Superfood or Trivial Trend? What You Need To Know About Adaptogens

Superfood or Trivial Trend? What You Need To Know About Adaptogens

Vinegar, lotions, potions and the sort—new trends in health and nutrition seem to surface on a nearly daily basis. But are all worth their weight? One trend making waves in wellness recently is the addition of adaptogens into diets. This set of herbs and plants is said to benefit your adrenal system, which in turn balances the body’s hormones. They are thought to improve your body’s response to stress, help combat excessive tiredness, and more. We ask nutritionist Michelle Lau of Nutrilicious to weigh in on the latest trend to sweep through social media.

adaptogens, alternative remedies, alternative medicine, stress relief, anti-stress, herbal medicine
Image courtesy of Brooke Lark

What are adaptogens?

Adaptogens are natural supplements extracted from plants that are said to help the body adapt to stress better, minimising reactions and the damage it causes. This aspect of herbal medicine has been around since the 1940s, but lacks proper modern research and is not an accepted medication in pharmacology.

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What are the benefits of taking adaptogens?

Adaptogens are becoming increasingly popular not only because if their calming properties but also because of their natural roots. Anti-biotic resistant infections and disease are becoming increasingly dominant, and an over-reliance on prescription medicine has left many looking for an alternative, natural healing remedies. Derived from herbs and plants, adaptogens are “non-toxic, yet exert pharmacological effects related to adaptability and anti-anxiety”.

“In our current society, there seems to be no shortage of stress, and its associated physical and psychological symptoms such as anxiety, depression and headaches are pervasive in today’s culture”, she explains. With stresses and pressure a commonly accepted fact of daily life, Michelle sees the appeal of a stress-reducing, anxiety-calming elixir.

See also: Should I Put Butter In My Coffee? The High-Fat Keto Trend Explained

How do you use adaptogens?

They are typically taken “in teas, tinctures, or in powdered form in smoothies”, explains Michelle. “Some of my clients have found a noticeable difference in physical stress on their bodies when they take adaptogens during highly stressful circumstances”. However, she recommends using them as a supplemental remedy rather than relying on these to treat—or ‘cure’—a physical or mental condition.

adaptogens health benefits
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Are there any risks with adaptogens?

While this may have you reaching for your nearest cup of tonic, Michelle warns to proceed with caution—as with any remedy, adaptogens are not a cure-all, quick-fix solution. “Some adaptogenic plants and herbs may play a therapeutic role, but more studies are needed to determine their efficacy and the range of reactions between adaptogens and stress response pathways”.

As with every form of medicine, adaptogens can react to certain drugs or prescription medications, and may not be a suitable supplement for everyone. For some, there are also “potential adverse effects, including abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, but nothing serious or life-threatening has been reported”, says Michelle.

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Michelle recommends anyone looking to alter their diet and nutritional intake see a registered nutritionist or dietician for a health assessment. Recommendations and supplements can be suggested on an individual basis and take into account the particulars of your health and wellbeing.

Michelle Lau is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (MSc Human Nutrition, Canada) and founder of NUTRILICIOUS, a nutrition consultancy and communications company that specialises in sports nutrition, paediatrics nutrition, maternal nutrition, and community nutrition. As an avid runner and obsessive home baker, she appreciates and prioritises balance in all areas of life. Follow Michelle on Facebook and Instagram for your daily dose of diet and nutrition advice.

Amanda Sheppard

The former Art & Culture editor at Time Out Hong Kong magazine, Amanda is a freelance lifestyle writer based in Asia's world city. Amanda grew up in Asia, loves hiking, stand up paddle boarding, and a day well spent outdoors. Her last holiday sunrise trekking along Indonesian volcanic landscapes gave her a taste of the healthy holiday bug, and she’s been on the lookout for her next great adventure ever since.

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