If you follow lifestyle blogs or frequent your local juice bar, you’ve probably heard of adaptogens – the latest buzzword to dominate the wellness world. Whether you’re on the brink of burnout or feeling like it’s just not your day, your month of even your year (sorry, we had to)…then you may want to consider trying adaptogenic herbs as a way to cope with the stress.

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The benefits of adaptogens are lauded in the wellness community for all kinds of reasons – from boosting your libido, to helping you sleep, reducing stress levels and delaying the signs of ageing. But what exactly is an adaptogen and how do they work? Read on for the lowdown.

What are adaptogens?

Adaptogens are powders or liquids derived from non-toxic plants that, when taken orally, can help with stress. They are able to ‘adapt’ what they do based on your body’s needs; for example, research shows they can help calm you when you’re under stress and improve your energy when fatigued. You may have been hearing the term bandied around a lot lately (Gwyneth Paltrow’s a big fan) but these herbs have been used for centuries as part of Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine practises.

In general, adaptogens help your body to better handle stress and they do this through supporting the delicate relationship between your brain and hormone system.

How adaptogens work:

When we face a stressor, whether physical or mental, our bodies go through what’s called general adaptation syndrome (GAS). GAS is a three-stage response: alarm, resistance, and exhaustion. Adaptogens help us stay in the resistance phase longer, via a stimulating effect that holds off the exhaustion. Instead of crashing in the midst of a stressful moment, task, or event, we attain equilibrium and can soldier on.

What adaptogenic herbs are the best to take?

Well, that depends on what symptoms you’re trying to treat as each herb serves a different function. Below is a selection of hero adaptogens and their corresponding benefits:

Relieves stress and anxiety: Ashwagandha AKA nature's anti-anxiety, Rhodiola, liquorice root, holy basil (Tulsi) and American ginseng.

Reduces fatigue: Rhodiola, American white ginseng, Asian red ginseng, Asian white ginseng, Siberian (Eleuthero) ginseng and maca.

Brain function: Ashwagandha, Holy basil (Tulsi) and lion’s mane.

Healthy gut: Holy basil (Tulsi) and licorice root.

Anti-ageing/immune-boosting: Ashwagandha, Astragalus, Cordyceps, Jiaogulan and turkey tail.

How do you add adaptogens to your diet?

One popular way you’ve no doubt come across on your Instagram feed is in the form of adaptogenic powders. Often they come in bright and beautiful hues that can be added to baked treats and raw slices, smoothies and smoothie bowls, teas, coffee or water (though, only to water if you’re game – some can be rather pungent

Alternatively (and more conveniently), you can take adaptogens through supplementation. Learn more about Vitally’s Rhodiola and Ashwagandha.

Main image: @dovneon

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