Adaptogens have been causing a buzz in the wellness world for a long time (and they’ve been used far longer than they’ve been in the mainstream), but did know they can make for a healthy alternative to morning coffee? Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system to give that burst of energy—and that jolt is something we can, of course, find addicting. But, too many cups of coffee and likely to feel wired and jittery (and suffer from withdrawal symptoms when try to pare it back).
That said, caffeine isn’t all bad—it can boost metabolism and help improve focus and memory, but if feel like coffee habit is getting out of hand, or want to feel alert in the mornings but not wired, then keep reading to find out how adaptogens can boost energy.
I called on two experts: herbalist David Winston, who has 50 years of experience working with herbs, and Sasha Sabapathy, founder of Glow Bar London, a wellness hangout offering infrared saunas with a shop and café offering adaptogen-infused drinks, to reveal all need to know about using adaptogens for energy.
What are Adaptogens?
Before incorporate adaptogens into morning hot “mylk,” it’s worth understanding a little bit more about them. Even though they are totally safe, they’re not one size fits all. Winston tells us, “Adaptogens are not a replacement for adequate and good quality sleep, a good diet, regular exercise, and healthy lifestyle choices, which are the true foundation of health.” According to Winston, adaptogens are not what most people think they are. In the early 1960s Professor Brekhman (who is considered the father of adaptogen research) came up with three parameters that define adaptogens:
- They are relatively safe when used in a normal therapeutic dosage.
- They create a non-specific state of resistance to a broad range of stressors, so we can adapt to that stress most effectively.
- They have a systemic amphoteric effect, which means they must regulate organs or systems in the body. So, if they are hyperactive or hypoactive, the adaptogen will help bring them back to normal.
This is still all true, but it’s no longer the full story. In the 1990s, Dr. Panossian and Dr. Wagner further concluded that adaptogens must work via two master control systems in the body: the HPA-axis, which regulates the endocrine, nervous, immune, digestive, cardiovascular, and reproductive systems, and even affects blood sugar regulation. The second master control system is the sympathoadrenal system (SAS) which is our fight or flight mechanism that deals with acute stress. Adaptogens now have to meet the first three parameters and work through those two systems.
Further research has found adaptogens do other things as well. “Adaptogens prevent elevated cortisol levels and cortisol-induced mitochondrial dysfunction, they can also help with sleep issues, obesity, chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia,” adds Winston. He notes that there are only nine proven adaptogens that are well researched, five probable adaptogens, and a dozen possible adaptogens that aren’t backed up by much research.