Adaptogens are a special class of herbs with a unique stress-relieving action that can deliver serious health benefits. However, people are often unsure about what adaptogens do, which herbs actually count as adaptogens, and whether there are different kinds of adaptogens that they should be aware of when choosing them.
Worry not, friends - we've got the facts! In this post, I'm going to share:
- A quick review of what adaptogens are and what they do
- The health benefits of adaptogens
- Which herbs are proven to be adaptogens
- Which adaptogens are best for you
If you want some more detailed information about adaptogen basics to get you up to speed, you can read Part 1 of this series here. Now, let's get those adaptogenic benefits!
What Are Adaptogens and What Do They Do? A Quick Review
If you want all the details about what adaptogens are and what they do, read Part 1 of this series here. In short, though, Adaptogens are a relatively new class of herbs that help us “adapt” to stress, regardless of the origin of the stressor.
Adaptogens can help modulate and regulate:
- Hormone production
- Organ function
- Cell health
- Immune function
These plants are “intuitive,” and it is said that the more you need them, the more they will work; the less you need them, the less they will work.
Leaves of a moringa plant, also known as the "miracle tree"
What are the Health Benefits of Adaptogens?
Adaptogens improve the adaptability of the body, regardless of the origin of the stressor (physiological, psychological, environmental, or situational), and increase the body's resistance threshold. In doing so, adaptogens improve organ function and hormone regulation.
This results in an overall tonifying action on the body, which:
- Improves physiological function
- Increases energy, stamina and endurance
- Brings the person into a state of healthy alertness
- Restores the nervous system (nervine action), which results in better, restorative sleep.
- Supports the immune system, which helps to guard against the susceptibility of illness that occurs when one is under too much stress.
You know the phrase, “I’m feeling run down”? Adaptogens help prevent that from happening.
Which Herbs Are Adaptogens?
There are currently only 8 herbs that are well-researched adaptogens. There are another 10 that have a strong probability for being adaptogens, and then about twelve that are possibly adaptogens. Basically, more research is needed.
While there may yet be many more, these herbs will give you a good starting point:
- The Ginsengs (Chinese, Korean, American, Siberian)
- Tulsi (Holy Basil)
Caption: Moringa (left) is a stimulating adaptogen, while Tulsi (Holy Basil) is classed as calming.
A brief breakdown of these adaptogens' benefits would be to think of the ginsengs as stimulating, tulsi as calming, and ashwagandha and moringa as acting in both ways (while also replenishing a deficient and depleted system).
The simplest way to consume adaptogens is by brewing the herb into a tea. Moringa typically comes in a powder form, which means you drink the actual leaf and get 100% of the adaptogen goodness. In fact, I may need to go make a cup of moringa tea for myself now...
Which Adaptogens Should I Take?
There isn’t really a right or wrong answer to this one.
Adaptogens are generally considered to have non-specific stress-tolerance action, but they often have an affinity for specific body systems. Going beyond that, there are four categories of action:
Additionally, some are better for younger, healthy people, while others are better for older people who are feeling depleted.
While you can't really go wrong with any adaptogen, the stimulating options (such as moringa) are generally better adaptogens for energy, while the calming ones (such as tulsi) are better adaptogens for sleep.
Someone with a wet, phlegmy cough might do better with a drying adaptogen, and someone suffering from dry skin might favor a moistening adaptogen.
Don’t be overwhelmed, though! Generally, adaptogens are friendly to the body regardless of which you choose, but I do recommend getting to know them. I will expand on some of them, and their properties, in a later post!
A Note From the Herbalist...
I hope you enjoyed the second post in our series on all things adaptogens! This was super fun to write, especially while sipping on my cup of moringa.
And now that you know the basics you can find fun ways to add adaptogens to your diet! We have a super delicious recipe for a moringa sauce that's great on fish.
Or if you're desiring just a nice cuppa, check out our blending guide which has some great options for spicing up your tulsi. There are all sorts of fun additions to add when blending tea, like turmeric which recent studies have shown may have adaptogen effects!
Questions? Thoughts? Let me know in the comments below or on our IG @MatchaAlternatives
First published June 2019. Updated April 2021.
The best adaptogens to get you started...
Here are some of my favorite adaptogens here at MatchaAlternatives.com:
'The Purist' Organic Tulsi Holy Basil
Classic Tulsi, entirely organic, and with a light spice and sweetness. It's also is a powerful adaptogen that stimulates, relaxes yet energizes, all while being naturally decaf.
Tulsi tea has a rich, warm, herbaceous flavor with a light spice and thick roundness (if that's a word!). The rooibos tempers this powerful fragrance with added sweetness and depth.
Made of the powdered leaves of the Moringa oleifera plant, so you are consuming 100% of the nutrients and antioxidants on offer as you drink the entire leaf. More antioxidants than matcha, too.
Tulsi Holy Basil: An Ancient Tea for Modern Times
Tea Blending Guide: 8 Blend@Home Herbals for Health
All of the information regarding the herbs, botanicals, minerals, vitamins, etc., is information drawn from traditional use data or academic research and should be regarded as such. If you, the reader, has a health or medical concern, please consult your healthcare professional. The information found here is not meant to diagnose, treat, prescribe or cure and has not been evaluated by the FDA. This information is for educational purposes only.
Adaptogens References & Further Reading
Panossian A, Wikman G. Effects of Adaptogens on the Central Nervous System and the Molecular Mechanisms Associated with Their Stress-Protective Activity. Pharmaceuticals (Basel). 2010;3(1):188–224. Published 2010 Jan 19. doi:10.3390/ph3010188
Liao LY, He YF, Li L, et al. A preliminary review of studies on adaptogens: comparison of their bioactivity in TCM with that of ginseng-like herbs used worldwide. Chin Med. 2018;13:57. Published 2018 Nov 16. doi:10.1186/s13020-018-0214-9