What's the deal with adaptogens?Updated a year ago
We are so glad you asked! We love to gush about these amazing herbs. So much so that we created a 25+ page guide to adaptogens, what they are, how they work, the science, history, and how to avoid adaptogen-washing. Whew, that's a lot. You can read it here!
If you don't want to deep dive into the guide yet, here's the overview:
What makes an herb or mushroom an adaptogen?
Adaptogens are a special class of herbs that help the body adapt to and defend against the toxic effects of stress (hence the name).
Adaptogens work systematically in the body to balance, restore, and protect. They adapt their function according to your body’s specific needs—helping you find homeostasis within your unique circumstances. They work bi-directionally—meaning they can rev you up or slow you down, as your body needs.
Adaptogens are nature’s antidote to stress. These herbs survived the Ice Age and still live in some of the harshest conditions around the world: they’ve learned to not only be resilient in the face of stress, but to thrive. In turn, they can help us do the same.
In order to be considered an adaptogen, an herb must be:
- Non-toxic: They have no ill side effects in normal therapeutic doses. (Keep in mind that bio-individuality matters and always consult your healthcare provider).
- Non-specific: They produce a non-specific state of resistance to physical, emotional, or environmental stress (which is to say they systemically build our resistance to all forms of stress in the body).
- Normalizing: They help restore normal physiological function that has been altered by chronic stress, which means they gently help usher you back to center, from whichever direction you’ve drifted. Since their initial definition, expert clinical herbalists and researchers have refined and even expanded the 3 N’s, adding a 4th N:
- Neuroendocrine*: They have an impact on the neuroendocrine system (= nervous + endocrine systems), specifically via the two main pathways (The HPA Axis and The SAS) that your brain uses to tell your adrenals that stress is present.
- Shout out to Ben LeVine, Rasa’s Resident Clinical Herbalist & Co-Founder, who named the 4th N to make it easier to remember—because “3 N’s + the HPA/SAS” doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.
In short: we like to say adaptogens help you human better.
Psst—be aware of what we not-so-affectionately call “Adaptogen Washing.” i.e., when wellness brands who may be well-intentioned (but probably are just excited about the trendiness of adaptogens) label their products as containing adaptogens when they...don’t.
It’s a thing. We don’t like it. It makes us sad.