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What Makes an Herb an Adaptogen?

Posted by Sarah Baxendell on
What Makes an Herb an Adaptogen?

These plants have a natural intelligence that knows exactly what you need and how to solve it.

Adaptogens are a special class of herbs that are known for their multi-level ability to protect and prevent the body and mind from the damaging effects of physical, biological, and emotional stress. They target multiple functions in the body and provide it what you need in that moment by interacting with our endocrine system. Herbs that are adaptogens must meet three criteria:

  • The substance is relatively non-toxic.
  • The substance must influence many organs or body systems and increase the resistance to adverse biological, chemical, and physical factors.
  • The substance must help modulate system function and maintain homeostasis.

What do Adaptogens do?

Adaptogens are a class of herbs. They meet your body where it is and bring it back into balance. Sometimes your immune system is overworking itself (like chronic inflammation) and sometimes your body isn’t sending signals to the immune system to get to work (like adrenal fatigue). Adaptogens help to bring the body back to its center by sending the singles to either boost activity or calm it down.

Adaptogens help your body handle stress. They are meant to bring us back to the middle.

How do Adaptogens work?

The hypothalamus in the brain triggers the fight-or-flight response, flooding the body with a burst of energy. During stress, the hypothalamus releases a hormone that signals the adrenal gland to release cortisol. Chronic stress boosts up cortisol production, and can negatively affect the brain, causing decreased cognition, anxiety, and poor mental performance. Adaptogens help by functioning as stress vacuums, helping to maintain healthy levels of cortisol. By targeting multiple organs and systems, particularly the hypothalamus and pituitary, the centers of adrenaline and hormones, adaptogens regulate stress physically, emotionally, and mentally. This is why everyone experiences stress in different ways.

What Foods do Adaptogens Pair Well With?

Adaptogens alone will not make up for poor dietary habits or depletion. 
  • Ashwangandha + Cacao - Together these increase brain protective powers.
  • Rhodiola + Rose or Hibiscus - Works together to support anti-depression. Use these together if you experience any form of depressions and are looking for some relief or assistance in easing its effects. 


Article by Sarah Baxendell

Sarah Baxendell helps women access the power of herbs and take control of their personal wellness. As Chief Creative officer at Desert Bloom Botanicals, she designs products and programs that are easy to use, accessible, and ignite your wellness journey. Sarah is a permaculture designer, clinical herbalist, and nature educator.


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1 comment

  • Shonda on

    This was a great and educational read!

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