So you bought adaptogens! Now, get the scoop on everything you need to know about how to take adaptogens to best reap their benefits.
Adaptogens have gone from buzzword to wellness royalty, and for good reason. Known for their ability to regulate stress, promote homeostasis, and improve overall wellbeing, adaptogens are a medicine cabinet staple.
“Because of the way that our society is set up, stress is super normalized and people are often experiencing it at really high levels,” says Taylor Rae, a community herbalist, herbal educator, and founder of Raeflower Holistics. “Over time that has a lot of negative side effects on our body.”
As they have become increasingly popular, and more of us are experiencing their myriad health benefits, it’s important to explore how to take adaptogens to get the most out of these powerful plants. From choosing the right supplement to cycling adaptogens for maximum benefits, read on for expert-backed tips.
Find Your Adaptogen Match
Adaptogens are special because they specifically regulate, or balance, the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. The HPA-axis plays a key role in helping your body adapt to stress. When your body faces stressors—whether you’re prepping for a big meeting, sitting in traffic, or even just anxious over some comment on social media, your HPA axis, autonomic nervous system, and immune system are engaged. Hormones released in this process prepare us for a fight or flight response, also called the acute stress response. Once the threat is averted, the final stage is to bring the body back to homeostasis, a physiological steady-state.
Adaptogens are uniquely positioned to either upregulate or downregulate the HPA axis based on your needs, meaning they can help energize or stimulate, based on what is off-kilter in the body.
This is why you’ll want to make sure you’re picking an adaptogen that will most effectively address your particular needs. For example, if you’re looking for something to help manage stress and help you sleep, your choice may be different than if you need an adaptogen to solely maintain focus. To help you choose the best adaptogen for you based on your goals, be sure to check out our comprehensive adaptogen guide.
How to Take Adaptogens for The Best Results
Practice cycling adaptogens
Like your favorite pair of leggings that you strategically rotate in and out of your wardrobe so they don’t wear out too fast, adaptogens work best when they’re rotated, too.
Just as we adapt to new workouts (hence the weight loss plateau), life changes, and circumstances, you guessed it, we also adapt to adaptogens. Many experts recommend rotating or cycling adaptogens so that their positive impact on the body can be continuous, rather than your system getting overly used to them.
Rotating, or even taking breaks from adaptogens is a good idea, explains Tyler Beakley, herbalist and owner of Relyt, a woman-owned wellness company. “I like to think about rotating adaptogens seasonally, or every six months,” she recommends.
One thing to consider when cycling adaptogens is what effect you are looking for. If you’re looking for help with focus and productivity, cycling between something like eleuthero (found in HUM’s Über Energy) and rhodiola (found in HUM’s Big Chill supplement) could be beneficial. If relaxing and relieving stress is more your goal, then ashwagandha (found in HUM’s Calm Sweet Calm supplement) or Tulsi could be your best bet.
Just make sure you don’t rotate your adaptogens too soon—many take around three weeks to fully begin working.
Find the best time to take adaptogens
Given that some adaptogens are more stimulating while others are more relaxing, timing is everything when it comes to adaptogens…sort of. Most adaptogens can be taken at any time of day, but you might want to use the more sleep-friendly ones, like ashwagandha, in the evening, and the energizing ones, like eleuthero, during the day, recommends Beakley. HUM Nutrition’s VP of scientific affairs and education, Jennifer Martin-Biggers, PhD, MS, RDN says, “I love HUM’s Calm Sweet Calm in the morning with a coffee to get added focus benefits from caffeine and L-theanine, and the ashwagandha keeps me chill during a stressful work day.”
Choosing a particular time of day to take your adaptogens is a solid choice, if for no other reason than it gets you in the habit of taking your adaptogens on a daily basis. This consistency is imperative to obtain their maximum benefits.
It might be helpful to take your supplements in a way that corresponds to your daily routine (i.e., after you brush your teeth in the morning or when you take any other daily medication). Rae says, “The biggest thing about taking adaptogens is consistency. Adaptogens work on your endocrine system and nervous system but over long periods of time.”
Furthermore, adaptogens work on the body as a whole, and their benefits build over time. As one article in the journal Medicinal Research Reviews describes, “Adaptogens have pharmacologically pleiotropic (writer’s note: pleiotropic means having more than one effect) effects on the neuroendocrine‐immune system, which explain their traditional use for the treatment of a wide range of conditions.” The article goes on to explain that they activate the adaptive stress‐response signaling pathways to cope with severe stress. Unlike certain herbs which can bring an immediate sense of relaxation to the body, adaptogens have more long-term effects.
So, loaded with all this new information, the choose-your-own adaptogen adventure story is yours to embark on. With more intel, relating more closely to these magnificent plant allies can help you build a stronger relationship to your overall health and wellbeing, and perhaps, hopefully, the way you understand and honor the plants themselves.
“We are all so strong and capable. I like to think of adaptogens as tools to remind ourselves of our own innate resilience,” says Beakley. “They are incredible allies in today’s busy modern world when we could use that extra support.”