WTF Is An Adaptogen?

Adaptogens are extraordinary herbs, mushrooms and plants that amp up your body's natural ability to deal with stress (whether it is caused by emotional, mental, physical, or environmental factors) and restore overall balance to your inner universe. What makes adaptogens so unique and magical is that they have an intuitive knowledge that “adapts” their functions according to your specific needs - kind of like a thermostat! Want to chill the fork down and veg out? Adaptogens gotchu. Want more energy and mental clarity? Say goodbye to adrenal-killing caffeine and hello to cordyceps.

However, no random plant can just claim to be an adaptogen. They have to pass these 3 essential criteria to pass the test:

  1. increases the body's resistance to stress - aka “adapts” to stress.

  2. has a balancing effect on the body - up-regulates or down-regulates overactive or under-active organs.

  3. nontoxic and safe to take every day with little to no harmful effects on the body

By this point you've probably opened another tab and googled where to buy adaptogens in bulk. But before you do that you need to know that adaptogens are not an end-all miracle cure. They are more like the icing on the cake, with the cake (the irony!) being a diet rich in veggies and fruits, lots of exercise, 8 hours of zs, plenty of alkaline water, yada yada yada. Otherwise, they will basically be useless unless you have addressed the root cause of your stress.

Also VERY IMPORTANT: Please always consult your health professional before taking any herbs or supplements! They need to be taken in certain dosages, especially if you are already on medication (which could react very badly with them).

What is the history of adaptogens?

The term “adaptogen” was only coined in the 1940's; However, these same plants have been used as far back as Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic medicine!

During the scramble for world power and dominance in the Cold War, the Soviet Union gathered their brightest minds at the Soviet Academy of Science with the intent to discover an “all-natural, performance-enhancing tonic” as a boost for their politicians, military officers, Olympic athletes, chess players, and ballet dancers.

After Dr. Nikolai V. Lazarev, Dr. Israel I. Brekhman, and their team of over 2,000 scientists, biologists, and physicians researched over 4,000 plants they identified only 12 plants as true adaptogens. The main stars of their studies included Asian Ginseng, Eleuthero, Rhodiola, Rhaponticum, and later Schisandra, and Ashwagandha.

Their research and re-discovery on adaptogens has been the spark for the modern world's usage of these powerful plants.

Are there any side-effects of adaptogens?

There is little evidence to suggest that adaptogens have negative side-effects, however, everyone is different and may be more sensitive depending on which kind. For example, Rhodiola can cause mild dizziness, dry mouth, jitteriness, or sleep issues due to its stimulating nature. You should definitely do your own self-research (especially on the quality and concentration of certain brands or products) and then only take small doses when starting out. If you are on prescription medication(s) it is safest to speak with your health practitioner first before taking any adaptogens at all as some can interfere or cause counteractions with these medications. Pregnant or breastfeeding women should avoid ashwagandha, Schisandra, and holy basil.

Dr Low Dog - an internationally recognized expert in the field of herbal medicine - says, “It is important to remember that [many of] the benefits of adaptogens take time to accumulate… They're intended to be taken over a longer period of time. Their effects are more gentle and subtle, but very powerful.”

How can I add them to my diet?

Pills, powders, teas, tinctures, or salves they are all adaptogen-use-friendly. For drinks you can make chaga chai tea lattes, (see recipe below!) tinctures with water, or adaptogenic teas. (Not sponsored but Wylde One's teas and Animundi Herbals are my favourites!)

For food you can add adaptogens in powder form to smoothies, soups, or homemade salad dressings. Again, make sure that you do your research on the products you choose to buy and the active ingredients in them.

Why is it better to combine adaptogens?

Why just drink water when you can have watermelon? Combining different herbs (and making sure that they work synergistically and safely with one another and are not just randomly tossed in), is like having all of the puzzle pieces needed to address the problem. In TCM and Ayurvedic medicine they will have formulas including anywhere from 3-15 different adaptogens in order to effectively optimize and balance your body and mind.

How often and how much should I take them?

Adaptogens, unlike prescription medications or your iPhone's battery, work best when used daily over time. Think of them like doing yoga or going to the gym: you have to practice daily in order to see results and maintain your health. As for how much, it all depends on which adaptogen you are taking and the potency of your product. Consult your naturopath, herbalist, or chiropractor for reliable information.

How are adaptogens different from stimulants like caffeine?

