How To Know Which Adaptogen Is Best For You (Because Dang, They're Expensive)

Functional Medicine Practitioner By William Cole, D.C., IFMCP
Functional Medicine Practitioner
Dr. Will Cole, D.C., IFMCP, is a leading functional medicine expert who specializes in clinically investigating underlying factors of chronic disease and customizing a functional medicine approach for thyroid issues, autoimmune conditions, hormonal imbalances, digestive disorders, and brain problems. Cole is also the bestselling author of Ketotarian and The Inflammation Spectrum.
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The word "adaptogen" is used to describe plant medicines that have a balancing effect on something called the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which helps regulate the delicate dance between your brain and hormone system. The HPA plays a role in everything from your mood and metabolism to energy and sex drive and when it's unbalanced, it can lead to hormone problems like adrenal fatigue, thyroid issues, and low libido.

In addition to helping balance out this important axis, adaptogens can have other beneficial effects on different body properties. Here are the adaptogens I recommend to my patients based on their health needs. Keep in mind that using the wrong adaptogens for your individual needs can be, at best, expensive, and, at worst, harmful for your body. Always talk to your doctor before adding new ones to your routine.

Unhealthy hair, poor complexion, or brittle nails:

Chaga: This superfood mushroom is loaded with antioxidants that help fight free radicals to keep skin youthful.

Cordyceps: This mushroom is also high in antioxidants and it decreased the pro-inflammatory monoamine oxidase and lipid peroxidation activity (which causes signs of aging) in one study on mice.

Jiaogulan: Consuming this adaptogen may help your body increase its production of superoxide dismutase—an enzyme that protects your cells against premature destruction and aging.

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Stress:

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Rhodiola: This herb can help manage stress levels in the body as well as fight fatigue.* One clinical study also linked it to improved endurance during prolonged period of exercise.*

Mucuna pruriens: This bean extract is packed with L-DOPA—the precursor to the neurotransmitter dopamine—making it a natural mood booster.

Ashwagandha: Since Ashwagandha has the ability to help regulate levels of cortisol, it's a powerful tool to have on hand during stressful times

Fatigue:

Ginseng: Asian white, American white, Asian red, and Siberian (Eleuthero) all can help boost energy without the caffeine jitters.

Maca: This herb is available in three different varieties: red, yellow, and black. Red is the sweetest but most mild tasting. Yellow is the least sweet, and black is right in the middle. They all are energy boosters, too.

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Low sex drive:

Shilajit: This herb is used in Ayurvedic medicine and translates to "conqueror of mountains and destroyer of weakness." Shilajit helps to lift up low libido and balance sex hormones.

Brain fog:

Holy basil (Tulsi): Start incorporating this into your wellness routine if you struggle with brain fog, as it works to increase cognitive function.

Rhaponticum: Some studies have shown that this root can also stimulate brain activity.

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Low immunity:

Maca: Packed with vitamin C, this is a good immune booster.

Chaga: Studies have shown this mushroom to have powerful antiviral effects as well as immune-balancing properties.

Turkey tail: When consumed daily, it has been shown to improve immune function.

Ashwagandha: This one is traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine to help boost the immune system after being sick.

Anxiety and depression:

Lion’s mane: Studies have shown that the consumption of lion’s mane can help reduce anxiousness.

Ashwagandha: Taking ashwagandha has been shown to reduce anxiety by up to 44 percent in some trials.

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Blood sugar balance:

Reishi: This mushroom helps to lower blood sugar levels by down-regulating alpha-glucosidase, the enzyme responsible for breaking down starches into sugars.

Digestive issues:

Holy basil (tulsi): This little guy works hard to reduce bloating and gas.

Turkey tail: I often give this adaptogenic mushroom to my patients who are battling gut overgrowths like SIBO or candida.

Licorice root: This has been used for years as a common remedy to help heal leaky gut syndrome since it's both soothing and anti-inflammatory.

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William Cole, D.C., IFMCP
William Cole, D.C., IFMCP
Will Cole, D.C., IFMCP, is a leading functional-medicine expert and a Doctor of Chiropractic. He...
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William Cole, D.C., IFMCP
William Cole, D.C., IFMCP
Will Cole, D.C., IFMCP, is a leading functional-medicine expert and a...
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