From energy-boosting matcha to supplements that up your brain power, we’re constantly learning about new ways to make ourselves feel happier and healthier from the inside out. One buzzy natural substance you may have heard about already are adaptogens, which can be found in all kinds of up-and-coming health products like supplements, smoothies, and tonics. But what are they exactly and what do they do? We tapped Kimberly Snyder, nutritionist and multi-time New York Times best-selling author of the Beauty Detox book series, to get the rundown on these trendy substances.


“Adaptogens are derived from herbs and plants and are known to increase resistance to stress, anxiety, and fatigue,” explains Snyder. “They’re known for their ability to return the body to a balanced chemical state. Quite literally, adaptogens help the body ‘adapt’ to physical and mental stress.” Sounds like something you probably want in your life, right? These powerful natural substances fight adrenal fatigue, which occurs when your body’s level of cortisol (AKA the stress hormone) is out of whack.

Though adaptogens aren’t a cure-all for whatever ails you, like other vitamins and supplements, they can be a piece of the puzzle when it comes to achieving your healthiest self. Some adaptogenic herbs have been really well-researched, meaning that even though some of them have been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years, we actually know concretely that they benefit the human body. According to Snyder, there are five adaptogens definitely worth incorporating into your diet.


1. Ashwagandha: One of the most well-researched adaptogens, ashwagandha “has powerful antioxidant properties that seek and destroy the free radicals that’ve been implicated in aging and numerous diseases. Even more remarkable, emerging evidence suggests that ashwagandha has anti-cancer benefits.” It also can help stabilize your blood sugar. Try adding the powder form into your daily smoothie.

2. Mesquite: Snyder calls this one a beauty-boosting substance. “Mesquite is dense in fiber, proteins, minerals, and the amino acid lysine, which produces collagen and antibodies. Collagen helps our skin stay youthful and retain its elasticity.” It can also help keep your cholesterol in check. Score!

3. Reishi: This is actually a mushroom, sometimes known as the “mushroom of immortality.” Snyder notes that there are six different types of reishi mushrooms — all classified by color — but herbalists generally consider red reishi to be the best for medicinal purposes. “When reishi is taken regularly, it can help restore the body to its natural state, enabling all organs to function normally, help alleviate common allergies by inhibiting histamine release, improve oxygen utilization, and boost liver functions. Red reishi is also used to help treat anxiety, high blood pressure, hepatitis, bronchitis, insomnia, and asthma.” Seems like pretty powerful stuff, huh?

4. Maca: You may have heard of maca before, but did you know it’s actually from the same plant family as broccoli? “Maca is an aphrodisiac that has been used all over the world and affects both genders. It’s believed to help balance hormones and boost adrenal and thyroid function,” Snyder says. “Using maca daily is believed to be a great way to help your body adapt to stress by counteracting the negative effects of tension and anxiety.” This one also comes in powder form, so it’s easy to incorporate into your daily routine.

5. Tulsi: “Also known as holy basil, tulsi has earned its classification as an adaptogen because it’s been shown to reduce our natural sensitivity to stress,” says Snyder. “Stress is a major cause of illness in Western culture and, if left unchecked, can reduce our resistance to disease, and increase our susceptibility to heart disease, strokes, and even certain cancers.” Tulsi can help reduce cortisol levels in the body and calm your nerves. Phew.

As with any new supplement, you should check with your doctor before incorporating it into your routine, but once you get the go-ahead, you’ll be all set!

Have you tried any adaptogens? What do you think? Tell us @BritandCo!

(Photos via Getty)