A little about adaptogens.
This post isn't the conclusive end to all arguments, everything you need to know, word bomb you were maybe hoping for. No. I just wanted to do a quick intro about some common adaptogens that I have personally tried.
First things first, why have I been taking them?
If you’ve read any of my previous posts about adrenal fatigue and my tendency to go overboard on exercising you may have already concluded why I’ve experimented with adaptogens. These different herbs, roots and fungi have the ability to naturally increase your body’s ability to handle stress and workload, both physical and mental. They can improve resiliency to elevated cortisol during a high-pressure time in your life or recovery from tough workouts and provide extra support to the immune system. Everyone has a different capacity to handle stress, some handle it well and others can struggle to cope under the same conditions.
These substances typically work best when consumed daily over a long-ish period of time, it may take a few months to feel the benefits. So when people mention they have an “instant” great reaction to taking an adaptogen this can usually be chalked up to the other ingredients in the mix or a placebo effect. The results are usually mild but definitely noticeable. So you won’t feel like you’ve drunk a Redbull after one drink with cordyceps.
Adaptogens I’ve met and liked
I’ve heard of it referred to as the gateway adaptogen. Many people react favourably to taking this root. I’ve taken it daily for around the last 3 years. It is one of the oldest recorded adaptogens, with a history of use throughout Ayurveda. People who are sensitive to tomatoes and peppers beware that this is also a nightshade so part of the same plant family. This is why I’m taking a break from it for now. I recommend the brand Gaia as they have a great high-quality Ashwagandha supplement.
I’ve been taking this herb for the last few months since stopping Ashwagandha. It is part of a mixed adrenal complex that I tested positively for but I want to try the single herb on its own. This one can give a bit more pep and might not be good for everyone in the afternoon or evening as it could interfere with sleep. It is harvested in Siberia where I have some family roots so maybe it’s perfect for me and my bio-individuality. I’m sticking to Gaia for the brand as I have had a great experience with their other products.
Organic India makes some really great adaptogenic infusions/teas with this Holy Basil herb which is known to be very stress relieving. This is a great option to try if you don’t want to incorporate any new powders or pills into your daily routine. The caffeine-free Masala Chai is my favourite.
Cordyceps, Reishi, Chaga
There are many different types of medicinal mushrooms, much more than the 3 most popular ones I list here. These super fungi have a very long history in Chinese medicine. I tried these for the first time when I was doing a lot of running, around 2012, to help with endurance, recovery and a weakened immune system. Since then I have had the cordyceps and reishi hot chocolate mixes and I have recently started incorporating half a serving of Four Sigmatic 10 Superfood Mushroom mix in my morning matcha.
Adaptogens are really great “extras” to help on a journey to improved health and wellbeing. But they aren't a replacement for proper hydration, optimal digestion, moving your body, balanced meals and stress management. I have said it before and I will keep repeating it. Our quick fix culture and advertisements want to tell us that if spend the dollars to take some pill or potion we don’t have to put the effort into the “basics” of health. See my previous post with just that title: The basics of health.
I think there are many positive health effects to be had from adaptogens. There is definitely a growing interest in them now but don’t expect a whole slew of research to be done since they are naturally occurring, are unpatentable so there is little to be gained financially for someone to back financially. This is all despite a growing host of anecdotal evidence showing how people have benefited from incorporating them into their lives.