...If you could use a refresher, read on: we’ll look at what they are, what they do and just how to use them. I decided to take them every day and describe the experience, alongside what comes from taking different kinds of these powerful nutrients.
My friends are used to me calling them “magic powders” and I know it sounds exaggerated. But their main function is to self-regulate body systems that need adjusting. Let’s say Emily is stressed out, Vanessa’s got adrenal fatigue and maybe Danielle has digestive problems. Taking a specific adaptogen will in every case help balance out a given system (e.g., nervous, immunological, digestive, etc.).
Adaptogens are medicinal plants, herbs or substances that improve the body’s ability to fight off stress and prevent health problems. They’re a safe, natural aid to staying healthy. But you still need to proceed with caution. Even something that’s good can be too much in excess. Check your plan with a nutrition professional, especially if you’re pregnant or nursing.
These marvelous nutrients are plentiful—and all are valuable for their particular properties. Below is a brief guide with some of the adaptogens I’ve found most effective. Think about which one your body may need.
ASHWAGANDHA is among the most popular and best-known Ayurvedic herbs. It’s especially good at reducing stress and gives rise to a generalized sense of wellbeing.
ASTRAGALUS is plant-based adaptogen used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years. Often known as the “great protector,” Astragalus is great for strengthening the immune system as well as fortifying and protecting numerous body systems and their functions. Benefits include healthier skin and improved metabolism, digestion and energy levels.
Nicknamed “king of the medicinal mushrooms,” CHAGA inundates the system with more than 215 phytonutrients that nourish the body, stimulate the immune system and reduce inflammation. This tonic has been used for centuries in Siberia, European Russia and other parts of Asia. Its high levels of vitamin B, flavonoids, enzymes, minerals, phenols and antioxidants make it one of the most densely nutritious mushrooms there is.
CORDYCEPS grows on caterpillar backs and is harvested in mountainous regions; until a few years ago it was extremely rare. This powerful mushroom has been shown to slow down aging, reduce fatigue and stress, boost libido and improve cardiovascular health.
For centuries, HE SHOU WU has been taken for its anti-aging, blood-generating and beauty-food qualities. Valued in Chinese medicine for its ability to improve circulation, boost stamina and for its use as an aphrodisiac.
Super-rich in nutrients, MACA is a root that’s renowned for balancing out hormones. It has more calcium than milk and is high in protein, fiber and magnesium. Common uses include enhanced fertility and relieving menopause symptoms. Maca has been harvested in the Andean highlands for more than 3000 years.
MORINGA is a concentrated nutrient also known as the “miraculous leaf” becase of its capacity for regulating arterial pressure, reducing anxiety and fortifying the digestive system. It contains vitamins B, C, D and E, magnesium and protein alongside other essential nutrients and amino acids. It’s also an easy way to tap into a wide spectrum of nutritional variety and bio-availability.*
MUCUNA PRURIENS is the scientific name for a plant that grows throughout India. It contains L-Dopa, the amino acid that becomes dopamine—i.e., the neurotransmitter that regulates the brain’s pleasure-centers, making it a perfect mood-booster and relaxer. Higher dopamine levels help us achieve better sleep and cultivate an overall sense of wellness.
PINE POLLEN contains 22 amino acids and 8 essentials [sic] and is considered a super-food for the brain that, taken regularly, helps improve the hormonal portfolio, strengthens the immunological system and improves overall body functioning. Said to be both an aphrodisiac and a food for longevity, pine pollen is harvested from small grains inside pinecones. When left in nature, this pollen drifts between trees as a natural part of the ecosystem, falling into animals’ food and kicking off the spring reproductive cycle.
Did you know REISHI is the world’s most-studied plant? It’s known as the “queen remedy” and is coveted for the way it balances the body’s systems, helping overcome a wealth of minor ailments by improving an ability to resist stress and cultivate interior calm. One of the main compounds in reishi is ganoderic acid, which helps check histamine-induced allergies as it improves oxygen use and liver function.
My favorite way to use adaptogens is to include them in delicious foods like smoothies, golden milk, matcha lattes, even with my daily cup of coffee.
*Bio-availability: The amount of a substance that the body can access (that reaches an organ or is subject to systematic circulation) when ingested, inhaled, injected or topically applied.