You may have heard the word “adaptogen” tossed around in the world of health and wellness as they have been increasing in popularity. Adaptogens are a group of natural herbs, specifically active ingredients found in certain herbs and mushrooms, that have the potential ability to enhance a person’s resilience to stress and lessen feelings of anxiety. They work most effectively when consumed proactively (before a stressful event or time period) and consistently. By aiding the body in better handling stress, adaptogens also have the power to improve sleep.
In order to be considered an adaptogen, a plant must meet these three criteria¹:
- Be non-toxic when taken in normal, recommended amounts.
- Help the body to better cope with stress.
- Aid the body in returning to a state of balance (homeostasis).
In July of this year, my nutrition and wellness company Well & Free had the pleasure of hosting Amber Allen, Nutritionist, Herbalist and the co-founder of my favourite adaptogen supplement brand, Adapt Daily, for an educational talk about the power of adaptogenic plants.
Amber made it very clear that an adaptogenic supplement alone can’t eliminate one’s stress and improve one’s sleep—there must also be a conscious effort to take time for self-care, to slow down when we can, and to process the emotions and stress that we face. However, alongside an overall balanced lifestyle, adaptogens can be a major source of support to help the body and mind better adapt when things get rocky.
Here are 3 surprising benefits I learned about adaptogens:
They have different responses based on what the recipient’s body needs, by helping the body move toward a state of equilibrium.
Amber offered the example of adaptogens being able to potentially lower blood pressure for someone in which it’s elevated, and raise it in a person who has low blood pressure. I found this particularly mind-blowing, and when I asked Amber to further explain, this was her response:
“Adaptogens stimulate your own body’s stress-protection response and help our systems return to a balanced state called ‘homeostasis.’ They work by bringing the body back to balance. So if you have high blood pressure it will bring the body back to normal equilibrium, and if your blood pressure is too low, it will bring it back up to a balanced state.”
They help us cope with stress through the regulation of the hormone cortisol.
Cortisol has gotten a bad rap in recent years. To clear up any confusion, cortisol is a stress hormone that is needed by the body. It’s what helps us get up and go in the morning, and it has many other important bodily functions, such as metabolism regulation and immune function².
Cortisol becomes problematic when we have too much or too little of it and when it’s released in irregular amounts at particular times in the day, which can certainly be the case in the fast-paced and stressful lifestyles many of us lead.
The hormone is released under the control of the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, and under normal circumstances most of our cortisol is released in the morning and levels gradually decline throughout the day. When cortisol levels are elevated in the evenings, it gives us that tired-and-wired feeling, preventing a good night’s rest. And then it’s a vicious cycle. Adaptogens work by helping normalizing the HPA axis and therefore the release of cortisol.
The best time of day to take adaptogens depends on the results you’re seeking.
In a recent video on the Adapt Daily Instagram page, Amber addresses the common question that arises from customers: “What time of day should I take your product?” Amber suggests that if you’re looking to reduce feelings of anxiety, it’s best taken in the morning, whereas if you’re looking to improve your sleep, they’re best taken in the evening. This isn’t to say that taking adaptogens in the morning won’t still help you have a better sleep, or vice versa, but they may be more effective in achieving that specific desired outcome.
As someone who struggles with anxiety, after learning this I had to test it out for myself. I was very impressed that after only a couple days of taking my Adapt Daily gummies in the morning with breakfast, as opposed to my usual after dinner routine, my anxiety throughout the day was noticeably reduced and more manageable.
Adaptogens are also non-stimulating, so no matter what time of day you take them they won’t keep you awake at night or make you drowsy during the day.
About Adapt Daily adaptogenic gummies
The Adapt Daily blog lists 9 primary adaptogens and 14 secondary adaptogens. Amber expertly formulated their product with select adaptogens, based on how they interact and work together, including:
- Ashwagandha (which has also been called “the King of Ayurvedic herbs”³) for anxiety, cortisol regulation, healthy weight distribution, libido, normal thyroid function and energy
- Holy basil for mood, immune health, relaxation and pain
- Reishi (a mushroom) for stress, liver and skin health, blood sugar regulation, and healthy cholesterol levels
- Amla (also known as Indian gooseberry) for its vitamin C content, collagen production, mood, digestion, and to counter the heating effects of Ashwagandha
Other suggested benefits include healthy hormonal balance, calming the nervous system, helping to maintain a healthy weight and normal appetite, and boosting energy levels. The suggested dosage is three gummies per day with food, and they work best when taken long-term.
Important things to know about taking adaptogens
Not all adaptogen products are created equal.
While there are tons of adaptogen supplements and health products out there containing individual herbs, Amber pointed out that they work best “in community,” meaning when taken in combination with other herbs, and when formulated by a company with the proper knowledge.
It’s always best to consult with a medical professional.
While adaptogens are generally safe to consume and their benefits have been known for many decades, a lot of the research is new with more underway, so it’s best to consult a trusted medical professional to ensure that they are a safe fit for you.
How adaptogens have helped me
I’ve been taking Adapt Daily gummies for quite a long time (at least a couple years with fair consistency). One of the biggest things I’ve noticed is that adaptogens work so quietly in the background that after a few weeks of taking them I suddenly realized how little I was stressed and how much less anxiety I was experiencing compared to normal.
Any time I’ve taken a break from adaptogens for whatever reason, I’ve noticed the stress, irregular sleep, and feelings of anxiety slowly creep back in, confirming time and again that the product really does help my body better cope with stress.
By having more resilience in the face of stress, my eating habits have become more regular and less emotionally-driven, my sleep has been more sound, and after suffering for many months with irregular menstrual cycles, since getting back to taking adaptogens consistently I’ve now had four regular menstrual cycles in a row. As indicated above, these benefits are also attributed to an overall healthy and balanced lifestyle.
Does this mean that I have to take adaptogens every day for the rest of my life?
Not necessarily. It’s perfectly okay to take breaks and/or ease off of natural supplements to allow the body to function optimally on its own with the support of a balanced diet, movement, self-care, and reduced stress where possible.
Life naturally ebbs and flows through periods of calm and stress. Adaptogens are a great tool to have in your back pocket when you know you are about to enter a stressful period, and they’re also safe to take on a regular basis for life’s smaller daily stressors if it works for you.
Try adaptogens for yourself to see how they can benefit you
While there are many adaptogen-based products available, I personally love and use adaptogen gummies by Adapt Daily. As a Certified Holistic Nutritionist I will only ever recommend and share products that I trust and fully support, and this is one of them. Explore what’s available and what works best for you, and if you’d like to give these adaptogen gummies a shot, you can get 10% off using the code WELLANDFREE at checkout.
Wishing you a life of less stress and more rest!