Adaptogens: Meet the trendiest stress buster in the wellness world right now
Plus four recipes to work these plant-based wonders into your diet
This article was originally published March 6, 2018.
The wellness world is buzzing about a very trendy natural substance right now, and it goes by the name of adaptogens. They're gaining in popularity because of their purported ability to fight stress and we of course, needed to know more, so registered dietitian Christy Brissette stopped by The Goods to tell us all about them. She explained that adaptogens are a class of plant-based herbs that can provide a boost of vitality and increase the body's ability to 'adapt' to stresses when ingested. They fall under the 'natural remedy' category because they're derived from plants and are most often found in powder or pill form. And although they are not new, they are gaining in popularity in the west. It's believed that incorporating adaptogens into our diets helps decrease the effects of hormones that are released into the body to help with stress and anxiety. answer this question and more so we can eat and feel our best. Christy broke down what we need to know about this wonderful ingredient, and shared some simple ways to work them into our diets.
Christy says to think of adaptogens as a general tonic. In most cases, when you ingest the herb its chemicals have a calming effect on the brain, body and immune system. Each one has its benefits and it's up to you to find one that works well for your body. But it's important to speak to your doctor before taking any new supplements or herbs to make sure they're right for you and won't interfere with any medications you're on. Not to mention, it's smart to examine your overall lifestyle before adding other interventions: adaptogens are great, but they can't replace a good night's sleep or a healthy meal.
It usually takes a few weeks to see if your chosen adaptogen is working for you. But of course, if you're changing other things in your diet at the same time, or are exercising more, it can be hard to know what is causing an effect. Christy recommends that you only change or add one thing to your routine at a time so you know what your body is responding to. There are a lot of adaptogens out there but she unpacked three of the most effective ones for us. You can easily add them to teas, or your favourite soup or stew recipe. And if you don't have a favourite recipe to rely on, we've rounded up a few of ours to share with you!
Maca is a trending adaptogen that belongs to the broccoli family. This root is also known as Peruvian ginseng. The research on maca is still in its early days, but it may help to improve anxiety and depression in postmenopausal women. You can try adding maca powder to smoothies, cappuccinos, guacamole or hummus, and mix it into your energy balls and homemade granola bars. It incorporates well into some of our favourite recipes because has a nutty flavour and smells a bit like butterscotch.
Recipe: Maca Hot Chocolate
- 2 ½ cups almond milk
- 2 tbsp cacao powder
- 1 tbsp maca powder
- 2 tbsp maple syrup
- ½ tsp coconut oil
- Pinch of cinnamon
- Shaved dark chocolate for garnish
1. In a blender, mix the almond milk, cacao powder, maca, maple syrup, coconut oil, cinnamon. You can also whisk this together by hand.
2. Transfer to a medium saucepan and heat.
3. Taste and adjust the sweetness if desired. If it's too thick, add a little bit more almond milk.
4. Serve with shaved dark chocolate.
Servings: Makes 2 servings
Lemon balm is an herb related to mint that's often enjoyed as a tea. If you're stressed, this adaptogen appears to help reduce anxiety and promote calmness. But keep in mind that you don't want to take lemon balm before a big presentation or an otherwise challenging day. Research suggests taking lemon balm can reduce your reaction time and memory, so it's best to have your lemon balm tea at the end of the day when you're winding down.
Recipe: Lemon Balm Tea
- Lemon balm tea blend
- Boiling water
1. Bring your water to a boil, and then add lemon balm tea blend to taste in a strainer.
2. Let steep for about 20 minutes, strain, and add honey for a little extra sweetness.
Servings: Makes 2 servings
Rhodiola is an herb used in Scandinavia and in Traditional Chinese medicine. This adaptogen appears to help reduce fatigue and exhaustion due to stress, so it could help prevent burnout.
Recipe: Brain Boosting Smoothie
- 1 banana
- 1 avocado
- 1 cup of mint tea
- 1 tsp of Rhodiola rosea
1. Process the ingredients in a blender.
2. Pour into a glass and serve!
Servings: Makes 2 smoothies
Reishi mushrooms are another trendy food thanks to rumours that this adaptogen can promote relaxation and may even fight cancer. It's usually sold as a pill or a powder that you can use to make tea or add to smoothies or soup. Use just a bit, as it has a bitter taste. Most of the research on reishi mushrooms hasn't been done on people, so we don't have enough information to know if it lives up to its health claims. Christy recommends that you can try having some reishi tea if you like and your doctor okays it, but in the meantime here is a soup anyone can enjoy.
Recipe: Energizing Reishi Mushroom Veggie Soup
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and grated
- 2 carrots, sliced 1 cm thick
- 1 fennel bulb, diced (fronds reserved)
- 2 cups cremini mushrooms, sliced
- 2 cups fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced (or 1/2 cup dried)
- 6 cups water
- ¼ cup dried reishi mushrooms, ground
- ¼ cup miso paste
- 1 tbsp allspice
- 1 tbsp thyme
- 3 cups kale, chopped
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Fennel fronds, minced
1. In a large soup pot, heat up the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and saute for 2 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for 1 minute. Add the ginger and the remaining vegetables (except the reishi powder) and saute for another 5 minutes or until golden brown.
2. Add the water, reishi powder, miso paste and dried spices.
3. Bring your soup to a boil and then reduce the heat to bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for 1 hour. Stir the kale into the hot soup to wilt.
4. Add salt and pepper to taste. Top with fresh fennel fronds and enjoy!
Servings: Makes 6 servings