What are Adaptogens

Today we are digging deep into how adaptogens can help us with stress and our overall health and wellness. Maybe you’ve seen an ‘adaptogen’ latte pop up at your local cafe or maybe even someone selling adaptogens at your local farmers market and wondered what an adaptogen is?!

Adaptogens are a category of mushrooms and herbs that support the body’s ability to deal with stress – whether that comes from trauma, anxiety, illness, or fatigue. They work by balancing your body’s reaction to stress (or the above events) by modulating its hormonal and physiological functions. One theory suggests that they work by influencing the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (known as the HPA axis) which manages the stress response. This plays a role in immune regulation and other important things like digestion, mood and metabolism. Simply put, Adaptogens help the body and mind better adapt to stress.

The amazing thing is these adaptogens have been used for centuries by traditional Chinese medicine and ayurvedic traditions as well. Nothing about adaptogens is new! They are not just the latest fad in the wellness world.

What are adaptogens?

What makes adaptogens different from any other herb? To qualify as an adaptogen a herb or mushroom must meet the following criteria:

  1. It must not harm the body. An adaptogen must not have any side effects or do anything that might mess with your body’s normal functions.
  2. It must help the body return to a state of homeostasis regardless of how the body has changed in response to stress. Homeostasis means keeping the body at a relatively steady equilibrium.
  3. It should support the entire body’s ability to cope with stress. It should help the body resist a stress response in a nonspecific way plus help keep the body healthy.

Another thing to take note of is that adaptogens don’t only target one organ. They work by helping bring the body back into balance and encourage the body to maintain homeostasis while supporting your overall health and well-being.

When it comes to consuming adaptogens it all comes down to what you prefer. There are many different ways to consume them. Adaptogens can have a strong flavour so a great way to start enjoying them is by adding them to Lattes, elixirs or smoothies.

You can also cook with some adaptogens but remember that heating them at too high a heat can destroy some of their properties. Insider tip: Stick to incorporating only one or two adaptogens at a time as you don’t want to overload your system. Take the time to see how they make you feel and notice any changes?

Where do adaptogens come from?

Adaptogens grow in wild and highly adverse environments such as the Peruvian mountains and in places like China and Russia where they have extreme weather conditions. Adaptogens themselves experience a lot of stress throughout their growing life and they thrive under extremely harsh conditions. Therefore by simply ingesting adaptogens, you are actually ingesting the plant’s stress reduction hormones in order to fight off your own. Pretty cool!

What are adaptogens video

I have partnered with @nutridomcanada to explain what are adaptogens and how they can support your overall health. You can also watch this video on Instagram.

Adaptogenic herbs and mushrooms:

Simply put, adaptogens are ‘smart’ herbs that read the body in times of stress and can help balance the body’s natural equilibrium. Here are a few of my favourites.


Chaga is a mushroom that grows on birch trees, it actually looks like a big tumour on the side of a tree.  It has cancer-fighting and prevention properties. Chaga mushrooms are antifungal so they work as immune system modulators. Chaga is excellent for boosting the immune system due to high levels of Beta-D-Glucans. They are packed with antioxidants, so much so that they have one of the highest ORAC values of foods ever found on earth.

Enjoy the health benefits of Chaga by steeping the chunks or adding them to anything slow-cooked like broth. You can add the powder or extract to hot chocolate, coffee, or smoothies.

Here are some of my recipes that contain Chaga:

  • Chaga Golden Latte (pictured below) is my own golden latte with a chaga twist. It is a delicious immune-boosting and anti-inflammatory drink
  • Chai Chaga Mushroom Tea for that delicious warming chai flavour with the benefits of anti-oxidant rich chaga
Chaga Golden Latte by @jesselwellness #healthylatte

Reishi Mushroom

Reishi mushroom is an adaptogenic mushroom that has been a staple of holistic wellness and herbal medicines for decades. Studies show Reishi can lower inflammation within the blood vessels whilst balancing hormone levels (high blood pressure and high cholesterol can be caused by hormonal issues). This strengthens the cardiovascular system and lowers blood pressure, making Reishi Mushrooms a contributor to heart health. Reishi mushrooms are usually consumed as a dehydrated mushroom powder or in liquid form. The positive effects on the body could decrease depression and work as an anti-fatigue agent.

Reishi Chocolate Chia Pudding

Prep time: 2 minutes| Inactive time: 2 hours | Serving size: 4


  • 2 cups almond milk
  • 1/2 cup chia seeds
  • 1/3 cup raw cacao powder
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 tsp reishi powder


  1. Place all ingredients in a sealable container and mix. Place in the fridge to gel for at least 2 hours to overnight.
  2. Enjoy as-is or top with a sliced banana and raw cacao nibs.


Ashwagandha is sometimes referred to as Indian ginseng. It’s a powerful ayurvedic root that can help your body manage stress.  It’s been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries and has been shown to help resolve hormone imbalances. It contains anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and mood-balancing properties. Ashwagandha is a potent root that promotes a deep sense of relaxation providing relief of tension to a wired and tired nervous system. It can also help to encourage deep calming rest.

