What if I could tell you there are natural remedies to help eliminate major ailments in your body ranging from depression to hormonal imbalance to cancer? Dude, seriously. While there’s no such thing as a magic pill or cure, there is something that’s pretty darn close: adaptogens. There are thousands of natural remedies out there, but if you’re new to the world of all-natural health, these are the best adaptogens you should start with.
I’d like to start by saying that I’m incredibly passionate about adaptogens. Since I’ve started taking them 3 years ago, I’ve noticed major improvements in my life. I’d also like to mention that I am not a doctor or healthcare professional of any kind. My knowledge of adaptogens comes from working in the health food industry and in no way substitutes for medical advice.
Most of these herbs are incredibly safe and can be found in many, FDA-approved foods and beverages. Still, do a bit of your own research and maybe consult a medically professional if you’re nervous about mixing these herbs with any medication you’re taking.
What Are Adaptogens?
If a Google Search didn’t lead you here and you’re a normal Clumsy Traveler follower, you’re probably thinking, “What the hell are adaptogens and why should I care?”
Adaptogens are herbs that support your hypothalamic-pituitary-endocrine axis, which is where all of your stress comes from. When you put your body through stress (whether that be a fight-or-flight response from the amygdala or the types of unhealthy foods you put in your body), your body produces the stress hormone, cortisol. Cortisol, in small doses, is good for your body and has helped our ancestors run from predators and survive up until now. In today’s world, it can wreak havoc on our bodies. Especially since our fight-or-flight response is triggered at the idea of a big work project or a break up instead of running away from a literal tiger.
These herbs help balance your hormones and respond to your body’s hormonal and chemical levels, which change not only day-to-day, but moment-to-moment. Adaptogens “adapt” to your body’s responses, which are always changing based on several factors like your diet, emotional state, and physical health. You may be taking the same dose as your friend, but your cortisol levels determine how effective each herb works in your body.
How Do Adaptogens Work?
There are a lot of moving parts that help make your body a function at an optimum level. Your brain-adrenal (HPA) axis, brain-thyroid (HPT) and brain-gonadal axis (HPG) are all required to work in harmony so that you can have a healthy body. This delicate balance controls your mood, metabolism, energy, immune system, and sex drive. And when this HP axis is out of balance, you can get all kinds of issues like adrenal fatigue, over or under-active thyroid, and low or high libido.
In fact, if your body is busy producing cortisol when any sign of stress is present, it halts all other hormone-production–which is when your body goes haywire! Adaptogens come in and balance those hormones substantially by producing the hormones you need and halting production once your body has received enough.
And the cool thing about adaptogens? They all play well together! For example, the energizing effects of cordyceps won’t cancel out the calming effects of ashwagandha. Each herb has its own strengths and work in sync with one another. So if you can afford it, go ahead and take as many as you want!
Why Take Adaptogens and Why Are They Important?
Unless you’re some kind of alien from another planet, you have experienced stress. Whether stress runs your life or it simply pops up every now and again, it really does impact your health. As I mentioned previously, high doses of cortisol wear and tear on your body. It also halts production of other hormones which means more fatigue, bad skin and hair, or frequent illness. Stress is not something to be taken lightly.
And because each adaptogen has their own super power, they’re great to take during your travels! I upped my dose of maca and cordyceps before my trip to Peru and it really helped eliminate altitude sickness. I took reishi to boost my immune system while traveling to China to eliminate the side effects of air pollution. I even take turmeric on my long haul flights to help with my back pain!
Whether you’re traveling the world or just want to increase your health for the better, adaptogens will drastically improve your life.
Which Adaptogens Should I Take?
There is an entire world of adaptogens that help with so many different things! I’ve included some of the best adaptogens to start with as a beginner as well as my personal favorites brands/types.
Keep in mind that when you’re purchasing adaptogens (whether they be liquid, capsules or powder), you make sure they’re almost always dual-extracted.
Ashwagandha, known as the herb of balance, is quite possibly one of the best adaptogens out there. Ashwagandha is a root with yellow flowers found primarily in India and North Africa. Extracts or powder from the plant’s root or leaves are used to treat a variety of conditions.Honestly, what can’t this herb do? Let me count the ways: this herb has anti-cancer properties, lowers blood sugar, reduces that pesky cortisol I mentioned, reduces depression, boosts testosterone and increases muscle mass in men, helps lower inflammation, fights fatigue, lowers cholesterol and triglycerides and helps improve your memory. If you’re new here, this is one of the best adaptogens to start with and I highly recommend starting with this one.
Click here to buy my favorite brand of ashwagandha!
Reishi might be one of my personal favorites for its calming and immune-boosting benefits. Reishi mushroom is a fungus that grows in hot and humid locations in Asia and is known as “the herb of immortality.” Like ashwagandha, it also helps fight cancer, depression, lowers cortisol levels and fights fatigue. What the super herb does that ashwagandha doesn’t is help boost your immune system, lower inflammation through fighting oxidative stress, combats aging, helps mood and neurological disorders, aids the liver and kidneys and even help flight fibromyalgia.
Click here to buy my favorite brand of reishi!
