Adaptogens: What are they & Why you need them

 5 min read

Unwind Your Mind
A unique blend of adaptogenic mushrooms & ancient medicinal herbs shown to help slow down, quiet the mind, and reduce restlessness.
shop now

It’s clear from the booming coffee and energy drink industry that — everybody is tired. We’re drinking coffee all day to get through work and a “coffee break” is universal in every office across the country.

The problem is, coffee and energy drinks aren’t solutions. They don’t work long term. The crash is never far behind — so it’s back to the coffee to start the cycle again, turning your day into a rollercoaster ride of highs and lows.

Fortunately, there are better ways to get you through the day than caffeine that help to stimulate natural energy cycles. One of them being adaptogens — botanical herbs and mushrooms that help you deal with everything from energy imbalances to combatting stress and fatigue.

Let's take a closer look at adaptogens to find out what they are, how they work, and whether you should consider adding them to your daily wellness routine.

What Are Adaptogens?

Adaptogens are special herbs or mushrooms that are thought to help deal with stress and fatigue through the adrenal system. They have a variety of perks, including helping you deal with stress and anxiety.

Adaptogens get their name from the fact they help us “adapt” to the needs of our bodies. The theory behind adaptogens says they help your body adjust to physical, chemical, or biological stress. They're thought to stimulate your body's stress-protection response and help its systems return to a balanced state called "homeostasis."

Adaptogens have been used in ancient Chinese medicine as well as Indian Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years, which means that adaptogens have a long history of use and providing a good understanding of what health benefits and potential side effects they may have.

How Do Adaptogens Work?

The term adaptogen was used in scientific literature for the first time by Russian toxicologist Nikolay Lazarev in 1957. He used it to refer to substances that increase the “state of nonspecific resistance” in stress.

His concept was based on the theory of stress and general adaptation syndrome, which has 3 phases: alarm phase, phase of resistance, and phase of exhaustion.

Adaptogens are able to regulate physiological processes and thereby stabilize the body’s response to stress through acting on the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis and the neuroendocrine system.

For those without a PhD in molecular biology, the simple way to understand this is that adaptogens help the body and mind maintain a healthy baseline of hormones and brain chemicals (a.k.a. neurotransmitters), which is critical for avoiding burnout and the destructive symptoms of chronic anxiety, fatigue, and stress.

The effects of stress on overall health, performance and mental wellbeing are not something to take lightly.  In fact, chronic stress is one of the top health concerns of modern lifestyles.  Emotional stress from work, family, and social media takes a toll on our mental and physical wellbeing so getting chronic stress under control should be a top priority for anyone looking to improve their health and mental performance.

Why should I take adaptogens?

There are many reasons why you should be taking adaptogens but the biggest one being stress.

Stress is not sexy and high levels of stress put a huge burden on your body. Cortisol and epinephrine increase, Testosterone, DHEA, Estrogen and Progesterone become suppressed or imbalanced and your libido tanks to the ground. Adaptogens help manage this stress better.

Here are some other reasons to consider them:

  • Alleviate anxiety.
  • Cope with trauma.
  • Mitigate stress response.
  • Boost your immune system.
  • Regulate emotional reactions to stress.
  • Reduce fatigue and/or increase energy.
  • Improve both mental performance and physical performance.

What does the science say about adaptogens?

Are adaptogens safe?

Adaptogens are generally safe for the majority of the population. Every person is unique in their response to adaptogens, but this doesn't mean that adaptogens are inherently harmful. High doses of certain adaptogens can cause some side effects but they generally don't pose major health risks as synthetic vitamins or pharmaceutical drugs. Ashwagandha, for example, is safe even at a 12 g dose which is 12 times the recommended dose. Rhodiola rosea is generally well tolerated and safe but can cause irritability and insomnia in some people. In a 1200 participant study, Schisandra was shown to have no adverse side effects.

What are the side effects of adaptogens?

