If you’re interested in natural health solutions (or follow anyone on Instagram who is), you’ve probably heard of adaptogens. These supplements are generating a ton of buzz, but with so many options out there, it’s easy to get lost in the excitement.
From ashwagandha to reishi, here’s what you should know about which adaptogens are best for different needs.
Adaptogens are herbs, mushrooms, and other plants purported to help the body ‘adapt’ to stress.
You see, anything emotional, mental, or physical that our body interprets as a stressor triggers a specific reaction. Known as our body’s ‘stress reaction,’ this response involves increased production of hormones like cortisol. If left unchecked over time, it can contribute to issues like weight gain, fatigue, and anxiety. (And that’s pretty common in the go-go-go world we live in these days.)
Many find that adaptogens help regulate hormones like cortisol, reduce symptoms of stress and fatigue, and promote an overall sense of balance. Functional medicine practitioner Brooke Kalanick Ph.D, N.D., M.S., describes adaptogens as “the best tools we have for restoring communication between the body and the brain and bringing our hormones back to homeostasis.”
Though all adaptogens reduce signs of stress in the body, they each suit different needs. Here are seven of the most popular adaptogens out there—and which goals they can help you hit.
Ashwagandha For Beating Stress And Feeling hyped
Used to combat stress, ashwagandha has become incredibly popular because it works. People love ashwagandha because it supports focus and energy during the day and solid sleep at night.
One study published in Pharmaceuticals not only suggests the shrub’s roots can fight stress, but the researchers go as far as to suggest they can improve overall quality of life.
“Dose is typically 200 milligrams of the standardized ground herb per day,” says Kalanick. Ashwagandha can have a stimulating effect, so look out for any signs of the jitters. This adaptogen may also not be suitable during pregnancy, so talk to your doctor before supplementing if you’re expecting.
Maca Root For Vitality And Vigor
Wake up feeling just as tired as you did when you hit the hay, or just want to feel more ‘on’ throughout the day? Try maca root.
This adaptogen is an across-the-board win for feeling more invigorated. Research published in Evidence-Based Complementary Alternative Medicine shows maca may boost physical and mental energy, reduce stress, and support mood. Other research suggests it can also help boost focus and libido, too.
Herbalist Agatha Noveille, author of The Complete Guide to Adaptogens: From Ashwagandha to Rhodiola, Medicinal Herbs That Transform and Heal, suggests starting with 1,000 to 1,500 milligrams of organic maca root per day. If you don’t notice any difference after a few weeks, bump it up to 2,000 milligrams.
Rhodiola Rosea For Exercise Performance
Though it may seem out-there, using herbs to enhance sports performance isn’t a new thing. In fact, during the Cold War, Soviet scientists (who conducted a lot of the early research on adaptogens) used rhodiola to support athletic endurance and recovery time, explains Noveille.
Their initial science still stands: One recent study published in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, for example, found that amateur cyclists who took rhodiola finished their pre-race warm-up with lower heart rates and completed a time trial faster than the placebo group.
Noveille suggests rhodiola also supports athletes’ immune systems, which may take a hit from continued rigorous training. It may also help improve focus during exercise.
Want to give rhodiola a try? Kalanick recommends 200 milligrams a day.
Cordyceps For Overall Energy
“Cordyceps is an antioxidant-rich parasitic mushroom that has the potential to boost energy,” says Sandra Carter M.A., M.P.H., Ph.D.
“Low energy and brain fog are just a few of common issues that can be relieved with functional mushrooms like cordyceps,” she says. According to one study published in Chinese Medicine, cordyceps significantly boost the body’s ability to produce ATP, the chemical energy that fuels our cells’ every function.
Bonus: Not only are cordyceps helpful for everyday fatigue, but they can also come in handy during tough training sessions, says Einhorn.
Novielle recommends mixing a quarter to half a teaspoon of ground cordyceps powder into water or a smoothie daily.
Holy Basil For Chilling Out
Besides just sounding cool, holy basil (a green leafy plant also known as Tulsi) is known for supporting a sense of calm. One review published in Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine even goes as far as to call the herb “liquid yoga,” because it has a calming effect that supports clarity of thought and a relaxed disposition. If you struggle to feel grounded or just can’t chill out, Kalanick recommends holy basil.
“200 milligrams twice per day is a good place to start,” Kalanick says. If you notice any sluggishness or sleepiness, stick to 100 milligrams once or twice a day.
Reishi For Relaxation And Immune Health
“Known widely for its ability to offer immune support, help manage and relieve stress, and promote longevity, reishi is an adaptogenic powerhouse,” says Carter. “It’s perfect for targeting a wide range of common issues, including autoimmune issues.” One study published in Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews suggests reishi mushrooms work by stimulating certain immune cells.
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A mild adaptogen, reishi takes some time to express its full benefit, says Noveille. She suggests giving the standard 1,500-milligram dose at least a month to take effect. Carter also likes reishi powder, which can be blended into smoothies, mixed into protein balls, or swirled into coffee.
Rules For The Road
Since herbal supplements can interact with prescription medicines, talk to your doctor before adding any of the aforementioned stress-busters to your routine. Then, of course, make sure to purchase your adaptogens from a quality brand like plnt.