Adaptogens are plants and mushrooms that help your body respond to stress, anxiety, fatigue and overall wellbeing. You can take adaptogens by adding them to food or beverages or take them as tinctures. Adaptogens bring your body back to a steady balance by managing both physical and mental stressors.
Adaptogens are active ingredients in certain plants and mushrooms that may impact how your body deals with stress, anxiety and fatigue. Plants and mushrooms provide adaptogenic actions. When consumed, these plants target specific stressors in your body.
There are three qualities that plants must have to be an adaptogen:
Adaptogens work as a temporary bandage but aren’t the solution to long-term stress.
The goal of taking adaptogens is to return your body back to a state of balance (homeostasis). The herbal action in adaptogens increases or decreases chemical reactions within your body.
For example, if you’re stressed (elevated cortisol), an adaptogen will respond by reducing cortisol levels. If you experience chronic fatigue with low cortisol levels, an adaptogen will increase the level of cortisol in your body.
While some adaptogens like ashwagandha and Asian ginseng have a number of studies on their varied actions, supplements are not regulated by FDA, and FDA approval does not equate to safety.
If you plan to add plants with adaptogenic qualities to your diet, talk with your healthcare provider to discuss how they could impact your health and if they are right for you.
There are several types of adaptogens. Common adaptogens include:
Adaptogens come from plants, so you can take them in several different ways including:
Drinking a cup of tea is a great way to pause and reduce stress with each warm, calming sip. Some adaptogenic plants can be dried, ground up and steeped in hot water in the same way you would steep your favorite tea. There are several different types of tea blends on the market that use some adaptogens as the main ingredient. Be sure to read the label to see what the intended effects of the tea are, how long you should steep the tea in water and how often you should drink it.
Adaptogens support the way that your body handles stress. Some people consume adaptogens to:
Adaptogen dosage varies by plant and how you choose to take it. For example, the dosage to take a capsule of ashwagandha is 1 to 6 grams of dry root per day or a tincture dose based on concentration, which varies by brand. Capsules can also be made with plant extract, where the dose for standardized extract is 500 milligrams twice a day.
Before you start taking adaptogen supplements, check the label on how much and how frequently you should take them and talk with your healthcare provider to see if they have recommendations on which adaptogen is right for you.
Studies show that adaptogens work best for a short duration (less than six months) because your body could build a resistance to adaptogens and their intended effects, proving them ineffective over time.
Adaptogens are generally well tolerated. Side effects are rare but possible and vary based on the plant.
Side effects of adaptogens include:
It's also important to understand the purpose of the adaptogen you are taking and how it will affect your body. For example, certain adaptogens increase energy and you wouldn’t want to take that type of adaptogen before going to bed because it would be difficult for you to fall asleep.
Before starting adaptogens, discuss the following with your provider:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
No one wants to feel stressed when unexpected changes occur in life. Adaptogens are mediators to help your body minimize stress response and recover from anything that is putting you off balance. Check with your healthcare provider before taking adaptogens to make sure they won’t interact with any conditions you have or medications that you are taking so your body can reach a state of peace and balance.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 02/10/2022.
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