When you walk into your favourite coffee shop its like your brain gives a sigh of relief and your adrenals start nervously sweating at the same time. Stimulants like caffeine, nicotine, and amphetamines give you that “high” of energy but never fail to obey the laws of gravity and leave you crashing down in flames of fatigue. So whats going on in there? These bad boys trigger your stress hormones (aka cortisol and adrenaline) to evoke a stress response. Basically, with every cup you are tricking your body's natural instincts to think that you are being chased by an angry mama bear. So if you're drink 10 mugs a day!? Your poor body is going to elicit side effects like insomnia, nervousness, anxiety, and adrenal depletion.

Thankfully, Mother Nature knew we were stress-prone creatures even sans angry mama bear. Adaptogens give a normalizing boost that lasts much, much longer and comes along with additional benefits that allow your body to improve its response to stress.

Not keen on kicking the caffeine? It's totally okay to have your daily coffee or tea, but adding in adaptogens can help balance out their negative side-effects.

Want to know which adaptogens are right for you? Here is a handy guide including the most popular adaptogens and their benefits!

  1. Cordyceps

    GROWS: naturally on the backs of mountain-dwelling caterpillars in China.

    BENEFITS

    • exercise performance booster

    • anti-aging + anti-inflammatory properties

    • potentially anti-tumorous

    • mood enhancer + lowers stress

    • source of essential B vitamins (including B12) + plant-based protein

  1. Eleuthero (aka Siberian Ginseng)

    GROWS in northeast China and Russia.

    BENEFITS

    • increases energy + reduces fatigue

    • improves memory and concentration

    • anti-cancer and anti-tumour properties

    • heals wounds + prevents ulcers

    • manages menopause

  2. Rhodiola

    GROWS on sea cliffs and high-altitude mountains in the Arctic, Central Asia, eastern North America and parts of Europe.

    BENEFITS

    • helps you handle stress better

    • fatigue fighter

    • reduces symptoms of depression

    • reduces mental fatigue

    • may help control diabetes

  3. Asian Ginseng

    GROWS in Manchuria, Japan, Korea, and Siberia.

    BENEFITS

    • high amount of antioxidants

    • improves cognitive function

    • boosts the immune system

    • potentially anti-cancerous

    • lowers blood sugar

  4. Reishi (aka the "Queen Healer")

    GROWS in warm regions of Asia, the south Pacific, southern Europe and the Southeastern United States.

    BENEFITS

    • high amount of antioxidants

    • may help to balance mood/improve anxiety and depression

    • may aid gut health

    • improves lymphocyte function, which helps fight infections and cancer

    • improves good HDL cholesterol

  5. Ashwaganda (aka Indian Ginseng)

    GROWS all over India

    BENEFITS

    • may support a healthy immune system

    • may reduce cortisol and damaging effects of chronic stress

    • may boost immunity

    • may aid in weight loss

  6. Lion's Mane

    GROWS on dead or dying trees in temperate forests throughout the world - particularly North America.

    BENEFITS

    • potential protector against dementia

    • relieves mild symptoms of depression and anxiety

    • may speed recovery from nervous system injuries

    • improves heart health

    • manages diabetes symptoms

  7. Chaga (aka the "King of Mushrooms")

    GROWS in the birch forests of Russia, Korea, Eastern and Northern Europe, Northern areas of the United States and in Canada.

    BENEFITS

    • keeps the liver healthy

    • improves immune function

    • stress reliever

    • supports healthy blood sugar

    • contains some of the highest antioxidant activity compared to other mushrooms

Vision Boards 101

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Where focus goes, energy flows.

If you have been wondering what a vision board is, why it's so incredibly life changing, and how to create your own - wonder no more. This is your ultimate guide to the manifestation machine. I can tell you from personal experience just how cracker these babies are.

Vision boards are a smoothie of dreams, goals, places, affirmations, quotes, and reminders. A reflection of who you are about to become and what you are about to accomplish. When I wake up every morning and see the incredible beauty of Greece or the simple reminder to live mindfully, it automatically creates a vibrant, progressive energy for my day. I honestly don’t know how I survived without it before.

So here’s the 3 simple steps that you can take to create, use, and manifest your very own vision board! If you already have one, what are some magical things that have become a reality for you?

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Step 1: CREATE
First off you're going to decide what platform you're using. Is it an online vision board? Pinterest? A sketch book? A wall collage? A bullet journal? Once you've decided:

  1. Set the stage. Play some high vibe tunes, light some candles, burn incense, rub your dog's tummy. You want to create a space for your brain to really meditate.

