What are adaptogens?
Adaptogens are slowly becoming more and more popular in not only health shops but in normal cafes and restaurants, if you haven’t heard of this word before- its best to get on it and know what’s going on before you get left behind. Although South Africa is a little bit behind countries like America, the availability and variety of these snazzy products is increasing rapidly. These products are quite pricey but their benefits seem to be worth it and after personally being an obsessive user of some of them for nearly a year already, I know just how expensive they are but I still end up ordering them online and popping into wellness warehouse to purchase just one more for the month. I try hold myself back but after reading their ridiculous health benefits I can’t help it especially since its so easy to just hop onto faithful to natures (hyperlink) online store, order them and get them delivered right to my door step…there’s nothing I can do but apologize in advance to my bank account.
Adaptogens are natural herbs that can and most of them should be taken daily to help the body deal with stress… although you may think, “Is that it? Stress?” you are underestimating the effects stress has on your body and of course we cant always remove the stressor from our lives, we cant stay at home and skip work or magically switch out bosses with a nicer one or any other factor that may induce stress on us so instead of just fighting against it and continually feeling rundown, moody and absolutely exhausted… we have found these guys that make our lives a little easier by helping reduce all these symptoms. So you can still go through your day but with a little more energy and sass added to it, you can smash your day and manage the stress a whole lot better. How cool is that?!
Why is stress bad?
Everybody feels stress it’s just that if the stressor is present for a long time and your central nervous system signals to release the stress hormone (cortisol) for too long, your body starts to negatively feel the effects. If you’re chronically stressed you may develop things like anxiety, depression and insomnia. Stress also takes a toll on your cardiovascular and respiratory system, causing high blood pressure, difficulty breathing and puts your heart under too much strain which accompanied with a bad diet can increase your chances of a heart attack. The digestive system is also affected which is why some people gain or lose too much weight when they are stressed. Your liver produces too much glucose for your body to use up and thus you could develop type 2 diabetes, it also causes us to over eat or under eat to try and relieve the stress symptoms, with overeating (which is very common as many people look to sugary foods for comfort) and under eating your body is not receiving the correct amount of nutrients that it needs to get you through your day ( or it is receiving terrible fatty foods in surplus) so you constantly feel fatigued and mentally drained, you also may not be using the bathroom as frequently as you should be. If you’re a woman your estrogen and progesterone levels may all become out of sync as now your body is trying to synthesize and excrete all the extra adrenalin, cortisol and glucose. Stress also decreases libido in both woman and men, which can then cause deeper problems within relationships. Chronic stress can also cause erectile dysfunction in men plus men are prone to more infections in their genital organs as well as just generally contracting more illnesses when you’re (both men and woman) stressed as your immune system shuts down. I know I use to be (and sometimes still are, although a lot less) a very moody and grumpy person when I’m under a lot of pressure you know when you have like 2 assignments, 4 tests, an essay to write, 3 practicals all due in one week and you thought it would be cool to then take an extra diploma in psychology on top of your medical sciences degree and fit in gym everyday, cook 3 intricate meals for two, manage your instagram and hopefully publish at least one blog post a week plus maybe fit in some social time… sometimes it gets a little much (although I’m sure many people have it a whole lot worse) but I love it and I wouldn’t change a thing so that’s why I’ve really enjoyed experimenting with these adaptogens because they’ve helped me stay calm and energized throughout the month when things are hectic. So now you see that although “stress” is just one word… it affects the whole body BUT adaptogens, which alleviate stress symptoms, thus help the WHOLE body!
My Favorite few:
Matcha (probably the most common one, also very high up there, price wise)
Matcha green tea is a powdered form of the green tea plant. Since coffee is something that worsens the effects of stress I cut it completely out of my diet and replaced it with matcha (I do miss it every now and then though), which still has caffeine but doesn’t have all the nasty effects that coffee may have on you. You can drink it with water or almond milk; you can add it into ice cream recipes, pancake recipes or anywhere that you’re imagination takes you. I enjoy it with almond milk or water. Why drink it? Well it burns calories (put that on any label and it’s bound to sell these days) and increases your metabolism enabling you to burn fat four times faster than you would without it. It detoxifies the body by removing harmful chemicals and heavy metals from the body. Matcha enhances the immune system plus it provides potassium, iron vitamin A & C, calcium and protein and apparently the nutrients in matcha can also reduce the effects HIV has on your T cells. If you need any more convincing here are a few extra benefits; it boosts concentration and memory plus it gives you energy and improves cholesterol levels.
