Adaptogens: What Are They, How Can They Reduce Your Stress Levels, and Which Are The Most Potent?
You realize you forgot a deadline today and begin to feel physically nauseous with anxiety. You notice that your to-do list for the day seems never-ending and you feel your stress levels increasing just looking at it. You can’t sleep because it’s the end of the weekend and the Sunday Scaries are attacking. We’ve all been there: stress is horrible and can detrimentally affect us, both physically and mentally.
But, what if there was a simple, easy, and completely natural way to reduce your stress levels, not just in the short-run but in the long term too?
Well, welcome to the stage, adaptogens!
In this article we’re going to take a deep dive into the world of adaptogens: what they are, how they can reduce your stress levels, and which ones are the most potent and why.
So, let’s get into it and reduce our stress levels together for good, now!
What Are Adaptogens?
Adaptogens have been used in ancient medicines around the globe for centuries, but the ground-breaking benefits of adaptogens are finally being recognised in mainstream nutrition and adaptogenic supplements seem to be popping up everywhere!
So, if you’re seeing them everywhere and wondering “what even are adaptogens?”, here’s your answer! Certain naturally occurring herbs and mushrooms are adaptogenic, meaning that they actually alter or “adapt” the way that the body reacts to stress. Although all adaptogens alter the body’s response to stress, each adaptogen has different properties and affects the body in unique ways.
How Do Adaptogens Reduce Stress Levels?
Adaptogens essentially help to balance the body’s stress levels and lower them by reducing cortisol levels when they’re too high and keeping the body in a delayed area of the stress response.
When we experience stress, whether mental, physical, or environmental, our body goes through three stages of stress - alarm, resistance, and exhaustion. Adaptogens promote the body to stay in the resistance stage for longer, putting off the exhaustion stage (the stage that includes symptoms such as depression, anxiety, and fatigue).
Therefore, the body is much more able to effectively deal with the stressor at hand, allowing cortisol levels time to reduce, and the body to maintain a balanced state.
Additionally, since stress levels are lowered, the likelihood of developing stress-related illnesses and conditions such as insomnia, stomach upset, fatigue, weight gain, and inflammation is significantly lower.
The 6 Most Potent Adaptogens
Although each adaptogen is unique and therefore you may want to seek out an adaptogen that provides the specific benefits you’re looking for from a supplement, we’re going to take a look at the six most potent and most commonly consumed adaptogens out there!
So, let’s take a look - maybe one of them is right for you!
Ashwagandha is one of the most popular and widely available adaptogenic herb out there - it’s a great choice, especially for those that suffer from anxiety and insomnia.
Ashwaganda, known as Withania Somnifera, is a type of root that’s typically found in India, the Middle East, and some countries within Africa.
As well as reducing cortisol levels, ashwagandha reduces anxiety levels, improves and promotes sleep, boosts mood, and can even help to increase libido!
How much ashwagandha should you take: The recommended dose of ashwagandha ranges anywhere from 125mg - 5g.
How should you take ashwagandha: You can take ashwagandha in capsule form or as a tincture. You may want to take it in the evening before bed to promote sleep, especially if you’re wanting it to improve your sleep!
- Tulsi (Holy Basil)
Tulsi, also known as Holy Basil and scientifically known as Ocimum tenuiflorum, is a plant native to India and Southeast Asian countries.
Tulsi a powerful adaptogen that actively reduces the physical symptoms of stress whilst also boosting the immune system, supporting cognitive function and memory, improving libido, and promoting good heart health.
How much Tulsi should you take: The recommended dose of Tulsi is between 300 mg to 2g daily.
How should you take Tusli: You can take Tulsi in capsule form or as a tea by adding Tulsi leaves to hot water.
- Panax Ginseng
Panax Ginseng, also known as Chinese, Korean, or Asian Ginseng, is a plant that’s commonly found in the mountain ranges of East Asia.
