Adaptogens: What They Are and How They Can Improve Mental and Physical Health by Dr. Will Cole

Adaptogens are all the rage right now in wellness. Chances are you've come across adaptogen powders and adaptogen-infused food and beauty products galore in the recent years. But what are adaptogens anyway and are they even worth all the hype?

Comprised of a wide variety of different natural plant medicines, adaptogens work to restore balance to various areas of the body that are out of whack. They are generally safe for everyone, but which one you should take depends on what area you are looking to support. As a functional medicine practitioner, these are the ones I recommend the most to my patients.


Pearl - This oceanic adaptogen is packed with amino acids to keep your hair, skin, and nails looking vibrant and youthful.

Cordyceps - This adaptogenic mushroom helps increase antioxidant production which keeps our cells healthy and us looking young. It also works to decrease pro-inflammatory lipid peroxidation activity and monoamine oxidase that contributes to aging.

Chaga - Another adaptogenic mushroom that is loaded with antioxidants for glowing skin. 

Hormone Balance

Ashwagandha - This root adaptogen is the ultimate cortisol balancer as it works to support your brain-adrenal axis. It also helps those with hypothyrodism or low thyroid problems.

Schisandra - If you are struggling with adrenal fatigue this berry is a great choice for supporting your adrenals.

Licorice root - Another great cortisol balancer.


Maca - Great for a boost of energy, you can choose one of the three varieties from yellow, black, and red ranging from more mild flavor to more intense.

Ginseng - If you are looking for energy without the jitters that go along with caffeine, Asian red, Siberian (Eleuthero), American white, and Asian white are all a great choice.

Brain health 

Lion's mane - This mushroom contains a large amount of nerve growth factors that can help protect and even regenerate brain tissue.  It can also help alleviate anxiety and depression.

Holy basil - This tropical adaptogen can increase cognitive function and help bring you out of any brain fog you might be experiencing.

Immune health

Maca - For those looking to up their vitamin C content, maca is the perfect adaptogen. 

Turkey tail - This mushroom can improve immune function when taken daily.

Astragalus - This herb is traditionally used to restore the immune system of those who have been sick. It is also a powerful antibacterial and antiviral. 

Gut health

Licorice root - This is commonly used as a treatment for leaky gut syndrome due to its anti-inflammatory abilities. Plus, it makes a great tasting tea. 

Turkey tail - A fantastic therapeutic tool for gut overgrowths like candida or SIBO. 

Blood sugar

Reishi - Another adaptogenic mushroom that can help keep blood sugar stable by down-regulating alpha-glucosidase, which is the enzyme that breaks down starch to sugar.

You can purchase most adaptogens in health food stores and are readily available online in powder and elixir form. You can even buy dried adaptogenic mushrooms to add into your recipes if you desire. All of these can easily be added to soups, smoothies, tea, and coffee, making them the perfect tool for elevating your health without much added effort.

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