What are Adaptogens?

What are adaptogens



According to Webster, adaptogens are defined as “a nontoxic substance and especially a plant extract that is held to increase the body’s ability to resist the damaging effects of stress and promote or restore normal physiological functioning”.

In other words, adaptogens help your body find balance or homeostasis in response to stress. Our primary “stress hormone” is cortisol, which is primarily produced by your adrenal glands which sit on top of your kidneys. Cortisol should naturally be highest in the morning and gradually drop down by bedtime. Due to hectic lifestyles and job demands, many of us produce too much or too little cortisol at inappropriate times. That is where adaptogens come in. If you have high cortisol it helps to lower it; if you have low cortisol it helps to increase it.


how to use adaptogens


Gosh there are so many!! Here are some of my favorites (bolded is what I use it most for):


This is derived from a root vegetable primarily found in Peru. Maca is rich in antioxidants and is a powerful adaptogen.

It can help with:

  • Enhancing energy

  • Boosting Mood

  • Increasing libido

  • Optimizing brain health/memory

  • Balancing estrogen and hormone levels


Very popular in Ayurvedic Medicine and often referred to as “Indian Ginseng”. This is one of the best adaptogens for balancing cortisol. However, if you are sensitive or intolerant to nightshades use with caution as ashwagandha is in the night shade family.

It can help with:

  • Adrenal and thyroid function

  • Depression

  • Anxiety and Stress

  • Immune system

  • Muscle strength


This is thought to be one of the most common herbs taken in the world. There are a ton of different ginseng species including Asian ginseng, Siberian ginseng, American ginseng and more.

It can help with:

  • Brain function (may even be helpful in Alzheimers)

  • Natural anti-anxiety herb

  • Helps reduce inflammation

  • May be helpful with cancer prevention

  • Helps lower blood sugar


Also known as tulsi; this herb has been used for a number of reasons and stress is only one of them. This herb is a natural antimicrobial so it can help with fevers, oral health, lung function, and even acne if caused by bacteria/yeast.

Other benefits:

  • Boost immune system

  • Reduces anxiety

  • Blood sugar stability / protects against diabetes

  • Rich source of vitamin K (caution if on blood thinners like coumadin)


Medicinal mushrooms are my FAVORITE!! They are not only adaptogens, but they are great for your immune system. I love cordyceps in particular because it is so good for your adrenals, energy, and endurance.

They can help with:

  • Immune system

  • Cancer prevention

  • Anti-aging

  • Natural pre-workout (helps with endurance and stamina)

  • And of course adrenal glands


This is actually derived from a BERRY… but not a delicious berry you would want to eat. It is used specifically for medicinal reasons (as far as I know… please correct me if I’m wrong). Its referred to as Wu Wei Zi (aka five flavored berry) because it is sweet, sour, salty, bitter and pungent.

Beneficial for:

  • Liver health

  • Radiating skin

  • Digestion/Boosting Metabolism

  • Adrenal health

  • Reduces inflammation

  • Improves heart health


Also called Ben Oil tree; AND in 2008 the National Institute of Health called moringa theplant of the year.” This adaptogen is also a potent superfood rich in protein, vitamin A, calcium, and vitamin C. If you compare this side to side with matcha, moringa would win!

Health benefits:

  • Rich in antioxidants

  • Reduces inflammation

  • Boost immune system

  • Hormone balance

  • Slows down aging

How can I use adaptogens?

However you want is the simple answer!

One of my favorite ways to incorporate adaptogens is to add them into my morning smoothies. I keep a variety of superfoods/adaptogens in my pantry and rotate depending on what my body needs. It is important to remember you need to be on adaptogens for several weeks before you will notice improvements (at least that was the case for me; however if you are very sensitive you may notice immediately).

Another way to incorporate adaptogens is to add them to “fat bombs” and eat them throughout the day as snack. I am loving the “fat bomb” trend because healthy fats are so good for our brains and hormone balance. They also help keep our blood sugar stable throughout the day. Here is a link with several fat bomb recipes.

Many of these adaptogens can also be taken in the form of capsules or tea.

I’d love to hear from you! What’s your favorite adaptogen and how do you take it?

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