On our long, often arduous journeys toward health, we inevitably come across important terms worth examining. Adpatogens and nootropics are such terms.
Adaptogens and nootropics encompass a set of foods, herbs, and compounds that benefit the body and mind in specific ways. Adaptogens and nootropics, however, are very distinct in their benefits.
That’s why, in this article, we’re going to define “adaptogen” and “nootropic”, discuss the differences between them, and then give examples of each that you can use on a daily basis.
What are Adaptogens?
Adaptogens are nutraceuticals that work to counteract the effects of stress in the body, though they’ve been known to prevent stress itself. By nature, adaptogenic herbs and substances have interestingly “learned” to adapt to their own harsh environments. When consumed, they pass on this resiliency to us.
Adaptogens are good to use when the body is under stress, sleep deprivation, or is immunocompromised. Some common examples of adaptogens include ashwagandha, tulsi, medicinal mushrooms, and shilajit. Other common herbs work as adaptogens such as turmeric and ginger.
To better understand the ways of adaptogens, let’s dive deeper into some adaptogenic, nutraceutical substances and their own specific benefits.
A favorite among ayurvedic practitioners, shilajit is mineral-dense resin found in the mountainous regions of the East, particularly in the Himalayas, and has been used medicinally for thousands of years.
Though shilajit has pro-cognitive effects, we’ve decided to add it to our list of adaptogens. Shilajit, according to ayurveda, increases the body’s resistance to stress by supporting various tissues in the body and vital organ function with its high mineral content.
After all, shilajit is Sanskrit for “destroyer of weakness” and has been shown to prevent several diseases. It’s a good go-to supplement to keep in your cabinet.
There’s a good reason our Reishi Mushroom Extract is in high demand.
Reishi is packed with antioxidants and synergistic constituents that may protect against sleep disorders, fatigue, chronic infections, poor detoxification, and inflammation—several issues that are intricately tied to stress.
Reishi is considered adaptogenic because it’s powerful in its abilities to directly combat stress. In one small study, for example, athletes successfully used reishi to combat unwanted, exercised-induced stress on the body.
Of all adaptogenic herbs you may have heard of, ashwagandha is perhaps the most commonly referred to. It is another herb used in Ayurvedic medicine that roughly translates to “the smell and strength of the horse”.
Foremost, in terms of its adaptogenic properties, ashwagandha promotes a healthy release of cortisol and inflammatory response in the face of stress (stressful situations, exercise-induced stress/inflammation, etc.). It’s also been shown to be beneficial for physical endurance and performance in young adults.
Though studied for other benefits such as increasing libido and bolstering physical endurance, ashwagandha is definitely one to look out for when seeking relaxation and a healthier response to teeth-gritting situations.
What are Nootropics?
Nootropics are foods and supplements that benefit brain health and cognition. They can decrease the risk of dementia, enhance memory, improve neurogenesis, and even boost reactivity. Recent advances in neurology and health science have correlated with a surge in demand for foods and supplements that are healthy for the brain.
Nootropics are for anyone. They’re for the elderly who want to keep that extra edge into their old age while preventing neurodegenerative disease. They’re for the student who studies hard in school and is in various academic clubs and circles. They’re for the athlete who wants more energy and focus.
Here are a few popular nootropics currently in wide circulation among health enthusiasts.
Lion’s mane is a powerful medicinal mushroom that works as a nootropic by enhancing neurogenesis (the production of new brain cells), neuroprotection, and nerve growth factor (NGF). NGF is a protein that promotes learning and memory in the brain.
Lion’s mane is being studied not only for learning and memory, but for healing the brain as well. In recent dementia research, lion’s mane has been found beneficial for preventing and perhaps even reversing neurodegenerative disease.
There’s considerable speculation surrounding whether people should supplement lion’s mane via either the mycelium (root system) or fruiting body (actual mushroom). Just in case, we source high quality fruiting body extracts for our lion’s mane powder.
This is a popular herb used for thousands of years in China (traditional Chinese medicine) for its specific mood and mental neuroenhancement properties.
Perhaps most notably, as with lion’s mane, Ginkgo Biloba in studies has been shown to effectively treat cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Mood and mental wellness are another area of study with this herb. This is because of recent research and findings that ginkgo biloba has “been found to alleviate symptoms of anxiety in people with mental decline, therefore it was now tested for clinical efficacy in younger patients suffering from anxiety.”
Finally, we come to cocoa (a primary ingredient in our Wild Cocotropic Elixir).
Cocoa in its purest form is food, not candy. It is an ancient food that has been used as a brain tonic for thousands of years, particularly in Mesoamerica where it’s been called a “food of the gods”.
Cocoa flavonoids and its other various compounds (including caffeine and theobromine), according to research, “provoke angiogenesis, neurogenesis and changes in neuron morphology, mainly in regions involved in learning and memory.”
Cocoa has a lot going for it and what it can offer for the brain. From alleviating depression to promoting thinking and energy, it’s truly an “all-arounder” as a nootropic.
Closing Thoughts on Adaptogens and Nootropics
Of course, there is plenty of cross-over when it comes to adaptogens and nootropics. Shilajit (an adaptogen in this article) can rightfully be called a nootropic. Meanwhile, lion’s mane (a nootropic in this article) can easily be noted for its adaptogenic properties along with the rest of the medicinal mushroom kingdom.
As a call to action, experiment with some of the substances in this article. Take them for long periods of time and take note of any results you notice along the way.