Adaptogens: balance and relieve stress, naturally…

Words: Robyn Samuels

Stress balls are out, adaptogens are in! You might be scratching your head at this point, so allow us to spare you the Google search, and tell you all about adaptogens and how they could help you balance stress – no, literally.


Adaptogens stabilise biological, physical and chemical stress imbalances within the body.


Adaptogens or adaptogenic substances are typically found in herbs, plants and mushrooms. Before you ask – no, we’re not talking about psilocybin mushrooms that make you ‘hear’ colour and challenge your perception of time. Adaptogens have gained popularity in the wellness industry but have existed for eons. They were traditionally used in Chinese and Ayurvedic healing practices before finding their way to Russia, during World War II. Apparently, some guy named ‘Stalin’ sent his team on a quest to find herbal substances, to help the USSR defence combat stressful conditions.

Adaptogens stabilise biological, physical and chemical stress imbalances, within the body. Despite its extensive traditional usage, adaptogens were pharmaceutically misunderstood for some time. Adaptogens have since re-emerged due to its rediscovered restorative properties. Cheers to health!


Fatigue and stress go hand-in-hand – now, more than ever, people are experiencing burnout more frequently. When subjected to extreme pressure, our bodies tend to internalise stress. Incorporating adaptogens into our dietary intake could potentially help stave off stress and assist our bodies in achieving homeostasis (balance).

According one study, ‘adaptogens exert an anti-fatigue effect that increases mental work capacity against a background of stress and fatigue, in response to mental exhaustion and enhanced attention’.


Adaptogens exist in a couple of forms, but are more commonly ingested as supplements, teas or tinctures. Here are a couple of our favourite adaptogens and ways to incorporate them in your diet. Bear in mind that ‘less is more’ when using these stress-relieving substances – they also yield better effects with prolonged use.

*Adaptogens are contained in non-toxic plants and most of the active ingredients already exist in our bodies, however, more needs to be unearthed regarding their full potential. Consulting a dietician or health practitioner about safety and dosage before ingesting adaptogens is recommended.


Easier to source than most adaptogens and probably already in your spice rack, turmeric is most celebrated for its anti-inflammatory, anti-viral and anti-depressant properties. When incorporating this adaptogen into your diet, be sure to get organic powder, if not fresh turmeric root, to get the most out of it.

For a taste of liquid gold, try this Tumeric Latte.


Sweet and peppery, this adaptogenic superfood is different from the basil used in regular pesto. Holy basil, also known as ‘Queen of Herbs’ or ‘tulsi’, has been used in India for many years as a healing balm or tea. Praised for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, it’s said to restore calm to the body, mind and spirit. Get your fix here.

Infuse this Morning Tomato and Ginger Health Juice with holy basil for more nourishment.


Contrastingly sweet and sour, goji berries are packed with antioxidants and vitamin C. Due to working from home and increased virtual communication, the amount of screen time we spend can result in worsened eye sight. If you suffer from dry, strained eyes or poor vision, you might want to stock up on these bright berries; they contain zeaxanthins and beta-carotene – excellent for promoting eye health.

Top this Carrot Cake Smoothie Bowl with goji berries for that extra kick of beta-carotene.


The ‘mushroom of immortality’ or reishi mushroom, is popular for modulating immune responses. This exotic-looking, mushroom has been naturalised throughout the world, and Cape Town. While you might be tempted to pluck one if you see something similar while hiking, think twice – eating mushrooms found in the wild is never a good idea, unless you are an experienced mushroom forager. You’re better off purchasing these adaptogenic fungi from Funguys Gourmet.

Add a small amount of these earthy gems, along with some shimeji or small button mushrooms, to make this Vegan BBQ Tofu Bao.


Ashwagandha is popular in Ayurvedic medicine. This herb has a range of amazing health benefits that reduces stress and boosts energy. Bitter-sweet in taste, it’s often served as tea, with some honey, to offset its bitterness. This herb is especially useful if you suffer from digestive problems induced by stress, as ashwagandha reduces cortisol levels.

adaptogensAdd some Ashwagandha powder to this Detox Fresh Mint Tea. For a refreshing drink, try incorporating it in a Green Spinach Smoothie.

Want more? Learn all about functional mushrooms and their benefits.

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