Adaptogens: What They Are, Why You Need Them and How to Get Them

what are adaptogens
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Stress is a constant part of life for most people. Whether it’s financial stress, familial conflict, politics, physical health, work-related stress or one of the many other reasons why we worry — stress is hard to shake. In fact, trying to avoid it can increase its power, and nobody wants that.

Stress is always going to be there. However, we can control our reaction to it and how we support our bodies in dealing with it.

One key tool at our disposal? Adaptogens.

What Are Adaptogens?

What are adaptogens? They’re herbs and mushrooms that aid our body in adapting to, reacting to and recovering from short and long-term physical, mental and emotional stress. Stress can take a mighty toll both physically and mentally. It can cause everything from depression and anxiety to fatigue, slowed mental performance and even weaken our immune systems. Today, many people take adaptogens to help ease these symptoms and fight off strong stress reactions.

In this article, we’ll cover:

  • What adaptogens are
  • How they help
  • How to access them and reap the benefits

Adaptogens are useful to anyone who experiences stress on a regular basis, but they can also be a very helpful addition to a marathon training program, a mentally exhausting period like exams, or an emotionally exhausting period like a new baby. There are some life moments that put us through the wringer more than others, and adaptogens can give a substantial boost as part of a daily routine, especially during an extra stressful period.

History of Adaptogens

The use of medicinal herbs can be traced back to Ayurvedic practices in 3,000 B.C, and adaptogenic herbs were definitely a part of those rituals for their powerful responses in the body. A Russian toxicologist coined the term “adaptogen” as a plant that increases the body’s “state of non-specific resistance.” This means that it arms the body with the tools to fight stress — so general life stress is covered.

How Do Adaptogens Help Us?

Think of adaptogens like a multivitamin for stress. When our bodies experience stress, the infamous stress hormone cortisol is released. This triggers a 3-step response called general adaptation syndrome, or GAS, that includes alarm, resistance and exhaustion. Adaptogens can help maintain the resistance phase and avoid the exhaustion for longe. When we successfully fight off stress, we can stay more alert, energized and well-balanced.

Stress is helpful for your body’s’ normal functioning to a certain point, but too much cortisol for too long can be a problem. Long-term stress can mess with our circadian rhythms, our hormone levels and our internal clock. Adaptogens may act as a buffer for our system to be able to perform better in the face of stressors.

There are many different types of adaptogens that have different effects on the body — so it’s best to do your research and switch them out regularly to note how they affect you.


What Are the Best Adaptogen Products?

Want to incorporate adaptogen supplements into your diet? Here are some of my favorites and products to help you incorporate them into your regular routine. As always, please remember that writers and editors at SPY are not health professionals. You should talk to your doctor before adding any vitamin, supplement or medicinal herb to your diet. Also, please pay attention to the dosing information on the label of each product and follow the guidelines.

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Ashwaganda is one of the most popular and well-known adaptogens for its ability to combat general stress and anxiety. It’s great for combatting the hormonal changes that can result from long-term stress and keeping you balanced. It’s best to avoid this one if you’re pregnant.

NutriRise Ashwagandha 1300mg Supplements

These ashwagandha supplements are a best seller on Amazon with 19,500 reviews. They’re made with certified organic ashwagandha powder and organic black pepper for increased absorption. There are no heavy metals, fillers or allergens in this supplement so you get the full hormone balance and mood support benefits.

ashwagandha supplement, what are adaptogens Courtesy of Amazon


Goji Berries

Goji berries are great for boosting energy, but many people also take them for fighting stress reactions. They may also improve sleep and other negative side effects of stress. They’re delicious when sprinkled on top of breakfast cereal, put in smoothies or enjoyed in dried form on their own.

Navitas Organics Goji Berries

These delicious organic dried goji berries will give you the same benefits as this plant had in ancient Chinese medicine for longevity through improved health overall. These organic berries are unsulfured and dried in low temperatures to preserve their nutrients. They contain no added preservatives and no added sugar.

navitas organic goji berries, what are adaptogens Courtesy of Amazon



We’ve discussed turmeric before on SPY and love this herb for everything it offers the body when it comes to flavor, nutrients and anti-inflammatory properties. It’s also a very powerful adaptogen. One of the easiest ways to incorporate turmeric into your diet is to use the spice in the food you cook, but if you’re not as into the taste but want the benefits — this supplement is a great option.

