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Adaptogens 101

If you’re familiar with CAP, then chances are, you’re familiar with adaptogens. We take them, we talk about them and we’re always plotting new ways to incorporate them into our daily practices. But what are adaptogens? Adaptogens are herbs or substances that aid in the body’s ability to combat stress and overcome health problems. Adaptogenic herbs go where they’re needed, and self-adjust accordingly. We stock countless adaptogens on our shelves, all prized for their own special properties. But with so many to choose from, we thought we could use a guide. A useful list to help you find exactly what you need, when you need it. We’ve compiled a glossary of our favorites, with everything from Ashitaba to Shilajit, and all that’s in-between. Pick your potion.

Ashitaba: When harvested, Ashitaba can grow all of its leaves back within 24 hours. With those kind of superpowers, it’s no wonder this plant is renowned for its health giving abilities. Rich in vitamin B6, B12 and Nerve Growth Hormone, this powerful and beautifying adaptogen is known to speed wound healing, improve digestion, and improve concentration and memory. Try it straight, mixed with homemade nut milk.

Ashwagandha: One of the most popular and well known Ayruvedic herbs, Ashwagandha supports hormone balance, emotional balance and brain function. This herb is particularly useful for stress relief and an overall sense of well-being. We like it in a tonic to unwind after a long day. Try it straight mixed with warm almond milk, or in Moon Deli’s Calming Adaptogen.

Astragalus: Astragalus is a plant within the Leguminosae (beans or legumes) family that has been used for thousands of years as an adaptogen in traditional Chinese medicine. Known as the great protector, Astragalus is an incredible immune builder. It strengthens and protects many of the body’s systems and functions, including skin health, metabolism and digestion, the immune system and energy levels. Try it straight, or in Women’s Complete.

Chaga: The King of Medicinal Mushrooms, Chaga floods the system with over 215 phytonutrients, superoxide dismutase and beta-glucans to nourish the body, stimulate the immune system and fight inflammation. This King Healer has been used for centuries in Siberia, Russia and parts of Asia. High levels of B-Vitamins, Flavonoids, Enzymes, Minerals, Phenols and Antioxidants makes this mushroom one of the most nutrient dense and bioactive foods on the planet. Try it straight, or in Stamba Daily.

Cordyceps: Grown on the back of caterpillars and harvested from mountain regions, Cordyceps were considered extremely rare until fairly recently. This powerful fungus has been shown to combat aging, reduce fatigue and stress, increase libido and improve cardiovascular health. Mixed in warm water or tea, this tonic will heighten your energy levels and increase your fertility. Try it straight, or in Stamba Perform.

Eleuthero: One of the most highly prized plants in Chinese herbalism, Eleuthero was brought to the West in the 1960’s by Russian researchers and used to boost physical performance from deep sea diving to high elevation climbing. This woody herb impacts the nervous system, boosting the metabolism, increasing circulation and decreasing recovery time and stress levels. Try it in Catalyst Gold or Travel Tonic.

Eucommia Bark: A favorite to athletes and the elderly, Eucommia Bark is a traditional Chinese herb known for its ability to increase energy levels and to strengthen bones, tendons and ligaments. It tonifies both the kidney and liver, which makes it extremely effective in maintaining the integrity of the skeletal system. Eucommia Bark comes from a small tree in China known as the “Chinese Rubber Tree”. Bark from this tree has been used for centuries to make tea because of its stabilizing effects. Try it straight, or in Prash.

Ginseng: Highly regarded for its immune boosting properties, Ginseng has been used for centuries in Asia and North America to improve memory and concentration. There are 11 types of Ginseng, which all belong to the “Panax” family, meaning “all heal” in Greek. The American version takes 6 years to grow until ready for use, but its mood enhancing benefits make it well worth the wait. Try it in the Urban Moonshine Energy Tonic.

Goji: Also known as Wolfberries, Goji Berries are said to have been eaten by monks in the Himalayan Mountains for their vitamin dense and vitality giving nutrient profile. Packed with Vitamin C and all eight animo acids, we like to use this adaptogen in one of our favorite recipes, Goji Nectar. Or give it a try it in HealthForce Antioxidant Extreme.

Gotu Kola: Legend has it that an ancient Chinese herbalist lived over 200 years as a result of taking Gotu Kola. Often called “The Fountain of Life”, the leaves and stems of this plant have been used for for thousands of years to heal wounds. Taken internally, Gotu Kola is used to treat respiratory infections and improve mental clarity. In some areas of the Himalayas it is even used by yogis to improve meditation. Try it in Moondeli’s Meditation Tonic.

He Shou Wu: One of the star ingredients of our CAP Beauty Elixir, He Shou Wu has been used for centuries as an anti-aging, blood building and beautifying food. In Chinese Medicine, it’s prized for its circulation increasing, stamina boosting and aphrodisiac powers. He Shou Wu, along with Goji Berry, are the primary Jing, aka “life force”, tonics of Chinese Herbalism. Try it straight, or in Prash.