If you’re sticking to just a few adaptogens, this is another I highly recommend to start with. This strange and unique-looking plant only found in high altitudes in somewhat arctic regions like Scandinavia, Russia, Siberia and Iceland. This herb is incredibly potent, especially when combating stress, anxiety, adrenal fatigue and depression. Along with helping battle cancer and helping boost energy for aerobic activity, rhodiola is incredibly helpful when balancing estrogen in women.
Click here to buy my favorite brand of rhodiola!
I have a friend who’s OBSESSED with astragalus. Why? Because it’s a major immunity booster and is great at preventing disease. This root grows mostly in the north and eastern regions of China and contain saponins (which lower cholesterol, improve the immune system and prevent cancer), flavanoids (which control and scavenge of free radicals, help prevent heart disease, cancer and immunodeficiency viruses) and polysaccharides (known to have antimicrobial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory capabilities).
Click here to buy my favorite brand of astragalus!
Not your average type of basil, holy basil was first found in the tropical parts of Asia. It’s primarily used to treat anxiety, adrenal fatigue, hypothyroidism, unbalanced blood sugar and acne, but that’s not all! Holy basil is a great source of vitamin K and A, helps oral health, eliminates headaches and supports eye health.
Click here to buy my favorite brand of holy basil!
Cordyceps is my personal favorite (and a super weird one, tbh). This adaptogen is a fungus that grows on ants and caterpillars and straight up consumes them! Because of cordyceps’ ability to increase oxygen absorption in your red blood cells, your body gets a significant dose of energy. In fact, athletes use cordyceps to improve their performance! Cordyceps also fight inflammation and is great for heart health. I used this to help fight altitude sickness in Peru and it was a game-changer!
Click here to buy my favorite brand of cordyceps!
If you’re feeling a little foggy or have some serious attention issues when it comes to work or studying, lion’s mane will me your new best friend. The name comes from its fuzzy appearance, like that of an actual lion’s mane. While lion’s main can help fight cancer and boost your immune system much like the other adaptogens listed, this one really targets brain function. Lion’s mane can improve memory, boost cognition and focus, and protects against concussions and brain damage. When I take lion’s mane, I can physically feel a difference in my concentration. It’s amazing for those of us who work from home and need motivation!
Click here to buy my favorite brand of lion’s mane!
Chaga is a mushroom found on birch trees in colder climates across the Northern Hemisphere and are known as “the king of mushrooms.” Most take chaga to help boost their immune system, relieve stress, help fight inflammation, reduce bacteria through the body and protect the liver by cleansing toxins. But the major reason it’s known for fighting illnesses is the major diseases it helps to fight! Chaga lessens HIV symptoms, aids ulcers and gastritis, fights Chron’s disease, diabetes and even helps fight against cancer!
Click here to buy my favorite brand of chaga!
Maca root, a Peruvian root found in the Andes, is an amazing herb to help with a variety of hormonal issues. From low moods to fertility to libido, maca root is a lifesaver. But what it’s incredible for is its ability to increase oxygen and performance enhancement. As this root is grown at high altitudes, this root does wonders for those hiking high above sea level. Maca helps negate the side effects of high altitudes by helping your body adapt to the climate. Because of its ability to help boost fertility, memory and its ability to ease stress, this root has been nicknamed “the Peruvian ginseng.”
Click here to buy my favorite brand of maca!
Schisandra looks like a small cherry, but tastes a lot like a bitter blueberry. Those trying to improve their skin love this berry for its beauty benefits. The berry has been known to help protect the skin from the elements and inflammation as well as fight free radicals. Women have also loved this herb for helping aid PMS ailments we well as fatigue, nervous exhaustion, depression and irritability.
Click here to buy my favorite brand of schisandra!
This well-known spice, typically found in any curry dish, may be new to the adaptogen world, but has certainly been around for awhile in Ayruveda. Thanks to curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, you can eliminate inflammation of the muscles, joints, skin or organs. It is said that most major illnesses, such as cancer and heart disease, are first born out of inflammation and daily doses of turmeric help avoid said inflammation. This has helped immensely with my spinal stenosis back pain as well as my knee issues. (Make sure to take turmeric supplements with black pepper–like the product listed here–which works as a vasodilator and helps absorption of the curcumin. No black pepper means the turmeric doesn’t work to fight inflammation!)
Click here to buy my favorite brand of turmeric capsules (with black pepper)
What If I Don’t Feel Like Taking More Supplements?
Listen, I get it. Between your multivitamins, your prescribed medicines, your nutrients and more, you probably don’t want to worry about taking an extra pill. But that’s the beauty of adaptogens! Most of these items are roots, mushrooms, or fungi and can be added into your diet in a natural way.
One of the best ways to get all of these herbs in as few pills/supplements as possible is to make your own vitamins! This gives you control over how much you can take, the quality of herbs and will save you money in the long run.
Amazon has great DIY supplement kits. When it comes to powdered herbs, make sure you weigh your dosage on a scale so you know exactly how much you’re taking. Then feel free to add these into your gelatin capsules together!
If you don’t feel like taking supplements, here are some of my favorite foods, beverages and snacks that contain adaptogenic herbs:
Have You Tried Adaptogens Before? What Are Some of Your Favorites?
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The post A Beginner’s Guide to the Best Adaptogens You’ll Ever Need appeared first on The Clumsy Traveler.