Red Flag Series: Adaptogens

Red Flag Series: Adaptogens

Adaptogens are a special category of herbs that help the body to adapt to different stressors (physical, environments, biochemical, etc). With wellness trending so much these days, this buzz word is often used to market a product that doesn't even have any adaptogens in them. So let's debunk it. In order for an her to qualify as an adaptogen it has to meet the following 3 qualifications: 
 
1.Adaptogens are non-toxic. Adaptogenic herbs should be safe and nontoxic, showing no significant side effects or contraindications.
2.Adaptogens produce a non-specific response in the body. Adaptogens have a generalizing action to improve resistance to all kinds of stress—physical, psychological, environmental, etc.
3. Adaptogens have a normalizing impact on the body. The balancing capacity within adaptogens has a bidirectional effect. This means that the plants’ medicinal constituents will perform as needed in order to help return the stressed physiological conditions back to a normalized state.
 

Primary adaptogens are the herbs that see the classic definition of an adaptogen. These include:

American Ginseng
Ashwagandha
Korean/Chinese Ginseng
Cordyceps
Eleuthera (Siberian Ginseng)
Holy Basil (tulsi)
Reishi
Rhodiola
Schisandra
Shatavari
Shilajit
There is a long list of herbs that do not write meed the classic depiction of an adaptogen and/or don’t have enough research yet, but that would fall into a category called SECONDARY ADAPTOGENS. These include but are not limited to:
Astragulus
Dang Shen
He Shou Wu
Gynostemma
Licorice
Lyceum (goji berry)
Did you know?
Many companies are making claims about having an “adaptogenic product: when in fact, there are no adaptogens in them. 
 
The reason I feel so strongly about this is because the general public may not have the proper herbal knowledge, and therefore trust the information a company provides about their product.
 
A botanical can have "Adaptogenic properties".  For example, calming, or modulating the immune system, but unless it meets every single criteria..it is not an adaptogen.
Let’s break down a few herbs and functional mushrooms that are being marketed as adaptogens. While, they are incredible herbs and mushrooms, they do not fall into the category of an adaptogen
 
Pearl
 
Pearl is an incredible substance. It is known for its beautifying effects, calming grounding and benefiting sleep. Pearl is misrepresented often as an adaptogen. While there are many amazing benefits to pearl powder. 
 
Tremella is a mushroom that is rich in vitamins and antioxidants. It is known to be anti-inflammatory and hydrating properties. It holds up to a 1000 times it’s weight in water providing your body with hydration. 
 
Other herbs that are incorrectly called and marketed as adaptogens:
 
Turmeric
Sea moss
matcha
Lion’s mane
Lavender
cacao
 
It’s important to keep in mind that:
  •  Many products are labeled 'adaptogenic' or even specific ingredients are being categorized as an 'adaptogen' when that is not the case.
  • Just because an ingredient is NOT an adaptogen, doesn't mean it isn't an incredible substance, like pearl.
  • Companies that are selling herbal products or products that have an intended effect, ideally from their ingredients are falsey advertising if they call something an adaptogen when in fact it is not.
  • When companies make these false claims it delegitimizes them. Many of them are very popular, and found in lots of stores, have investors, marketing agencies..etc Having this kind of false information out there is frustrating as an herbalist, or to anyone interested in herbs and botanicals.
In conclusion, it is important to know that adaptogens are incredible herbs that help our bodies to adapt to different stressors; however, they are not a superior group of herbs. All herbs have their own superpowers. Companies are marketing things as adaptogens because they know that it is a buzz word and they know people will buy it thinking they are doing something good for themselves. It’s a way to hike up the price when a lot of them are inexpensive herbs. Do your research and most importantly, don’t buy a product just because it says it is “adaptogenic” unless create4d by an herbalist that knows their stuff. Most of these products do not have a functional dose of these herbs to begin with. For more info on red flags to look out for in the wellness world, follow along.