Adaptogens seem to be all the rage these days. They show up in all kinds of supplements at your local health store and can even be found in tea and coffee.
What actually are adaptogens, though, and how do they work? How can you get more of them in your diet?
Find the answers to these and other essential questions below.
What Are Adaptogens?
Adaptogens are plant substances, such as herbs, roots, and fungi, that help the body manage stress and return to equilibrium after going through a stressful period.
To understand adaptogens, you first need to understand a bit about the body and how it responds to stress.
When you go through a stressful situation of any kind (physical, emotional, hormonal, etc.), your body goes through several changes. The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, in particular, plays a critical role in your stress response.
It all starts in the amygdala, the part of the brain that contributes to emotional processing. The amygdala sends a stress signal to the hypothalamus, which acts as the command center and communicates with the rest of the body.
The hypothalamus sends corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) to the pituitary gland, which then triggers the release of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). ACTH travels to the adrenal glands and prompts them to release cortisol, which keeps your body on high alert until the threat passes.
Experts believe that adaptogens work with the HPA axis to bring the body back into a blanched state after being stressed.
It’s important to note that not all herbs and plant substances are adaptogens. Adaptogens must meet the following criteria:
- Nontoxic at normal doses
- Support the body’s ability to manage stress
- Return to a stable state
Adaptogens have been used in traditional medicine for centuries but are still relatively new in the Western world.
Health Benefits of Adaptogens
Adaptogens offer many unique benefits that can help you manage stress and feel your best. The following are some of the most well-known adaptogens (with their health benefits included):
Lion’s Mane Mushroom
Lion’s mane mushrooms are known for their white, shaggy caps, which resemble a lion’s mane. Some specific reasons to consume them include:
Lion’s mane has potent anti-inflammatory effects, making them beneficial for managing conditions like anxiety and depression (which are linked to increased inflammation).
Reduced Risk of Heart Disease
Lion’s mane extract supports more efficient fat metabolism and lowers triglyceride levels, both of which can improve heart health and reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Stronger Immune System
Because of Lion’s mane’s anti-inflammatory properties, it boosts immune system function to help you fight off infections.
Reishi mushroom grows in hot and humid climates, primarily in Asia. It is well-known for its immune system-supporting properties, as well as the following benefits:
Some studies show that reishi mushrooms can cause the death of cancer cells. It appears to be especially beneficial for prostate cancer and colorectal cancer.
Better Blood Sugar Balance
Early research suggests that reishi mushrooms can benefit those with high blood sugar (including those with type 2 diabetes or prediabetes). It reduces blood sugar levels and increases insulin sensitivity (a hormone that transfers sugar from the blood to the muscles).
Reishi mushrooms may also have some fatigue-busting benefits when consumed long-term. One study showed that after eight weeks of consistent usage, Reishi could reduce fatigue and other symptoms like depression.
Ashwagandha is an herbal shrub, also known as Indian ginseng, winter cherry, and Withania somnifera. It’s best known for these health and wellness benefits:
Increased Muscle and Strength
If you aim to build more muscle and lift more weight at the gym, ashwagandha can help you get there. One study showed that ashwagandha could increase both speed and strength. Another showed improved muscle power output.
Improved Memory and Focus
If you’re looking for better cognitive health, ashwagandha may be an excellent adaptogen to add to your routine. Ashwagandha has been shown to improve reaction times during cognitive and psychomotor tests. It also increased attention spans and memory in another series of tests.
Ginseng is an antioxidant-rich herb that has been popular in Traditional Chinese Medicine for hundreds of years. Its large amount of antioxidants can provide several health benefits, including these:
Ginseng contains compounds like polysaccharides and oligopeptides that reduce oxidative stress, increase cellular energy production, and decrease fatigue.
Decreased Blood Sugar
Ginseng is another adaptogen that can help with blood sugar balance. One literature review (a review of several studies) showed that, in those with type 2 diabetes, it decreased fasting blood sugar levels and increased insulin sensitivity.
Ways to Consume More Adaptogens
Do you want to enjoy the health benefits of adaptogens? If so, you have several options to choose from.
The following are some of the most popular and effective ones to consider:
- Tea or coffee: Many tea and coffee beverages have dried adaptogenic herbs mixed into them, allowing you to reap the benefits while also enjoying your favorite drink.
- Smoothies: Some people like to blend adaptogenic herbs into smoothies to provide some sweetness and minimize their bitter taste.
- Capsules: Another option for those who don’t like the taste of adaptogenic herbs and want a convenient method of consumption, try swallowing a few daily capsules.
However you choose to consume more adaptogens, remember that their effects are compounding, meaning you have to use them consistently. One serving every few months won’t offer many benefits, but a daily dose will.
Increase Your Adaptogen Intake Today
Are you ready to experience all the benefits that adaptogens have to offer, from reduced stress and anxiety to a stronger immune system?
Start with the tips and tricks discussed above, including the simplest option -- capsules like Nature’s Sustenance from Substance. These capsules are 100 percent plant-based, sustainably made, and formulated in the United States.
Visit our online store and get your first bottle today.