A Look Inside the Mood-Boosting Adaptogen Trend

Lentine Alexis
by Lentine Alexis
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A Look Inside the Mood-Boosting Adaptogen Trend

Adaptogens are natural substances, including herbs and mushrooms, that are thought to help the body cope with mental and physical stress. Chaga, reishi, ashwagandha, ginseng, matcha and cordyceps are tricky-to-pronounce ingredients that may seem new, but they’ve been used for centuries in Chinese and Ayurvedic practices to help the human body heal, soothe and adjust to its environment.

The word adaptogen was coined in 1947 by a Russian scientist to describe a group of substances that theoretically “adapt” to your body’s needs and help to protect against various physical and biochemical stressors. The science that surrounds the super herbs and mushrooms that fall into this category is quite murky, and yet, in these modern times more and more of us seeking to regain a sense of balance are turning to these compounds.

WHAT ARE ADAPTOGENS?

Adaptogens are increasingly becoming options for combatting stress. The plants considered adaptogenic have been in use for centuries by ancient people and medicinal practitioners. Non-toxic when used in regular dosage, these plants can be used to help combat fatigue, enhance mental performance, ease depression and anxiety, and help you thrive.

The term refers to a group of plants that act as agents to:

  • Normalize a wide range of bodily functions
  • Produce a non-specific state of resistance in the body to physical, emotional or environmental stress. So they reduce the effects of stress, whether the source is psychological, physiological, noise, temperature, etc.
  • Modify the body’s reaction to stress both environmental and internal in nature, by strengthening and supporting the immune, nervous and glandular systems.

HOW DO ADAPTOGENS WORK?

Research surrounding adaptogens is spreading across the globe, which allows us to learn more about how these plants and herbs react and impact our bodies in a wide range of circumstances. These super-plants help our bodies regulate stress response by supporting our adrenal glands, which support the regulation of stress hormones.

When life gets stressful, our adrenal glands excrete hormones, such as cortisol. “Cortisol is often the culprit for weight gain, especially around the belly area,” says Tara Nayak, a naturopathic physician in Philadelphia and proponent of adaptogens. “When you reduce stress with adaptogens, you reduce stress hormones and their effect on weight gain.”

Each adaptogen benefits the body in unique ways. Some adaptogens are stimulating, some calming, some warming, some cooling, some moistening and some drying. Because different species of plants have different chemical makeups, some may also have additional specific uses. For example, ashwagandha — the only adaptogen rich in iron — is useful for treating anemia.

Here is a list of adaptogens and their purported benefit:

  • American ginseng: boosts working memory, reaction time, promotes calmness and boosts the immune system
  • Ashwagandha: reduces stress and anxiety and promotes deep rest
  • Astragalus: combats fatigue
  • Cordyceps: boosts stamina
  • Chaga: boosts the immune system and combats inflammation
  • Goji berry: boosts energy, physical and mental performance, promotes calmness and improves sleep
  • Licorice root: promotes calmness
  • Lucuma: energizes and beautifies, supporting collagen production and calmness
  • Maca: boosts energy and mood
  • Reishi: promotes immunity and mental clarity
  • Tulsi/holy basil: reduces physical and mental stress, stress-related anxiety and combats depression
  • Turmeric: boosts brain function and combats depression

HOW TO USE ADAPTOGENS

It’s crucial when starting out with adaptogens that you follow the dosing instructions that accompany your adaptogenic products closely. A naturopathic physician can help recommend specific adaptogenic compounds that will benefit your body, and can suggest reputable sources for formulas or tinctures. Plus, a naturopath can help you to regulate your dosage, depending on the results and impact you’re hoping to see from adaptogenic use.

Once you’ve been consulted on which adaptogenic plants and herbs to incorporate into your diet, and have found reputable sources of those specific compounds, it’s relatively easy to incorporate them into your food. Adaptogens are often available in capsule form, but many adaptogens are also available in a powder, which enables you to mix them into smoothies, brew them into teas, stir them into soups or even create a sweet, de-stressing treat like the energy truffle recipes below.

Each of these “energy truffle” recipes is a decadent treat that combines the naturally sweet, soothing power of dates and dried fruits with a pleasing adaptogenic blend. Snack on them to boost your mood mid-day or use them as a treat after a meal.

A Look Inside the Mood-Boosting Adaptogen Trend

Black Magic Energy Truffles

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (75g) raw cashews or almonds
  • 1/2 cup (60g) shredded coconut
  • 1 cup (175g) dates, pitted
  • 2 tablespoons of raw cacao powder
  • 1 teaspoon reishi mushroom powder
  • 1 teaspoon chaga mushroom powder
  • 1 teaspoon maca powder
  • Pinch of salt, to taste

Directions

Pulse the nuts, cacao, coconut and salt in the bowl of a food processor or a high-speed mixer. Once the nuts are crumbled and no big pieces remain, add the dates and one tablespoon of water to the bowl of the food processor and process until smooth. Add a bit more water, if necessary, to create a dough that sticks together easily without sticking to your hands. When the dough is a good consistency, measure by the teaspoonful and roll between your hands to make nice little truffles, then roll the truffles in cacao powder or more coconut shreds. Store in the fridge in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

Serves: 20 | Serving Size: 1 bite-sized truffle

Nutrition (per serving): Calories: 33; Total Fat: 2g; Saturated Fat: 1g; Monounsaturated Fat: 1g; Cholesterol: 0mg; Sodium: 14mg; Carbohydrate: 3g; Dietary Fiber: 1g; Sugar: 1g; Protein: 1g

A Look Inside the Mood-Boosting Adaptogen Trend

Golden Glory Energy Truffles

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (75g) raw cashews or almonds
  • 1/2 cup (60g) shredded coconut, plus more for finishing
  • 1 cup (175g) dried apricots, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon lucuma powder
  • 1 teaspoon reishi powder
  • 1 teaspoon maca powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Directions

Pulse the nuts, coconut, salt and adaptogenic powders in the bowl of a food processor or high-speed mixer. Once the nuts are crumbled and no big pieces remain, add the apricots and one tablespoon of water to the bowl of the food processor and process until smooth. Add a bit more water, if necessary, to create a dough that sticks together easily without sticking to your hands. When the dough is a good consistency, measure by the teaspoonful and roll it between your hands to make nice little truffles, then roll the truffles in more coconut shreds and the sesame seeds. Store in the fridge in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

Serves: 20 | Serving Size: 1 bite-sized truffle

Nutrition (per serving): Calories: 33; Total Fat: 2g; Saturated Fat: 1g; Monounsaturated Fat: 1g; Cholesterol: 0mg; Sodium: 14mg; Carbohydrate: 3g; Dietary Fiber: 1g; Sugar: 1g; Protein: 1g

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About the Author

Lentine Alexis
Lentine Alexis
Lentine is a curious, classically trained chef and former pro athlete. She uses her bicycle, raw life and travel experiences and organic ingredients to inspire athletes and everyone to explore, connect and expand their human experiences through food. She previously worked as a Chef/Recipe Developer/Content Creator and Culinary Director at Skratch Labs – a sports nutrition company dedicated to making real food alternatives to modern “energy foods.” Today, she writes, cooks, speaks and shares ideas for nourishing sport and life with whole, simple, delicious foods.

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