What Are Adaptogens? Meet 5 of the Most Powerful Ones

Adaptogens have recently made a name for themselves in the world of holistic health. However, what many people don’t know is that adaptogens are not new—medical practitioners have touted their wellness benefits and recommended them as part of a healthy diet for hundreds of years.

Here’s what you should know about whether adaptogens live up to the hype and which supplements deserve a place in your medicine cabinet.

Adaptogens are no mere health trend

Adaptogens are herbs that support overall wellness. There are dozens of adaptogens, each with its own unique healing properties. Some are known for giving your immune system some extra support while others aid in your body’s response to stress. With so many to choose from, there’s an adaptogen to support your body in any number of ways.

The one factor that adaptogens have in common is their ability to help restore balance in the body. Life is filled with stressors, which can throw your physiological processes off balance. Adaptogens support normal hormone production to help you return to a normal state of being.

Despite their recent claim to fame, adaptogens have been used for centuries around the world. They were often used in Traditional Chinese Medicine and have only recently been re-discovered as a natural form of wellness support in the west.

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Which adaptogens are most effective?

You’ll reap benefits from adaptogens no matter which ones you take. However, if you’re trying to meet specific health goals like stress reduction or increased energy, you’ll want to think carefully about which adaptogen you choose.

The following adaptogens are backed by scientific evidence and play unique roles in restoring your body’s balance:

  1. Ashwagandha: If the stressors of daily life are weighing you down, then ashwagandha is the adaptogen for you. When you’re faced with stress, your adrenal glands release a stress hormone called cortisol. Unfortunately, too much cortisol in the body can lead to poor sleep, indigestion and more. Ashwagandha communicates with the adrenal glands, telling them to slow cortisol production and provide some relief from stress.
  2. American ginseng: The American ginseng root may be your key to restored vitality. Similar to its counterpart from Asia, known as Asian Panax, American ginseng supplies physical energy and gives you the strength to bounce back when you're under the weather. The main difference between the two roots is that American ginseng provides a less intense effect on your body’s physiological processes. It offers just enough of a boost to help you power through work or school while gently encouraging a more positive mood.
  3. Eleuthero root: Eleuthero root is more than an adaptogen—it’s an energizer! Much like American ginseng, the effects of eleuthero root include more physical energy. Eleuthero is particularly beneficial for athletes because it supports nervous system activity, helping to delay the point of exhaustion. In fact, studies show that eleuthero root bolsters muscular performance during intense exercise. You don’t have to be a pro athlete in order to enjoy the benefits of this adaptogen, though. A daily cup of eleuthero tea can provide the extra energy you need to make it through your day.
  4. Maca root: Maca excels at supporting normal hormone production. The root is packed with iron and iodine—key minerals for keeping hormone levels in check. Maca root is a great supplement to start off with for people who are new to the world of adaptogens. Its overall support in hormonal health positively impacts systems across your body, helping you achieve the balance your body craves.
  5. Turmeric: This bright yellow spice does more than give curry its delicious flavor. Turmeric contains a compound called curcumin, which supports brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) production. BDNF is the growth hormone that forms neural connections in the brain. An increase of BDNF has been linked to better memory. Additionally, higher levels of BDNF trigger serotonin and dopamine production in the brain, which are key to combatting mood problems.

These five adaptogens are just a starting point. Dozens more exist to support imbalances and get your body back to a healthy equilibrium. Remember that some adaptogens are more effective than others at supporting specific aspects of your health, so consult your physician for advice on which adaptogens will work best for you. If one doesn’t sit well with you, don’t worry—many adaptogens provide similar benefits, so you can still enjoy all that these impressive herbs have to offer!

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