Everything You Need to Know About Adaptogens

Health trends come and go, but we’re seeing a resurgence in a health “trend” that’s actually been around for centuries. Adaptogens are a hot topic at the moment, but they’ve been used in ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years. You can find them in capsule form, in dried powders or in your favorite teas. They can be mixed with smoothies or taken with just a glass of water. They are versatile, and would be classified as “superfoods” if they didn’t need their own category. You’re probably asking yourself, “But if they’re so amazing, how come I didn’t know about them before?”

Rhodiola root, ginseng, various mushrooms and licorice root are all known adaptogens that you probably knew were healthy for you, even if you didn’t know why. From the adaptogens that have been around forever (and you had no idea they were classified in that category) to the crazy ones that you can’t even pronounce, try some of these adaptogens in your daily routine.  

What are adaptogens? 

Adaptogens are a group of herbs that “adapt” to what your body needs in order to fight stress. They do this by supporting the adrenal glands, and in turn, regulate hormone responses. They help fight fatigue and strengthen your immune system. Basically, by taking these herbs in any numbers of forms, you’re increasing your body’s resilience to daily stressors.

Do adaptogens have side effects?

You get all the benefits of these plant-based substances, with very few, if any, side effects. Common ones may include elevated heart rate or flushed skin, but again, complaints are few and far between.    

What adaptogens should I be taking? 

There are a lot of adaptogenic herbs out there, so which ones should you take? The good news is that you can mix several adaptogens together to make a power smoothie, or you could just do one at a time in capsule or tea form. There’s no wrong way to do it. The following four herbs are some of the more popular and a great place to start.  

Ginseng
Even if you’re new to adaptogens, you’ve heard of the benefits of this miracle plant. It’s great for an energy boost and as immune system support if you feel a cold coming on. If you enjoy taking a daily supplement, this would be a great one to add and is easy to find at the drugstore.  

Ashwagandha
This particular adaptogen is getting a lot of hype lately for its antioxidant properties, aiding in thyroid function and increasing energy levels. It’s said to reduce blood sugar levels, as well as high cortisol levels associated with anxiety. Try adding the powder form into your daily smoothie.

Maca
Maca is lauded for its many positive side effects on the libido and hormonal responses in the body in general. Though many people take it to help hormonal fluctuations associated with the menstrual cycle and pregnancy, it’s a known aphrodisiac for all the sexes. This one also comes in powder form, so it’s easy to incorporate into your daily routine.

Tulsi
Tulsi is also known as “holy basil” and is a mega stress-buster. It can help with digestive issues, which are often a direct result of stress and inflammation to begin with. Try a piping-hot glass of tulsi rose tea for a sensorial experience that calms the nerves instantly and makes you feel like you’re wrapped in a warm, fuzzy blanket.

Lisa Bensley is the founder of BeautyByBenz, a health and beauty blog that is really just an excuse to buy too much makeup. When she is not writing, she's probably boxing, obsessing over her Dachshund, Stanley, reading, or binge-watching Law & Order: SVU. Follow her (and Stanley's) antics on Instagram.