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WTF is an adaptogen?

Adaptogens are incredible all-natural substances–i.e. a special class of plants and herbs–that can help your body overcome a wide range of stressors (including physical, mental, emotional, and environmental), while helping to restore balance to your body so it’s functioning at its optimal level.

Although many plants and herbs can be beneficial, it takes a special kind to be considered a true adaptogen. Here are 3 essential criteria that separate adaptogens from the rest:

1. An adaptogen increases the body’s resistance to a wide range of stressors including physical (lack of sleep, nutritional deficiencies), mental (work stress, media overload), emotional (relationships, anxiety) and environmental (weather, pollution, extreme living conditions). Thus, helping your body “adapt” to stress.

2. An adaptogen has a normalizing (aka balancing) effect on the body, especially in your cardiovascular, immune, and glandular system. For instance, whether the thyroid gland is overactive or underactive, an adaptogen can help downregulate or upregulate it to bring it back to a balanced state. Because of this ability to move bidirectionally depending on your body, they are often referred to as plants with intelligence.

3. Lastly, an adaptogen is nontoxic to the body. Basically, they are safe to take everyday with little to no harmful effects on the body. Hurray!

So whether you’re feeling depleted, stressed, fatigued, or unfocused, adaptogens can help you feel less stressed, combat fatigue and enhance overall vitality and energy, and bring your body back into balance–so you can feel like the best version of you.


Here’s a list of adaptogens we use in our Elixirs:

Rhodiola, Ashwagandha, Eleuthero (aka Siberian Ginseng), Asian Ginseng, Cordyceps, Reishi, Gotu Kola, Astragalus, and Licorice

What's the history of adaptogens?

Glad you asked! It's actually quite a fascinating story.

Adaptogens have been used for thousands of years in various parts of the world–heavily used in Traditional Chinese Medicine as Qi tonics and revered in Ayurvedic medicine as Rasayana herbs for their ability to enhance vitality, longevity, and energy. But the term "adaptogen" was only recently coined in the 1940s in the Soviet Union.

In their relentless conquest for dominance and world power, the Soviet government instructed a group of their leading scientists at the Soviet Academy of Science to find an all-natural, performance-enhancing tonic (one without any harmful side effects like amphetamines) that would give an edge to their elite personnel–including military officers, politicians, Olympic athletes, chess players, and ballet dancers.

The search for the perfect performance tonic led Dr. Nikolai V. Lazarev to discover and coin the term "adaptogen"–describing a substance that helps increase the body's nonspecific resistance to stress. Dr. Lazarev, along with his colleague Dr. Israel I. Brekhman, created a team of 2000 scientists, biologists, and physicians and began their research on the usefulness and effectiveness of adaptogens, focusing on natural substances.

They screened over 4000 plants and the result? 12 plants they identified as adaptogens. Much of their studies centered around Asian Ginseng, Eleuthero (a.k.a Siberian Ginseng, which became one of the most well-researched adaptogens due to its accessibility and lower cost), Rhodiola, Rhaponticum, and later Schisandra, and Ashwagandha.

    Their discoveries paved the way for thousands of clinical trials and extensive studies on adaptogens in the following decades and sparked the widespread usage of adaptogens in the Soviet Union and other countries in the world.  


    Here are some fun facts and findings thanks to the Soviet scientists:

    • Eleuthero extract was given to 14,000 auto factory workers in Russia–they saw a 30% decrease in fatigue, insomnia, and anxiety. They saw a 40% reduction in high blood pressure and heart disease symptoms.
    • Eleuthero extract was given to Soviet Olympic athletes during challenging training and competition–they saw improved stamina and recovery, increased oxygen intake, and better performance.
    • Among 1200 long distance truck drivers who took Eleuthero–they found improved productivity, and a 30% decrease in number of cases during an influenza epidemic.
    • In 1976, it was estimated that more than 3 million people in Russia were using Eleuthero extract regularly.
    • In 1977, Eleuthero was included in the space program for cosmonauts. Rhodiola was also used to help with motion sickness and enhance mood while living in cramped quarters and stressful conditions.
    • In 1987, Soviet scientists published the results of dozens of experiments showing that Rhodiola enhanced cognition, perception, concentration, learning and memory.

