaptogens support the body’s adrenals (small organs located above the kidneys, usually deal with stress by producing hormones like cortisol) and central nervous system resulting in sustained energy levels throughout the day, decreased stress response, improved focus, and more! 

Our favorite adaptogens and their health benefits: 

  • Holy Basil – may help stress response 
  • Ashwagandha and Licorice root – may improve stress response and work with adrenal glands to help balance cortisol levels
  • Ginseng – may reduce stress, help balance hormones, boost immunity, and improves cognitive performance 
  • Astragalus Root – may improve stress response by decreasing certain stress hormones
  • Cordyceps mushrooms – may reduce feelings of stress and improve cognitive performance
  • Reishi – may boost immunity 
  • Rhodiola – may help reduce stress, decrease fatigue, and improve cognitive performance

Before incorporating adaptogens into your diet, we recommend checking with your health practitioner as some adaptogens may interact with medications. Additionally, the quality and dosage of adaptogens matter, so finding a high-quality brand and working with a practitioner to find out the right dosage is key. 

Who may benefit from adaptogens?

The health benefits and minimal (if any) side effects of adaptogens may seem too good to be true, leaving you ready to run to the nearest health food store. However, certain people may benefit from adaptogens more than others. 

You may benefit from adaptogens if you suffer with: 

  • Burnout/ Adrenal fatigue 
  • Perimenopause/menopause
  • Imbalanced hormones
  • Trouble focusing 
  • Anxious feelings
  • Stress Management 
  • Trouble Sleeping

If you are experiencing any of the above, you might be a prime candidate for adaptogens. However, if you are skeptical, don’t be! Many of our clients have successfully incorporated adaptogens into their life and truly feel like it has helped them uplevel their health in many different capacities. 

Our favorite ways to incorporate adaptogens in day to day life

Before jumping right in, it is important to know that it will take consistency and some time to feel the benefits of adaptogens. When, how much, and how often to take them depends on the person and the type of adaptogen. In general, we suggest incorporating one adaptogen at a time (if you are considering trying more than one) so that you can see how each makes you feel. Additionally, we recommend taking them in the morning because most can negatively affect your sleep if taken too late (but not all, some can actually help!). 

How to incorporate different forms of adaptogens: 

  • Powder form – in a smoothie, coffee (Four Sigmatic and MUD/WTR are our favs), tea, oatmeal, or yogurt 
  • Capsule form – with breakfast or on an empty stomach (depending on what type of adaptogen and recommendation from your health practitioner) 
  • Tincture Form – by itself, or with water (depends on what it is) 

Interestingly, we find it can be helpful to rotate between the various forms every six weeks or so to maximize benefits. 

When to take them: Morning

  • Astragalus root
  • Ashwagandha 
  • Cordyceps
  • Ginseng 
  • Rhodiola 

When to take them: Night

  • Holy Basil (aka Tulsi)
  • Reishi 

The Bottom Line

Adaptogens are a great natural way to help manage stress, boost immunity, improve cognitive performance, and promote quality sleep with little to no side effects. Different adaptogens boast unique health benefits by interacting with the adrenals and central nervous system. However, adaptogens should be used as a tool alongside other health and lifestyle interventions to optimize health and should not be solely relied upon. 

Struggling with any of the conditions above or want to try incorporating adaptogens into your life? Click here to work with us!

Written by Alison Richman MS, RDN