The Best Adaptogen For the First-Time Adaptogen User
I still can’t believe that some people have NEVER used or experienced the truly magical health benefits of adaptogenic herbs. Moreover, apparently there are indeed people who walk the earth that STILL DON’T KNOW WHAT ADAPTOGENS ARE?!
Okay, deep breaths…sometimes I need to remind myself that I don’t live in California.
Regardless - this is a trendy train you’re going to want to jump aboard…just incase you haven’t already (don’t worry, your extremely embarrassing secret is safe with me!).
So what are adaptogens anyways?!
You can think of adaptogens as the ultimate “superherbs”; they are non-toxic plants that protect the body from the impact of stressors - be it physical, chemical, or biological. They do this through supporting our adrenals, which regulate our hormonal responses to stress.
Our adrenals are super important, as they control many activities in the body, including weight, blood sugar, blood pressure, the immune system, and of course - our stress response.
In particular, they are in charge of our “fight or flight” response (vs. when we are in "rest and digest” mode); releasing adrenaline and then cortisol and even insulin - all revving up so that we can run from or fight the danger our system has detected.
While this works great when we’re being chased by a bear - or even just need a bit of “healthy stress” to reach a deadline - it obviously doesn’t serve us when it’s happening too often (or constantly!).
In reality, we’re in this intense “fight or flight” mode more often than not - and definitely more frequently than we should be. Whether it’s seeing your inbox become flooded, having a day filled with back-to-back meetings, or simply feeling overwhelmed because of “politics” at work - I’m sure you’re beginning to get the gist.
In these situations, I’m a lover of deep breathing, taking a break to slowly sip on a comforting herbal tea, or inhale a soothing aromatherapy blend (like one with lavender and frankincense…yum!) - but for many of us, that’s just not enough (nor conducive to our immediate realities).
Hence, taking adaptogenic herbs, which get hard to work monitoring and responding to internal stress responses, and thus help bring you back into balance (otherwise known as “equilibrium” or “homeostasis”), are a strategic alley in today’s world of modern stressors.
In my own experiences, I’ve used adaptogens to bring me calm (i.e. before bed), uplift and energize me (pre-workout or during a midday slump), and even for conditions like pain and when more intense “healing” is required. This has led me to play around with several dozens of different adaptogens and adaptogenic blends - some proving to be more effective than others.
While adaptogens are generally safe to consume for most people, if it’s your first time in this glorious world of adaptogenic substances - I suggest sticking to the more gentle herbs to minimize your risk of any sort of “side-affects”. Definitely no need to be “scared” - the worst of these “side-affects” usually just refer to elevating already less-than-ideal circumstances. For example, taking an extremely invigorating herb like schisandra berry if you are already quite “flighty” may lead to exacerbating the issue.
On the whole, though, adaptogenic herbs tend to properly “detect” exactly what it is your body needs, and will provide the necessary effects to bring you back into a state of balance. A perfect example of this is something like tulsi (sometimes referred to as holy basil) - which can be energizing if you need a “lift”, but also extremely soothing if taken before bed and need to wind down.
Seriously - it’s like magic…but actually science.
GOTTA LOVE PLANTS!
Okay, so let’s get to the MAIN juicy take-away here - HOW THE HECK DO YOU GET STARTED WITH ADAPTOGENS?!
Rather than spare you my usual “woo-woo chatter” which dives into choosing the herb that “calls” you - I’ll just make it crystal clear and SPELL IT OUT FOR YOU…
My top choice for adaptogen newbies?!
This one is commonly agreed to be the most soothing, gentle and thus perfect “beginner adaptogen”.
Apart from being calming, it’s also a powerful anti-inflammatory.
First used traditionally in India thousands of years ago, it’s still a tried and true herb to improve sleep, reduce anxiety, improve memory, and reduce inflammation and oxidative stress. It also boosts the immune system, is included in the treatment of arthritis and can even help in the treatment of fertility challenges.
In terms of weaving it into your daily regime, combining it with other gentle herbs like lemon balm and camomile (which also work to support and sooth the nervous system), would be your safest and best bet.
You can use it as a dried powder, tea, in supplement (capsules) form, or even as a tincture.
I like to buy the powder and add it to smoothie bowls, but my favourite method is sneaking it into some nut butter with a hint of honey - it’s great to combine it with a fat for optimal absorption…plus the ashwagandha + nut butter combo literally tastes like chocolate (I’m serious).
Also, a little goes a long way - all you need is a few grams of the dried herb daily to start reaping the benefits - of course, as always with new herbs (and foods!): start low and go slow, closely monitoring outcomes and adjusting overtime as required.
Last little tidbit: adaptogens tend to work best OVERTIME, so don’t expect your life to change…like…tomorrow. Try taking it for at least a few weeks, and then be sure to “rotate” (or simply take a break) from the adaptogen you’re taking for a couple of weeks too. For example, you may want to use ashwaghanda for anywhere from 2-12 weeks, and then take about a 2 week break before incorporating it back it (or swap to another adaptogen to work with entirely).
I know it might seem a bit scary, or even just overwhelming, to start a new health regime, but if there’s a single “health hack” that has provided me the most beneficial and wide-ranging support - from stress management, to stabilizing my energy levels, to reducing my occurrence of getting sick - it’s adaptogens.
Trust me, this is worth exploring for yourself…and I’m already excited to hear about your experiences (feel free to share in the comments below!).