Osmosis’ Stress Less is a blend of psilocybe cubensis and adaptogenic ingredients.

What is adaptogen and why take them? Here’s what you need to know.

What are adaptogens?

Adaptogens are our allies as they help to regulate stress, improve mood, boost immunity, reduce fatigue and more. Adaptogens are non-toxic plants that  help the body resist stressors of all kinds, whether physical, chemical or biological. These herbs and roots have been used for centuries in Chinese and Ayurvedic healing traditions, but they’re having a renaissance today. Some, like holy basil, can be eaten as part of a meal, and some are consumed as supplements or brewed into teas.

The function of Adaptogens is to optimize the stress response system.  In particular, adaptogens can help support and regulate the adrenal glands, which release cortisol and adrenaline in response to stress.  If the adrenals are called upon to continuously release these hormones, such as with chronic stress, they can become chronically fatigued resulting in cortisol imbalances (either too high or too low) and eventually adrenal fatigue.  High cortisol levels can cause dysregulation of nearly all systems of the body.  Adaptogens function as antidotes to the negative effects of stress, regulating cortisol levels and restoring balance.   

Each one claims to do something a little different, but on the whole, “adaptogens help your body handle stress,” says Dr. Brenda Powell, co-medical director of the Center for Integrative and Lifestyle Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Institute. “They’re meant to bring us back to the middle.” [1]

Powell says the plants do this by interacting with the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis (known as the ‘stress stem’), which regulates communication between the brain and adrenal glands, and the sympathoadrenal system, both of which are involved in the body’s response to stress. Adaptogens may tweak hormone production and physiological responses to stress to ensure that your body—from your mind to your immune system to your energy levels—functions as it should, Powell says.

“We’re only really starting to understand their beneficial properties,” explains Texas-based dietitian Ali Miller. “But so far research has shown that adaptogens aid our ability to maintain resilience to stress by supporting our immune system, optimizing energy, supporting brain health and protecting our glands from the impact of stress.” [2]

According to a 2010 study on “Effects of Adaptogens on the Central Nervous System and the Molecular Mechanisms Associated with Their Stress—Protective Activity” :

Adaptogens may be regarded as a novel pharmacological category of anti-fatigue drugs that:

  • (i) induce increased attention and endurance in situations of decreased performance caused by fatigue and/or sensation of weakness.
  • (ii) reduce stress-induced impairments and disorders related to the function of stress (neuro-endocrine and immune) systems.

It was suggested that adaptogens have not only specific therapeutic effects in some stress-induced and stress-related disorders, but will also have an impact on the quality of life of patients when implemented as adjuvants in the standard therapy of many chronic diseases and pathological conditions (e.g., post-surgery recovery, asthenia, congestive heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). It may be suggested that adaptogens have potential use in age related disorders, such as neurodegenerative diseases, and cardiovascular diseases. 

 What are the best adaptogenic herbs?

Each adaptogen has a slightly different function, so the best one for you depends on the specific ailment you’re experiencing.

While adaptogens can be used individually, combining adaptogenic herbs in formulas has a synergistic effect, enhancing their individual benefits and harmonizing their overall effect on the body.  

Here are some common adaptogens and what they claim to be good for.

  • Adaptogens for long-term stress: Powell recommends ashwagandha and Asian ginseng to soothe long-term sources of stress and the hormone imbalances that may result from it. Some research has suggested that holy basil, or tulsi, may help lower stress levels.
  • Adaptogens for acute stress and anxiety: Some research suggests that Siberian ginseng (also known as eleutherococcus senticosus), rhodiola and schisandra may help mediate fight-or-flight stress responses. People use Siberian ginseng to boost the immune system, physical stamina and sexual health; rhodiola is believed to improve energy, physical performance and memory; and schisandra is thought to improve liver function and gastrointestinal problems. A big caveat: there’s very little human research to back up those claims. Much more research is needed.
  • Adaptogens for immune health: Reishi and ginseng have been found in some small studies to boost immunity.

Do I need adaptogens?

Adaptogens don’t treat a specific condition. Instead, they’re for anyone looking to boost overall well-being.

Most people will know if they are feeling their optimal self: Feeling more stressed out than usual? Are you sleeping well? Do you have a healthy appetite? Do you have healthy elimination? Do you have a healthy sex drive? If you answer no to any of these, then you may be a good candidate for an adaptogen.

Howver, adaptogens are only one part of a protocol that must include healthful nutrition and lifestyle decisions. If you’re looking to improve your health with an adaptogen, make sure to first focus on the basics: a diet dense in plant foods, high-quality proteins, and healthy fats in conjunction with daily meditation and exercise.

A word of warning: some adaptogenic herbs such as ginseng can negatively interact with certain prescription medicines, for example by lowering blood pressure and blood sugar, which can affect hypertension or drugs for diabetes. Make sure you seek your doctor’s advice if you’re taking any kind of medication.