What are adaptogens?

Are mushrooms adaptogenic?

What are ADAPTOGENS?

Adaptogens are herbs and fungi with special properties that help the body cope with “stress.” This stress can be physical, emotional or chemical. 


Adaptogen plants are non-toxic and possess properties that enhance the body’s support system that deals with, and adapts to, stress. They may seem like a relatively new trend, but adaptogens have been widely used in ancient medicinal practices like Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Ayurveda for centuries.


Apart from working as relaxants, adaptogens are also known to possess (natural) chemical properties that can boost immunity, trigger production and balancing of hormones, and improve the anti-aging process. 


Some common household adaptogens like turmeric and holy basil are widely used as part of meals, while others are too bitter to eat directly and are instead made into powdered supplements which can be taken orally or added in herbal tea and smoothies.  


How do adaptogens work?

In this fast paced (pandemic) world, “stress” is the buzzword, but what does that actually do to the body on a physiological level? When faced with a stressor, the human body goes through three phases:

  1. Alarm
  2. Resistance
  3. Exhaustion

Adaptogens aid the nervous in staying at resistance phase. When the body remains in resistance phase, it maintains equilibrium, which helps the nervous system in becoming more resilient to stressors. 


Due to their antioxidant properties, adaptogens also indirectly help other effects of stress like pain, fatigue, digestive concerns and insomnia.


Which Herbs are Adaptogens?

There are a variety of herbs and mushrooms under the umbrella of adaptogens. Each of them has a different effect and therefore, before consumption, it's vital to understand what type of adaptogen is best suited for your needs. Some of the most commonly used and readily available adaptogens are:

  • Siberia ginseng: helps ward off fatigue, depression and stress
  • Rhodiola Rosea: supports the function of adrenal glands that promotes healthy response to stress
  • Holy Basil: supports adrenal health, nourishes the mind and helps maintain state of equilibrium.
  • Maca: boosts energy and stamina, supports the immune system and calms anxiety.
  • Ashwagandha: used as a tonic for overall health and best known for improving sleep.

Apart from herbs, research also suggests that some mushrooms act as adaptogens and have beneficial effects on the body's stress system. 


Mushrooms are gaining popularity in the health and wellness world, as they offer a variety of health benefits. Mushrooms support your adrenal glands and keep the body in balance.  

They are being widely used in modern medicine because of their medicinal nature. Mushrooms have even been approved to be used in treatment for pulmonary diseases and cancer. These useful mushrooms also have adaptogenic properties that provide health benefits like balanced hormonal and immune system and improved cognitive function. 


It is also important to understand the difference between medicinal and adaptogen properties:

Defined as elements that can used as an extract to prevent or heal multiple diseases



Used to treat conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, viral infections, heart disease.

Defined as substances that increase attention and endurance in fatigue and enhance the “state of nonspecific resistance”


Used to combat fatigue, depression and anxiety and enhance mental performance.


What Mushrooms are Adaptogenic?

and what do they do on in the body?


CHAGA

  • High in antioxidants that fight free radicals 
  • Anti-inflammatory 
  • Speeds up the healing process
  • Fights viral infection
  • Provides energy 
  • It is also considered as a tonic to cure stomach disease 
  • Note: chaga can be problematic for anyone who suffers from kidney stones and/or kidney problems 

Shiitake

  • Rich in antioxidants that aid in detoxification
  • Helps maintain cholesterol

Reishi

  • Also known as the "mushroom of Immortality"
  • Antioxidants help the body build a strong immune system
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Boost adrenal gland function
  • Acts as an antiviral
  • Improves quality of sleep

Lions mane

  • Improves cognitive function
  • Improves memory and concentration = "Brain Booster"! 
  • Regenerative properties for brain tissues 
  • Reduces depression & anxiety symptoms

Cordyceps

  • Popular among athletes
  • Boosts adrenal glad function (helps body fight fatigue + increase stamina) 
  • "Hormonal Balancer" - reducing aging and increasing energy level

Turkey Tail

  • Packed with antioxidants
  • Boosts immunity against cold and flu 
  • Lowers inflammation 
  • Reduces damage caused by stress
  • Contains prebiotics aiding in smoother digestion

Final Thoughts

While there are benefits of mushroom adaptogens, it is important to understand that it is not a complete cure for all underlying health conditions - they are used as supplements to boost immunity and overall wellness. 


Adaptogenic supplements usually are a combination of mushrooms and herbs. Before adding them to your routine, it is advised to consult your doctor. 


Adaptogens don’t work like medicines with direct pathways, but they do aid in decreasing symptoms of stress. Like many OTC supplements, complete dependence on these adaptogens will not completely eradicate the effects of stress on your body. 


Along with these adaptogens, it is also recommended to make changes in lifestyle by getting enough rest, following nutritious diet, exercising, and meditating to reduce stress.