A steady topic of conversation these days seems to be: What’s in your smoothie? Superfood trends like chia seeds, matcha, açai and hemp remain strong, but there’s a new buzz about adaptogens, which caught my attention. These products are designed to help our bodies “adapt” better to life’s torrent of environmental and emotional stressors. Functional medicine guru Frank Lipman, MD, calls them “nature’s miracle anti-stress and fatigue fighters.”
Hmmm. Sounds interesting, eh?
Adaptogens help to create homeostasis, or more balance, within the body, so you can function at your fullest. One such super herb is ashwangdha, a root powder often used in Ayurvedic medicine to improve one’s vitality, relieve stress and boost the brain’s cognitive activity. It is a divine soother of the nervous system. Its list of benefits runs long, from being a regulator of cortisol and treatment for adrenal fatigue to a possible remedy for arthritis and thyroid dysfunction. This earthy root is slightly bitter and will overpower most smoothies, so it can also be scooped into your morning coffee.
Another popular adaptogen, or superfood, is the reishi mushroom, an edible fungus that’s been used by the Chinese for thousands of years for its potent healing properties. More recent studies over the past 30 years in China, Japan, England and the U.S. have revealed positive evidence that these fungi can help treat an array of ailments, based on the idea that they aid in the regulation of the body’s organs and systems. As an adaptogen, reishi mushrooms address the effects of stress, such as low energy, inflammation and hormonal imbalance. Its antioxidant properties can improve the immune system and mental clarity, as well as aid in the fight against tumors, heart disease, autoimmune issues, allergies and liver disease. Reishi mushrooms are also said to reduce anxiety, depression and insomnia. Known for their bitter, woody taste, they come in various forms, such as tinctures, powder, supplements, tea or as a soup.
Other adaptogens, such as Asian and Siberian ginseng and rhodiola rosea, act more as stimulants than soothers, enhancing one’s energy, sex drive and stamina. Astralagus, another adaptogenic herb, supports the liver and potentially helps the body resist disease.
More studies are needed to confirm the specific effects of adaptogens on humans. Also important to note, functional medicine doctors and adaptogens experts emphasize that it’s not in your best interest to ingest them daily, suggesting you take one day off per week or one week off per month when consuming them. It’s always best to talk to your doctor first before adding them to your diet, as some supplements or herbs can interfere with medications.
I put ashwangdha in my blueberry chia smoothie often, but not every day.
Here’s to your homeostasis!
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Journalist Ann Wycoff has written about wellness, fitness, longevity, travel, spas, food and wine for the past 20 years for magazines like Shape, Fitness, Spa, Outside, Travel + Leisure, Coastal Living, Redbook, Modern Luxury, San Diego Magazine, Redbook, Marin Magazine and more. She lives in Encinitas, California.