Adaptogens – what are they and how do they differ?

Jul 24, 2023

An increasingly popular and more attention-grabbing topic – adaptogens. A concept that has recently emerged in the lives of many, heard of but not commonly understood. Discussing all of them would be quite complex, so we’ve highlighted a few commonly encountered ones. Some are called the “Gift of the Gods” by Siberian locals living in the coldest climate, while others are known as the Ayurvedic tonic of India, used to nurture youthfulness. What are these adaptogens? Are they truly beneficial? How can their consumption improve our daily lives? When and which ones should be used? If I use them all at once, will it harm my body?

Adaptogens – what are they?

Adaptogens are herbs that support the functioning of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. The HPA axis ensures human adaptation to new situations, stress, and maintains the body in a state of homeostasis. When experiencing stress, it is felt throughout the body as it releases the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol, in small doses, was once truly beneficial from a historical perspective, as it motivated humans to act, not wait, and exert all their energy to escape danger – just like our ancestors fleeing from predators. However, in the modern world, cortisol can do more harm than good to our bodies. Especially because nowadays, our survival is not about running away from lions, but rather dealing with stress related to work, personal life, or health issues.
Adaptogens can help balance hormones and respond to changes in hormone and chemical levels in the body, which can sometimes fluctuate rapidly. Adaptogens, in a way, “adapt” to the reactions occurring in the body due to various factors such as diet, emotional state, and physical health.

How do adaptogens work?

There are many moving parts that help ensure your body functions at an optimal level. The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA), hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid (HPT), and hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) axes must work in harmony to maintain the body’s equilibrium. This subtle balance controls your mood, metabolism, energy levels, immune system, and sexual desire. When any of these axes (HPA, HPT, HPG) become imbalanced, various disorders can arise, such as adrenal fatigue, thyroid dysfunction, and fluctuations in sexual desire, among others.

Simply put, when your body is preoccupied with producing cortisol in response to any sign of stress or triggering stimuli in the environment, it suppresses the production of other hormones, leading to a disruption in your body’s equilibrium. Adaptogens, when introduced to the body, essentially help to rebalance the disrupted hormone equilibrium, aiding in the production of necessary hormones and halting production once the balance is restored.

Can different adaptogens be taken together?

A common question that arises for those who start exploring the benefits of various adaptogens and wish to use multiple ones together. We reassure you – they all complement each other perfectly! For example, the energizing effects of cordyceps will not cancel out the calming effects of ashwagandha. Each adaptogenic herb has its strengths and they work in harmony with one another. So, if you can afford it, feel free to take as many different adaptogens as you want (of course, within reasonable limits, not exceeding the recommended daily amount, and after consulting with a doctor).

Why the use of adaptogen is important for us?

Regardless of whether stress strongly affects your life or only occasionally arises, it certainly has an impact on your health. As mentioned before, high doses of cortisol produced under stress are harmful to the body. It also inhibits the production of other hormones, leading to increased fatigue, worsened skin and hair condition, or frequent illnesses due to a weakened immune system. Thus, stress often has long-term consequences, and ignoring it is not advisable. Moreover, it is not always possible to avoid stressful situations, no matter how hard you try. Since each adaptogen has its own benefits (in a way, even superpowers), they can help cope not only with stress but also with other disorders. Whether you feel certain signs of stress (it doesn’t necessarily have to be strong and directly perceived stress – things like travel or even flights can cause stress on the body), or simply want to improve your health, adaptogens can certainly be helpful here.

Chaga (Inonotus obliquus)

Chaga is one of the adaptogenic mushrooms, often referred to as the black birch mushroom. In the folk medicine of Eastern and Northern Europe, these mushrooms have been known and used since the 16th century – people already realized that their consumption brings significant benefits to our bodies. Perhaps somewhat surprising, this mushroom is considered a parasitic growth on tree trunks. Exposed to sunlight, its peculiar form transforms into something resembling dark brown or even black coal. Despite its dark exterior, its interior remains bright orange. It is important to know that only those chaga mushrooms collected from living trees can have beneficial effects on health. These mushrooms can be found almost everywhere birch trees grow, but only in the Northern hemisphere (due to suitable growing temperatures).

What makes this mushroom so special?

Scientists have identified over 200 active substances in chaga, contributing to its powerful nutritional and antioxidant properties. Most people use chaga to:

  • Strengthen the immune system;
  • Reduce feelings and effects of stress;
  • Help combat inflammation;
  • Reduce the number of bacteria in the body;
  • Protect the liver by detoxifying toxins.

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)

Ashwagandha, also known as Indian ginseng or winter cherry, is probably one of the best-known adaptogens that people often start with. Ashwagandha is a root of a plant primarily found in India and North Africa. Extracts or powders from the roots and leaves are used to treat various ailments. You can find the powder of this root in the Relaxation Blend.

 What makes this root so special?

  • Regulates blood sugar levels;
  • Reduces the stress hormone cortisol;
  • Increases testosterone levels and even muscle mass;
  • Helps reduce inflammation;
  • Fights fatigue;
  • Reduces cholesterol and triglyceride levels;
  • Helps improve memory.


Cordyceps is an adaptogenic mushroom that grows on caterpillars and insects, consuming them in the process! Due to its ability to enhance oxygen uptake in red blood cells, the human body receives a significant boost of energy when taking its supplements. That’s why we included cordyceps in blends like For Energy and For Recovery. It’s no secret that athletes use cordyceps to improve their performance!

What makes this fungus so special?

  • As mentioned, it can increase exercise performance;
  • It fights inflammatory processes;
  • It supports heart health;
  • It contributes to blood sugar regulation.

Lion’s Mane (Gericijus)

It is also a mushroom with adaptogenic properties. Its somewhat unusual name (in Lithuanian “liūto karčiai”) may have originated because the mushroom itself, growing on a tree, resembles a lion’s mane. If you feel mentally fatigued or experience issues with attention and concentration related to work or studies, this supplement can become your new best friend. While it can strengthen the immune system, like other adaptogens mentioned, this one is primarily known for supporting brain functions.

What makes this fungus so special?

  • Improves memory;
  • Enhances cognitive functions such as recognition, cognition, and focus;
  • May help protect against various shocks or brain injuries;
  • Additionally, it strengthens the immune system.

Reishi (Reiši)

It can be one of your favorites as it calms the body and strengthens the immune system. Reishi mushroom grows in hot and humid Asian regions, where it is known as the “mushroom of immortality.” Already, in several Daily Spoon blends, you can find reishi mushrooms: Immunity, Relaxation, and Recovery. Like ashwagandha, these mushrooms also reduce cortisol levels and combat fatigue. However, they also have unique properties specific to reishi.

What makes this fungus so special?

  • Strengthens the immune system;
  • Reduces inflammatory processes by fighting oxidative stress in the body;
  • Known as an anti-aging and youth-preserving mushroom;
  • Has beneficial effects on mood regulation and improvement;
  • Aids in combating neurological disorders;
  • Contributes to the well-being of the liver and kidneys.

Maca (Maka)

Maca root, also known as Peruvian ginseng, is found in the Andes of Peru. It is a special root with many health benefits known since ancient times. We have included it in three different blends: Energy, Balance, and Recovery. As this root is grown at high altitudes (in the Andean mountains of South America), it helps ease the effects of high-altitude travel. How? Maca helps counteract the side effects of high altitude by assisting the body in adapting to the climate.

What makes this root so special?

  • Maintains hormone balance in the body;
  • Increases libido;
  • Boosts daily energy levels;
  • Improves memory;
  • Reduces the negative effects of stress;
  • Has beneficial effects on mood regulation and improvement.