Holy Basil aka Tulsi: The sacredness of Holy Basil was celebrated as far back as 1500 B.C., and is often planted around Hindu shrines. It’s Hindu name “Tulsi”, means “The Incomparable One”. This highly effective adaptogen is often used topically for its antimicrobial capabilities to heal skin conditions like acne and ringworm. Internally, the leaves, steams and seeds are used medicinally to calm inflammation, pain and swelling. Try it in Anima Mundi’s Viridem Elixir.

Licorice: Known for its candy-like flavoring, this Chinese medicinal root is often used in tinctures or tonics as a synergist, making other herbs work together more effectively. On its own, it’s known to aid with adrenal fatigue and leaky gut. Try it in one of our favorite blends, Elemental Wizdom’s Transmutation.

Maca: This pleasant tasting (almost vanilla-like) root has a wide reputation for its hormone balancing properties. Super rich in nutrients, Maca contains more calcium than milk and is packed with protein, fiber and magnesium. Commonly used for increasing fertility, and to treat symptoms of menopause, this herbal medicine has been harvested from the Andes mountains for more than 3,000 years. Try it in The Nue Co Energy Food + Prebiotic.

Moringa: A source of abundant nutrition, Moringa, also known as the “miracle leaf”, is noted for its ability to stabilize blood pressure, relieve anxiety and strengthen digestion. Containing Vitamins B, C, D and E, Magnesium, Protein and other essential nutrients and amino acids, consuming Moringa is an easy way to quickly receive an incredibly wide nutritional spectrum that is highly bioavaible. Try it straight, or in Anandamide.

Mucuna Pruriens: The Latin name for a creeping vine that grows all over India, Mucuna Pruriens contains a dopamine precursor called l-dopa, making it the perfect mood elevator and de-stresser. L-dopa is an amino acid that translates to dopamine, a neurotransmitter which regulates the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. Elevated amounts of dopamine may help with better sleep quality and an overall sense of well-being. Try it straight, or in Anandamide.

Pine Pollen: Packed with 22 amino acids and 8 essential ones, Pine Pollen is the perfect bio-available brain food that when taken over time offers hormonal support, increases immunity and enhances whole-body function. An aphrodisiac and longevity food that’s been favored by ancient cultures for centuries, Pine Pollen is collected from the tiny grains of pollen found on the male cones of Pine Trees. When not harvested, the pollen is blown from the trees and becomes a natural part of the ecosystem, falling on food sources and encouraging the springtime reproductive patterns of wild animals. Try it straight, or in Elemental Wizdom’s Metamorphosis.

Reishi: Known as the Queen Healer Mushroom, Reishi is the most studied plant on earth. It’s prized for its ability to stabilize the body, helping it overcome any health challenges it may encounter, while improving its ability to resist stress and promote calmness. One of the main components found in Reishi is ganoderic acid. These acids help alleviate common allergies by inhibiting histamine release while improving oxygen utilization and liver function (it’s also what gives Reishi its bitter taste!). Try it straight, or in Four Sigma’s Reishi Elixir.

Rhodiola: A traditional Taoist herb, Rhodiola is your mind’s wake-up call. This perennial flowering plant works by improving your brain’s ability to absorb oxygen, leading to increased mental clarity, creativity and stamina. Sometimes called “arctic root”, Rhodiola has a long history of medicinal use, being mentioned by the Greek physician Dioscorides as far back as the first century AD. Try it straight, or in Moon Juice’s Brain Dust.

Schisandra: This potent berry powder does it all. An ancient brain and beauty food treasured by Chinese medicine, Schisandra is an aphrodisiac that nourishes the inner organs, resulting in shining hair and glowing skin. This mighty herb works to improve liver function by stimulating enzymes that speed up biochemical reactions, leading to increased cell turnover. Try it straight, or in Moon Deli’s Meditation Tonic.

Sea Buckthorn: This powerful plant is the purest form of Omega-7 on earth. It first rose to fame in Ancient Greek times, when it was a popular remedy for horses who had been through battle. Hand harvested from wild berries in the Himalayas this pure healer encourages heart health, supports your digestive tract and improves skin tone and texture. Try it straight.

Shiitake: The second most popular mushroom in the world, Shiitake has been widely known for years, but not specifically for its antifungal, antiviral and antibacterial properties. Easily found at the grocery store, or in a dish at your favorite restaurant for its meaty flavor and texture, this primordial fungus is a powerful tool for fighting inflammation. Not to mention, it’s packed with Vitamin B and all eight essential amino acids.  Try it in Elemental Wizdom’s Metamorphosis.

Shilajit: A common herb used in Ayurvedic medicine, Shilajit was conceived millions of years ago when two continents collided and formed the Himalayan mountains. Between the mountains, tropical forests were crushed and compacted, creating a nutrient dense biomass. Now every summer, the earth oozes Shilajit resins from this biomass. One of the main substances found in Shilajit is Fulvic Acid, making this medicinal herb incredibly potent for improving gut health, balancing hormones and keeping skin glowing. Try it in Super Morning Jing, or Sex Dust.