Could Adaptogens Be the Answer in Helping Your Body Adapt to Stress and Relax More?

While the Golden State has long held the reputation for being laid-back and relaxed, Californians are no strangers to stress. Adaptogens are here to help.

Story by: Donna Lugo

Gridlock on the 134, the sky-high cost of living, crabby customers at the grocery store, another disastrous blind date. While stress is an unavoidable part of life, the way we manage it is within our control. So before you reach for that pack of cigarettes or absentmindedly inhale that second pint of Halo Top ice cream in an attempt to satiate your fretful mind, consider integrating these substances direct from Mother Nature’s medicine cabinet as a healthful alternative.

It may be easy to write off adaptogens as just another in a seemingly endless line of buzzy health trends, but the truth is, they are actually centuries old. If you’re reading the word for the first time, adaptogens are basically natural substances (mostly herbs) that are meant to help one’s body “adapt” to stress, be it environmental, emotional, or physical, then work to stabilize and balance and keep the body internally calmer.

Los Angeles-based board-certified holistic nutritionist Katie Bressack shared her pick of some of the most common adaptogens for a first-timer looking to get a handle on stress. Adaptogens are typically ingested in either pill or powder form (also liquid drops), and Bressack advises her clients to make sure they take the correct dosage. “If anyone is on any specific medications, has a thyroid issue, has any specific ailments, I recommend they work with a holistic doctor, naturopath, even an herbalist so they make the best quantity for that person, because I find that [adaptogens] are very powerful,” Bressack says.

Native to Southern China, gynostemma supports circulation, immune function, and stress. Ginseng, an oldie but goodie, can help balance blood sugar levels, helps support digestive discomfort caused by anxiety, and can also help reduce stress levels and improve mood. Ashwaganda is one of the most common adaptogens, as it helps reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. Bressack says it helps to balance adrenals and thyroid and in turn helps you feel calmer, more focused, and emotionally balanced. It comes in a pill or powder, which you can add to your morning smoothies or warm almond milk with cinnamon and cacao.

For those who prefer to take the prep work out of the adaptogen regimen, Café Gratitude in Los Angeles serves up herbal tonics such as its Epic / 25G Green Protein Shake, which combines kale, banana, protein powder, hempseeds, almond milk, almond butter, and the proven Peruvian libido booster and adaptogen, maca.

Try Café Gratitude’s Restored ayurvedic latté with ashwaganda, pine pollen, cordyceps (a supporter for treating dizziness and fatigue), cinnamon, raw honey, and sprouted almond milk or coconut milk for an equally stress-slaying selection.

True Food Kitchen on West Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena also serves up a soothing yet detoxifying cup of adaptogenic goodness with its signature Tulsi Tea. Tulsi, otherwise known as holy basil (an OG adaptogen), is steeped along with a light blend of ginger, honey, and lemon.

But you don’t have to just drink your daily dose of adaptogens. Venice-based holistic apothecary Yoke makes a turmeric and rose adaptogenic bath and body oil that also contains tulsi. In Ayurveda, the traditional medicine system from India, turmeric is a potent antioxidant used to purify the blood, fight inflammation, and support a healthy immune system. This rich triple blend of herbs is said to restore balance to the mind and body.

Bressack cautions that while these may work wonders for a while, integrating adaptogenic products into one’s diet may only be a temporary solution to managing chronic stress.

“We always need to figure out the root cause of why you’re feeling stressed out,” she says. “Is it a hormone imbalance? Is it external? Adaptogens are very supportive, but it’s really important to work with somebody to treat the main cause, because at the end of the day, if you have a high-stress job or an external factor that’s stressing you out, they aren’t going to cure that.”

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