It’s safe to say that adaptogens have been having a moment in the wellness world. From yogis to biohackers, adaptogenic herbs and plants have been gaining more and more notoriety the past several years for their healing properties and health benefits. But did you know many of these herbs popularized by Western health and wellness trends actually originated in Asia?
Though commonly found in $20 smoothies and overpriced lattes available across major Western cities, like Los Angeles, Chicago and New York, many popular adaptogens actually originated in Asia. Used for hundreds of years in traditional medicine, adaptogens are a special class of herbal ingredients that aid in regulating the body’s response to everyday physical and emotional stressors. Adaptogens can help your body adapt to stress and anxiety naturally, increase physical stamina, fight off fatigue sans coffee, bring you into a calmer state of mind, and support your immune system and overall health. With benefits like that, it’s no wonder people are hopping on the adaptogen bandwagon!
5 Healing Adaptogens with Origins in Asia
Dang Shen (Codonopsis Pilosula, The Poor Man’s Ginseng)
Dang Shen (Codonopsis Pilosula), also referred to as “the poor man’s ginseng,” helps to eliminate fatigue and mental fog without the overstimulating effects ginseng sometimes produces. Native to central and eastern Asia, the root of this plant has been used as both a food source, as well as herbal medicine in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practices and is often an inexpensive substitute for ginseng. Dang Shen root can be ground into flour, boiled with rice, and used as an ingredient in nourishing soups as well as teas. While it’s primarily known to help fight fatigue, Dang Shen may also help with ailments such as poor appetite, anaemia, and digestive issues like diarrhoea and vomiting.
Reishi (Lingzhi, Queen of Mushrooms)
Sometimes called the “Mushroom of Immortality” of the “Queen of Mushrooms,” Reishi is the perfect starting point for anyone looking to explore the wide world of medicinal mushrooms. This fungus has been recognised in Asian societies as a symbol of health and longevity for thousands of years and is often used as a non-sedative method to support your body’s natural sleep cycles. Reishi, which grows on hardwoods in tropical and subtropical climates, can be hard to come by in the wild. Because of this, much of the Reishi available to consumers is commercially grown and can be purchased as an extract, or in a pill, tablet, powder or dried form. Other benefits of Reishi mushrooms include immune support and stress reduction.
Pearl, specifically, pearl powder, has been used throughout TCM and ayurvedic practices for its beauty benefits and anti-ageing properties as far back as 320 A.D. It can be applied directly to the skin for optimal skin health and radiance or ingested for anti-inflammatory and calming purposes. Pearl powder is also a rich source of essential amino acids, as well as a good source of conchiolin, a protein that promotes healthy collagen production. Available in a capsule or powdered form, Pearl can be taken as a vitamin supplement or mixed into smoothies or soups. It is also a common ingredient in many brightening or illuminating skincare products.
Tulsi (Ocimum Sanctum, Holy Basil)
Tulsi, or “Holy Basil,” is just one of the hundred varietals of basil. But unlike the basil plants many people grow as a culinary addition to their favourite recipes, Tulsi has been grown for spiritual and ayurvedic purposes in most homes in India for thousands of years. Tulsi is a powerful, multi-faceted and antioxidant-rich adaptogen with many benefits, including anti-inflammatory, anti-ageing, anti-bacterial and anti-arthritic properties. It's also been shown to help reduce stress, boost immunity and lower blood pressure and high cholesterol. Tulsi can be grown, harvested and dried at home for use in teas, or it can be purchased as an extract, capsule, dried form.
Ho Shou Wu (Fo-Ti, Chinese Knotweed)
Ho Shou Wu, also known as Fo-Ti, is one of the most utilised herbs in TCM after ginseng. The anti-oxidant rich medication from the root of this herbaceous vine is believed to rejuvenate the body, enhance longevity, increase libido, and may even help treat infertility. Due to Ho Shou Wu’s elaborate preparation process, it’s easiest and safest to source this adaptogen from a herbalist or trusted TCM supplement retailer. Typically, it can be purchased in capsules or powdered forms for consumption in tea or other drinks.