If you’re just getting into the natural-sphere, you might’ve heard the word “adaptogen” and thought “whatever that means”! Adaptogen is a word that is used to describe a large category of herbs, mushrooms and roots. Some adaptogens that you’ve probably heard of are aloe vera, holy basil and rosemary (just to name a few).
These are my favorite type of herb as they support the body in so many ways!
Adaptogens individually have many uses, but overall they help the body manage stress. Many also aid in nourishing the adrenals, which often get a workout in this day and age. In this post we discuss what they are and how to use them, including tips for selecting the right adaptogen for you!
There are many adaptogens to choose from and each has its own unique benefits, for example:
Ashwagandha is known as the “soothing adaptogen” and is thought to help reduce inflammation, calm anxiety, and improve memory.
Maca is often used as a natural energy booster.
Eleuthero is a favorite among the busy and fatigued. In their book, Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief, David Winston and Steven Maimes, said it was for those “who work hard, play hard, and hardly sleep.” – Sounds like a lot of us!
Rhodiola is thought to be calming and often used by those with anxiety.
Astragalus is favored for immune function.
How to Use Adaptogens
One of the great things about adaptogens is that, in general, they can be used on a long term basis. Daily consumption is often recommended and this is how most adaptogens works best (building and strengthening over time).
Even though adaptogens appear to aid the body in building strength and managing stress, they aren't a magical pill to use and forget all other healthy living practices! Adaptogens can be an excellent and vital part of a wellness plan, but must sit on top of a foundation of nourishment from healthy food and other health-promoting actions (like sleep and exercise).
But how do you use these fascinating botanicals? There are a variety of ways! Let's discuss:
Adaptogenic Tinctures, Teas, and Capsules
There are many herbal formulas and pre-made preparations available today that include adaptogens. These often come in tincture form and can be taken each morning. You'll also find capsules and adaptogenic tea blends.
Tinctures and capsules make adaptogens easy to consume as part of your regular supplement routine.
Tinctures, teas, and capsules may come in blends or just include an individual adaptogen. A few examples and options include:
- Gaia Adrenal Health Daily Support
- Herb Pharm Rhodiola Root Extract Tincture
- Herb Pharm Stress Manager Tincture – contains Holy Basil leaf, Rhodiola root, Schisandra berry, Reishi mushroom
My personal experience has been to begin with a single adaptogen (or minimal blend) as this allows to me to find which one works best for me. If I start with a blend that contains too many herbs, it is difficult to know which ones are working and which ones aren't.
Adaptogens as a Food
The great thing about many adaptogens is that they can be included in food and beverages. Not all adaptogens are well suited to this, but you'll find many that are.
Adaptogens can be includes in soups, stews, warm drinks, smoothies, and more.
One of my favorite ways to use adaptogens is to include them in energy balls or “bliss bites.” These make a great snack and are an awesome way to boost your morning or afternoon snack.
Wondering how this might look? Check out the following adaptogenic energy bite recipes:
I created this No-Bake Herbal Adaptogenic Energy Balls recipe Traditional Cooking School. It's a super easy, incredibly nourishing, and will also satisfy your sweet tooth (but it's not too sweet!).
You'll find another delicious Adaptogen Bliss Ball recipe at The Herbal Academy.
As mentioned above, many adaptogens can be added to warm drinks and smoothies. Here are a few to get you started:
- Four Sigmatic Reishi Hot Chocolate blend
- Adaptogenic Chai Recipe at The Herbal Academy
- Morning Maca Blend
It doesn't have to be complicated. This is how I make my Morning Maca Blend:
– 1/2 cup almond milk (warmed and frothed)
– 1/2 tsp vanilla
– 1 T Maca Team Morning Motivator (a blend of maca, cacao, and mezquite)
– 1/3 cup of boiling water
Make it a bulletproof maca latte by adding 1 T of coconut oil at the beginning and blending well.
You can add sweetener to taste if desired.
How to Choose the Right Adaptogen for You
This is a little tricky, especially since there are so many adaptogens readily available today!
As mentioned earlier, whatever you decide to do, I personally find it best to start with only one or two instead of a blend of 5 or 6 since it will be easier to identify what works and doesn't work for you that way.
In addition to that, you can study up on the various adaptogens and see which one might suit your current situation best. For example, if I am super busy and on the go, and need some extra stamina, I might consider Eleuthero. But if I'm feeling a little stressed out, nervous, and anxious, I might reach for a more soothing adaptogen like Ashwagandha.
Of course you should also talk to your doctor, herbalist, or naturopath. My functional medicine doctor recommended Rhodiola for me and I have found it helpful.
Want to Learn More?
My favorite book about Adaptogens is Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief, David Winston and Steven Maimes.
It's definitely on the herb nerd side as opposed to easy reading, since it provides some in-depth monographs and other discuses scientific studies. That said, it's not a difficult read, per say and anyone with an interest in adaptogens will find in interesting and enjoyable. It's great for further learning and a wonderful reference tool for your herbal wellness bookshelf.
I encourage you to research adaptogens and find the one that works best for you. If you already incorporate adaptogens into your life, I'd love to know which ones are your favorites