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  • Alyssa Abrahamson

Adaptogens: What Are They and Why Are People Taking Them?

You’ve probably been hearing about adaptogens – you may even be taking them – but what are they really and how do they work?

What are adaptogens?

Adaptogens are herbs, plants, and other plant substances (like mushrooms) that help our bodies deal with stress, anxiety and fatigue. They can be consumed as supplement capsules, teas or tinctures.

There are more than 70 types of herbal plants that are considered adaptogens including

  • Holy Basil

  • Ashwagandha

  • Ginseng

  • Astragalus

  • Goji berries

  • Rhodiola

  • Cordyceps and reishi mushrooms

To be considered an adaptogen, plants and herbs must meet these 3 criteria:

  • It is non-toxic when taken in normal doses

  • It helps your body cope with stress

  • It allows your body to return to homeostasis

How do adaptogens work?

Adaptogens can have a balancing effect on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis.

The HPA-axis controls how we respond to physical and psychological stress and plays a significant role in immune regulation, digestion, mood, metabolism, energy levels and sex drive. When it's unbalanced, it can lead to health issues like adrenal fatigue, thyroid imbalances, and low libido.

The HPA-axis signals to the adrenal glands to release cortisol, our primary stress hormone. Adaptogens help regulate the release of cortisol, and they support the adrenals by improving their response to stress.

Adaptogens may also help with

  • Headaches

  • Pain and inflammation

  • Fibromyalgia

  • Sleep problems

  • Mental and physical fatigue that can come with stress

  • Hormonal imbalances

Are adaptogens safe for everyone?

While adaptogens can be helpful, they can also impact how certain medicines work, especially with medical conditions including hypertension, diabetes, insomnia, hypothyroidism and depression.

Adaptogens can be well tolerated by many adults, but some common side effects include

  • Nausea

  • Diarrhea or constipation

  • Dry mouth

  • Headache

  • Upset stomach

  • Allergic reactions

There are certain populations of people who should avoid adaptogen use such as

  • Pregnant and breastfeeding women

  • People with diabetes

  • People with high or low blood pressure

  • People with stomach ulcers or history of them

  • People with autoimmune disorders

  • Surgery candidates

Please work with a healthcare professional or check in with your doctor before taking adaptogens to make sure they won’t interact with any conditions you have or medications that you are taking.


While there can be healing benefits to taking adaptogens, we need to remember that adaptogens work more as a temporary bandage and aren’t the solution to long-term stress. It’s critical to address the underlying root causes of your health issues and concerns.

If you are ready to dig deep to understand the root causes of YOUR health issues and receive support and guidance on your nutrition and your health journey – let’s talk.

Love, Your Wellness Coach,


P.S. For more listen to episode 144 “​Adaptogens: What Are They and Why Are People Taking Them?

September 27, 2023



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