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

William Cole, IFMCP, DNM, D.C.
Author:
Updated on June 16, 2021
William Cole, IFMCP, DNM, D.C.
Functional Medicine Practitioner
By William Cole, IFMCP, DNM, D.C.
Functional Medicine Practitioner
Will Cole, IFMCP, DNM, D.C., is a leading functional medicine practitioner with a certification in natural medicine and a doctor of chiropractic degree.

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 health issues like adrenal fatigue, thyroid issues, and low libido.

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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.)

The best adaptogens for different health needs:

  • Best for hair and nails: Chaga, cordyceps, jiaogulan
  • Best for stress: Rhodiola, mucuna pruriens, ashwagandha
  • Best for fatigue: Ginseng, maca
  • Best for sex drive: Shilajit
  • Best for brain fog: Holy basil, rhaponticum
  • Best for immunity: Maca, chaga, turkey tail, ashwagandha
  • Best for anxiety: Lion’s mane, ashwagandha
  • Best for blood sugar: Reishi
  • Best for digestion: Holy basil, licorice root
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Hair, nails, and complexion:

Stress:

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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.

Sex drive:

  • Shilajit: This herb is used in Ayurvedic medicine and translates to "conqueror of mountains and destroyer of weakness." Shilajit helps to support a healthy libido and balance sex hormones.
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Brain fog:

Immunity:

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Anxiety:

Blood sugar balance:

Digestion:

  • Holy basil (tulsi): This little guy works hard to reduce occasional bloating and gas.
  • Licorice root: This has been used for years as a common remedy to help gut discomfort since it's both soothing and anti-inflammatory.

The bottom line:

There are many different types of adaptogens out there, and some work better than others. This is my list of the top adaptogens to support various aspects of health, but always ask your doctor before adding these plant medicines to your routine.

William Cole, IFMCP, DNM, D.C.
William Cole, IFMCP, DNM, D.C.

Will Cole, IFMCP, DNM, D.C., is a leading functional medicine expert who consults people around the world via webcam and locally in Pittsburgh. He has holds a level 2 Doctor of Natural Medicine (DNM) certification. Named one of the top 50 functional and integrative doctors in the nation, Cole 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. He is also the host of the popular The Art Of Being Well podcast and bestselling author of Ketotarian, The Inflammation Spectrum, and the New York Times bestseller Intuitive Fasting.

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