Whilst Panax Ginseng definitely helps to promote a balance of stress in the body, calms the body, and lowers cortisol levels, it is slightly different to the other adaptogens on this list due to the fact that it actually boosts energy levels and increases alertness and focus. Therefore, it may actually affect sleep if you take it before you plan to head to bed - so take it well before you’re planning on sleeping!
How much Panax Ginseng should you take: The recommended dose of Panax Ginseng is 200 to 400 mg daily.
How should you take Panax Ginseng: You can take Panax Ginseng in capsule, powdered, or liquid form.
Although Astragalus is an incredibly potent adaptogen, it’s actually one of the ones most people tend to forget about. Well, not anymore! Astragalus, also known as Huang Qi and Milk Vetch is a plant that’s grown in China, Korea, and Mongolia - the root of the plant is used.
Astragulus not only reduces cortisol levels but also reduces inflammation (a major bonus of this adaptogen!), helps to fix hormone imbalances, boosts the immune system, and promotes deeper sleep.
How much Astragalus should you take: Astragalus doesn’t actually have a standard recommended dose but doses of between 500mg - 1g seem to be linked with the most benefits.
How should you take Astragalus: You can consume Astragalus as a capsule, liquid, or the root can be directly added to hot water to create a tea.
- Rhodiola Rosea
Rhodiola Rosea is a herb grown in cold mountain regions of Europe, North America, and some parts of Asia.
Rhodiola Rosea is a powerful adaptogenic herb that not only supports the lowering of physical stress levels but also actively reduces mental stress levels, reduces anxiety, improves clarity and cognitive function, and can lower the likelihood of developing mental illnesses. This herb can also boost energy levels, and although not quite as powerful as Panax Ginseng in this department, should not be taken before bed.
How much Rhodiola Rosea should you take: The recommended dose of Rhodiola Rosea is between 400 - 600mg daily.
How should you take Rhodiola Rosea: You can take Rhodiola Rosea as capsules or tinctures.
- Reishi Mushroom
Although a number of mushrooms are classed as adaptogens, Reishi is the best type to mention because it’s one of the most potent and widely available.
The Reishi mushroom lowers cortisol levels and directly supports the regulation of the central nervous system, whilst also boosting the immune system, supporting healthy blood pressure, increasing cognitive function, and promoting better sleep.
How much Reishi mushroom should you take: The recommended dose of Reishi mushroom is between 1g - 6g daily, depending on how you consume it (as a capsule supplement, fresh, or as tea).
How should you take Reishi mushroom: You can take Reishi mushroom in capsule form, powdered form, freshly cooked, or as a tea. Mushroom coffees are also becoming much more widely available, so you can keep your eye out for coffee mixes that contain Reishi too!
Adaptogens Are Great, But Be Careful With Them!
As you know by now, adaptogens really are amazing! However, they shouldn’t be consumed without caution. Each adaptogen carries its own set of potential side effects and may not be suitable for different individuals with certain health conditions. For example, most adaptogens aren’t suitable for those with autoimmune conditions.
Additionally, adaptogens should not be supplemented for longer than 3 months at a time. So, they’re not like other supplements that you can consume on a daily basis for years!
Since each adaptogen has its own list of rules that go with it, please make sure you are doing your own independent research depending on which adaptogen you choose to consume and that you never overdose on adaptogens or consume them for too long.
Great things always come with great responsibility!
Now You Know About Adaptogens, Are You Ready To Support Yourself With Them?
The world of adaptogens is absolutely fascinating and what they can do for us, not only in terms of reducing stress levels but also by providing extra health benefits too, is wonderful.
Hopefully now you’re feeling a little more prepared to dip your foot into the world of adaptogens and support your health and wellbeing in a new way!
Disclaimer: this article is here for educational purposes only and we are not giving active advice. You should always seek the advice and support of medical professionals if you have queries about your health or want to change your lifestyle dramatically.