What are adaptogens, and why do they matter?

MoodyGirl’s Guide to Adaptogens 

From smoothie bars to coffee shops, adaptogens are popping up everywhere. So, what are adaptogenic herbs, exactly? And how do they work? We'll tell you about the benefits and science, and take a look at some popular kinds. 


What are Adaptogens? 

Adaptogens are non-toxic plants that help support our body’s natural ability to deal with stress. These herbs and roots have been used for centuries in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine -- and now, they're taking over the chocolate industry!

Adaptogens get their name because of their ability to “adapt” accordingly to what the body needs. This could be a physical, chemical, or biological need. These herbs and roots have special compounds that contain opposing qualities (such as relaxation when the body is stressed, or stimulation when we're totally dragging). The point? Adaptogens trigger the correct chemical and hormonal responses based on your body's needs. 


How do Adaptogens Work?  

The important thing to know is that adaptogens don’t eliminate stress or sluggishness or your impatience with your mother-in-law. Instead, they help you cope with stressful circumstances by regulating hormones. If there’s too much of one hormone in your body, the adaptogens' organic properties and compounds will help to lower it. On the other side, if there isn’t enough of a hormone, adaptogens can help replenish its levels by encouraging your body's natural immune responses.


What are the Best Adaptogenic Herbs?  

There are dozens and dozens of plants and herbs that are considered adaptogens, and each has a slightly different function. The best one would depend on what your body needs at that time.

Ginseng is a popular herb among tea drinkers and has been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years in parts of Asia. Clinical trials have found the herb can significantly reduce fatigue and may also boost the immune system.  
Maca is a root, also known at Peruvian ginseng. It is believed to balance hormone levels, maintain energy, and support a healthy libido. You'll find it, surprise surprise, in our "Libido Lover" bar, where we use it to support natural hormone balance. 
Ashwagandha comes from the root of an evergreen shrub found in parts of Africa and Asia. It has calming properties and is often used to soothe long-term sources of stress and anxiety. We LOVE ashwagandha at Moodygirl -- that's why it's one of the main ingredients in our "Chill Out" bar!
Tulsi, also known as “Holy Basil” or the “queen of herbs,” is a fragrant herb from Asia that produces purple flowers. It is known to promote focus and alleviate anxiety.
Rhodiola is one of the original adaptogens for stress relief and focus. It is believed to improve energy, physical and mental performance, and improve concentration. 
Eleutherococcus is an herb that has been used in Chinese medicine for centuries. It is said to be ideal for reinvigorating your chi and restoring vital energy.
Reishi is an Asian mushroom that stimulates the immune system and helps reduce stress.
Cordyceps is a fungus that grows on caterpillar larvae in China. But don't freak out -- today, cordyceps can also be grown in a laboratory without losing its organic and beneficial properties. It is known to help boost immunity and is believed to be good for your liver, kidneys and heart. It's also found in our "Moody Matcha" bar to help stimulate athletic performance -- no baby caterpillars required! 


How do I use Adaptogens?

Adaptogens come in many different forms, including pills, powders, and liquid. Most are flavorless, although some, like maca, have a slightly bitter taste, and it’s a good idea to combine those with other ingredients. (Like chocolate!) For example, you can add powdered adaptogens to your morning coffee, smoothies, tea, or oatmeal -- or enjoy them in your chocolate! 


Consult Your Doctor Before Trying Adaptogens

It’s always a good idea to consult with a medical professional before adding an adaptogen to your wellness routine. (How many times do we have to tell you we're not doctors?!) While adaptogens have many benefits, there's always a risk that holistic treatments could have a negative interaction with your current prescriptions. Or quite simply, the adaptogens that work for us might not be an appropriate approach to YOUR current health needs.

Have a chat with your primary care provider or your OBGYN before embarking on a heavy-duty adaptogen journey -- and if you know what you like or you just want to dip a toe in the world of adaptogenic herbs and spices, give Moodygirl's vegan, vitamin-enriched chocolate a try! We'd love to hear what you think!