My obsession with all things adaptogenic began where so many other of my new-age, borderline superfluous health obsessions have originated: Goop (see here, here, and here for the relevant articles). Couple this with a few Mind Body Green podcasts—my favourite being with Tero Isokauppila, the founder of powdered super-mushroom brand Four Sigmatic—and I decided that adaptogens were a vital wellness practice my life was missing. Around this time, I was also travelling through NYC, where adaptogens are available in abundance.
I stopped by Cap Beauty in the West Village, and proceeded to spend hundreds of dollars on reishi mushrooms and lion's mane like the apocalypse was imminent.
I poured over my haul back at the hotel, convinced my new supps were going to make me a more powerful, productive, and calmer person. Spoiler alert: They kinda' have! But first, I'll fill you in on exactly what these adaptogens and mushrooms are, and what they do.
Keep scrolling for the info, and how I've incorporated them into my routine.
According to Dr Will Cole, a functional medicine practitioner and Mind Body Green Practitioner, the term adaptogen encompasses "a wide variety of different natural medicines from all corners of the globe that have a few things in common: They are safe and they have a balancing effect on something called the hypothalamic-pituitary-endocrine axis. This is the delicate dance between your brain and hormone system." So essentially, adaptogens are compounds with the ability to balance out hormones, in turn affecting things like stress, libido, mood, energy, and metabolism.
Different adaptogens have different functions, so it's important to do the research to find out which ones are suited to your needs. Some common ones are:
Reishi Mushroom: Reduces stress, anxiety, and promotes restful sleep.
Cordyceps: Helps with adrenal fatigue, thus increasing energy and stamina.
Ashwagandha: Balances cortisol levels, reduces stress, and boosts thyroid function.
He Shou Wu: Increases sex drive.
Lion's Mane Mushroom: Protects brain tissue, and supports cognitive function.
Mushrooms are also adaptogens, just of the mushroom variety. And before you ask, no, they're different to the hallucinogenic variety they sell on the street in parts of Asia.
So, as far as my own use, I've been taking Superfeast Reishi ($47) powder at night (in warm almond milk with The Beauty Chef Sleep Inner Beauty Powder, $50), and Sun Potion Ashwagandha ($61) with Superfeast Mason's Mushrooms ($62) and Neural Nectar ($61) in the morning as part of what I now dub my "mushroom coffee". I essentially take plant-based milk (unsweetened), and warm it before adding my adaptogenic powders (say a quarter teaspoon each), a heaped teaspoon of cacao, a tiny sprinkle of stevia, a splash of boiling water, and then I froth the mix using a hand-held milk frother I picked up a K-Mart.
The result is pretty delicious, and gives me the buzz of a coffee without the anxious jitters, or digestive troubles (sorry, TMI?). I also love the ritual of a warm drink, and just feel generally off if I skip it. I've also found I fall asleep more easily since adding the reishi into my nightly routine. For anyone trying to cut back on coffee, this is actually one of the best methods I've found.
If the above sounds like a lot, I'd suggest trying just one powder to begin with (Moonjuice do some great blends), and take it from there.
To shop some of my favourite supplements, keep scrolling.