If you’ve ever chilled in a salt cave or stockpiled supplement powders, you’ve definitely heard about adaptogens. They’re the supposed panacea for anxiety, depression, insomnia, hormonal issues, sex drive, skin conditions, gut health, and the list goes on. But do you really know what an adaptogen is? And, more importantly, do you know how to use them?
Ok, what’s an adaptogen?
Adaptogens are a class of plants that are thought to fight stress and balance the body. While many adaptogens have been used for hundreds of years in a variety of cultures, from Chinese and Russian to Indian and Scandinavian, the term was coined by Soviet toxicologist N. V. Lazarev in 1947 to describe a substance with “non-specific” resistance to adverse influences like stress. The concept drew from a Hungarian-Canadian endocrinologist named Hans Selye, who broke down humans’ stress response into three phases: alarm, resistance, and exhaustion. Adaptogens are thought to decrease our sensitivity to outside stress, keeping us in the resistance phase, i.e., keeping us calm. Some adaptogens are commonly found in ayurveda, a medical system that originated in India over 3,000 years ago, but not all adaptogens are ayurvedic.