An Intro to Adaptogens (& How They Help Relieve Chronic Stress)

By: Suzanne Boothby

Feeling stressed out? Join the club. About eight in 10 Americans say they “frequently or sometimes encounter” stress each and every day, according to a 2017 Gallup News poll.

Throughout the world people of all ages face an increasing amount of demands from work, family life, health factors and more.

One of the tools you can use to help your mind and body relax is to bring adaptogens in your daily routine. They are class of plants and herbs that help your body “adapt” to challenges and stress. These powerful herbs help boost your stamina, restore balance to the body and support metabolic function.

These helping herbs have been used traditionally for thousands of years. They have a gentle but powerful effect on the body and are considered non-toxic with very few (if any) side effects.

Some of these herbs may sound familiar, as you may have drank them in a tea blend, while others may be completely new to you. If you have any concerns, you can always speak with a trained health professional or herbalist for more information about what will work best for you.

Hundreds of adaptogen exist, but here are a few of the most common and how you can use them (yes, some you can add to juice).

Many of these herbs can be found in a bulk herb section at a health food store or you can find them online from sources such as Mountain Rose Herbs or Sun Potion.

Ashwagandha

Studies show that ashwagandha possesses anti-inflammatory, antitumor, anti-stress, antioxidant, immunomodulatory and rejuvenating properties, and that it has a positive influence on the endocrine, cardiopulmonary, and central nervous systems. It is known in ayurvedic medicine as a powerful immune booster. This root can also support fertility and as a rich source of iron, it can be helpful for women during your menstrual cycle.

It most often can be found in powder form, which can easily be added to juices, smoothies, teas, hot chocolate, a matcha latte or plain water.

Chaga Mushroom

Chaga has been called the “king of plants” in China and the “diamond of the forest” in Japan. It grows on Birch trees, taking up to 20 years to reach its full size and maturity. While the mushroom is growing, it essentially collects nutrients from the tree. This adaptogen is full of B vitamins, zinc, enzymes, antioxidants and has antiviral properties. It is said to help ease anxiety and nervousness, and is a great herb to take before work or a long travel day.

You can find it in tinctures or make it into a tea; try some of these recipes.

Goji Berry

This adaptogenic superfood has essential amino acids, B vitamins, minerals and polysaccharides. Goji berries are another immune booster and studies have found that daily consumption increases feelings of well-being and improves neurological and psychological performance.

You can find these small berries at the bulk section of the health food store or in the superfoods section. They are easy to add to smoothies, to top a bowl of coconut yogurt or you can find goji berry tea blends or simply soak them to turn into tea.

Holy Basil

Also known as tulsi, this plant can be found in almost every house in India as it is considered a sacred plant. This herb is a close relative to basil and smells equally inviting. In ayurvedic medicine its known as “the queen of herbs.” The emerging science on tulsi confirms this ancient wisdom, as it possesses pharmacological action that promote both well-being and resilience, including antimicrobial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective and anti-stress properties.

One of the best ways to consume this herb is in tea form, and drinking tulsi tea has been called liquid yoga, as it can have the same calming effect on the body as going to a yoga class. You could easily mix the tea with a green juice for a delicious treat.

Rhodiola

Also called golden or artic root, this floral-scented herb helps promote mental clarity, creativity, immunity and supports the body’s natural ability to burn fat. The herb has been used in Russia and Scandinavia to help people cope with cold temperatures and stress. Studies have found it can also help increase physical endurance, decrease depression and enhance work performance.

You can take it as a supplement or find it in tea blends.

Reishi

Another medicinal mushroom that grows in dark forests throughout the world, reishi has been used in Chinese medicine as a tonic to help promote feeling calm, centered, balanced and improve your inner strength. Scientific studies also show this adaptogen is high in antioxidants, has anticancer, antibacterial, antiviral effects and the ability to regulate blood glucose levels.

You can find it in tinctures, powder form to make mushroom coffee, add to smoothies or hot chocolate.

Final Note
Adaptogens work best when combined with other healthy lifestyle habits such as mindfulness practices and meditation, movement and taking time away from the stresses of everyday 21st century life.

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Suzanne Boothby

Suzanne Boothby is an author, journalist, writing coach and wellness instigator who has covered everything from spiritual workouts to kale cocktails. She is a freelance wellness writer for Omega Institute and has published stories on Yahoo! Health News, EdibleBrooklyn.com, NBCNews.com, Eatthispoem.com, and more.

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