Adaptogens have been used for centuries in Asia and India to help with various ailments. Recently, they have gained popularity in the United States as a supplement to help manage stress and improve overall health.
“There is a lot of Eastern medicine, like adaptogens, coming full circle and rising in popularity,” says Dana Ellis Hunnes, PhD, MPH, RD, UCLA Health Senior Dietitian. “The claim is that adaptogens reduce our body’s reaction to stress and help us adapt to stressors better.”
However, there is currently no adequate research to substantiate the efficacy of adaptogen ingredients. The research available does not meet the scientific threshold of established pharmacology or medical standards.
Since adaptogens do not meet the efficacy threshold of a medical drug, they are not known to treat, cure, or prevent any known ailments or diseases. Therefore, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate adaptogens as a drug for safety or efficacy. Instead, they are considered dietary supplements.
What Are Adaptogens?
According to UCLA Health, “Adaptogens are herbs, roots and other plant substances (like mushrooms) that help our bodies manage stress and restore balance after a stressful situation. Any kind of stress — physical, emotional, hormonal, and even things we eat and drink —affects the body’s systems.
Experts believe that adaptogens interact with the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which initiates your body’s stress response and plays a big role in keeping your body in balance.
People take adaptogens as herbal supplements in capsule form, drink them in teas, or add their powder form to soups, smoothies, and other foods.”
- Ashwagandha: Possible benefits include reducing stress, improving sleep, boosting athletic performance, improving memory, increasing male fertility, reducing inflammation, and managing blood sugar.
- Ginseng: Ginseng has been shown to improve memory and suppress stress. While more research is needed, it may also be beneficial against cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, and anxiety.
- Reishi: Often used to boost the immune system and fight cancer — Reishi has been studied for its effectiveness in treating cancerous tumors.
- Rhodiola: This adaptogen is consumed to reduce fatigue, depression, and pain.
- Schisandra: Schisandra is taken for improved concentration, coordination, and endurance.
- Tulsi (“holy basil”): Tulsi is used to increase focus, decrease anxiety, and boost the immune system.
What to Consider Before Taking Adaptogens
Remember to always consult your healthcare provider before taking supplements. Some adaptogens can react with medications so ensure you consult with a doctor or pharmacist before taking them.
Lastly, supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration so make sure to do your thorough research before purchasing adaptogens.