    Click here for a fun, visual history of adaptogens.

    What are the effects of adaptogens?

    While all adaptogens help your body deal with stress, every adaptogen has a unique personality and its own set of amazing benefits. Some are more stimulating (like Rhodiola and Asian Ginseng), some are more balancing (like Ashwagandha), and some are more calming and soothing (like Reishi and Gotu Kola). And depending on the adaptogen you’re taking, some help increase energy levels, enhance cognitive function, elevate mood, strengthen immunity, balance hormones, improve digestion, and more.

    To make it easy for you and to increase the benefits, we’ve thoughtfully combined synergistic adaptogens along with medicinal mushrooms, all-natural nootropics, and supporting herbs and spices to create our Adaptogenic Elixirs–Brain Buzz to boost mental clarity and focus, Supertonic Energy to enhance sustained energy and stamina, Yoga In A Cup to calm the mind  & body and relieve stress & anxiety, and Immune Shrooms to strengthen immunity and boost overall vitality.

    NOTE: As beneficial as these adaptogens are, they are not a replacement for a healthy lifestyle, which should be the foundation of your health and wellness–including good sleep, a healthy diet, regular exercise, stress maintenance, and other healthy lifestyle choices. 

    When will I feel the effects?

    Adaptogens have both short and long-term benefits and effects. In the short-term, you may feel immediate benefits shortly after consuming adaptogens, such as increased focus, enhanced energy, a calmer mind, a more positive mood, or enhanced vitality (depending on what adaptogens you're consuming). You may feel the effects even stronger if your body is particularly depleted, fatigued, or out of balance. What's great about adaptogens is that they work even better when taken consistently over time, as they strengthen various body systems and build up its ability to resist stress.

    How often should I take adaptogens?

    Adaptogens are most beneficial when taken daily over time–just like going to the gym regularly to maintain your health and fitness. They’re completely safe for everyday use with no adverse side effects.

    Why is it better to combine adaptogens?

    Combining adaptogens is vastly more effective than a single herb can be, as they can work together to address the problem more holistically. Throughout the history of herbal medicine, all traditional herbal medicine systems relied on well thought-out and complex formulas. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, herbal formulas contained 4-12 different herbs–hero ingredients to target the main issue, secondary herbs to complement the hero ingredients or address secondary but related imbalances, and additional herbs to help harmonize the formula. Similarly, in Ayurvedic Medicine, herbs are prescribed in combinations of 3-15 herbs.

    This doesn't mean you can just toss every single adaptogen into a blend and expect the effects to multiply (which is commonly seen on the market today). Blends need to be thoughtfully formulated with synergistic combinations of ingredients at safe and effective dosages, which is how we've created our Adaptogenic Elixirs.

    How are adaptogens different from stimulants like caffeine?

    Stimulants like caffeine, nicotine, and amphetamines can give you a quick rush of energy and alertness, but after the initial effects wear off, they leave your body more depleted of its vital energy. They work by triggering the release of stress hormones, particularly adrenaline and cortisol, so instead of helping your body adapt to the stress response, they actually elicit the stress response. And when relying on stimulants over time, there are often worse side effects like insomnia, nervousness, anxiety, and adrenal depletion.

    Adaptogens, on the other hand, offer a more moderate boost, but have a greater range of benefits and improves your body's ability to respond to stress (without depleting it). Even better, their benefits accumulate over time without negative side effects.

    There's nothing wrong with your daily cup of coffee or tea, but adding adaptogens to your everyday routine can help balance out the negative effects of caffeine while adding a greater range of benefits.