When I started studying yoga with the hope of becoming a teacher, I thought my journey was going to be purely spiritual and physical. I started practicing as a form of self-care to help me slow down in the day-to-day. I wanted to let go of my anxiety and just focus on the moment. What I didn’t realize as I took the first step towards self-care was how much this journey develops the more you focus on your genuine, uncomplicated happiness.
I jumped in head-first: I practiced yoga everyday, read books, listened to podcasts, watched TED talks and documentaries, and kept delving further into my own world of what makes my heart full. I wanted to find balance, to overcome the toxic memories of my past that left a weight I couldn’t shake off. I just wanted to be happy. I watched as my friends shared the newest product that they bought to include in their “self-care/self-love” routine, wishing that I had that gadget or the money to travel to Bali. As if reading my mind, the Instagram algorithm started to populate advertisements that were supposed to miraculously solve all of my problems. Each company thinks they have the ultimate solution to self-care, but we constantly find ourselves looking for the next best thing.
I realized that is because each person’s idea of self-care and happiness is constantly evolving. We change as we get older. So doesn’t it make sense for our idea of what makes us happy to change also? When I read about adaptogenic herbs I knew it was what I had been looking for at this stage of my life. I started introducing some of the common ones into my life, and it amazed me what a difference they made for my mental health. The herbs revived me, they supported me during my healing, allowing me to make strides where I had been taking baby steps earlier.
Adaptogens are herbs and mushrooms that help our body and mind to be more balanced. They can do this because they adapt their purpose, hence their name, depending on the specific needs of the body.
Ashwagandha– Ashwagandha is an herb that originates from India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. It is also part of the Ayurvedic foods, and was traditionally used to treat conditions of frailty, malnutrition, impotence and premature aging. Ashwagandha is generally used to help target the endocrine and immune systems. Today, it is commonly used for brain/cognitive support, energy, immune support, and sleep support. This herb is commonly taken as a tea, in smoothies, or baked into pastries.
Cordyceps– Cordyceps is a mushroom that originates from China, and used to be exclusively available for the Emperor’s family. It was traditionally used to support kidney and lung systems. Now, Cordyceps is used to support stamina and physical energy levels. It can also help boost immunity. Cordyceps is mainly taken via capsules.
Maca– Maca is a root vegetable that is primarily harvested in the Peruvian Andes. According to folklore, Maca is an aphrodisiac. The root is used for overall well being and supports a healthy mood. Additionally, it is used to stabilize energy levels, increase endurance, and support libido. I drink it as a tea blend before going to bed. However, many also take Maca powder mixed into their oatmeal or smoothies.
Reishi– Reishi is a type of mushroom native in Europe, Asia, and North America. This mushroom is predominantly used in Traditional Chinese Medicine practices. Reishi is one of the “Wonder Adaptogens” as it is used for brain/cognitive support, immune support, heart support, stress support, liver support, sleep support, energy support, urinary tract support, and has even been known to help with cell regeneration. Commonly Reishi is taken by making a tea, however, since it is very bitter, those sensitive to its flavor opt to take it in an extract or capsule. It is recommended to pair Reishi with a vitamin C supplement to promote better absorption.
Rhodiola– Rhodiola, also known as roseroot, is a fragrant root native to Europe. It’s first recorded usage was by the Vikings who used it to boost mental and physical endurance. Today Rhodiola is used for brain/cognitive support, heart support, energy support, immune support, and stress support. Rhodiola is commonly consumed in capsules, extracts, or teas.
Asian Ginseng– Asian Ginseng first recorded mention was found in the Chinese Materia Medica, which has been estimated by scholars to be written during the Han Dynasty in 220 BCE. Native to Korea, China, and parts of Russia, Asian Ginseng was believed to be the essence of the Earth in a root. This special root is an example of a “tonic root” which is used for nutritive, restorative, and long-term purposes. Asian ginseng provides support for energy, stress, and brain/cognition. This root is most commonly taken by extract or in a tea.
Turmeric– Turmeric is another root herb that is native to Southeastern and Eastern Asia. Another adaptogen known for its various benefits, this golden root is famous for supporting brain, digestive, immune and liver function. Turmeric has also been found to have wonderful effects on cell regeneration and hair/skin/nail support. There are many ways to consume turmeric, you can use it to flavor your food, take it in bitters or capsules, add it to your smoothies and many other methods. I love to drink Golden Milk Lattes in the mornings to take my turmeric!
Adaptogenic herbs gave me the support I needed to truly focus on what I need to grow and flourish in my life. Since I started my herbal journey I’ve learned so much about my body and mind, and how they’re constantly changing. Just as the herbs adapt to our bodies’ needs we also need to adapt to our ever-changing desires. I hope that you find the relief I did as you bring these herbs into your life. I would love to hear about your experience, please share with me!
Some notes about taking adaptogenic herbs: I don’t take all of my herbs at once, I cycle through one or two at a time for 30-day periods and then take a different one for another 30-days. You can go back to an herb you’ve taken before after a different 30-day cycle, but I have found they work best for me in phases like this. Of course, if I feel particularly tired one day I will go ahead and take some Ginseng for energy, it’s just a recommendation for daily, repeated herb use.
If you are already on anti-anxiety or other psycho-therapy medicine please consult with your doctor prior to switching to or using adaptogenic herbs. The adaptogenic herbs listed above only have common uses described, however many of them affect more body functions. When choosing and purchasing any herbs always do your own research. Make sure you are getting them from accredited sources.
I loved these two books when I was learning more about adaptogenic herbs, if you’d like to read more about them, check out the books below!
Adaptogens: Harness the power to reduce stress & restore calm
The Complete Guide to Adaptogens
Also see: Adaptogenic Overnight Oat Milk Oats
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Photo: Lisa Hobbs on Unsplash