What You Need to Know About Adaptogens

Chaga mushrooms growing on a tree.

Chaga mushrooms are known to be a rich source of antioxidants. (Image: via Wikimedia Commons)

Consuming supplements is now a common habit among people conscious of their physical and mental health. Adaptogens are one such group of supplements that many people seem to be very interested in. These are basically a class of plants that are believed to have the ability to fight stress and balance the body. Some of them have been in use in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine for thousands of years. Others have only recently appeared on the market.


These herbs “help restore communication between your brain and adrenal glands by balancing the hypothalamic-pituitary-endocrine axis — which is also known as the body’s ‘stress stem.’ This axis is responsible for regulating the connection between the brain and your stress hormones,” according to Shape.

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A few studies on adaptogens claim that they have the potential to increase endurance, improve attention, and reduce fatigue. Some of the herbs are thought to boost mental performance, while a few have anti-inflammatory properties. A popular adaptogen is ashwagandha, which is well known for boosting a person’s ability to cope with stress. Whether you are a career-oriented person working on a busy schedule or an athlete who needs an extra bit of energy, consuming ashwagandha can improve your performance by a noticeable margin.  

Adaptogens are thought to help people deal with stress.
Adaptogens are thought to help people deal with stress. (Image: via Piqsels)

However, you should be mindful of the fact that adaptogens will have interactions with the supplements and medications you ingest, which can be harmful to your body. As such, you should always consult with a doctor and get their approval before you start consuming adaptogens. For instance, people on thyroid hormones may have to give up on adaptogens since the herbs can interfere with the normal hormonal processes.

It is also important that you understand that the benefits of adaptogens are not instantaneous. Instead, it can take some time before you start seeing results. “Many of these plants, when they’re taken over a period of time, they really do help people manage their stress more effectively. People will have more energy. They’ll sleep better… They’re intended to be taken over a longer period of time. Their effects are more gentle and subtle, but very powerful,” Dr. Teiraona Low Dog, a doctor who specializes in herbal medicine, said to Drink Metta.

Ashwagandha is a popular adaptogen.
Ashwagandha is a popular adaptogen. (Image: Vinayaraj via Wikimedia Commons)

Commonly used adaptogens

Ashwagandha is arguably the most popular adaptogen. Many chefs across the world have started incorporating ashwagandha into their dishes. A study published in 2012 notes that “high-concentration full-spectrum Ashwagandha root extract improves an individual’s resistance towards stress and thereby improves self-assessed quality of life.” The herb has been used in Africa as a uterine tonic for women who suffer a miscarriage.

Tulsi is similar to the basil typically found in pasta dishes. Ayurvedic medicine uses tulsi in tea as a calming agent. Some people combine ashwagandha and tulsi when preparing a drink. In Northern Europe, chaga mushrooms are popular for being one of the richest sources of antioxidants known to man. They are often used to improve immunity and reduce inflammation.

Eleuthero is also used as a stress-buster herb by many people. They can be very useful for the elderly. The herb supports healthy cholesterol levels and strengthens the immune system. With long-term use, a person might experience fewer incidences of acute illnesses. People who are recovering from surgery or a chronic illness can take eleuthero if they have a doctor’s permission, as it aids in faster recovery. For athletes, the herb can act as an endurance booster.  

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