Adaptogens have been used for centuries to promote health and well-being. But what exactly are their benefits… And do they actually work?
Adaptogens are having a moment, to put it lightly. From mushroom coffees to herbal infusions, it seems like adaptogens are pretty much everywhere these days. But what are adaptogens, and is there any actual science behind their efficacy? Here’s what you need to know about these holistic healing tools.
What Are Adaptogens?
Right off the bat, let’s delve into the theory of adaptogens. Adaptogens have been used for thousands of years in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, with the idea being that they support the body’s natural processes. They “adapt” to whatever your body needs to help it achieve balance, which is where they get their name.
Some popular adaptogens include herbs, mushrooms, spices and plant leaves, with some of the most common being ginseng, holy basil, ashwagandha, cordyceps (a type of mushroom), reishi (another type of mushroom) and licorice. People consume adaptogens in a variety of ways. While some of these ingredients are available as supplements, others are more commonly consumed as an herbal addition to a meal, or in a tea. Mushroom teas, for example, are currently an extremely popular way to make adaptogens part of your daily diet.
Uses for Common Adaptogens
So, what are some of the benefits of adaptogens, according to proponents? Here’s a little cheat sheet for you:
- Ginseng: Said to boost energy levels and support a healthy libido.
- Holy basil: Said to reduce stress, improve immune function, support natural detoxification and restore balance.
- Ashwagandha: Said to reduce stress.
- Cordyceps: Said to improve libido, reduce respiratory discomfort and support natural detoxification.
- Reishi: Said to help balance hormonal health, improve well-being and protect against health problems.
- Licorice: Said to improve digestion and ease stomach issues.
Do Adaptogens Actually Work?
Although they have been used for thousands of years to support health, the science behind adaptogens is far from conclusive. Adaptogens’ effectiveness is subtle at best, and many adaptogens’ benefits haven’t been tested or studied. Adaptogens shouldn’t be used in lieu of proven health-supporting habits, such as eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly and going to the doctor when you’re ill.
However, as they are natural and health-promoting, there’s probably no harm in using adaptogens to support your overall health and well-being. Besides, it’s simply fun to partake in healing rituals that have been part of human culture for thousands of years, isn’t it?