Right now, most of us are probably using all the tools in our toolkit to cope with being inside most of the time and having our daily lives and activities disrupted. There are numerous reasons to feel stressed right now, which is a very normal response to the world at large.
However, adaptogenic herbs can help. Adaptogens are, according to Chaunie Brusie, RN, BSN, “herbal pharmaceuticals. They work to counteract the effects of stress in the body. Stress causes very real physical changes… including harming the neurological, endocrine, and immune systems. Adaptogens have stimulant properties that help counteract those harmful effects.”
Some quick history– adaptogens were first studied during World War II! Scientists researched herbs that would let healthy pilots fly “better, faster, and for longer periods of time… And they thought they found it in the form of adaptogens.”
In short, adaptogenic herbs are wonderful additions to our daily lives and are especially potent when taken in small amounts every day. They can help combat fatigue, boost mood, help with anxiety and depression, and support your body during especially stressful times.
Below, we’ll outline five super-power adaptogens (ashwagandha, chaga, reishi, cordyceps, and mucuna pruriens) to add to your life right now, in the form of tonics, capsules, tinctures, and more!
Ashwaganda is an important ayurvedic herb– it is Sanskrit for “smell of a horse,” both referring to its smell and ability to make you feel strong! According to Kamel Patel, a nutrition researcher, “A number of studies suggest that it has anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effects; studies are mostly supportive of a notable effect of ashwagandha for this purpose, and it seems to reduce cortisol levels. “ Most herbalists agree that ashwagandha rejuvenates and tonifies the endocrine and immune system. It enhances the body’s resilience to stress.
To try this herb out for yourself, you can add its powder form to tea or smoothies. Fat of the Land also makes a wonderful adaptogenic honey that includes not only ashwagandha but also maca (which also helps with stress)!
Chaga is brown/black mushroom (it kind of looks like ash or charcoal) and has been used as medicine for thousands of years. Regarded as the “king of mushrooms” in ancient China and Russia, it is usually harvested from birch trees. It can mostly be found in northern Canada, northern Japan, and northern Siberia. According to Dr. Amelia Patillo, “Chaga (and all medicinal mushrooms for that matter) contain compounds called beta-glucans. Beta-glucans are strong immune modulators and help the body assist with many diseases such as HIV/AIDS, cancer, and viral infections. They act by stimulating production of more white blood cells. In addition to beta-glucans, chaga is also incredibly high in antioxidants. The antioxidant levels may be the highest ever discovered, as they are approximately 50 times higher than blueberries…. the adaptogenic properties of chaga make it excellent at helping resist fatigue, anxiety, and stress related depression.”
By including chaga into your diet, you’re boosting your immune system AND helping to combat stress! Try chaga in powder or in a delicious mushroom coffee made by some of our dear friends at Four Sigmatic!
According to Chinese Medicine, Reishi is a mushroom of immense spiritual strength– something that these times definitely call for! It is thought to nourish “shen,” a Chinese word that refers to the mind or consciousness.
According to Dr. Patillo, “Reishi has been heavily studied in the scientific realm, and time and time again it’s been proven to have the following pharmacological actions: anti-inflammatory, anti-allergic, analgesic, anti-tumor, anti-oxidant, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, blood pressure lowering, and the list goes on and on.”
Reishi can also support the sleep cycle, which may be disrupted in periods of stress. Unlike other herbs such as kava, it won’t make you drowsy. According to Four Sigmatic, “This grounding mushroom helps you to chill out and adapt to whatever life throws your way.” Sounds pretty great to us!
“Cordyceps sinensis has been described as a medicine in old Chinese medical books and Tibetan medicine. It is a rare combination of a caterpillar and a fungus and found at altitudes above 4500m in Sikkim. Traditional healers and local people of North Sikkim recommend the mushroom, i.e., Yarsa gumba, Keera jhar (C. sinensis) for all diseases either as a single drug or combined with other herbs.” In short– cordyceps is another wonderful mushroom that can support the body’s response to stress, the respiratory system, and more! Cordyceps is a more energizing and an immunomodulator (used to help regulate or normalize the immune system). This mushroom is especially wonderful for those wishing to enhance their physical endurance– it acts as a broncho-dilator, which means better respiratory function. It also helps to restore the adrenal glands.
Mucuna is a therapeutic superherb, known as a “dopamine bean,” that helps protect the body from the damaging effects of stress. According to Bon Appetit, “Mucuna contains L-dopa, the immediate precursor to dopamine, a neurotransmitter that ignites the brain’s pleasure centers. Mucuna pruriens are a legume native to Africa and tropical Asia. Its seeds contain about 3.1–6.1% L-DOPA, the precursor to neurotransmitters like dopamine and adrenaline. While more research is needed, it is thought to be of therapeutic value, particularly in reducing psychological stress.”
Along with adding adaptogenic herbs into your life, don’t forget other stress relieving activities like hanging out with your furry friends, taking a hot bath or shower, calling people you love, setting up virtual tea or coffee dates, yoga + meditation, and walks outside.
We got this!