People Are Taking These Herbs For Relaxation & It's Not What You Think

The wellness world is always evolving and throwing new sh*t at us to help our bodies and minds in wonderful, magical ways. As focus has shifted from the early ’90s era of extreme weight loss (remember the grapefruit diet, anyone? No? Wanna go on a Cabbage Soup fast? No? Ok then.) to today’s more holistic and health-conscious space, the trends have adapted to follow suit. In other words, our focus in the health space has transitioned from weight loss to wellness. Applause all around, please. I’m so glad we all finally realized there are more important things in life (such as functioning organs) than having thighs that don’t touch.

With this paradigm shift, wellness experts are now marketing new things based on concepts such as detoxification, hormone balancing, and immune boosting. Enter: adaptogens.

Adaptogens are the latest buzzword in the wellness realm, and I know they sound weirdly medical, like they should be a part of our DNA or cells or something, but they’re actually a non-toxic herb, so you don’t need to be scared. According to Times magazine, adaptogens are a special class of herbs that will help the body resist physical, chemical, and biological stressors. Results from this scientific study show that the herbs also interact with our hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA), responsible for communication to our kidneys (ie: adrenal glands) about how to handle stress.

See, when we are stressed out, our body uses three stages to handle stress. The initial phase is the alarm phase. It’s self-explanatory: you’re f*cking shook. It’s the initial stage of stress, such as your first few reps of lifting weights. This is where the body releases its first dose of hormones. The second phase, the phase of resistance, is when you’re able to handle the stress. So this phase is kind of what gets you through the subsequent reps and sets of your workout. This phase is where the adaptogens work their magic. They essentially stretch out the resistance phase by acting like a hormone balancer. Because they play a role in the brain to adrenal gland communication, they are able to level out the amount of stress hormones that get released by your adrenal glands. The third and final phase of a stress response is the exhaustion phase. It has nothing to do with adaptogens, that’s just your body saying “chill, bitch.”  The example of weight lifting is obviously a physical stressor, but adaptogens have also been shown to help the body handle mental or emotional stress. So basically, adaptogens are supposed to level you tf out so you’re not a miserable, murderous bitch.

While new to the Western world, Ayurvedic healing and Chinese medicine have known about adaptogens for centuries. The trend has hit our side of the world in a big way, and now all these coffee shops are pushing mushroom coffee (I’m not so sure about this), and you can find the adaptogenic herb Ashwaganda in powder form in many health food stores. Another one you’ve most likely heard of before is ginseng. I’m kinda psychic, so I can say with like semi-certainty that it’s about to have a huge comeback now, but your favorite Chinese spot has probably been cooking with ginseng forever. For you overambitious betches that don’t believe in easing into things, try this Gwyneth Paltrow-approved adaptogenic smoothie recipe. I’m not sure where you can buy “moon dust,” but it sounds like something my drug dealer has mentioned before.

Despite all the cool info circulating about these herbs, keep in mind that scientific research on how adaptogens truly interact with our body is still very limited, and I recommend consulting with a doctor before trying new supplements, especially if you are taking prescription drugs.

What do you guys think? Would you try these herbs? Would you do the mushroom coffee? Sound off below!

Images: Chris Knight / Unsplash; Giphy

Nicole Nam
Nicole Nam
Nicole Nam is a health and fitness aficionado, with a Bachelor's of Science in Nutrition and a Master's of Science in Kinesiology (Exercise Science). She loves to package information into a format that people can understand, and aims to write in a very entertaining yet informative format. Nicole is also a certified personal trainer living in LA, with her dog-son Yakuza.