All About

Move over, wheatgrass and juice cleanses, there’s a new wellness buzzword in town: adaptogens. From Goop to Time Magazine to our favorite cafes, it seems they’re popping up everywhere with no signs of stopping. But if you’re anything like a lot of us, you might be asking yourself—what exactly are adaptogens, anyway?

Even the experts don’t have a conclusive definition. Speaking to the New York Times last year, wellness writer Alison Wu acknowledged that “the definition of them can be blurry.” If you want to go the literal route, Merriam-Webster defines adaptogen as “a non-toxic substance and especially a plant extract that is held to increase the body’s ability to resist the damaging effects of stress and promote or restore normal physiological functioning.” Blogger-favorite brand Moon Juice describes them as “Superherbs and Supermushrooms that help expand your body’s capacity to handle mental, physical and emotional stress.” (Sounds good, right?)

No matter who you ask, it seems that “adaptogen”, is a catch-all for herbs and plants thought to have a beneficial effect on your mind and body—in particular, the ability to handle stress. Many of them have a centuries-old healing pedigree dating back to ancient Chinese and Ayurvedic wellness practices, and each one purports to offer unique benefits–which is no doubt part of the appeal. Brain fog? A cold you can’t kick? Anxiety? Trouble sleeping? There’s an adaptogen for that.

Photo by from Pexels

The pick-your-own-adventure nature of adaptogens extends to the manner in which you consume them. You can brew them as teas, add powders to smoothies and oatmeal or combine tinctures with water. A quick Instagram search yields a treasure trove of results: adaptogenic tonics, lattes, and treats abound.

One final note. While the touted benefits are certainly tempting, as with any wellness regimen, you should proceed thoughtfully and talk to your doctor before adding adaptogens to your diet. Research is not yet conclusive when it comes to their effects, and there’s no guarantee that you’ll experience the same results a friend or influencer did. Furthermore, natural does not always mean safer: the Food and Drug Administration does not use the same standards (read: clinical testing) to evaluate supplements of this kind as they do to evaluate psychiatric drugs. And if you’re suffering from depression or anxiety disorder, you should always consult a doctor to determine the best treatment method.