This Wild Foods ultimate guide will provide you with an extensive list of adaptogens and their benefits, providing further insight into the meaning of the term and how the various herbs may be able to help reduce stress and improve cognitive function in our daily lives.
The Basics of Adaptogenic Herbs
The term adaptogen was created by a Russian scientist in 1947 when he searched for safe, natural remedies to help the human body better resist biological stress. Traditional herbal medicine also incorporated many of the same adaptogens to heal the sick and improve physical and cognitive performance.
Adaptogens, by definition, are plants that are non-toxic and generally safe. They improve homeostasis in the body and boost overall immune strength and cognitive function. Here are some of the most common benefits of adaptogenic mushrooms:
- Improved attention span
- Reduced cortisol levels
- Minimized feelings of fatigue and stress
- Balanced hormone levels
- Enhanced mental performance
- Boosted immunity
- Normalized bodily functions
As you can see, the positive effects of adaptogens are real. Scientifically speaking, consuming these herbs will trigger the production of certain hormones that alter stress chemicals or other aspects of the nervous system to reduce the body's response to stress.
Many of these plants are very bitter and cannot be eaten plainly, so instead, they are broken down into powder supplements that can be used in herbal drinks and smoothies or taken as a capsule.
Types of Adaptogens and their Benefits
Let's review some of the most popular adaptogenic herbs in the benefits associated with each of them.
One of the most well-known adaptogens is elderberry. It comes from a type of elder tree known as Sambucus nigra, and the benefits of this settlement date back to 400 BC. Hippocrates, known as the father of medicine, refers to the elderberry tree as his medicine chest.
Elderberry is packed with antioxidants and vitamin C, so it is used as a remedy to boost your immune system and reduce the effects of inflammation. Many experts recommend using elderberry to prevent the symptoms caused by the cold or flu.
Ashwagandha is another beneficial adaptogen that can support your nervous system, immune system, and cardiovascular health. It has even shown signs that it can effectively fight against the effects of depression!
This herb is native to Africa and Asia, and it is sometimes referred to as Indian ginseng. Traditional Indian Ayurvedic medicine utilized ashwagandha to ease pain and inflammation, boost nutrition, and even treat insomnia.
Similarly, people residing in the Himalayas will use it to help their bodies fight oxygen deprivation. Studies have shown that consuming this herb can increase the amount of oxygen you can consume, which enhances physical endurance.
The next adaptogenic herb on our list is Rhodiola Rosea. This supplement, sometimes called Golden root or Arctic root, grows in Arctic climates and is found in Siberia.
This natural medicine can effectively treat anxiety, mental fatigue, stress, and depression. Rhodiola Rosea can stimulate the production of dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine, which can boost the balance of neurotransmitters and enhance neurological function.
Maca is another adaptogen that provides various benefits to both mental and physical performance. Commonly referred to as Peruvian ginseng, when consumed this vegetable root can boost energy levels and libido.
It's often consumed in smoothies and juice in the form of root powder. In South America, the maca root is also added to oatmeal and soup or fermented into a beverage called 'maca chica.' Here are some of the primary benefits of consuming maca:
- Improved sexual function and libido
- Potentially boosts fertility
- Reduction in the symptoms of depression
The adaptogenic mushrooms known as Cordyceps have been used for hundreds of years to boost immunity. The herb is cultivated from specific caterpillars that live in the mountainous regions of China - so most of the supplements that include Cordyceps grow it in laboratories.
This adaptogen can be used to treat kidney disorders and may be beneficial after things like a kidney transplant. Other potential benefits include improved athletic function and remedying liver problems. It works by stimulating specific chemicals and cells in the immune system to treat the symptoms caused by these issues.
Reishi is another adaptogenic mushroom traditionally used in Chinese medicine. It has a wood-like texture and bitter taste, so it is commonly consumed as a medicinal tonic or tea.
Reishi is also known as the lingzhi mushroom, and it is said to help your body manage stress and promote healthy sleep patterns. Additional benefits of this herb include minimizing feelings of fatigue, treating high cholesterol, and fighting the effects of high blood pressure and inflammation.
There are a wide variety of benefits to adaptogenic herbs. This small list only includes a few of the many adaptogenic mushrooms available to help improve cognitive and physical functions!