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What Are Adaptogens & What You Should Know About These Amazing Herbs

What Are Adaptogens & How Do They Work?

September 12, 2023

Adaptogens, often overlooked but with a rich history, are natural substances derived from herbs and plants. You may have noticed that they’re now in everything from your superfood smoothie to your plant-based protein bar to your Chilean dark chocolate.

But what exactly are they? Well, they could a gamechanger when it comes to managing stress, boosting testosterone, and elevating your overall health.

Table of Contents

What Are Adaptogens?

In the relentless hustle of life, where stress and anxiety often lurk around every corner, we find ourselves in a perpetual quest for balance and well-being. Enter adaptogens, the silent champions of the botanical world, working harmoniously with your body to reduce stress.

Adaptogens are traditional healing plants, roots and herbs that can help your body adapt to stressors and stabilize itself. These substances have been used for centuries in traditional medicine systems, particularly in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Adaptogens are thought to work by helping the body respond to various stressors, whether they are physical, emotional, or environmental, and restore balance to physiological functions.

Let’s say you have a day where you’re running around non-stop. You go from the gym to school to work to the grocery store to your daughter’s softball game. The next day, you’re so tired you can barely form a sentence. Adaptogens can restore your energy levels after a stressful day.

Or maybe you spent an evening responding to Facebook messages, scrolling through your news feed and shopping for hiking boots online. Then when bedtime rolls around, all that screen time has you feeling wired rather than restful. Adaptogens such as ashwagandha can calm you down.

Basically, adaptogens have an amazing ability to act as your body’s thermostat. When internal and external stressors have you feeling less than your best, they can calm you or energize you, depending on what you need. Adaptogens can improve your cognitive function too.

adaptogenic herbs

How Do Adaptogens Work?

By acting on your hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. The HPA axis connects your central nervous system to hormone-regulating organs like your hypothalamus, pituitary gland and adrenal glands.

When something stressful happens, your nervous system releases epinephrine and norepinephrine, chemicals that kick your fight or flight response into gear and trigger your HPA axis. Your HPA axis releases stress hormones like cortisol, and before you know it, your body’s hormonal balance and immune system is out of whack. Adaptogens can shield the HPA axis from the effects of stress and keep your body and immune function (and cortisol levels) in balance.

Adaptogens are also thought to support cellular energy production. They may help improve the efficiency of mitochondria, the energy-producing structures in cells.

Additionally, adaptogens often contain antioxidants, which can help neutralize harmful free radicals in the body.

How To Start Taking Adaptogens

Adaptogens are more than the newest “it” herb. They’ve been used in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic healing traditions for centuries as well as alternative medicine.

The adaptogen Asian ginseng, for example, was considered a panacea (solution or remedy for all difficulties or diseases) by ancient Chinese emperors. And the adaptogen ashwagandha was used in traditional medicine and Ayurveda to treat everything from nervous breakdowns to goiters for more than 6,000 years.

This impressive history, combined with modern research that shows adaptogens reduce stress, anxiety, fatigue and burnout, means you should seriously consider adding a daily adaptogenic supplement to your routine. Consistency is often key when it comes to adaptogens, so daily use is generally recommended for their long-term benefits.

It's also important to follow the recommended dosage on the supplement label or as advised by a healthcare professional. Each adaptogen may have a different recommended dosage, and exceeding it can lead to side effects or reduced effectiveness.

Additionally, adaptogens are most effective when used in conjunction with a healthy lifestyle, including a balanced diet, regular exercise, and stress management techniques.

There are loads of adaptogenic herbs out there—ginseng, ashwagandha, eleuthero, maca, Schisandra, rhodiola rosea, cordyceps. So, how do you know which ones to take? Consider your specific goals.

Health Benefits of Top Adaptogens

top adaptogens list


Studies show ashwagandha can help you feel happier, less anxious and less hungry (read: less fast food binges) when you’re dealing with chronic stress. It’s also helpful for counteracting the negative effects of sleep deprivation and oxidative stress [9;10;11;12]. KSM 66 is a popular form of ashwagandha used in supplements.


According to research, cordyceps is a fantastic fatigue fighter. It also supports your immune system and liver.


Maca is known for its effect on energy levels and sexual health. In fact, research shows Maca can improve fertility, help with sexual dysfunction and increase sex drive.

American Ginseng

Studies show that American ginseng has a calming effect. But it doesn’t make you groggy or spacey. It calms you while still boosting mental reaction time and improving memory.

How Long Do Adaptogens Take To Work

The timeline to see results can depend on various factors, including the type of adaptogen, your body's unique needs, and how consistently you use them. Some adaptogens, like ashwagandha, may offer rapid relief from stress and fatigue within a week or two of regular consumption. However, for more profound, long-term benefits, it's advisable to incorporate adaptogens into your daily routine for several weeks or even months.


    These four herbs have an impressive effect on your stamina, mood and vitality, which is why they’re the backbone of our Mdrive line. If you’re curious whether adaptogens can keep you feeling strong and stress-free, try our Mdrive supplements and experience the amazing power of adaptogens for yourself.

    FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

    What do adaptogens do to the body?

    Adaptogens work to boost our overall resistance to stress while reducing our reactivity to stress triggers. This results in enhanced stress protection and a prolonged state of heightened resistance, marked by their stimulating effects. Instead of reaching a state of exhaustion, adaptogens help maintain a higher level of equilibrium.

    Who should not take adaptogens?

    While adaptogens offer various health perks, they're not for everyone. Consult your healthcare provider before trying adaptogens if you fall into any of the below categories:

    1. Pregnant or nursing women.

    2. Diabetics.

    3. High or low blood pressure patients.

    4. Stomach ulcer history.

    5. Autoimmune disorder sufferers, especially thyroid issues.

    6. Pre-surgery candidates.

    Are there side effects to adaptogens?

    Adaptogens are typically safe, but individual responses can vary. Some individuals may experience mild digestive discomfort or overstimulation if adaptogens are taken in excess.

    Adaptogens may interact with certain medications, making it crucial to consult a healthcare professional before using them, especially if you're on prescription drugs.

    In general, responsible use of adaptogens, with guidance from a healthcare professional if necessary, can help you harness their potential benefits while minimizing the risk of side effects.


    What Are Adaptogens and top adaptogens list from

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