Coping with stress is one of the key functions of the human body, and usually, the body is very apt at reducing stress levels with the help of hormones. However, transitional weather can take a toll on the body’s immunity and its ability to adapt to stressors. Enter adaptogens, i.e. herbs, roots, mushrooms, and spices that resisted the challenge of time and were selected for their ability to boost immunity, fight fatigue, and reduce stress.
Adaptogens have been used for generations in Chinese medicine and Ayurveda, and only recently they were introduced to the Western world, but with great success. For example, our old friends ginger and turmeric both started off as adaptogens, but are widely used all over the world today, both for their pleasant taste and healing properties.
The image below lists several popular adaptogens.
Some adaptogens were already proven to be effective in an experimental setting, such as chaga, shiitake mushrooms, holy basil, turmeric, ginger, and lion’s mane, while others are yet to be approved by scientific research. Both holistic practitioners and scientists agree, however, that adaptogens are unable to cure chronic medical conditions, but rather, they are a support team for your body’s immune system.
That is why it is important to consult your doctor before you decide to take adaptogens, especially if you are on some kind of medication.
Though each adaptogen has its specific effect, they are often combined into mixtures. Some of these substances can be added to foods as herbs and spices, while others can be brewed into herbal teas or added into smoothies.
Here is a useful list of some common adaptogens that target a specific concern.
Stress and Anxiety: ashwagandha, licorice root, holy basil
Ashwagandha, holy basil, and licorice root are all Ayurvedic herbs. The first is used to regain the balance of the immune system after being sick, but also to normalize stress levels. Holy basil (tulsi) was shown to reduce stress levels in a study. In Ayurveda, it is also known for promoting digestive health. Licorice root has a calming effect on the body.
All three herbs can be consumed in teas or other drinks, while holy basil can be eaten raw as part of a meal.
Fatigue: ginseng or maca root
Ginseng will increase your energy levels and cognitive abilities, but it will also boost your immune system. Maca root is a sweet powder that can be added to smoothies, hot drinks, and desserts. Its alternative name is Peruvian ginseng, so just like ginseng, it will make you feel less tired and more energetic, with a bonus of promoting your immunity.
Low immunity: maca root, ginseng, Chaga, and ashwagandha
The information about maca, ginseng, and ashwagandha can be found in the previous sections. Chaga is a mushroom native to Siberia that has shown studies to have antiviral and immunity-boosting properties, plus it’s good for your skin as well. It is usually manufactured in a powder form and can be added to foods and drinks as a supplement.
How to Take Adaptogens
As we mentioned above, adaptogens come in a variety of forms and can be added to foods or brewed into teas. However, if you’re not a fan of teas or spicy foods, you can take them in capsule form, much like you would a dietary supplement.
Needless to say, it’s key to follow the recommended dose you’ll find on the product’s packaging, as overdosing may be dangerous, even though adaptogens are generally safe. Also, make sure to take a specific adaptogen at the correct time of the day. For example, it’s best to take energizing herbs, such as maca root, in the morning, as taking them in the evening may make you sleepless.
Soothing and calming adaptogens, on the other hand, such as tulsi, work best in the evenings or even right before bed to help you fall asleep faster. It’s recommended to take adaptogens for a period ranging from a few days to a few weeks, and then discontinue the treatment, as adaptogens are not intended to treat chronic stress or fatigue and should be a temporary solution to stress.