All About Adaptogens
What is an adaptogen? What are the benefits? What foods can you find them in? These days, adaptogens everywhere but much like modern art and bitcoin, most people don’t really know what they are. And, as advocates for natural ways to supplement your health and fuel your body, we feel that’s it’s our duty to help spread the word about adaptogens. Adaptogens are non-toxic herbs, roots, and fungi that work to increase or "adapt" the body's ability to resist stressors and restore the body to its normal physiological function. From powder supplements to coffee alternatives, infused teas to latte mixes, you can find them almost anywhere. Between, enhanced mental performance, anxiety reduction, and diminishing stress levels, they may just be one of the most powerful natural remedies out there.
A Brief History of Adaptogens
We know, we know. You didn’t want a history lesson, but bear with us… The term "adaptogen" was first coined in the 1950s, and, much like matcha, the medicinal use of these be traced way back to ancient Eastern temples. An adaptogen is defined as a plant or herb that increases the "state of non-specific resistance.” This means that adaptogens can help protect the body against the negative effects of stress. Adaptogens are naturally occurring herbs and plants with special properties that help the body resist both emotional or physical stressors. They can also help heal stress and fatigue by combatting the body's three stages of stress: alarm, resistance, and exhaustion (which is what happens when the stress alarm stays on).
Here are common adaptogens and their benefits:
Schisandra: Boosts memory, focus and mental performance
Ashwagandha: Protects the body against stress and anxiety
Tulsi Basil: Reduces anxiety, stress and inflammation
Maca Root: Boosts mood and energy levels
Reishi Mushroom: Helps the body create a healthy sleep pattern and adapt to stress
Cordyceps Mushroom: Reduces stress and balances hormones
Turmeric: Helps the body balance stress hormones and reduces inflammation
Nettle Leaf: Reduces stress and tension
Licorice: Boosts endurance and overall energy
Are Adaptogens Safe?
As with any other supplement, it is always a good idea to consult with your doctor before you add it to your daily regimen. However, this isn’t because adaptogens are considered to be unsafe, but because you never know how an individual’s body will react. In reality, adaptogens are considered to be a much safer alternative to traditional medicines. But, because they affect a range of systems in your body, including the endocrine system (which governs hormones) we recommend that pregnant or breastfeeding women avoid them. In addition to this, some adaptogens, like Ashwagandha, are known to interact negatively with some medications.
Are Adaptogens Effective?
So, do adaptogens really work? They sure do. It’s definitely hard to believe that something naturally-occurring, like plants, herbs, roots, and fungi, can help with treating health problems and are even a preferable alternative to modern medicine. But believe it, baby. Because in 2010 a study by the Swedish Herbal Institute Research & Development concluded that "Adaptogens have a significant, beneficial and specific effect on stress-induced symptoms under fatigue." This study showed that "the most convincing evidence of the efficacy of adaptogens were found in studies related to its effects on cognitive function and mental performance, and on its efficacy in asthenia and depression." And, while it’s always nice to have science to validate claims like these, it’s one of those things that you likely won’t totally believe until you give it a try and experience the benefits for yourself. So how can you experience it for yourself? With a little bit of matcha, of course.
Matcha- An Adaptogen
Unlike prescription drugs, with work in a very specific manner to solve a very specific problem, adaptogens are well, adaptable. They can rise to meet any challenges or simply subtly support natural body functions. A good, if not slightly off-putting, example of this is laxatives. Over-the-counter medication will certainly solve the problem, but they are very likely to send things tilted in the opposite direction. But a cocoa leaf, on the other hand, when chewed can alleviate either constipation or diarrhea. And, it’s this versatility that makes adaptogens such powerful forces.
What Makes Matcha Green Tea an Adaptogen?
Adaptogens are admired for their flexibility and natural health benefits. So what about matcha makes it part of this first-class club? Primarily matcha’s anti-inflammatory properties. And it gets these properties from Camellia sinensis, otherwise known as the tea-plant. Although these same adaptogens are present in other varieties of tea, including black, Pu-erh, oolong, and houjicha, they are the most potent in matcha. Matcha helps support healthy glucose responses and combats the body’s inflammatory responses.
As an Antioxidant
As for matcha’s antioxidant benefits, it’s well-known that oxidative stress is associated with inflammation, which is the term for when free radicals in the body cause cellular damage. Consuming premium matcha green tea provides your body with the antioxidants it needs to protect cells and fight inflammation. Matcha also meets the definition of an adaptogen by supplementing the body with the nutrients in order to help it produce its own. Both of these matcha properties help the body rid itself of toxins and maintain healthy operations.
As a Cognitive Complement
The antioxidants found in matcha include polyphenols and special flavonoids, like epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). Though the role of these compounds in the brain isn’t completely understood, it is known that they protect the brain from inflammation leading to cognitive decline, and support the production of brain-boosting compounds. In addition to this, when those adaptogenic compounds are consumed, they enter the gut and begin to benefit the brain via the gut-brain axis. Those polyphenols are considered to be adaptogenic because they work both directly and indirectly on the brain, through the gut to influence cognitive, emotional health.
As a Fat Burner
The adaptogenic compounds in matcha allow your muscles to burn energy more efficiently during exercise, helping the body adapt to available energy sources, whether they be glucose or fat. In addition to this, those same polyphenols with probiotic and antioxidant properties encourage activation of AMPK, a cellular pathway that contributes flexibility to metabolism. In laymen’s terms, this just means that matcha and other types of tea help to bring balance to how your body metabolizes and uses energy. It reduces inflammation in the gut, which helps your body absorb good fats and seal off the bad ones. These unique properties support weight loss and help prevent obesity and diabetes. And, as an added bonus, the damage from free radicals, which are released during exercise in a healthy individual, can be reduced by drinking matcha. This helps to lower recovery times and makes exercise more enjoyable.
Matcha’s Got Moxie
Well, that pretty much settles it. Matcha is indeed an adaptogen, And although conventional medicine is known to be a little hesitant when it comes to natural remedies and supplements, there’s plenty of medically-supported mechanisms that detail why and how adaptogens help to balance overall health, and in some instances more effectively than prescriptions. But this shouldn’t surprise you. We know we often refer to matcha magic colloquially, but this isn’t some trend that we’re jumping on. Matcha has been praised for literal centuries as a calming energizer that benefits the body’s health. The ancient monks may not have known the exact science behind why matcha magic does what it does, they certainly experienced the many benefits. But, be wary, because not all adaptogens are created equal. Not all adaptogens are as effective or versatile as matcha, but they are still worth exploring. Turmeric is a delicious flavor with a brilliant color. Basil is perfect for brightening up a dish. And, maca is great for balancing hormones. But none can surpass the supreme matcha magic that we know and love. So whip up a morning cup and sprinkle some adaptogens on your daily routine.