Stress busting, Hormone Balancing Adaptogens. Everything You Need To Know About These Popular Powders
Lately you may have seen me putting a few of these "adaptogenic powders" into some of my smoothies, and I am sure you have begun to see them floating around the internet as they arguably are one of the hottest new wellness topics these days. Since so many people have been asking me about them, whether I think they are worth it, how to take them, etc. I figured it was high-time we talked about these popular powders.
Even though they may seem to be a hot new wellness topic in our mainstream western culture, they have in fact been used for thousands of years in Eastern and Ayurvedic medicine to help balance the bodies adrenal system, and support a healthy stress response. Like many herbal supplements there isn't a wealth of evidence based research in humans to support their use, however some adaptogens have been researched more than others.
With adaptogens beginning to raise more and more interest in our western culture, I wouldn't be surprised if over the next few years we begin to see more evidence around their use, but for now lets talk about what the current research, and centuries of use in herbal medicine has to teach us.
What Are Adaptogens
Adaptogens are a class of plants (herbs, roots, etc.) that work within a person's body to help them adapt to stress, and reduce the effects of stress within the body. How exactly they do this still needs to be further researched, however there is some evidence to suggest that adaptogens act upon the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis (HPA Axis).
The HPA Axis is also known as our bodies central stress response system, it works hard every day to ensure that our bodies maintain a certain level of homeostasis, while constantly being bombarded with external stressors. When our bodies experience stress the HPA Axis is stimulated and cortisol is released by the adrenal glands into the body to help regulate our bodies stress response. Cortisol levels naturally rise and fall throughout the day, however in a society where more people are chronically stressed, alterations in the HPA axis have been found, which most commonly are associated with symptoms of chronic fatigue, hormonal imbalance, and inflammation. [1,2]
How Are Adaptogens Helpful
So we just talked about what adaptogens are, and how our body responds to stress, so how are they helpful? Well adaptogens have been found to help regulate the bodies response to stress by supporting our bodies adrenal and central nervous system, and helping to fight inflammation. They also have been found to directly affect the body's endocrine system, which is responsible for balancing our bodies hormones.
Each adaptogen has their own specific benefits, and since there isn't a wealth of research in regards to dosing, it is important to really pay attention to how your body responds to adaptogens individually. Most herbalists recommend taking adaptogens consistently for roughly one to three months to truly see the benefits, but again it is important to pay attention to how your body responds to adaptogens, and adjust accordingly. 
Are They Safe?
Adaptogens have been recognized by herbalists, and eastern medicine practitioners as safe, natural alternatives to combatting stress and stress related disorders in the body for centuries. However, because supplements are not regulated by the FDA it really is up to you the consumer to make sure you are purchasing from a reputable brand. I personally, like to purchase my adaptogens from brands who have very high-sourcing and testing standards, and who are backed by qualified herbalists, and trained naturopathic physicians.
Lastly, are far as safety is concerned, it still is not advised to consume adaptogens while pregnant, and like many herbal supplements, there can be counter indications when taken with other medications so always ask your doctor or integrative dietitian before consuming. That is what I am here for after all! 
my favorite adaptogenic brand
My favorite adaptogenic brand is Root and Bones, which was founded by a trained Chinese herbalist and acupuncturist with over a decade of herbal medicine experience. They offer a few of my favorite adaptogenic supplements in powder form, which I love adding to my smoothies.
Some of the adaptogenic powders Root and Bones offers are:
When I was introduced to Root and Bones, I also learned more about the term "Wildcrafted" in regards to herbal medicine, and how it differs from organic. Wild Crafted botanicals are not farmed or sprayed with any kind of pesticide, similar to organic, but they also are wild, native and organic by their own nature and retain the positive attributes of plants grown in their normal habitat.
How Do You Use Them
What is great about adaptogens is that there are so many ways to include them into your diet. You can take them in capsule or powder form, and can mixed right into your smoothies, tea, or morning coffee.
Like I already mentioned it is important to pay attention to how your body specifically responds to adaptogens and monitor your dose accordingly. Like many herbal supplements, adaptogens may need to be taken consistently for a few months to really allow your body to adapt and reap the benefits of the supplement.
As far as dosing is concerned, one of the main issues with adaptogens is that really isn't any standard dosing. For most people, I recommend starting small at about 1/2 tsp in the powdered form, or somewhere between 100-300 mg in capsule form. 
5 Of My Favorite Adaptogenic Herbs
Rhodiola rosea is one of the most studied adaptogens and helps to regulate your bodies cortisol levels as needed. This makes rhodiola rosea a great adaptogen for people who are highly stressed. The typical starting dose is between 200-600mg per day, and should be avoided in women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, and in people with manic depressive/bipoloar disorders. [6,7]
Reishi mushroom is a commonly used mushroom in eastern medicine that is used for supporting a good immune system. It is also high in antioxidants, and has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects on the body. There are many medications which interact with reishi so it is important to consult your doctor or dietitian before taking. I love adding the Root and Bones Reishi Powder to my smoothies when I am feeling a little under the weather, or as we enter into the colder, more virus-prone months. 
