Adaptogens + Herbs 101

Adaptogens are a unique group of herbs and mushrooms that help balance your body’s reaction to stress. They do this by acting on the hypothalamic-pituitary-endocrine axis, which is where the intricate conversation between your brain and your hormonal system takes place.

Think of it this way: your brain is always dancing with multiple glands at once. Your adrenal gland, gonadal gland, and thyroid gland needs to be flawlessly in tune with your brain in order for your immune system, mood, and energy levels to be healthy. When a dance partner is out of sync - let’s say your cortisol levels are really high after a stressful month - then you may experience horomonal issues such as a low sex drive, adrenal fatigue, or thyroid issues.

This is where adaptogens come in to save the day. They improve adrenal function, protect you from disease, and enhance overall well-being. While they all work to balance your hormones without any side effects, some have extra health-boosting quirks. These unique ‘quirks’ can be anything from enhancing cognitive function to protecting the skin against UV damage. Cultural healing traditions such as Traditional Chinese Medicine and Aruveyda have been reaping the benefits of these adaptogenic herbs and mushrooms for centuries, while us in the western world are just discovering them.

In order to be defined as an adaptogen, an herb or mushroom must meet the following criteria:

1. Help the body resist a stress response in a non-specific way + help the body resist a broad spectrum of stressors. This can include physical, chemical, or biological stress. Let’s say you’re a famous sprinter, like Usain Bolt, and you spend several hours training every single day. While exercising, lactic acid builds up in your muscles, causing muscle fatigue and post-exercise muscle soreness - so you might not exercise for as long as you want. But if you take an adaptogen like cordyceps sinensis, you may be able to delay that muscle fatigue because your body would experience enhanced oxygen utilization and blood flow (i.e the lactic acid is cleared from your muscles quicker) (Adam and Welch, 1980). Not to mention your body will be feeling all sorts of other effects like enhanced immune regulation and less inflammation (Hardeep and Sharma, 2014). So, while cordyceps can help with physical stressors like muscle fatigue, it can also help with biological stressors by enhancing immune protection. See how multi-talented adaptogens can be?

 

2. Maintain homeostasis in humans. Not familiar with the term ‘homeostasis’? Not a problem. Homeostasis means keeping the body at a relatively steady equilibrium. For instance, if you start a new job where you have to go to long, stressful meetings and you don’t get much sleep as you should, you’ll find that your adrenal gland is secreting a lot more cortisol than it used to. In other words, you’re stressed out! Starting that new job has knocked you out of equilibrium and, as a person with sudden external stress, you are more susceptible to stress-induced disorders such as gastric ulcers, weight gain, and migraines. To qualify as an adaptogen, an herb or mushroom must help your body resist stress-induced disorders like this.


3. Must not harm the body. An adaptogen cannot have any side effects, or do anything that might mess with your body’s normal functions.


Adaptogens + Herbs in Pretty Mushroom Blend

Turmeric

This bright yellow root has been used in both Indian and Chinese traditional medicine for centuries. Curcumin, the active chemical compound in turmeric, has anti-inflammatory properties that can reduce depression and pain. Studies have shown that oral intake of curcumin helps with acne, atopic dermatitis, and facial photoaging (sun damage). In this formulation, turmeric is paired with black pepper in order to increase the bioavailability of curcumin. View Research

Cordyceps Mushroom

Found in the highlands of Nepal, Tibet, and China, cordyceps is often called the “caterpillar mushroom.” In this formulation we use cordyceps’ adaptogenic ability to decrease fatigue and increase physical endurance. Studies have also shown that cordyceps protects the skin against ultraviolet radiation damage (the sun!). View Research

Astragalus

Astragalus has been prescribed for centuries as an immune system supporting herbal remedy. Studies have shown that this immune support can translate into a reduction in atopic dermatitis (eczema). Other than soothing allergic and inflamed skin, Astragalus has been shown to protect the skin against photoaging associated with UV radiation. In this formulation, Astragalus is paired with Angelicae Sinensis in order to increase bioavailability. View Research

Rose Hips

Rose hips are the edible part of a rose plant that contain sixty times the vitamin C content of a citrus fruit. Studies have shown that orally ingested rose hips are an effective treatment against hyperpigmentation and skin wrinkles, as well as improve skin moisture and elasticity after four weeks of intake. View Research


Adaptogens + Herbs in Genius Mushroom Blend

Lion's Mane Mushroom

This medicinal super mushroom has attracted attention in the scientific community for its ability to boost learning and memory ability, protect against cognitive decline (AKA Alzheimer's Disease) and reduce symptoms of anxiety + depression. Studies have shown that Lion’s Mane helps stimulate Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) production. This snazzy neuropeptide helps power up the brain’s cognitive abilities by increasing memory ability and learning. View Research

Snow Mushroom

Tremella Fuciformis, aka Snow Mushroom, has an ethereal white jelly-like appearance. Studies have shown that Tremella Fuciformis helps protect against cognitive decline (Alzheimer's Disease and MCI), as well as increase overall learning and memory ability. Tremella Fuciformis also alleviates free radical activity and reduces inflammation in the brain. View Research

Ashwagandha

Known as “Indian Ginseng,” this powerful Ayurvedic herb helps relax an anxious mind, reduce stress, and build up a tolerance to stressful situations. This superherb does all of this without inducing a sense of fatigue. View Research

Maca Root

This peruvian root, long used by spanish royalty, helps improve memory recall ability and overall learning ability. This super root is also known for its ability to protect against depression and age-related cognitive decline. View Research


Adaptogens + Herbs in Happy Mushroom Blend

Reishi Mushroom

Reishi is an ethereal yellow-red mushroom that has been used as a medicine for over two thousand years. It both regulates and restores the body to homeostasis as well as relieves one from stress. View Research

Eleuthero Root

Also known as Siberian Ginseng, this adaptogen is the “king” of them all. There are more published studies on Eleuthero Root than any other herb (wow!). This superherb decreases fatigue by increasing your work and exercise capacity without the “crash” that comes with a morning cup of coffee. With this herb, you’ll also recover faster from acute stress and intense workouts. Check out the research for more interesting tidbits on what Eleuthero can do. View Research

Ashwagandha

The perfect adaptogen for when you’re burning the flame on both ends of the candle, Ashwagandha is the ultimate protector against stress. Say goodbye to stress induced weight gain and say hello to this free radical scavenging antioxidant.View Research