Adaptogenic herbs, also known as adaptogen herbs, have a long history in traditional Chinese medicine. They are used to help the body cope with stress and improve overall health. Adaptogens can be taken orally or applied topically. The most common side effect reported by users is mild gastrointestinal upset. This is usually caused by overuse of the product.

How do adaptogens work?

Adaptogens are believed to help regulate the adrenal glands, immune system, nervous system, endocrine system, cardiovascular system, liver, kidneys, and digestive tract. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), there are three main functions of the human body: Qi, Blood, and Essence. These three elements interact to form an individual’s constitution. If one element is out of balance, it will affect other aspects of our physiology.

Can adaptogens cure cancer?

Many studies have been conducted in recent years to gather more information about this specific question. Some suggest that adaptogens could potentially benefit patients with cancer. But these studies were small and not well controlled. Most of them did not find any significant results. There is also evidence suggesting that adaptogens might increase the effectiveness of chemotherapy. However, the current scientific consensus is that there is insufficient data to support this claim.

Popular Adaptogenic Herbs & Mushrooms

With many adaptogens making their way into the mainstream media spotlight, you've probably seen some of them popping up at your local supermarket or added to some of your favorite consumer packaged goods.  The important thing to know about adaptogens is that each has their own specific set of health benefits.  Also, to actually feel them working and the benefits, it's important to know which part of the plant is the most bioactive, absorbable, and scientifically demonstrated to deliver the results you seek.

Here's our list of some of the best adaptogenic herbs & mushrooms and the health benefits associated with each:

Adaptogenic HerbsAction of Adaptogens
AshwagandhaTo regulate cortisol levels and improve cognition
Eleuthero RootTo enhance endurance and improve recovery
Ginko LeafHas neuroprotective and antibacterial properties
Maca Root To enhance endurance, vitality and balance hormones
Holy BasilTo reduce stress and anxiety 
Red Ginseng rootTo support central nervous system
RhodiolaTo boost mood and reduce mental fatigue
RosemaryTo support memory and regeneration of the brain
Gotu KolaTo support memory and concentration
BacopaTo reduce inflammation and support cognitive function
Lemon BalmTo support central nervous system and digestion
TurmericTo fight inflammation and oxidative stress
Adaptogenic MushroomsAction of Adaptogens
Lion’s ManeTo boost regeneration of neurons
CordycepsFor energy and stamina
Turkey TailHas antimicrobial, antiviral, and antioxidant properties
ReishiTo enhance energy and immune system

How do I get started with adaptogens?

Before jumping into the world of adaptogens it's important to know the appropriate dosage and what to take based on what it is you're trying to accomplish.

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.

Adding Adaptogens to Your Diet

In many cultures around the world, adaptogens are a staple part of the diet, often used to add spice, flavor, and a heap of health benefits to food.  In the western world, however, this is not as common. Adaptogens are being added to packaged foods at an increasing rate to trick customers into thinking they're getting some sort of health benefit but that's not usually the case.  Often times the unhealthy ingredients of packaged foods greatly outweigh any benefits that you'd hope to receive.

How you want to add adaptogens to your diet depends on your situation. You can add powders of adaptogenic herbs in your smoothies or baked goods. In the case of mushrooms, you can steep them and make them into a tea. They might be bitter, so you can use honey and other ingredients to mask the taste.

If you don't have time to makes teas or smoothies to get your daily dose of adaptogens, then taking a simple daily capsule designed with all the right adaptogens in precisely the right dose from us might be the best bet for you.

Adaptogen FAQs

The Bottom Line

Adaptogens can be super helpful in beating stress and anxiety or even in improving focus and concentration based on what you take.

Most doctors believe adaptogens are safe, and the studies that have been published don’t suggest that they pose serious risks.

Take them for at least 3 months and you'll definitely see the difference. 

Disclaimer: The LYFE Fuel blog is for informational purposes only. The information does not serve as a replacement for professional medical advice or treatment. We kindly ask you not to ignore professional medical advice because of any information you’ve read on If you have any concerns about your health, please consult a physician or appropriate health care expert.