BioSchwartz Turmeric Curcumin 1500mg Supplement

This turmeric supplement comes with a super high potency and enhancement of BioPerine, a mix of black pepper and curcumin that aids in bio-availability and absorption. This supplement is all-natural and contains no fillers, preservatives or other artificial stuff.

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Eleuthero Root

Eluethero root is known for its ability to improve focus and combat mental fatigue. If you’re studying for the MCAT, have a long dissertation to write or need your brain firing on all cylinders at work, then this adaptogen might be one worth trying. There are many ways to ingest this adaptogen including herbal teas and supplements.

Nature’s Way Premium Herbal Siberian Eleuthero

This is a vegan capsule supplement made with Siberian Eleuthero that’s been used for centuries to support mental endurance in the face of stress. This supplement is non-GMO project verified and TRU-ID authenticated.

eleuthero root, what are adaptogens Courtesy of Amazon


American Ginseng

American ginseng is another adaptogen that’s popular for supporting your immune system, memory and reaction time. Many ginseng users report that it also brings a sense of calm. Ginseng is also a popular adaptogen for soothing sources of long-term stress and aiding in rebalancing imbalanced hormones.

NOW Supplements American Ginseng Capsules

This herbal supplement from NOW is non-GMO, soy free and vegan as well. It contains the bioactive compounds needed for the adaptogenic effects of real American ginseng to take place. It’s got phytonutrients that aid your body in a whole host of functions that support overall well-being and balance.

American ginseng, what are adaptogens Courtesy of Amazon


Organic Ginseng Root Powder

Another popular way to ingest ginseng, and other adaptogens, is through a concentrated powder like this one. This ginseng root powder has a 200:1 ratio and contains high levels of active ginsenosides — the bioactive ingredient. This powder is organic and contains no GMO’s, pesticides, preservatives or artificial anything. When taken daily in a smoothie, shake or other mix it supports your immune system, boosts energy and acts as an antioxidant.

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Cordyceps Mushroom

Cordyceps mushroom is a mushroom adaptogen, rather than an herb, that reportedly reduces stress and may aid in balancing out hormones after long-term stress disrupts them. Some customers also report a boost in stamina, so you can last longer through stressful situations. There are many powerful adaptogenic mushrooms out there that are worth trying out, and this is one of the best ones.

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Genius Mushroom Supplement Blend

This nootropic brain supplement blend combines the power of lions mane, cordyceps and reishi mushrooms for a brain-boosting supplement capsule you can take daily. All of these mushrooms have different benefits for your brain, and this supplement combines them all into one mix. This supplement is caffeine-free and instead increases energy through increasing ATP production.

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Cordyceps Sinensis Veggie Capsules

If you want just the cordyceps mushroom boost and prefer to hold the other mushrooms for now, this is a concentrated supplement rather than a blend. It contains 1,000mg of this powerful mushroom per serving.

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Licorice Root

Yes, like the candy! Licorice root is a naturally-derived adaptogen that may be effective in reducing stress, boosting energy and endurance (some people also take it to aid in digestion). Most licorice candy is not flavored with actual licorice root but anise, so the adaptogenic effects are dulled. Licorice is a great herb to add to your routine during especially stressful periods of your life.

Nature’s Way Premium Herbal Licorice Root

This herbal supplement from Nature’s Way is formulated to aid in digestion through the adaptogenic abilities of licorice root. It has a concentrated amount of the legume and is non-GMO and Tru-ID certified for its effectiveness.

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Nettle Leaf

Nettle leaf is our final key adaptogen we recommend adding to your routine in some way. It’s a powerful herb when it comes to stress, especially when combined with other adaptogens.

Organic Nettle Leaf Herbal Tea

Another very popular way to ingest and receive the benefits of adaptogens is to sip them in an herbal tea. This tea is made from raw nettle leaf sourced in Bulgaria and is certified USDA organic. It’s perfect for making hay-tasting teas and tonics with all of the soothing health benefits that come from nettle leaf.

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