You’re probably wondering, what really are these things called adaptogens everyone is talking about? To keep it simple, adaptogens are herbs or plants (such as mushrooms!) that help the body to adapt and better manage stress and fatigue. Rather than serving a single purpose, adaptogens give your body what it needs right now to keep you in balance, despite the daily demands of life.
Some more familiar adaptogens you’ve likely heard of may include: Ashwagandha, Reishi, Ginseng and Goji Berry. Although used for centuries in Chinese and Ayurvedic healing traditions (among others), some adaptogens are gaining popularity right now, such as Lions Mane, Cordyceps, and Turkey Tail. These funghi friends of ours are some of the oldest organisms on the planet, which form symbiotic relationships with other plants and the surrounding environment. In this relationship, the mushroom absorbs minerals and water for the tree, and in return the tree provides the mushroom much needed nutrients, making it mutually beneficial. Symbiotic relationships like this one are key to evolution as they help each other to survive and thrive, especially in difficult times.
The benefits of incorporating adaptogens into your daily routine are quite vast. Adaptogens can help us combat fatigue, enhance our mental performance, ease anxiety and recover from both short-term and long-term stresses.
Let’s talk about hormones. Think about all the daily stresses you feel; pressure at work, the daily commute, family worries... All of these stressors affect our overall health and wellbeing. Stress sets off a waterfall of physical responses that affect immune function, hormones, cognitive abilities, and our internal clock (hello, sleepless nights). When we can better manage and adapt to stress, we can reduce our cortisol and other stress hormones. Voila! Here’s where adaptogens step in.
Cortisol - a buzzword typically mentioned around all things stress - is the hormone that is released by the adrenal glands during stressful times, which increases heart rate, blood pressure and glucose levels. This is important for moments we should be on high alert, but can have negative effects on the body when in high amounts for extended periods of time. Current studies show that 77% of the population is experiencing employee burnout, so it’s important now more than ever that we find ways for our bodies to cope. Adaptogens act as an invisible shield against the negative effects of stress on our bodies, decreasing our sensitivity to the stress hormones and supporting homeostasis (balance).
So, How Often Should I Use Adaptogens?
Adaptogens such as Cordyceps, Reishi, Chaga, and Lion’s Mane are all functional foods that should be used daily as part of your routine for maximum benefits. Adaptogens work best when taken consistently over a period of time to really experience their benefits. We always recommend doing your research prior to adding a new supplement to your routine. Start slow, and see how you feel. Increase intake if desired and always trust your body.
The Different ‘Shrooms
Let’s be clear, adaptogenic mushrooms are not psychedelics. To explain things more simply, medicinal mushrooms (including chaga, reishi and lion’s mane for example) act as functional foods (meaning: they provide health benefits beyond essential nutrients) and are not psychoactive. Mushrooms are psychedelic when they contain something called secondary metabolites, which are psychoactive. This includes psilocybin, psilocin, and baeocystin. Psychedelic mushrooms have been receiving extra attention and research lately for treating depression, PTSD, addiction, and more. If you’re curious about adaptogenic foods, we encourage you to explore this topic further and discuss with your doctor or health care provider if looking to add these into your routine.
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Disclaimer: Clinical research on adaptogens is still in its infancy and we always recommend talking to your doctor or healthcare provider prior to adding a new product to your routine.