I have received a ton of questions lately about the adaptogens I use. From people who aren’t even remotely aware of adaptogens, the questions are usually along the lines of, “You put WHAT in your drink?” For those who are familiar with them but skeptical, the question is usually, “Are you actually noticing a difference?” Then I get questions from those who have used them much longer than I have, which generally go something like, “Have you tried (insert adaptogen here) yet? It’s incredible.”
Now, I’m generally as skeptical about things like adaptogens. Heck, a few months ago, I was the girl who would see these powders at the store or a farmer’s market and scoff at them. I’d think to myself “Man, that’s such a waste of money. How can a mushroom or an herb really change that much?”
However, as time passed, I hearing from more and more people how adaptogens were helping their bodies handle stress, boosting their immune systems, helping the focus, giving them energy, and the list can go on and on. My body was also getting to a less-functional state, where I was having a hard time getting out of bed, let alone being a productive member of society. I got to a point where I was willing to see if just about anything would help. I was seeing doctors and discussing western treatment methods for my IC, but I wanted to see what I could on a daily basis to help.
That’s when my thoughts changed from, “what a waste of money,” to “what if they actually help?” I started doing some research, which is something I’m relatively good at thanks to grad school. Anecdotes provided some evidence of the benefits of adaptogens, but I also read through peer-reviewed papers and journal articles. I knew these things had been used for thousands of years in eastern medicine, but I wanted to see what the modern scientific community had to say about it. And you know what? They are seeing results. No, there is no definitive, completely undeniable proof that adaptogens are changing the way the human body adapts to physical, mental, emotional, or environmental stress (hence the name “adaptogen”). However, there really never is in science. What science gives us is definitive, completely undeniable supporting evidence that adaptogens have positive effects on the human body. After that little bit of academic reading, I decided to give it a shot.
I started with one of the most common and talked-about adaptogens out there: reishi. I’d had it in Rebbl drinks before (which are SO good by the way), but never taken it consistently. Based on the research I’d done, I knew it was supposed to be calming and help boost immunity. It’s also supposed to help with anxiety and stress. Given my particularly anxious tendencies, and not-so-stellar immune system, I knew this was the perfect place to start.
After a few weeks of consistent use, I noticed I was feeling more relaxed and thinking more clearly. Then came a real test: my dog had a seizure. She’s epileptic and has had seizures before. After every previous seizure, I was a wreck. I felt absolutely horrible for her and basically would panic every time she moved. I wouldn’t sleep for days afterwards because I was afraid she’d have another. Needless to say, it wasn’t a healthy reaction. After this seizure, however, I just handled it. Of course I was worried and didn’t want her to have anymore (which she didn’t!), but I wasn’t freaking out. I didn’t cry, I didn’t panic every time she moved in her sleep, and I was able to get some sleep. I was downright rational about it. Even when my anxiety has started to surface about other things, I’ve noticed it hasn’t gotten near as bad as it was, even just a few months ago. I’m not saying any of this is proof that the reishi is working, but it certainly supports that theory.
Being in grad school, I’m always looking for ways to boost my brain power, especially my focus and my memory. I’ve always been a decent student, but long-term focus and remembering important things have never been my strengths. So the next adaptogen I thought I’d try was lion’s mane. Not only is it the coolest looking mushroom I’ve ever seen, but it’s also been shown to improve cognitive function (i.e. focus and memory) and support nerve growth in the brain.
I’ve been taking lion’s mane consistently now for about a month. The research suggests that prolonged use is the most effective way to reap the benefits of this adaptogen (which is the case for almost every adaptogen). Up until recently, I’ve simply been taking lion’s mane on faith that it would eventually help me. I was hoping it would help with not only my school work, but with blogging as well.
It wasn’t until the last couple weeks that I started to notice a difference. I’m feeling inspired again and know what it is I want to say when I want to say it. I’m able to sit through my lecture videos and actually retain information as opposed to simply zoning out like I normally would. While I definitely still have some days where focusing is hard due to lack of sleep or honestly just pure apathy, when I do focus, I’m more efficient and effective. I’m not going to say this adaptogen is giving me cognitive super powers or anything, but I’m definitely going to continue adding it to my brain balls and my morning drinks (recipe for my favorite below!) to give me the little extra edge I’ve been noticing.
The third adaptogen I’ve put into my routine has been relatively more recently. Because I can’t have coffee, matcha, or anything highly caffeinated, I sometimes feel like I need some kind of pick-me-up. Being chronically fatigued and not always able to sleep well (thanks, bladder and chronic pain), I miss caffeine. I miss the little burst of energy, the functional feeling it would give me. Considering that normal amounts of caffeine have me either in bed or in the bathroom for hours on the day it’s consumed, coffee is no longer an option. And considering the similar, if not worse, effect maca had on me, I was pretty apprehensive about trying cordyceps. But again, that little voice inside my head said, “okay but what if it helps?”
So, I gave this energetic adaptogen a shot. The effects of cordyceps, for me anyway, were a little more immediate. Within an hour of consumption, I was feeling spunkier and more motivated than I had in a while. I actually had the energy I needed to do what I needed. And having that energy made me WANT to do things. I actually had energy to be positive and care about what I was doing.
It got me back in the kitchen working on recipes, back at my desk working on school, and back to my hobbies like riding and yoga. Again, I want to state, this adaptogen is not a cure-all. I still struggle with depression at times that doesn’t care if a mushroom is giving me energy. But, more often than not, it gives my body the kick in the pants it needs to feel more functional. And, honestly, functionality is all I’ve ever wanted.
So, I’ve really only had experience with these three adaptogens and there are SO many more out there. Like, more than you would ever think, each adaptogen has a different potency and purpose. However, based on my experiences with reishi, lion’s mane, and cordyceps, I’m definitely open to trying others! I am still learning all I can about these superfoods, talking to herbalists and reading academic papers. I like to know what it is I’m putting into my body and how it may affect me.
Trying these different adaptogens has also had an unexpected, but great, side effect. It’s made listen to my body more. While this is a skill I’ve been building through my IC management, taking adaptogens has made me focus on how exactly my body feels afterwards, whether it’s hours, days, or weeks later. This body-awareness is just the cherry on top of the minimal anxiety, increased focus, and sustained energy. And I’m into it.
I don’t want anyone to take adaptogens simply because some blogger (i.e. me) tells them to. If you’re interested in these herbal and fungal powerhouses, do a little research! Talk to an herbalist, read some articles, talk to multiple companies producing them. Figure out what works best FOR YOU and your body. If you do start taking them, be patient and pay attention. Remember, there is no quick route to wellness. It’s a life-long journey, and this is just one of the ways you can fuel your trip.
Adaptogen Collagen Hot Chocolate (i.e. My favorite morning drink)
- Approx 16 oz nut milk
- 1 1/2 tbsp raw cacao powder
- 1/2-1 tsp coconut sugar
- 1/2-1 tsp reishi powder
- 1/2 tsp lion’s mane powder
- 1/2 tsp cordyceps powder
- 1 tsp coconut butter
- 4 dashes cinnamon
- 1 scoop collagen
- bee pollen to top (optional)
- Heat nut milk in saucepan until just barely boiling.
- Add nut milk and all ingredients except collagen to a blender.
- Blend for at least 30 seconds, allowing the steam to vent throughout. (Note: If venting is not possible, make sure your nut milk is not boiling when you add it to the blender.)
- Add collagen powder.
- Blend for another 5 seconds.
- Pour in mug, admire frothiness, and enjoy!