adaptogenic foods and drinks

4 Adaptogenic Foods & Drinks for Health & Wellness

Most of us have heard of some of the latest “trends” in food: juice cleanses, superfood powders, zucchini “noodles”... the list goes on.

The commonality between these food trends is that most of these are just that — trends

However, there are certain foods that have centuries-long histories acting as true plant medicines that can reduce stress, boost energy, and provide other beneficial health effects.

Those are adaptogenic foods. Anything but trends, adaptogenic foods have been in use for hundreds of years. 

In this post, we’re going to explain what adaptogens are, what makes something an adaptogenic food, and, of course, four foods (and drinks!) containing adaptogens that you can use for your own health and wellness.

What Are Adaptogens?

Dr. Will Cole, an expert in functional medicine, states that in order for something to be considered an adaptogen, they need to fulfill all of the following three requirements:

“They are generally safe (for just about everyone). They help you handle stress. They work to balance your hormones.”

But what exactly are adaptogens? Adaptogens are types of molecules found in a variety of plants that interact with your endocrine (hormonal) systems, which, in turn, interacts with your brain and your body [1]. 

Through these interactions, adaptogens are able to interact with and affect hundreds of different pathways in the body, allowing them to have far-reaching impacts. These effects can include:

  • Reducing stress hormone levels [2]
  • Alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression [3]
  • Lower “bad” cholesterol [4]
  • Boost and support the immune system
  • Protect your heart, liver, and brain [5, 6, and 7]

So, now that you know what adaptogens are, let’s look at adaptogenic foods you can incorporate into your life to reap their amazing & natural benefits.

1. Mushrooms

Functional mushrooms are some of the best adaptogenic foods out there. Mushrooms like chaga, reishi, lion’s mane, oyster, and more all have large concentrations of adaptogens along with a number of studies showing how they can benefit mental and physical health. 

Chaga mushroom, for example, has a number of benefits:

“Research is proving this superfood mushroom's ability to help heal various ailments, but one of its star qualities is its phenolic content, which makes chaga a free radical fighter. This helps to reduce cell oxidation” [8]. 

Chaga is also known as a rich source of natural adaptogens that are great for fighting fatigue and giving you an energy boost.

Reishi mushroom can also provide the amazing benefits of adaptogens while also offering feelings of calmness and relaxation. It’s thought to have high concentrations of adaptogens, which gives it the ability to potentially boost immunity, reduce inflammation, act as an antioxidant, and more.

In fact, multiple studies have shown that reishi has the ability to, 

“...lower blood sugar in those diagnosed with diabetes by working upstream to down-regulate alpha-glucosidase, the enzyme responsible for turning starch into sugar in the body. Reishi can also help improve symptoms associated with diabetes, such as kidney problems and poor wound healing” [9].

Our Reishi Delight provides you with restorative, powerful adaptogens in every cup. 

Other mushrooms with high concentrations of adaptogens include both Lion’s Mane and Maitake. 

Lion’s Mane is known as one of the best “brain boosting” adaptogenic foods out there with studies showing its ability to protect your brain & neural tissues as well as improve cognitive function and mental clarity [10, 11]. Maitake mushroom can boost your energy, aid in digestion, and help decrease inflammation throughout the body.

Get the combined power of these two mushrooms in our Lion-Maitake Clarity Tea Blend.

2. Turmeric

Turmeric is a powerful root that is packed with adaptogens and another type of beneficial compound called curcumin. Together, these things make turmeric an amazing source of anti-inflammation and antioxidants.

Turmeric is also known for its ability to protect your brain. Studies have linked turmeric intake with a decreased risk of developing brain-related disease as well as improved brain function [12, 13].  

Turmeric is often consumed as a powder and can be incorporated into a number of delicious foods like curries, soups, rice, and more. We’ve included turmeric in a few of our adaptogenic teas alongside mushrooms and other natural ingredients to provide you with another boost of adaptogenic power. Try our Lion's Spice with warming turmeric; or Chaga Chai blend has it, too!

3. Ginger Root

Ginger is a type of flowering plant that has long been used for its roots. These roots are often eaten fresh, dried, as a juice, in teas, and in essential oils [14].

Known for its natural spiciness, the ginger root plant is closely related to turmeric and curcumin, which could explain its adaptogenic qualities [15]. 

Studies have shown that ginger has the potential to:

  • Alleviate gastrointestinal issues (nausea, stomach upset, etc) [16]
  • Treat indigestion and speed up stomach digestion [17]
  • Improve brain function and overall brain health  [18, 19]
  • Boost your immune system function [20]

This plant has been used as medicine for centuries, especially in India and Traditional Chinese Medicine [21]. 

Ginger is delicious with a unique, spicy, and strong flavor. You can use it fresh in a stir fry, pickled on some sushi, in soups, and, our favorite, in a warm tea. The combination of the warm water and the warmth that ginger’s spice brings will have you feel cleansed and refreshed. That's why we use it in several of our tea blends.

4. Holy Basil

Ginger is known for many of its physical benefits on the body and the brain. Holy basil, on the other hand, is an adaptogen that is best known for its beneficial effects on your mental health and stress levels (not to say that it doesn’t have physical benefits, too! More on those later).

Holy basil, also called tulsi, is a plant native to Southeast Asia. It’s been used by locals there for centuries with its power now spreading around the world. 

Many find it useful for coping with brain fog, as studies show that it can help boost cognitive function [22]. It’s been found to have anti-anxiety and antidepressant properties as well.

Along with those beneficial mental and emotional effects, summary reports on holy basil state that it,

“...has been found to protect organs and tissues against chemical stress from industrial pollutants and heavy metals and physical stress from prolonged physical exertion, ischemia, physical restraint and exposure to cold and excessive noise. [Holy basil] has also been shown to counter metabolic stress through normalization of blood glucose, blood pressure and lipid levels” [23].

It’s also been shown to have antimicrobial and antiviral properties along with the potential for use in wound healing, mouthwash, water purification, and more.

Holy basil can be consumed in a number of ways. Most often, you’ll find it within natural supplements, within essential oils, and in our delicious tea blends

4 Adaptogenic Foods for Health & Wellness — Bottom Line

The adaptogenic foods we discussed here have been in use for thousands of years as plant medicines and as delicious ingredients in a number of foods and drinks. 

But remember: adaptogenic foods affect every person, every brain, and every body a bit differently. 

Ready to see how some of these adaptogenic foods can benefit you? We have a number of adaptogenic tea blends in our shop.