TIP: do not order the one form Mug n Bean or most other commercial places because what they’ve done is taken this very expensive powder and diluted it with things like sugar so when you order it, its hardly the same as preparing it by yourself at home with no artificial sugars and saturated fatty acids. It makes me angry but this is how people make money, you’ll Google all the facts about mactha and get so excited when you see it on the menu so of course you’ll order it (especially when it’s the new craze) but it’s a commercialized shitty version of the real thing and the health benefits are not the same at all.
I LOVE this stuff; I add it to nearly all of my smoothies or any sort of drink type thing I make. I really love its nutty taste it just does it for me! It is made from maca root and is good for hormone balance in both men and woman; it increases fertility, increases energy and stamina, boosts the immune system and improves sexual function. It contains over 20 amino acids, eight of those are the essential amino acids, it is quite high in protein, calcium, magnesium, zinc, copper, selenium, iron, sulphur, etc. the most important benefit I found was that it alleviates PMS symptoms and polycystic ovary syndrome, It also helps with the symptoms brought on by menopause, it does all of this (which I think is amazing) by balancing and controlling estrogen levels. It decreases levels of anxiety and depression.
Reishi & chaga mushroom powder
When I first bought this Michael was like “what are you going to use mushroom powders for?” first of all I could find a way to use any adaptogen powder and second of all they actually don’t taste anything like mushrooms. The powders can be used in teas, sauces, soups, smoothies or any other recipes.
Reishi: defends your body against tumor growth and cancer, helps with allergies and asthma, improves the liver detoxification process, it improves heart health by balancing your blood pressure levels and it helps with immunity by reducing the risk of infections.
Chaga: promotes liver and intestinal health, provides energy and also aids in heart health, balances blood sugar levels, it is the only mushroom that targets cancer cells and also has tumor reducing properties.
I’m not gonna lie the taste of this takes some getting use to, I’m not a huge fan of the taste but its just so good I tell my taste buds to suck it up. Spirulina belongs to the algae family, it grows in both fresh and salt water, it sounds scary and tastes scary BUT just one tablespoon of this powder contains protein, vitamin B1, B2, copper, iron, magnesium, potassium and manganese. It lowers bad (LDL) cholesterol; it also has anticancer properties, fights against anemia symptoms, it improves muscle strength and helps with endurance. Apparently it is linked with longer lifespan because it has the ability to trigger stem cell production. It also helps with weight loss.
Ashwagandha (remembering how to spell this was a challenge)
It reduces inflammation and can help with arthritis, asthma and hypertension (high blood pressure). Again I’m not a massive fan of the taste but I hide it in my morning oats, which actually works very well. This adaptogen works directly with stress by reducing the cortisol levels in the body and reduces anxiety. It also may increase muscle mass and strength as well as improves memory and fertility in men.
Click for quick and yummy adaptogen oats recipe
Acai (not as bad tasting or as expensive as the others)
Made from the acai berry, it improves heart health, aids in weight loss and helps maintain a healthy weight, PROMOTES skin health! (I’ve had a huge problem getting my skin right lately and using this powder along with the use of maca powder and cutting out a lot of sugars has really helped a lot. I don’t eat a lot of bad refined sugars so I was confused as to how my skin was always so bad and then I did some research on fruits that have a lot of sugars in them and I realized I was eating them quite a lot, things like mangoes, bananas, dates and figs still have a very high sugar content and I use to use them as bases and ingredients in my smoothie bowls. I cut these sugars out and became a lot more mindful of the sugar content in all of the stuff I bought from the shops. Even agave nectar which is a natural sweetener is high in sugar so now the only type of sweetener or anything sweet I have in my house is honey as I’ve found that that works the best and gives me the least skin irritation symptoms) Acai also helps digestion, reduces irritation and improves cellular health.
I personally think this one tastes like potatoes but I don’t know…this guy supports a healthy peripheral and central nervous system, it helps with motor function and improves things like balance and endurance. It also boosts libido and keeps all the sexual organs very healthy.
