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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Saturday, April 20, 2024

Weekly Wellness: All about adaptogens

Weekly Wellness Column Graphic
Graphic by Molly Sullivan

Among the Erewhon enthusiasts and holistic health junkies alike, a new profound interest in adaptogenic herbs has peaked in recent years. These powders and supplements contain various dried plant and root substances with supposed calming effects on the body and mind. But are these magic pills really the cure to the ever-rising stress levels of everyday Americans?

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.” For an herb to be considered an adaptogen, it must “be nontoxic at normal doses, support the entire body’s ability to cope with stress [and] help the body return to a stable state.” Some popular adaptogens include ashwagandha, a herb linked to anxiety and depression reduction, reishi, a mushroom used to boost immune function, and lion’s mane, a mushroom supposed to improve focus and memory.

While information about the validity of these claims is limited, the studies conducted thus far have shown positive correlations between their use and the body’s regulation of the immune system, mood and hormones. Certain pharmacological studies have provided a rationale for these effects at the molecular level; they find that adaptogens aid the body’s regulation of homeostasis, leading to better stress management.

Dr. Brenda Powell, co-medical director of the Center for Integrative and Lifestyle Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Institute, compares adaptogens' effects on the mind with that of exercise and muscle growth, claiming “you’re training your body to handle the effects of stress.”

A popular adaptogen and supplement brand called “Moon Juice” is sold at a wide range of grocery stores to high-value retailers like Sephora. Their founder, Amanda Chantal Bacon, claims the company was “born from my experience with stress and its resulting imbalances. I was diagnosed with an autoimmune condition over a decade ago, and have since put it into remission by relying on easy and natural ways to manage stress on a daily basis. I wouldn’t have found my stamina without the support of adaptogens. Retailing for the hefty price tag of $38 a bottle, their herb blends include things like “Brain Dust,” a mix of lion’s mane, ginkgo, rhodiola, ashwagandha, astragalus, and maca, and “Dream Dust,” a combination of ashwagandha, jujube, polygala, chamomile and schisandra. Their dust products can be mixed into smoothies, lattes or beverages of choice.

But, if brewing up a cup of different dried herbs and mushrooms doesn’t sound like your preference, I suggest checking out other ways to reduce your daily stress here. Happy midterm season!