Here's What You Need To Know About Adaptogens, In Case You Still Aren't Sure What They Do

by Julia Guerra

Instagram and other social media outlets have essentially become a kind of breeding ground for brands that claim to be selling good-for-you products that actually aren’t. Once in a blue moon, though, influencers get it right. Suddenly there will be a wave of promotions for items that can legitimately help you thrive sprinkled throughout your feed, with captions highlighting terminology you’ve never even heard of. For example, what are adaptogens, and why does it seem like every single health and wellness guru is spooning heaps of the stuff into their mid-afternoon smoothies and morning coffee? I mean, as long as it’s safe, I’ll try anything once, so if you’re just as curious about these magical potions, keep reading, friend.

First things first, unlike most supplements, adaptogens weren’t “invented” or “developed” in a lab. There’s no recipe to make an adaptogen, but you can add adaptogens to recipes. I know, I know; this is all probably coming off like clues to a crossword puzzle, but adaptogens are actually one of, if not the simplest concepts in Eastern medicine. According to Sabina King, a holistic health advocate and the founder of Hempure CBD, adaptogens are plant-based supplements that naturally occur in nature, and are dried and ground into powders. Many of them have been used in Eastern medicine for centuries, she explains, but they've only recently seen a spike in popularity in Western culture.

The truth is, you might actually be consuming adaptogens on a regular basis without even realizing it. Things like matcha, turmeric, and reishi are all considered adaptogenic, according to King. But the most popular adaptogens, she says, are ashwagandha (which balances the nervous system, she says), tulsi/holy basil (improves stress response), ginseng (encourages a sense of calm and sharpens your memory), and, more recently, CBD has been added to the list, too.

Essentially, “adaptogens are herbs that assist the body in 'adapting' to stress,” Mona Dan, LAc., MTOM, an herbalist, acupuncturist, and founder of Vie Healing, tells Elite Daily over email. Not only do adaptogens help you adapt to stress, they do so with little to no negative side effects on the body, Dan explains. Instead, “the body uses their minerals to only benefit itself," she says.

There aren’t many health and wellness products out there in which what you see is exactly what you get, but, as you can see from their name, the function of adaptogens isn't exactly a mystery. When stress fires up your body's "fight or flight" response, adaptogenic herbs work to bring your physical and mental state back down to a more relaxed state.

"While we may not be fighting bears in the wilderness," Charlotte Traas, director of sales education and training at health supplement company New Chapter, Inc., tells Elite Daily, "our body is ready for combat and on high alert," especially with daily stressors such as commuting, heavy workloads, and hectic schedules constantly taking jabs at your mental state. "Adaptogens help take your body from that stressed-out 10, which can wreak havoc on our overall health and skyrocket stress hormone cortisol levels, back down to a healthier, more manageable level… like 3," she explains.

Adaptogens come in a variety of forms: They can be found in powders, tinctures, capsules, teas, drinks, food, and more, King explains, so you really have your pick of the draw. Which form of adaptogen you choose will ultimately depend on your lifestyle, King adds, so, for instance, if you prefer to get your supplements in early, capsules and/or oil drops are super convenient. “Find a routine that works for you and stick to it,” she suggests.

One of the benefits of being introduced to adaptogens so late in the game is that brands have already been developing their products for quite some time, meaning that there are so many different (not to mention delicious) ways to try them out. Four Sigmatic's founder, Tero Isokauppila, says one of the best ways to become better acquainted with adaptogens and their seemingly magical powers is through coffees, teas, chocolates, and lattes that list one or multiple adaptogens as a key ingredient. "Most Four Sigmatic products contain adaptogens," Isokauppila tells Elite Daily, recommending the brand's Mushroom Cacao with Reishi or Adaptogen Coffee to "dip your toe into the world of adaptogens."

Once you start experimenting, and really get a feel for which adaptogens work best for you and your body, you might feel more comfortable branching out and getting a taste for new brands. Personally, I love Sun Potion's Yin Powder, made with reishi, ashwaghanda, fresh water pearl, and more to help balance out my hormones around my period. If you're looking for a pick-me-up mid-afternoon, try Moodbeli's Cloud Powder, a coconut tocos powder creamer you can add to coffee and tea for a positivity boost. And last, but not least, when you're in a bind but feel like a sip of adaptogenic magic would do you some good, check out Rebbl's plant-based super herb drinks that are chock full of 'em (the Schizandra Berries & Creme is to die for).