Those of you who are immersed in the health world may already be familiar with the term "adaptogen," but for those of you who may have been caught off guard (for example, me, at a vegan restaurant, reading a tea menu and saying "Wait, what is adaptogen flavor?") — let's chat about this up-and-coming naturopathic trend.
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What Are They?
Adaptogens are herbs! And in some cases, roots and mushrooms. These special plants help with stress, anxiety, sleep, your immune system, and more. They've been used in naturopathy, Ayurvedic medicine, and Chinese medicine for centuries, but there's also Western science to back them up.
Asian ginseng, holy basil (also called tulsi), eleuthero (Siberian ginseng), ashwagandha, astragalus root, sea buckthorn, licorice root, Rhodiola rosea, and cordycep mushrooms are some known adaptogens.
What Do They Do?
Adaptogens are good for your body, brain, and everyday life. The term "adaptogen" itself comes from the herbs' abilities to adapt to your body's needs.
A 2010 study cited that adaptogens have specific therapeutic effects, can combat stress-induced and stress-related disorders, and will impact the quality of life of patients with "chronic diseases and pathological conditions."
According to Dr. Lipman, adaptogens support adrenal function, and through this, "they counteract the adverse effects of stress, enable the body's cells to access more energy, and help cells eliminate toxic byproducts."
Because adaptogens in general have been known to fight cortisol, there are a number of other benefits (including benefits for your waistline) that can come with their consumption:
- Reduced stress and anxiety
- Reduced risk of autoimmune disease and cancer
- More energy
- Better immune system
- Improved digestion (especially in cases of IBS)
- Weight loss
Where Do You Get Them?
You can take most of these as supplements, as they're available in capsule form. Dr. Lipman has a combination capsule of different adaptogens in his Be Well supplement, but you can pick and choose the ones that work for you (for example, you could just take Holy Basil Extract). Additionally, you can drink teas with adaptogens, like an herbal ginseng tea.
Are There Any Negative Side Effects?
Because the term "adaptogen" is an umbrella term for multiple herbs, it's best to look into the properties of each, as well as recommended dosage. Sites like WebMD and Dr. Lipman's blog have more information on each specific adaptogen with any advisory notes or warnings.