3 min read

What are adaptogens?

Adaptogenic herbs have been around for centuries in both Ayurvedic and Chinese herbal medicine. Recently, they have been getting a lot of hype and attention in the media. So what exactly are they?

In a nutshell, adaptogens are a collection of herbs that have been identified for their abilities to help the human body resist physical, chemical and biological stressors. As defined by CSHS (Centre for Studies on Human Stress) “a stressor is anything that causes the release of stress hormones.” Therefore, adaptogens were named specifically for their ability to help the body adapt its functions to manage these stress related flare-ups. By helping to regulate the body’s response to stress, adaptogens can help reduce inflammation, pain, improve mental health and protect neurological health. According to Western science, these stress-protective effects mainly occur through the Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis and SAS system. They are responsible for controlling the body’s stress responses during times of stress.

As we all know, stress is a major factor in all kinds of health problems.

Under normal circumstances, managing stress is a global health concern in the modern world. With the coronavirus hitting the scene in 2020, stress levels went through the roof. According to a recent American Psychiatric Association national poll of 1,004 adults, 48% of Americans experience anxiety about being infected with coronavirus, and 62% are stressed about their family’s health due to COVID-19. Now, more than ever, adaptogens could be of crucial support in a world that is under crisis.

Stress is a physiological condition that can lead to myriad ailments, including chronic inflammation, gastrointestinal disorders, sleep deprivation, heart disease, asthma, lowered sexual function, lowered immunity, neurological degeneration, mental health disorders, metabolic disorders, cancer, and premature aging. For centuries, doctors of both Ayurvedic and Traditional Chinese medicine advised regular consumption of adaptogenic herbs to enhance the body’s capacity to maintain balance in the face of a wide range of stressors, such as physical overexertion, cold temperatures, resistance against external pathogenic factors, as well as maintenance of memory, mood, and brain function and improving longevity. Many of these adaptogens were classified as “tonics,” or herbs that supported the building of Qi and Blood in TCM.

About 60 years ago in the West, the concept that some herbal plants may help alleviate chronic stress was introduced when midcentury researchers defined adaptogens as nontoxic compounds with actions and pharmacological effects that improved adaptability and survival. In the mid 1940’s, the theory was introduced there are three phases of stress—alarm, resistance, and exhaustion—giving rise to a coinciding hypothesis that these herbs could reduce the effects of the “alarm” phase, when stress symptoms first appear. In the 1990’s, FDA gave its definition of adaptogens as “a new kind of metabolic regulator that has proved to help in environmental adaptation and to prevent external harms.” Most recently, in 2017, the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences  defined adaptogens as “stress response modifiers that nonspecifically increase an organism’s resistance to various stressors (physical, chemical, and biological), thereby promoting adaptation and survival.”(1)

There are many different types of adaptogens with new breakthroughs being discovered each day. Reishi, Tremella, Chaga, Ginseng, Astragalus, Ashwaganda, Rhodiola, Cordyceps and Shisandra are all considered adaptogens, and featured in various formulas provided in our apothecary.

We love adaptogens and are extremely cognizant of their powerful abilities to improve our quality of life here on our precious planet Earth. Our Wild Chaga + Reishi and Wild Chaga + Tremella, as well as Revival formulas are chock full of the top adaptogens. You may be managing a stressful event, such as a job interview, exam, difficulties at work, school or home. You may be facing a stressful period or transitional period in life such as a move, recovery, divorce, or loss of a loved one. Or you may be living a generally stressful lifestyle and are always on the go, burning up more than you replenish. Whatever it is, adaptogens can be a powerful support. Check out ENERGY in our online shop for our selection of adaptogenic formulas!

Other top tips to help your body and brain better manage stress include:

  • Hitting the sack at 10 pm and getting proper rest

  • Getting regular exercise

  • Limiting your caffeine and alcohol intake

  • Incorporating meditation or other practices that support mindfulness

  • Smiling and lauging

  • Eating healthy, nutritious, and whole foods

  • Keeping sugary, processed, fried, greasy, oily foods to a minimum

  • Getting acupuncture!



  1. Panossian A. Understanding adaptogenic activity: specificity of the pharmacological action of adaptogens and other phytochemicals. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2017;1401(1):49-64.