Ever heard of adaptogens? Their a fairly new phenomenon to us here in the West, but they’ve actually been used for years in Eastern and Ayurvedic medicine.

Adaptogens are plants that are supposed to help your body to better handle stress, regulate hormone responses and support your adrenal glands. One study found that “adaptogens exhibit neuroprotective, anti-fatigue, antidepressive, anxiolytic, nootropic and CNS stimulating activity” (Link). Essentially this means that they help to protect nerve cells from damage and degeneration, help fight against tiredness, depression and anxiety, and boost memory and cognitive functions.  Pretty good for some basic plants huh?

So, what are some of the best adaptogens and how can you add them to your diet?

1. Ashwagandha

This ‘miracle herb’ has reportedly helped reduce memory deficits in children, and has been said to improve diseases such as Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and Alzheimer’s. It is safe to consume, but not for those who are pregnant. Ashwagandha is typically administered orally, either as a powder or as a supplement. Supplements are available in the US from companies such as Gaia Herbs.

2. Reishi

Reishi is a mushroom. It’s supposedly helpful with helping you to relax, without making you drowsy, and may also boost your immune system. Reishi is known for having a pretty bitter taste, so some recommend adding it in powder form to bitter foods where it won’t have much of an impact on taste. Rxlist does warn that it could be unsafe to have it in powder form for more than a month, so make sure to do your research on how to eat it, and check the specific brand you buy before you start eating it.

3. Maca

This is a Peruvian herb that is safe and easy to eat. It’s a vegetable that has been eaten in Peru for a very long time, and has, among it’s purported benefits, boosted mood and energy, increased sex drive and libido, and balanced hormone levels. Like ashwagandha, you can take ashwagandha in powder form or as a supplement.

4. Mucuna Pruriens

Rich in antioxidants, this herbal drug has its roots in Ancient Indian medicine. Other supposed benefits include antimicrobial properties, improvements in treatment of certain types of skin diseases. Moon Juice sell a powder that can be added to smoothies, coffees, tonics and baked goods.

5. Cordyceps

Like reishi, this is another fungal adaptogen. While there isn’t a lot of evidence to support the effects of cordyceps, fans of it claim that it helps with immune system strengthening, fighting lethargy and general tiredness, anti-aging, and improved athletic performance. You can actually get cordyceps mushroom coffee from Four Sigmatic, which is a very easy way to add it to your diet.

What do you think about adaptogens? If you are interested in adding them to your diet, make sure to consult with a doctor to make sure they are right for you.

Femi A-Williams is a health and fitness convert trying to reconcile a healthy lifestyle and a happy food life. She is 80% whole grain and 20% donut.

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