I love adding this to a nighttime Elixir because it’s so calming.  You can also add ashwagandha in powder form to smoothies, teas and even recipes. It is available in a powder capsule or tincture form.

Maca Root

One of my favourite adaptogens is maca. It’s a plant that is native to Peru and is traditionally used to improve energy and stamina but is also used to help improve sex drive and fertility. Maca will naturally have a positive effect on energy, stamina and mood.

And the taste is amazing! I compare it to chocolate. It has a caramel-like taste and mixes well into smoothies, lattes, and elixirs and you can even bake it into brownies or cookies. According to the research, this Peruvian root helps to improve memory recall and overall learning ability. One of the ancient uses of maca root was as an aphrodisiac for libido and sexual health. Libido enhancement is one of maca root’s most commonly noted effects.

Maca Hot Chocolate Recipe

Prep time: 2 minutes | Serving size: 1

Maca Hot Chocolate Ingredients

  • 12 oz hot water
  • 1.5 tbsp cacao powder
  • 1 serving collagen
  • 1/2 tsp maca
  • Few shakes of  ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp honey or maple syrup
  • 1/4 tsp coconut butter/oil or ghee


  1. Boil water, then pour all ingredients into a high-powered blender on medium-high for 1-2 minutes.


If you’ve had curry, you’ve tried turmeric! This spice is so much more than just a flavouring agent. The turmeric plant root is used to make supplements and is popularly taken for inflammation.  What people don’t know is its energizing potential. Though it doesn’t provide a caffeine-like boost, it may have a stabilizing effect that can help enhance the brain’s ability to focus and function. The active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin. Curcumin modulates a healthy inflammatory response in the brain, thereby helping improve memory, attention and mood. Turmeric is amazing in everything from curries to smoothies. This Adaptogen is must try for everyone because of its numerous nourishing benefits.

Here are some of my recipes with Turmeric:

  • Creamy Turmeric Sauce makes a great dip veggie and is perfect over spiralized carrots with a sprinkle of chopped almonds
  • Mango Turmeric Smoothie is get a lovely sweetness from juicy mangoes and has toasted coconut
  • Anti-inflammatory Carrot Muffins (pictured below) get their anti-inflammatory boost from turmeric. Turmeric gives these muffins and beautiful vibrant colour but the flavour is very subtle. They are moist due to the carrots and have a delicious texture thanks to the shredded coconut.
Anti-inflammatory Carrot Muffins by Jeses Lane Welllness

Holy basil

Holy Basil is another one of my favourite adaptogens! Also known as Tulsi, Holy Basil is often considered the Queen of Herbs. Widely used in Ayurvedic medicine, Holy Basil is considered to have an array of physical and spiritual benefits. Holy Basil supports stress relief, strengthens immunity and can help regulate blood sugar. Ancient Ayurveda wisdom suggests that Holy Basil is like a tonic for the whole body, it benefits the spirit and mind that offers solutions to many modern-day health problems. I enjoy holy basil in the evenings, but you can sip it throughout the day as well.


Rhodiola has been used in traditional medicine in Asia and Europe for centuries. It acts very much like Asian Ginseng and can help increase energy, and build endurance and strength. Rhodiola may improve exercise performance, increase physical work capacity and dramatically shorten the recovery time between times of high-intensity exercise. It helps reduce both physical and mental fatigue. We could all use that!

There is a lot of research on the incredible adaptogenic properties of Rhodiola. Some ways you can incorporate it into your diet are in capsule form, or as a powder in a healthy smoothie.

Medicinal Mushroom Benefits and Giveaway with @jesselwellness Chaga Mushrooms #chaga #giveaway #win #medicinal

What are Adaptogens Conclusion

Adaptogens have a wide array of benefits.

  • Improved energy and physical performance
  • Boost the immune system
  • Improved sleep
  • Shorter recovery time from exercise
  • Enhanced concentration
  • Improved ability to perform efficiently

Due to their balancing effects, they can bring and have properties that can truly aid in the added stresses of our modern times.

Adding adaptogens into your diet or taking them as an additional nutritional supplement could bring some really great health benefits. Adaptogens are a fantastic tool to increase your overall health by balancing out your stress levels and hormones.

It’s a good idea to talk to your natural healthcare provider to see if adding adaptogens to your routine is a good option for you.

This article on what are adaptogens was lovingly written by my intern Gemma Digby. She is a Holistic Nutritionist and Culinary Nutrition Expert who is intoxicated with the idea that food is medicine. Gemma believes that food should be vibrant, nutritious and delicious. She teaches and empowers women to create vibrant health and find the emotional well-being they’ve been missing. Check her out on Instagram and visit her website to learn how to create vibrant health using simple science-backed strategies that work.

Some images from this article are from Unsplash.

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