What Are Adaptogens and Why Am I Seeing Them Everywhere?


Am I the only one who is so perplexed by all the health buzzwords that are floating around in the blogosphere nowadays? It seems like there’s a new health trend every other minute with a word I can barely pronounce, much less know the meaning of and whether or not it’s something I should add to my diet. Ketogenic, alkaline, chaga, aquafaba, MCT,  probiotic, prebiotic… to say the least, it can get overwhelming.

But adaptogens might just be one of those hard-to-pronounce buzzwords that are worth paying attention to. They have been used for centuries in ancient practices like Ayurveda, and are finally making their way into homes. Read on for our Guide to Adaptogens 101.


What are adaptogens?

Put simply, adaptogens are non-toxic herbs and roots that help the body resist stress, whether its psychological, physical, or biological. They help balance, restore, and protect the body. Dr. Brenda Powell, the co-medical director of the Center for Integrative and Lifestyle Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Institute, explains, “When we exercise, it’s a stress on our body. But as we continue to train and exercise, our body becomes better at dealing with the stress of it, so we no longer get as tired or as high a heart rate. When you take adaptogens, you’re training your body to handle the effects of stress.”

So now for the science-y part: This effect happens because adaptogens interact with two systems in the body that are involved in the body’s response to stress, to possibly tweak hormone production and physiological responses to stress, which includes everything from mental stress during a busy work day to stress on your immune system that results in a cold or flu. Basically, adaptogens help to block out all outside stressors, to help your body function as it should.


Are adaptogens right for you?

As with any other food or supplement you’re ingesting in your body, it’s always best to talk to your doctor before adding in adaptogens, especially because any herbal supplements might interact negatively with certain prescriptions and medications. Beyond that, adaptogens are not harmful on the body and do not cause side effects or health complications. However, like any plant or food, some people might be allergic to the herb, or it may cause some people to bloat. Start with a small amount of adaptogen, like a teaspoon of powder or a steeped tea, to make sure you’re not allergic, and then follow the directions on the label to live your most stress-free life.



How do you take adaptogens?

Some adaptogens come in the form of teas that can be combined with water (like Ginseng or Licorice Root). But the most efficient way to add adaptogens to your diet (and I’m all about efficiency) is to buy pre-mixed powder versions of your favorite adaptogens and add them to foods like smoothies, lattes, soups, or even salad dressings. There are also many adaptogens available in supplement form, but just make sure the supplement is from a legitimate brand and is well-regulated.

Each adaptogen has a slightly different effect, so it’s important to find the best ones for you, based on your personal problems or ailments.


Here are a few common adaptogens:



Particularly Panax Ginseng, improves calmness and can even promote mental clarity and physical endurance. It also can be used to help treat stress-related ailments like canker sores.

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Holy Basil

Holy Basil is a kind of mint that can improve your body’s initial response to stress.

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Ashwagandha can help to stabilize cortisol levels and prevent weight gain on account of stress. It is also taken to increase energy and mental sharpness.

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Milk Thistle

Milk Thistle supports the metabolism and helps manage stress hormones.

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Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera is not just for sunburns! This powerful herb supports the immune system and and adrenal health.

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Gotu Kola

Gotu Kola is a powerful antioxidant that helps reduce swelling in the body and stimulates blood flow.

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Moringa promotes energy and adrenal health, supports the immune system, and can ease swelling in the body.

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Licorice Root

Licorice Root is used to improve many different aspects of health, including assisting your metabolism function properly.

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Maca is native to the Andes mountains and helps improve mood and energy levels, balance hormone levels, and has even been shown to enhance sexual health.

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Recipes to Make with Adaptogens


Adaptogen Snack Balls


Raw Reishi Chocolate Brownies


Adaptogenic Hazelnut Latte


Ashwagandha Sleep Tea


Maca and Coconut Flour Pancakes for One


Walnut Milk Maca Latte


Have you heard of adaptogens? Which do you take and how do you prefer to take it?