Adaptogens are a buzzword in the wellness world, popping up everywhere from juice bars to lifestyle blogs. But what are adaptogenic herbs, exactly? Here’s what you need to know.
Coined in 1947, the term adaptogen refers to substances that theoretically “adapt” to what your body needs and help protect against various stressors. Although the science is as murky as a mushroom drink looks and these supplements are unregulated by the Food and Drug Administration, that hasn’t stopped trendsetters from sharing their purported benefits, which include supporting the body’s adrenal glands, reducing stress levels and regulating hormone responses for an overall sense of homeostasis, or balance.
“The industry is facing a switch from dietary supplements to functional foods and beverages. With an increasing interest in healthy snacking, consumers are looking into beverages, including coffee and tea, with adaptogen herbs,” says Deborah Thoma,
It’s hard to evaluate adaptogens objectively. How they are typically studied and used in the West (as a single herb in a purified extract) is not how they are traditionally used (in its whole form and often combined with other herbs). Compounds in these herbs may someday prove to have benefits, particularly for the immune system or blood sugar control, but better, larger studies are needed, as well as standardized products, before we would recommend them. In the meantime, don’t believe claims that adaptogens will “restore” your body, “supercharge your cells,” or cure any disease.
Need a helping hand for facing life’s daily stressors? If the buzz surrounding adaptogens is to be believed, then these fatigue-fighting herbs could be just what you’re looking for.
This new beauty category harnesses the likes of essential oils and adaptogens (herbs believed to regulate the release of stress hormones) to promise these holistic benefits.
Here, my friend, is your personal guide to find exactly which adaptogen is right for your current ailment. While this is what I would recommend to my patients, be sure to pay attention to how each feels for your individual body.
Before you hop on the adaptogen bandwagon, get acquainted with the little we know about them—and the very much that we don't.
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