  2. Think of everything. Reverie on your career, relationships, finances, fitness, food, art, travel, little things that make you happy, spirituality, house, car, pets, your bucket list - everything. Pro tip: nature walks, long drives, bike rides, or just exploring the city are great ways to get the mental pot stirring too.

  3. Get some positive imagery. Gather magazines, go on Instagram or Pinterest (like you don't already), old photography books, digital photos, flowers, fairy dust. Whatever! Glance at other's as well, but just make sure you are making this personal or it won't feel like it is. Pro tip: take a trip to your local clinic, grocery stores, and tourist shops to get loads of outdated magazines.

  4. Now put it all together. If its a physical board you obviously need things like scissors, poster boards, sticky tack, glue, and command strips. Just don't become a perfectionist. Life is imperfect, so your vision board won't be either. Its always a work in progress, so you can change it or add things to it whenever!

  5. Display it. Your room, your phone wallpaper, desktop, your office. Just make sure its somewhere you can see it every single day.

Step 2: FOCUS

So how do you make it work? A vision board is the life you want to live in a collage. But it will stay that way forever unless you actually connect with it. Here's how you can do that:

  1. Wake up every morning, study your vision board, and say, "I am accomplishing my dreams." Or some other cheesy affirmation that gets you pumped.

  2. Do it again every night. Or whenever. The more time you spend with your vision board, the more your mind will think about it and the more the universe will reflect it back into your life.

  3. Share it with your buddies. If you choose to do a wall collage like I did, make sure you take some pictures so you can whip it out when the conversation comes along.

  4. Choose one thing at a time. Depending on how big you make it, a vision board can get a little overwhelming. Focusing on one goal or section to focus on for the day or week will help you get specific and give you the space to act on it.

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Step 3: ALLOW THE UNIVERSE TO DO ITS THANG
Now comes the rewarding - and most important part. Make sure you do these things to nourish the bond between you and your BFF, the Law of Attraction.

  1. Have faith my friend. Manifesting, affirming, praying, meditating - thats all worthless unless you exercise some faith. Have faith that the Source Energy is going to be there for you, that it is thinking of you and sending positive vibes your way. But also, you have to trust yourself that you are capable to do what it takes. That you will take every opportunity the universe sends your way. You just gotta beliieeve.

  2. Pour out gratitude. Like its maple syrup on International Pancake Day. This isn't a one way relationship. If you don't let the Universe know that you are grateful for its gifts, it will stop sending you them, because gratitude is its love language. It's the only gift that you can give back. So don't leave the Universe on read.

  3. Renew. Our goals evolve over time, which is rad! It means you are growing and learning as a human being. So, like I mentioned earlier, it's real important that you update your vision board. Usually every 6-12 months depending on your personal changeometer.

Summer Basket: Watermelon Mania

Who knew that watermelon - featured in every childhood summer memory - is loaded with health and beauty benefits? Their first recorded harvest was 5,000 years ago in Egypt - placed in royal burial chambers so that they could give their nourishment in the afterlife. This iconic summer fruit is not only essential for warm-weather backyard gatherings but for your body.

  1. Fights off inflammation. Lycopene, which is an antioxidant stored in red fruits and veg, gives your body strong UV-defence properties. It stays red so you don't have to!

  2. Keeps you hydrated and full. 92% water plus loads of fibre will lead to a happy, full tum.

  3. Protects against free radicals. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that protects the cells against damage

  4. A fountain of youth. Arginine is a key amino acid that helps the body to heal and produce anti-aging HGH (Human Growth Hormone).

  5. Summer slimness. That nice cool watermelon also cools down and detoxifies your body, helping you reduce water retention and stay slim all summer long.

  6. A hair, skin, and nail supplement. All of that iron is key for red blood cell production. AKA pretty pink nail beds, lustrous hair, and radiant skin.

If you weren’t already sprinting to the supermarket for a watermelon, here’s a recipe that will inspire you to keep this magical melon in your kitchen all summer.

Ingredients

Serves 8

4 cups fresh chilled watermelon, seeded and cubed

1/2 cup water

1 lime sliced into wedges

1 small bunch of mint, about 25 leaves

Honey or agave nectar to taste (about 8 tsp)

Directions

Puree the watermelon in a blender. Add a little honey/agave nectar, a lime wedge, ice, and a few mint leaves into a glass. Pour the watermelon puree in and mix with a spoon. Add a straw and enjoy!