Gone are the days when you could swiftly wash down a multivitamin with your morning coffee and get on with the day. Now there is a seemingly endless array of turbo-charged supplements fighting for a place in your hectic life, claiming to do everything from relieving stress to boosting your libido.
The most exciting of these are adaptogens – super-powered herbs that help the body regulate stress and hormones. Teas containing adaptogens can be found on most supermarket shelves and Boots has even launched its own range. But with so many to choose from, how do you know which one is right for you?
What are adaptogens?
These clever herbs help your body adapt to its needs depending on environment – hence the name. “Adaptogenic herbs help the body adapt to its surroundings and cope with physical and emotional stress,” says Sebastian Pole, herbal expert and co-founder of Pukka Herbs.
“Used properly, they improve the ability to not only tolerate stress but also increase immunity and regulate hormones.” Adaptogens have been used in Ayurvedic and ancient Chinese medicine for centuries. “Key herbs include ginseng, ashwagandha, shatavari, Tulsi (also known as holy basil) and licorice,” says Sebastian.
Who can take them?
Easy to introduce into your diet, adaptogens can be drunk in tea, blended into smoothies or taken in tablet form. What’s more, they are generally safe for most people, although it’s always wise to consult your GP.
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“They are suitable for the young and active right through to the elderly, supporting a vibrant and active lifestyle,” says Sebastian. “They are also helpful for people whose lifestyle is restricted due to ill health.”
You need… Stress relief
As adaptogens help the body regulate its stress response, they are ideal for people who are feeling anxious or under pressure. Sebastian recommends ashwagandha because of its soothing properties. “Ashwagandha offers an antidote to the pace of modern life,” he says.
“It has been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic medicine to nourish the mind. It calms stress, helps restore energy and is particularly helpful in supporting restorative sleep.” TRY IT: For a soothing hot drink, blend Pukka Cacao Maca Magic Latte with some almond milk.
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You need… mood boost
Holy basil, also known as Tulsi, is known for its mood-boosting benefits. “It provides an antidote to the stresses of modern life that can lead to depression, low mood and lack of ‘get up and go’,” says Sebastian. “It also balances how the nervous system responds to stress, and improves mental energy and emotional clarity. It is recommended for depression, mental fog, low mood, anxiety, stress, and tension headaches.”
TRY IT: Pukka Tulsi Clarity Tea is a refreshing blend of purple and lemon holy basil.
You need… better memory
The kitchen herb rosemary isn’t only good for making delicious roast dinners, it can also help to improve memory. “Rosemary has long been known as the herb of remembrance, and research has shown it can improve memory,” says Mike Wakeman, from natural supplements firm Neubria. “Rosemary extracts have been found to enhance the body’s production of nerve growth factor, which helps to replace neurons that are lost in Alzheimer’s disease.”
TRY IT: Add a pinch of fresh rosemary to your morning smoothie or try Neubria Spark Memory Nootropic and Multivitamin, which contains rosemary and several other brain-boosting adaptogens.
You need… immune boost
Feeling run down? Some adaptogens have been shown to boost immunity and speed up recovery from illness. Reishi is a fungus that has been used in traditional medicines around the world for centuries. “Reishi is most commonly known to help the body’s immunity, helping prevent or treat infections,” says Parminder Kaur, a vitamins expert at Boots. TRY IT: Look for finely-milled reishi, which blends easily into foods. Parminder recommends blending some into homemade pesto.
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You need… blood sugar balance
Our bodies are constantly working to keep blood sugar levels regulated, to give us a steady supply of energy during the day. Some adaptogens, like chaga, can help with this, stopping us suffering mood dips.
Parminder says: “Chaga is an antioxidant-rich fungus that has been used traditionally in Chinese culture for thousands of years. “This mushroom is also believed to lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels.” TRY IT: Make your own chaga tea by adding two heaped teaspoons of chaga powder to some boiling water, or try Boots Adaptogens Chaga.