Ashwagandha has been used for thousands of years in ayurvedic medicine to help address chronic fatigue, chronic stress, insomnia, and anxiety. It has also been found to enhance endocrine function, and support the thyroid and adrenal glands. I really love this brand in capsule form. Doses typically range from 300-600mg per day, and should be avoided with certain medications. 
Cordyceps is typically used by herbalists today to help support healthy stamina, immunity, and improve energy levels. It also supports a healthy endocrine system, specifically in regards to the adrenal glands, and is high in antioxidants. Again I really love the Root and Bones Cordyceps Powder which I will add to my coffee or smoothies typically more in the winter months where I feel more susceptible to getting run down. [10,11]
Maca is an indigenous plant found in Andean cultures like Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, and Argentina, and has been cultivated for at least 2000 years. It has been found to help balance mood, and support a healthy libido, and has been shown to reduce the severity of hormonal symptoms in menopausal women. This is the brand of Maca I like to use and will add to my smoothies when I am feeling like my hormones are a little out of balance, especially around the time of my monthly cycle. 
you cannot out supplement a poor diet and lifestyle
As much as I truly do believe that there is a place for supplements in a healthy lifestyle, I want to reiterate again that there is no amount of supplementing that will ever counter a poor diet, and lifestyle. The most important things to managing stress and maintaining a healthy hormonal balance will always come back to good rest, good movement, proper hydration, adequate healthy fats/protein, and lots and lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Once these healthy behaviors are in place, then it is a great time to start thinking about how your own personal needs can be completemented with supplements like vitamins, minerals, and herbal supplements like adaptogens.
So what you think? Would you consider adding adaptogens into your diet? Have you tried them already? I would love to hear your thoughts.
And for all my readers here, Root and Bones is generously offering a 15% discount off any adaptogenic powder from their website. Just enter the code wellessentials15 at checkout for your discount.
Disclaimer: This article was published is not to be treated as medical advice, and should not replace speaking with your personal physician or dietitian before adding any supplements into your diet, especially in regards to how they may interact with medications you may currently be taking. This article does contain affiliate links and I did receive Root and Bones adaptogenic powders to try for the purpose of this post, however all opinions are entirely my own.
 Panossian, A., Wikman, G., & Wagner, H. (1999). Plant adaptogens III. Earlier and more recent aspects and concepts on their mode of action. Phytomedicine, 6(4), 287-300.
 Cleare, A. J. (2004). The HPA axis and the genesis of chronic fatigue syndrome. Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism, 15(2), 55-59.
 Panossian, A., & Wikman, G. (2014). Evidence-based efficacy and effectiveness of Rhodiola SHR-5 extract in treating stress-and age-associated disorders. Rhodiola rosea. CRC Press, Taylor & Francis Grouop, 205-223.
 Provino, R. (2010). The role of adaptogens in stress management. Australian Journal of Medical Herbalism, 22(2), 41.
 Panossian, A., & Wagner, H. (2005). Stimulating effect of adaptogens: an overview with particular reference to their efficacy following single dose administration. Phytotherapy Research, 19(10), 819-838.
 Adaptogen, A. P. P. (2001). Rhodiola rosea: a possible plant adaptogen. Altern Med Rev, 6(3), 293-302.
 Spasov, A. A., Wikman, G. K., Mandrikov, V. B., Mironova, I. A., & Neumoin, V. V. (2000). A double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study of the stimulating and adaptogenic effect of Rhodiola rosea SHR-5 extract on the fatigue of students caused by stress during an examination period with a repeated low-dose regimen. Phytomedicine, 7(2), 85-89.
 Wachtel-Galor S, Tomlinson B, Benzie IF. Ganoderma lucidum (“Lingzhi”), a Chinese medicinal mushroom: biomarker responses in a controlled human supplementation study. Br J Nutr. 2004 Feb;91(2):263-9.
 Altern. Med. Rev. 2000 Aug; 5(4): 334-46 Mishra LC, Singh BB, Dagennais S. Scientific Basis for the Therapeutic use of Withania somnifera (ashwagandha): a review.
 Liu Y., et al. The Chemical Constituents and Pharmacological Actions of Cordyceps sinensis. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2015;2015:575063
 Zhao J., et al. Advanced development in chemical analysis of Cordyceps. J Pharm Biomed Anal. 2014 Jan;87:271-89.
 Meissner, H. O., Mscisz, A., Reich-Bilinska, H., Kapczynski, W., Mrozikiewicz, P., Bobkiewicz-Kozlowska, T., ... & Barchia, I. (2006). Hormone-balancing effect of pre-gelatinized organic Maca (Lepidium peruvianum Chacon):(II) physiological and symptomatic responses of early-postmenopausal women to standardized doses of Maca in double blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, multi-centre clinical study. International journal of biomedical science: IJBS, 2(4), 360.