Baobab powder (my newest powder)
This also rejuvenates the skin and helps it look fresh plus it gives it a bit of a glow. It is very high in fiber and contains a whole lot of antioxidants (more than any other fruit). It is also full of vitamin C, which aids the body to remain energized throughout the day, promotes gum, teeth and bone health and relieves the body of oxidative stress.
This is probably the most reasonably priced and easy to use one on the list. Turmeric is the spice that gives curry its yellow flavor and has been described as the most powerful herb on the planet. It is apparently more effective than other chemically made drugs such as; anti inflammatory drugs, antidepressants, chemotherapy, pain killers, cholesterol drugs, diabetes drugs and arthritis medication. This stuff can be used in nearly everything from breakfasts to dinner and every small and big meal in-between. It can be used in porridges, in milk, obviously in curries, as a spice to add to rice, chicken, veggies, pasta, etc. I use it in smoothies, pasta and to cook chicken in mostly.
Chlorella (if there is one that I make sure I have every day; it’s this one)
This guy is the cousin of spirulina thus is also part of the algae family. It is one of the most nutrient dense superfoods in the world and is known for its extreme abilities with regards to detoxification. Before I took the healthy highway I was someone who grew up eating bad food here and there and oblivious to everything I know now, I also use to have a few raucous nights out drinking too much alcohol and then eating McDonalds or KFC or some other gross franchise food. I’ve only been on this healthy road for a year and only gave up alcohol completely a few months ago. So that’s 20 years of my life that I spent oblivious to what I was putting in my body or all the nasty effects it had and would have on me later on in my life. I take chlorella to try and reverse all the effects of years of nasty food and alcohol and provide my body with something that will improve the detoxification process. Chlorella detoxifies heavy metals in our bodies and keeps them from being reabsorbed (we get heavy metals through radiation, mercury fillings in our teeth, eating bad foods, vaccinations, etc.) IT also helps with weight loss, lowers cholesterol and fights cancer.
• Hemp seeds-apparently the most nutritious seed in the world, great source of vitamin E, phosphorous, sulfur, calcium, etc. reduce the risk of heart desease and help with skin disorders. I love these and have recently started making hemp milk as an alternative to dairy & store bought almond milk. I was so stunned as to how creamy and good it tasted and have now promised myself I wont buy any store bought milks as its so easy to make your own which saves a tone of money and you don’t get all the nasty preservatives either. If you buy almond milk, first you should definitely buy an organic version but secondly if you own a high powered blender you should definitely look into making it at home, its so easy and it works out cheaper to buy almonds in bulk and make milk out of them than to continuously buy almond milk at the shops. Click here to see how to make almond milk & other dairy alternatives
• Goji berries- high in fiber, iron, vitamin A, vitamin C and antioxidants. These are so yummy and easy to snack on throughout the day.
• Cacoa nibs (or cacao powder which is the raw form of chocolate) – can apparently reverse the effects of heart disease by removing plaques from arteries and lowering blood pressure, its also high in antioxidants. So chocolate isn’t actually bad for you it’s all the sugars and dairy products that are added to it that are damaging our bodies.
Although this post was quite lengthy; this was only a short list of the adaptogens out there. I really have noticed a huge improvement in my ability to manage stress, my energy levels, my skin and other hormone symptoms. I was actually trying to remember earlier today when the last time I had a headache was or any other problem or illness other than the flu (which I had a mild case of a few months ago) and couldn’t remember, I don’t suffer from headaches or adrenal fatigue or any skin rashes (which I use to get quite a lot) anymore. Michael also use to get a lot of nosebleeds and since we’ve been using adaptogens those seem to have decreased a lot as well. The best thing though is that I still do everything I use to do (if not more) during my day and before I use to have terrible anxiety, panic attacks and I just didn’t cope with stress well at all but now I feel that my mood stays pretty constant throughout the month and I don’t suffer from anxiety and horrible mood swings because of stress anymore (removing coffee from my diet also aided me a lot in reducing anxiety). Every time I see a friend and they tell me about a hormone problem or stress issue, skin issues, fatigue, I explain that they should be taking all sorts of adaptogens so if you’re someone who is affected in any way by stress (which I think we all definitely are) I hope this helps you keep your body happy & healthy. If you know of an adaptogen that you’ve heard a lot about and would like me to try out, feel free to let me know and I will do that and get back to you about how it worked etc.
Thank you for reading x