All About Adaptogens

Adaptogens are a buzzword in the health and wellness space, but what actually are they? And how can they help your body and mind adapt to stress?

All About Adaptogens from Wile, colored plant powders arranged in a circle on wooden spoons

Nature’s Way of Restoring Balance

Adaptogens are compounds occurring in plants or fungi—we’re talking mushrooms, which technically are not plants—that help your body and mind adapt to stress. In order for a plant to qualify as adaptogenic it must fulfill 3 criteria:

  1. Non-toxic - all adaptogens are non-toxic when consumed in reasonable doses. 
  2. Promote stress resilience - all adaptogens are effective in reducing stress and helping your body and brain handle stressful situations, because they regulate molecules, proteins, and hormones that mediate stress responses in your brain and body. Think of adaptogens as your steady in the storm. 
  3. Promote balance - adaptogens are neither stimulants nor depressants. They can do both! While stimulants like caffeine have purely energy-enhancing effects on most people and calming agents like lavender work across the board to slow down the sympathetic nervous system, adaptogens can do either. 

So that’s what all the fuss is about. 

Key Benefits of Adaptogens

Not all adaptogenic plants and fungi are the same or have the same superpowers. In general, however, adaptogens can increase energy and decrease burnout, which is great news for this life phase in which many of us feel “Is That All There is?” on repeat. 

Here are some more general benefits of adaptogens:

Anti-fatigue - adaptogens can help protect against physical, mental, and emotional fatigue. And really, where does one end and the next begin?  

Exhaustion has been reported by more than 85% of women taking our Wile quiz. By increasing mental and physical stamina, adaptogens protect against the wear-out and reduce burnout.

Anti-anxiousness - because adaptogens work to create equilibrium in your body and brain, they can dial you down as well as lift you up. If your cortisol levels are too high and you’re in the spin, they can counteract the cortisol spike and calm you down. Adaptogens can help maintain a good level of hormones and chemicals to promote feelings of calm and well-being without leaving you feeling sleepy, dulled or sedated.

Decrease occasional depression - American midlife and older women are the #1 market for antidepressants on earth. By relieving stress and fatigue, adaptogens can relieve occasional symptoms of depression. Adaptogens can also complement standard depression treatment with antidepressant medication by decreasing side effects and improving the efficacy of the medication.

Nootropic - nootropic compounds are substances that promote brain health and mental capacity. As that brain fog rolls in—where was that one thing again?—this can be essential. Thankfully, adaptogens have nootropic qualities and can increase your capacity to complete difficult mental tasks, especially under stress. Uh, yes please. 

Nervous-system stimulating - adaptogens can stimulate the central nervous system without the negative side effects associated with some stimulants and without becoming addictive.

The History of Adaptogens

Adaptogens, like many other parts of science and medicine, have a long, rich history of indigenous use. While adaptogenic plants and fungi have been used by various cultures for millennia, Western science surrounding adaptogens has its roots in World War II. 

Soviet scientists wanted to develop a pill that could enhance energy and performance in pilots and submarine crews, and they recognized that the Nanai people ate Schisandra chinensis (also known as five flavor berry) to improve their stamina and skill as hunters. Since then, scientists have carried out thousands of studies on adaptogens to figure out how and why they’re effective.

Adaptogenic Wile Products

Things to Know about Adaptogens:

Some adaptogens may interact with medications or not be safe for every person in every circumstance. Check in with your doctor before taking adaptogens, especially if you take other medications or are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Clinical Research Sources

Image Credit: Emma-Jane Hobden via Unsplash


This article is intended for informational purposes and is not intended to replace a one-on-one medical consultation with a professional. Wile, Inc researches and shares information and advice from our own research and advisors. We encourage every woman to research, ask questions and speak to a trusted health care professional to make her own best decisions.
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