What Are Adaptogens and How Can They Improve Your Health?

What Are Adaptogens and How Can They Improve Your Health?

“Freak out!”

A famous song that debuted in the 70s, the idea of freaking out is hardly something worth dancing to today.

Stress levels are through the roof, especially in modern societies (5). Family dynamics, technological changes, and personal and economic trials all seem to contribute to increased levels of anxiety, depression, and other health concerns.

If you’re like most people, it’s exhausting being stressed all the time. And the truth is, your body isn’t designed to constantly deal with stress. Elevated blood pressure from more cortisol leads to heart problems, which continues to be the number one cause of death around the world. 

You may have looked into different herbs and natural remedies that help you better cope with stress, one of them being adaptogens. 

What are they, and can they improve your health? Today we’re going to look at the science and see what it has to say.

What are Adaptogens?

Certain herbs and plants are designed to be helpful in certain areas. Some fruits are known for their antioxidants, and others for their high fiber content.

Adaptogens are non-toxic plant substances such as roots, herbs, and some mushrooms that contain elements that help your body maintain balance against the effects of stress (1).

Stress can come in many forms, including chemical, biological, or physical. Sources of stress may stem from different things, but if left unchecked chronic stress can have negative impacts on your health.

Over the years, scientists are noticing a common theme when it comes to stress and how it can have numerous effects on your body, mood, and behavior, such as (2):

  • Chest pains
  • Anxiety
  • Heart attacks
  • Over/under eating
  • Headaches
  • Feeling restless
  • Weight gain
  • Outbursts of anger
  • Fatigue
  • A lack of focus or motivation
  • Digestive issues
  • Drug, tobacco or alcohol abuse
  • Muscle tension
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Feelings of overwhelm
  • Memory problems

When eaten, these ingredients target specific stressors in your body, encouraging homeostasis and equilibrium once again.

But not all plants are created equal. In order to qualify as an adaptogen, plants must meet the following criteria:

  • Help your body process stress
  • Be non-toxic in normal doses
  • Allow the body to return to a state of balance

Let’s explore the different types of adaptogens out there.


Adaptogenic foods can be either plant parts (such as roots or leaves), or mushrooms. There are five commonly known adaptogens, including:

  • Asian ginseng: Also known as Panax ginseng, this root can encourage vitality, boost your physical performance, and fight against aging and stress (6). Because it resembles a person, giving it the nickname “man-root”.
  • American ginseng: Also called Panax quinquefolium, this is another member of the ginseng family. In TCM, Asian ginseng is said to be “warming” and stimulating, whereas American ginseng is “cooling” and gentler. This makes it a better option for those who would like something long-term (7).
  • Eleuthero: More commonly known as Siberian ginseng, this herb also helps manage stress by blocking your stress receptors (10).
  • Ashwagandha: Looking for a multi-purpose herb? Ashwagandha at your service. Not only has it been shown to combat stress and anxiety, but it also has antioxidant properties (8).
  • Rhodiola: This flowering plant is also a powerhouse of health benefits. In addition to lowering stress levels in the body, it can also help with weight loss, memory loss, and heart health (9)

Health Benefits

It’s becoming common knowledge that plant-based foods hold higher nutritional value than processed, artificial foods.

Certain plants contain high levels of nutrients that can boost your immune system, help repair cell damage, and keep your tissues healthy. And all these happen because of chemical reactions in the body.

When your body experiences stress, your body typically responds by sending out chemicals like cortisol and adrenaline. These are your “fight or flight” responses that are activated by your sympathetic nervous system when your body perceives some form of danger (4).

Do adaptogens actually work? Biologically speaking, yes! Adaptogens counteract many of these chemical reactions, such as lower cortisol levels.  People are turning to natural solutions for their health concerns, and oftentimes that includes herbs and mushrooms.

Not only can they help lower stress, but they also have the ability to balance hormones. Certain active compounds found in adaptogenic mushrooms like Ashwagandha, Cordyceps, and Reishi have been reported to help raise energy levels (3).


While generally well tolerated, there are some risks to consider when taking adaptogens. Some side effects (11) may include:

  • Digestive upset
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Dry Mouth

Another common question is whether adaptogens are safe during pregnancy. Because supplements are not regulated and not many tests are done on pregnant women, taking adaptogens during pregnancy is often discouraged.


Finding ways to manage stress is an ever-winding path. Different seasons in your life bring different triggers, and we don’t always know how to cope.

Thankfully, there are herbs that can help with this. Certain ones that contain adaptogens can help you fight stress, calming your body and mind. When your body is balanced, your blood pressure and cortisol levels are lower.

There are several adaptogenic herbs on the market. It might take time to find one that works for you. If you experience any uncomfortable side effects, discontinue and try a different one.

Need a supplement that’s got it all? Check out KaraMD’s Total Serenity – a potent herbal blend that will keep the stress away as you go about your day.

References & Disclaimer

1. https://www.healthline.com/health/adaptogenic-herbs

2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-symptoms/art-20050987

3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5584359/#B60

4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK541120/

✝✝This noted statement is based on independent research and is not necessarily the opinion of the author