All About Adaptogens

For those of you who don’t know, I went to Syracuse University for my undergraduate degree where I studied Nutrition and Dietetics. In January I will be starting my Dietetic Internship in order to become a Registered Dietitian! I am so excited.

This past year I worked at a medical weight loss office in Manhattan where the main focus was on nutrition and hormones. A lot of time people focus on calories in and calories out as a way to lose weight. This can definitely be a factor in losing weight however, the majority of patients I saw had hormonal imbalances that affected their weight loss goals. What was the number one hormone imbalance? Cortisol.

Cortisol is the stress hormone that is naturally higher in the morning and lowers in the evening. From a cortisol test (normally a saliva based test) we can tell what times throughout the day your levels fluctuate. This can determine if your cortisol level is within the normal range.

Adaptogens work on your CNS (central nervous system) and may help reduce inflammation by working with your body to “reset” and “calm” it down. Adaptogens normally take a few months to start working but basically they “adapt to your body” and help lower cortisol levels.

An adaptogen by definition: is a “pharmacological group of herbal preparations that increase tolerance to mental exhaustion and enhance attention and mental endurance in situations of decreased performance. The beneficial stress-protective effect of adaptogens is related to regulation of homeostasis via several mechanisms of action associated with the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and the control of key mediators of stress response such as molecular chaperons.”

^ Sounds pretty great if you ask me!

Some common known adaptogens are Ginseng, Medical Mushrooms(i.e. Reishi, chaga etc.) Turmeric, Rhodiola, Ashwaganda, Maca, Cordyceps and Schisandra.

Lets get into the benefits and how they work:

  • Ashwaganda- The most “trendy” adaptogen right now. Primarily know to help long term stress and anxiety levels. Comes from a root which is then made into a powder.
    • How to take: Stir in coffee, smoothies (or other foods) or taken in a capsule
  • Rhodiola- Described to me as a “herbal Xanax” to help again with stress and anxiety. Known to relax the body. Recommended for people with short term stress and anxiety.
    • How to take: Stir in coffee, smoothies (or other foods) or taken in a capsule
  • Maca- Helps with increasing energy/attention, mood booster and may help reduce fatigue. It is also a very good source of minerals.
    • How to take: Stir in coffee, smoothies (or other foods) or taken in a capsule
  • Reishi- A mushroom that has immune boosting benefits and may help fight inflammation.
    • How to take: Mix into a tonic of your choice, bake with it or brew into tea
  • Cordyceps- A mushroom known to help fight free radicals and may increase immunity. May have anti-aging/detox effects, as well as acts as a natural aphrodisiac.
    • How to take: Tonic, tea or pill form
  • Schisandra- Known to lower inflammation, support adrenal function, lower stress and improve mental performance
    • How to take: Tonic, tea, pill, mix into smoothies or coffee


Disclaimer: Before you take any supplements consult your doctor first. Additionally, taking more than three adaptogens at once is not known to be beneficial. Less is more.




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