Popular Adaptogenic Herbs to Add to Your Wellness Encyclopedia
by Jessie Quinn
The wellness world is no stranger to buzz-worthy ingredients. From spirulina to kale, we love to get to know these ingredients on a more intimate level — we even put on our herbalist hats and deep dive into their history and all the ways you can incorporate them into our lives, beyond a go-to smoothie recipe (although, we do love a smoothie recipe). Adaptogenic herbs and mushrooms are no exception. From Ashwagandha to Rhodiola, these plants and fungi are considered to be holy grail ingredients for many.
Thanks to the growing popularity of natural wellness, herbs have recently received some much-deserved recognition for their health benefits. And, the herbs with adaptogenic properties are more mainstream than ever. Adaptogenic herbs are edible plants and fungi (aka, mushrooms!) with adaptogenic properties and can be used in the aforementioned smoothie recipe, soups, teas, pasta dishes — you name it! Many are versatile and make for a great elevated member of your spice cabinet.
Unlike the kale and spirulina of the world, there are many — we repeat, many — adaptogenic herbs and fungi out there for us to discover. Ahead, we share some of the most popular adaptogens for you to digitally forage.
Like the celebrity it is, this popular adaptogenic herb has many aliases. Also known as Withania Somnifera, Indian Ginseng, poison gooseberry, and winter cherry, Ashwagandha belongs to the nightshade family and is grown in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, China, and Yemen. Its roots have been ground up into a powder and used for hundreds of years in traditional Indian medicine.
Similar to Indian Ginseng (or, Ashwagandha), this common adaptogen has been used in traditional Chinese medicine. It’s most commonly found in eastern North America and China and is a member of the ivy family. Herbalists and traditional Chinese medicine practitioners value its root — which looks like a parsnip! - and it is believed to embody “Yin” energy.
This adaptogenic fungi has a very large family. As a member of the ascomycete fungi (aka, sac fungi), it is one of 600 species. Cordyceps are commonly found in Asia, specifically in parts of China, Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, Nepal, and Bhutan and they thrive in humidity (they are fungus after all). Today, you can find this shroom in many powder blends — including coffee and tea blends — on the shelves of your local natural food store.
This super berry is the fruit of the Lycium Barbarum and Lycium Chinese plants, which are members of the nightshade family. These berries have been used for a long time — we’re talking, since 200-300 AD — in traditional Chinese medicine, as well as Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese medicine. Today, you can find these delicious berries in a dried form and top your smoothie bowls off with them, eat them in trail mix, or eat them straight from the bag (as we like to do).
Also known as Golden Root or Rose Root, this adaptogenic herb is derived from Arctic regions, specifically Europe, North America, and Asia. Because of the way it grows, it has been used as ground cover. And, much likes its fellow adaptogenic herbs, it has been used in traditional medicine as well.
This popular adaptogenic fungi is also sometimes referred to as Monkey Head Mushroom, Bearded Tooth Mushroom, or by its scientific name, Hericium erinaceus. It belongs to the tooth fungus family — named this because of the way it grows in tooth-like projections — and found mostly in North America, Asia, and Europe. It makes for a great addition to recipes and you can occasionally find it at a local natural food store or purchase a grow kit and grow your own.
Also called Tulsi, this perennial plant is derived from Asia and has been used in many traditional medicines, both in its plant form as herbal tea and as an essential oil. This sacred adaptogenic plant is also used in the Hindu Vaishnava tradition, where it is incorporated in worship.
This fungus has been a popular ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine for hundreds of years and its ancient ancestors have been used for 2,000 years. Reishi mushroom has a potent rust color and a fan-like appeal, giving it a very distinct look.
This type of mushroom is most commonly found living on birch trees in the Circumboreal Region and, upon first glance can be mistaken for burnt charcoal. It is considered a sclerotium fungus, which means it forms in a mass-like way and gets its color from high levels of melanin.
You might already have an adaptogen on your spice rack! A member of the ginger family, this bright orange root is an herbaceous plant found in India and Asia and has an abundance of uses. From natural dye to delicious curry dishes, to herbal tea. Turmeric is popular for its color and its properties.
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