Are you familiar with adaptogens? These powerful plants and herbs can have a pretty important impact on your health. Although I am a food first type of Holistic Nutritionist, I do find it helpful to incorporate adaptogens into my routine. But what are adaptogens exactly? In this post, I am sharing the benefits, risks and the adaptogens I use the most.
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Adaptogens are plants and herbs that help our bodies adapt to stressors. They have been around for a long time, however have really only gained popularity in the last decade or so in Western culture.
They seem to be popping up everywhere. If you are into health and wellness, I am sure you've seen people using them in their morning coffee, elixir or matcha latte. Adaptogens are not cheap, so the question remains, do you really need to take them and how do they work?
They work by having a balancing act on your hypothalamic-pituitary-endocrine axis.
Your brain-adrenal (HPA) axis, brain-thyroid (HPT) and brain-gonadal axis (HPG) are needed to work in perfect harmony for a healthy mood, metabolism, energy, immune system, and sex drive. When your HP axis is unbalanced it leads to hormone problems like adrenal fatigue, thyroid problems, and libido issues.
Overall, adaptogens work by helping our bodies adapt to stressors and produce fewer stress hormones, such as cortisol. This of course happens over time, so don't expect to see or feel immediate changes. They aren't the only approach to use in dealing with stressful times, but I do believe they can play an important role.
But, there are so many different types of adaptogens out there and each provides a different benefit. Depending on why you want to take an adaptogen, it's important to look for one that addresses that need. Examples include: stress, energy, hormone balance, sleep, libido, brain fog, immune health, digestive issues, disease, and even for hair, skin and nails.
Before taking any adaptogens or herbs it is always a good idea to discuss them with your doctor. If you are taking any other prescription medications, adaptogens can interfere with them. Be sure to look into that prior to taking any adaptogen.
It is also a really good idea to buy your adaptogens from trustworthy sources to ensure it is high quality. Some of my favourite brands are Sun Potion, Botanica Health, Organika and St. Francis.
Depending on the reason you have for taking an adaptogen, you want to ensure that you are taking the right one for that condition. Below you'll see which adaptogens are ideal depending on your reason for wanting to take one.
This mushroom is a calming adaptogen that I personally love taking before going to bed. I usually take it an hour or so before bed. I like taking the Four Sigmatic reishi blend with hot water. It is also really helpful for stress reduction as well. My favourite items include: Four Sigmatic reishi (you can use my code holisticfoodie for 10% off). Sun Potion Reishi (use my code HOLISTICFOODIE10 to save 10% at The Detox Market) or you can purchase from Amazon as well.
I like mixing reishi into things like chocolate as a dessert, but if you find cacao too stimulating, then avoid this before bed. Reishi (like so many medicinal mushrooms) has many benefits besides just helping with sleep. I love the hot chocolate blend from Botanica Health that incorporates reishi in it.
Schisandra berries are great for supporting our adrenals and adrenal fatigue. You can either buy the berries on their own and make a drink with hem by diluting it in water. Or you can use this tincture from St. Francis and dilute it in water.
100% pure freshwater pearl has numerous benefits for hair, skin and nails. The reason it is so powerful in this way is because its packed full of minerals like calcium, zinc and selenium. It also has strong antioxidant properties and supports collagen production. The pearl powder from Sun Potion is my favourite.
You can find my delicious recipe for birthday cake energy balls using pearl powder over here! I also discuss pearl powder in much more detail too.
Most of the benefits associated with Lion's Mane has to do with its impact on cognitive health. What is known as Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) helps regenerate and protect brain tissue. My favourite brands are Four Sigmatic (code holisticfoodie for 10% off) and Sun Potion.
Used for thousands of years in Chinese medicine, this herb is excellent at helping to increase sex drive and sperm count in men. It also contains zinc, which is a great mineral for skin health as well.
You can find the recipe for these superfood chocolate squares I created using he shou wu over here!
This mushroom is known for its anti-viral and immune boosting effects. Chaga also has high levels of B-Vitamins, flavonoids, enzymes, minerals, and phenols and contains some of the highest known concentrations of antioxidants of any food. My favourite brands for chaga include Four Sigmatic (use code holisticfoodie to save 10%) and Sun Potion.
Another benefit associated with ashwagandha is helping our bodies respond to stress. One of my go-to products is Sun Potion, which you can find on Amazon. As well, I also like Botanica Health in either capsule or tincture form. Depending on what your needs are, you can determine which form works best for you. In a nutshell, choose capsule for convenience or a tincture to manage your dose and for faster/quicker absorption.
If you find that you need a boost of energy, one of the best adaptogens would be maca. Maca is derived from a plant that is grown high in the Andes Mountains. It has been used for thousands of years by Peruvians to help increase energy, libido and as a food source. It's actually a complete protein, containing over 20 amino acids and is loaded with vitamins and minerals. I love the taste of maca and it goes really well with chocolate. Because it can also boost your libido, it makes a great treat to share with your special someone too. My favourite brand is this one from Organika.
You can find a special recipe I created for these superfood chocolate squares that I created over here on the Wildrcraft Care blog. I used both he shou wu and maca powder.
So there you have it! I hope this post helped explain adaptogens for you. As always, check with your doctor to make sure you are ok to incorporate any adaptogen into your routine if you are currently taking any medications.
Do you have any questions for me about adaptogens? Do you currently take any adaptogens? Let me know in the comments below!
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