Adaptogens & Your Health

Herbs have been used for thousands of years for a variety of health concerns, and a special class of them, called adaptogens, are particularly useful for helping calm the body’s stress response, balance hormones, give us energy and more.

Pharmaca offers a variety of formulas that blend adaptogens for specific purposes, in addition to individual herbs that can meet different health needs. We spoke with Jessica, an herbalist at Pharmaca in Carlsbad, about her favorite adaptogens and how they work.

“The good thing about adaptogens is they’re not going to throw your body off balance,” says Jessica. Many people see results from adaptogens that can help them feel more calm and less stressed in just a day, but give yourself up to two weeks to feel the effects before trying something new. And unlike prescription anxiety or stress medications, you can use them as needed, she says, without needing to taper them.

But not all adaptogens work the same for all people—that’s why she recommends starting with a low dose of a single herb to see how your body reacts, she says.

  • Ashwagandha
    “This herb is one of the most popular adaptogens amongst both men and women,” says Jessica. Ashwagandha is great for energy, can help treat stress and anxiety, boost cognitive function and build muscle. A clinically studied form of ashwagandha, KSM-66, can be found in formulas from Nutrigold, Garden of Life and Jarrow Formulas. Because it can give you energy, Jessica says, it’s best to take in the morning and at lunchtime.
  • Maca
    Maca works well for hormone balance and also for boosting energy, says Jessica, and can be especially useful for women of all ages managing PMS, stress, menopause, thyroid issues and more. Bonus: “When we’re supporting hormones, we’re also supporting bone and heart health,” says Jessica. She likes the Femmenessence line, which has multiple clinical studies behind it, so it’s one she recommends to customers with confidence.
  • Rhodiola
    “This herb is more on the lighter side, but can reduce cortisol levels (which can help with managing weight gain), and increase serotonin and support dopamine receptors (helping to boost mood and sleep),” says Jessica. Try single herbs from Pharmaca, Gaia Herbs or Herb Pharm.
  • Jessica notes that there a variety of other supplements that can help calm the body’s stress response, including medicinal mushrooms (e.g. cordyceps—also an adaptogen—which is great for boosting energy) and magnesium. “Just 400 mg helps regulate blood sugar, works as an electrolyte and calms muscles!”