Welcome to the Wellness One-oh-Ones, a digital encyclopedia for all your wellness needs. This series is geared to tackle those everyday questions you secretly ask yourself in wonderment when you hear about a new trend. Instead of pretending to know what people are talking about, come hang with us as we uncover the latest and greatest in the wellness industry. Check back every other Tuesday to pick up your refill — no doctor’s signature required.
For our first Wellness One-oh-Ones, we decided to keep things simple by exploring a topic that’s been on everyone’s mind — and in their cup, food, Instagrams, you get it. Adaptogens, have been making their rounds through the wellness industry and they’re known to be a class of plants that are supposed to combat everyday stressors and keep your bod feelin’ zen. While this is a simple definition, we wanted to dig deep to give you the full scope of what exactly these herbs can potentially do for you. So we connected with Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and founder of Nutrition Stripped, McKel Hill MS, RDN, LDN to give us the 411 on adaptogens. Scroll below to get the full deets on these superfoods.
So like, what are adaptogens anyways?
While we’re just now beginning to know the ins and outs of these “magical” plants, adaptogens have been around for hundreds of years. The term was coined by the Soviet Union’s Ministry of Health way back in 1947 and have been used by Chinese, Russian and even Scandinavian cultures. They’re known as nature’s chill pill to combat everything from stress, anxiety, hormonal issues, and gut health — honestly, the list can go on — by interacting with the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and the sympathoadrenal system AKA areas that your body responses to stress to help regulate hormone production. However, just because these herbs have some history behind them doesn’t mean that they will fix every ailment you have. According to Hill, “Adaptogens are often called ‘cure-alls’, but it’s important to note that there aren’t enough studies on humans with clear correlations to consider them miracle remedies — adaptogens aren’t a magic pill. Some studies have shown that adaptogens can help the body resist stress and decrease its sensitivity to stressors.”
Are there certain ways to consume adaptogens?
“Not everyone ‘needs’ or ‘should’ consume adaptogens, but if you choose to, I recommend using them alongside food — so put them in your smoothies, soups, coffees, even desserts,” says Hill. Depending on how you prefer to take your adaptogens, there are a lot of ways you can consume these herbs. While there’s no “right” way to consume them, they come in different forms, like pills, powders, and tinctures so you can use them however you like. Most people like to mix them in their oatmeals, smoothies or morning drinks; however, it could be most beneficial to take a pill every day for a few months. Adaptogens are powerful herbs, but act slow, so you might not notice how they’re affecting your body ’till a few weeks in.
How do you know which ones to take?
“In a nutshell, make it easy for yourself by not playing a guessing game with your health, just quickly talk to someone who knows what they’re doing with them — consult a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, an integrative medical doctor, or your physician they can help you choose which one, if any, you should take. Double-check with your doctor about adaptogens if you’re pregnant,” says Hill. Ultimately, while adaptogens are trending, you still need to be cautious about what you decide to put in your body. Adaptogens haven’t been evaluated by the FDA, and won’t make you feel like a superhuman after one take — as much as we wish it does.
“Since there are lacking scientific research for most of these ailments or issues, the best thing to do is look at adaptogens as a general supportive herb/spice/food that are nutrient dense or contain a high amount anti-inflammatory compounds and antioxidants. So if all checks out, adding an adaptogenic powder to your morning smoothie is your jam, go for it, it’ll add more nutrients to your morning routine,” continues Hill.
Is there something we should know before we buy?
“As with anything else you’re buying, just make sure it’s high-quality so look for organic farming practices, read up on the company, where they source their products, how they process and distribute the product,” says Hill. Essentially, you want to make sure that you’re purchasing an adaptogen that’s been sourced safely and properly. You want to make sure that nothing has been added that doesn’t need to be there, and to make sure the brand can be trusted.
Is there an adaptogen for…?
Even though most adaptogens are known to help manage stress and anxiety, there are a handful of others that specialize in combating other ailments such as diabetes, low sex libidos, and gut health. According to Hill, “Stress is probably the most noted area when it comes to the studies that are available about adaptogens, and that’s good news since most of us experience stress daily! Ashwagandha is supplemented for its ability to reduce cortisol levels, and it has suggested signs of helping insomnia and depression. Schisandra may help with physical performance, reducing anxiety and reducing cortisol when elevated.” While Hill has listed just a couple of adaptogens to list, check below for a few more that might tickle your fancy.
Ashwagandha: Helps manages anxiety and stress.
Holy Basil: Helps regulates stress, diabetes, and anxiety.
Pearl: Has anti-aging properties and can stimulate the body’s natural collagen and is a great source of amino acids to strengthen your hair, nails, and skin.
Maca: Is a good source of calcium, vitamin C, and amino acids. Can release tension and boost energy levels. There are three types of maca powders: Red maca is the sweetest. Yellow maca is not as sweet, and black maca is somewhere in between.
Shilajit: Perfect to combat brain fog and is known to help your Thyroid.
Ok, pero like, where can you find adaptogens?
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[Editor’s Note: Since we’re not know-it-alls, always make sure to consult with a doctor before trying anything new. We’re here to guide and provide information that could potentially help, but each person is different so do what’s right for you!]