What is an adaptogen?
Let's put first things first, if you’ve seen or heard the term adaptogen recently, you may think of it as a trendy, new, fleeting health craze. Not true. Plants that are considered to be adaptogens have been used for centuries in Ayurvedic and Chinese healing practices.
'Adaptogen' describes a plant or natural substance that helps the body adapt to stress and exerts a normalizing effect upon bodily processes. Although this application for plants is rooted in ancient healing traditions, the term was first coined in 1947 to describe plants that protect the body against physical, mental and emotional stress by strengthening the immune system. The term adaptogen doesn’t describe a single family of plants, but instead a collection of qualities a plant may have that strengthen the body and stimulate a healthier stress response. These plants can work in different ways that help the body or mind adapt to what it may need at that moment in time.
How Adaptogens Help Your Body
Many scientific studies are showing that adaptogens are fulfilling their native use in traditional medicine applications. Traditional healers and doctors of alternative medicine use these adaptogen herbs to help restore a state of balance between mind and body. Adaptogens can work with the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal system to help your body adapt to environmental stressors to help produce less cortisol. Lower cortisol levels help reduce inflammation, improve sleep, regulate blood sugar levels, and help to strengthen our immune systems. Some of the benefits you may see from using adaptogens include:
- Improved quality of sleep.
- Reduced feelings of stress and anxiety.
- Improved cognition, memory and focus.
- Increased energy levels.
- Performance boost, strength and stamina.
- Libido boost.
- Overall balanced feeling of well being.
Cooking with Adaptogens
Nutrition is often underrated as a contributor to our well being, both mentally and physically. Study after study is showing how our health is directly related to what we eat. Diets that focus on whole, plant-based foods are showing numerous benefits for health and longevity, and adding adaptogens to your diet may amplify and boost the benefits even further.
While there are several adaptogens out there with different flavor profiles and functions, here are some of our favorites and tips for incorporating them into your meals.
Maca is a tuber that grows in the Andes mountains of South America. Purported benefits include increased libido and improved sexual health, hormone regulation, improved mood and immunity support.
How to use it: The malty, earthy flavor of this root goes well with smoothies, oatmeal and even baked goods.
The root of this plant has found special use in Ayurvedic, Indian, African, and Unani (Grecco-Arab) medicine. This adaptogen has the purported health benefits of stress and anxiety relief, promoting restful sleep, increasing stamina, assisting with focus and memory, and easing menopause.
How to use it: Ashwagandha can be pungent and bitter, so it is best to use this ingredient with other strong flavors, like chocolate, cardamom or cinnamon. It can be consumed as a tea, but this powder can also be easy to add to smoothies, teas, coffee and baked goods.
Rhodiola grows in Siberia and other arctic areas. This plant was used by Vikings to improve their physical endurance. Purported benefits include improved physical performance, improved exercise recovery, vitality, and calmness.
How to use it: This deep brown powder has a deep nutty flavor and sweet notes that go well with soups, teas, hot cocoa, and any dishes with fruit.
Here are two recipes to get you started using these adaptogens.
Açai Power Bowl with Maca and Rhodiola
|Prep time: 5 minutes||Servings: 1-2|
Double Chocolate Gluten Free Muffins
|Prep time: 10-15 minutes||Servings: 12|
25 More Adaptogen Recipes to Try
If you’re interested in improving your health one meal at a time, we have developed a free recipe ebook to help you achieve your best health with nutritious plant-based foods and adaptogen herbs to holistically balance and achieve optimum health. This beautiful new free recipe book contains 27 quick and easy recipes to add functional foods and herbs to your meals.
Every recipe is plant based and optimized for flavor and function. Use food to eat your way to improved health. The recipe book includes:
- Chocolate peanut butter smoothie that contains a powerful herb that helps keep you calm and focused throughout the day. Plus it tastes like a peanut butter cup.
- Super healthy energy bars that provide you with a crunchy, chewy energy boost naturally sweetened with dates so you don’t risk a sugar crash during your important meeting.
- Chill out cherry crisp tastes great and will help you sleep through the night.
- Anti-inflammatory pineapple smoothie with four natural inflammation healers.
- Brain boosting chocolate nib cookies, bliss brownies and adaptogenic snickerdoodles.
Download the ebook now and get started with eating your way to better health today.