Do Adaptogens Really Work? - HONE
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Do Adaptogens Really Work?

  • 9 min read

Do Adaptogens Really Work? - HONE

Adaptogens may be the key to achieving vitality. But many people still wonder—are they the real deal? 

Let’s set the record straight once and for all. 

Article jumplinks:

What are adaptogens?

What are the benefits of adaptogens?

Do adaptogens really work?

Can I take adaptogens every day?

What happens if I take too much?

Adaptogens side effects

Adaptogenic herbs and mushrooms have been used in traditional medicine for centuries. They are known for their ability to help our bodies adapt to stressful situations, restore balance, and promote overall health. 

We combine our favorite adaptogens in one power-drink to help you boost energy and propel your immune system. Order our cordyceps matcha tea and nourish your body with beneficial compounds from our organic matcha and cordyceps mushrooms

Mushroom Matcha - 30 Serving Jar

Let's see whether adaptogens truly live up to their superfood claims.

What Are Adaptogens?

Adaptogens are active ingredients in certain herbs, roots, and mushrooms that help the body cope with stress and boost resilience. These bioactive compounds that come from plants and fungi (also called phytonutrients) can help our bodies adapt and maintain homeostasis in stressful situations. 

According to medical experts at the Cleveland Clinic, plants and fungi must possess three qualities in order to be considered adaptogens:

  • Non-toxic when taken at normal doses
  • Help reduce stress on the body
  • Allow the body to rebalance (reach homeostasis)

How Do Adaptogens Work?

Adaptogens work by affecting our stress responses, more particularly the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. 

Under chronic stress, these systems can become overactive or underactive, which can lead to health conditions like insomnia, fatigue, anxiety, and problems with the digestive tract. By supporting the HPA axis and regulating our neurological system, adaptogens help our body adjust to physical and mental stressors. 

Adaptogens support the adrenal gland’s ability to handle stress. The adrenal gland is an important part of the body’s stress response system. In reaction to stress, it secretes chemicals such as cortisol and adrenaline, which can heighten feelings of stress, anxiety, and mental and physical exhaustion. 

Cortisol plays a crucial role in the body's stress response by regulating various physiological processes, like metabolism, immune function, and inflammation. Elevated levels of cortisol can be associated with chronic stress and its negative effects on health. Adaptogens seem to help keep the levels of stress hormones in check. 

Research on adaptogenic properties of several herbs and mushrooms on cortisol revealed:

The amount of stress hormone produced by the human body increases under external pressure. Adaptogens can increase the effectiveness of adrenal gland secretion, thereby abolishing excess hormone production… Furthermore, adaptogens can increase cellular energy levels and prevent oxidative damages, leading to the maintenance of normal adrenal function.

How Many Adaptogenic Foods Are There?

Many types of plants, herbs, and mushrooms have been recognized for their potential adaptogenic properties. The exact number may vary depending on different sources and classifications, so it’s impossible to put a number on it. 

Here’s a list of several common adaptogenic foods:

  1. Cordyceps mushrooms (Cordyceps militaris)
  2. Matcha
  3. Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)
  4. Rhodiola rosea
  5. Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus)
  6. Five-flavor berry (Schisandra Chinensis)
  7. Holy basil (Ocimum sanctum)
  8. Reishi mushrooms
  9. Lion’s mane mushrooms
  10. American ginseng
  11. Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng)
  12. Licorice root
  13. Maca root

Adaptogens are mainly associated with their stress-protective activity, but many of the adaptogenic superfoods can have other health benefits. Did you know that Cordyceps militaris can help you improve your athletic performance and boost your stamina? 

Don’t miss out on any of the delicious benefits cordyceps mushrooms have to offer

Our mushroom matcha tea comes in the cutest little 10-pack, perfect for bringing it to work or when traveling. When it comes to unwinding and starting your day fresh and energized, our tea is undefeated.

Mushroom Matcha Box - 10 Compostable Packets

Benefits of Adaptogenic Herbs and Mushrooms

Adaptogens provide amazing health benefits and may even help treat some medical conditions. 

Here’s a quick rundown of how adaptogens can improve your health:

  1. Boost the immune system
  2. Improve mental performance
  3. Balance hormone levels
  4. Reduce stress and fatigue
  5. Increase energy 
  6. Improve gastrointestinal system
  7. Fight cancer 

Certain adaptogens, like cordyceps mushrooms and matcha, have powerful anticancer properties. Read more about how adaptogens work to help fight cancer and rebalance the body after cancer treatment. 

Speaking of matcha, did you know matcha contains more caffeine than coffee? That doesn’t mean you’ll experience those unpleasant caffeine-induced side effects, though. Matcha is packed with L-theanine, an amino acid that reduces anxiety and counteracts the jittery effects of caffeine. 

You can order our matcha tea and drink it every morning for a healthy boost of energy and focus. Cordyceps also improves energy levels in a healthy way, making this blend a powerful combination for enhanced vitality. 

Mushroom Matcha - 30 Serving Jar

Do Adaptogens Really Work?

Adaptogens have gained popularity due to their ability to help us cope with stress. Liao, et. al. have found that “adaptogens can affect different tissues and organs, and adjust each of these parts to attain homeostasis.”

The chemicals in plant-originated adaptogens enhance the ability to adapt to external environments and avoid damage. A unique feature of adaptogens is that these substances affect the neuroendocrine system and the cellular energy system. Adaptogens can increase the rates of oxygen, protein, fat and sugar utilization. 

For example, adaptogens play a crucial role in influencing the neuroendocrine system and cellular energy processes. They enhance our ability to adapt to external challenges and promote overall well-being.

Effects of adaptogens on stress.
Effects of adaptogens on stress. Source:

2010 study titled “Effects of Adaptogens on the Central Nervous System and the Molecular Mechanisms Associated with Their Stress-Protective Activity” explained how adaptogens affect hormones and chemicals involved in the body’s stress response, most notably via cortisol and nitric oxide. 

Nitric oxide (NO) is a signaling molecule that plays a role in various physiological processes, such as vasodilation (widening of blood vessels), neurotransmission, and immune function. In excessive amounts, NO can contribute to oxidative stress and inflammation. Adaptogens have been found to modulate the production and activity of NO, promoting its beneficial effects while preventing its excessive release. 

The effects of adaptogens on cortisol and nitric oxide are vital for helping the body adapt to stress, maintain homeostasis, and protect against the negative impact of chronic stress.

Can I Take Adaptogens Every Day?

You can incorporate adaptogens into your daily routine as a safe and effective way to support your body's response to stress, enhance mental clarity, and promote overall well-being. These natural substances work best and provide long-term benefits when taken regularly over time. 

Remember to consult with your healthcare provider before starting any new dietary supplements, as they can provide personalized guidance based on your unique health needs.

Matcha and cordyceps are perfectly safe to take every day. That’s why we’ve blended them together into the most delicious tea. Don’t hesitate to try our heavenly 30-serving jar for a whole month of vibrant energy and nourishment. 

Mushroom Matcha - 30 Serving Jar

What Happens If I Take Too Much Adaptogens?

Taking higher-than-recommended amounts of adaptogens may lead to mild side effects, although they are generally considered safe when used responsibly. 

In some rare cases, excessive intake of adaptogens may cause minimal and temporary effects such as slight fluctuations in heart rhythm, mild digestive discomfort, or temporary restlessness. Adaptogens like cordyceps mushrooms are packed with energy-boosting compounds that may keep you up at night if you take them later in the day. That’s why early morning is the best time to take cordyceps

These effects are typically short-lived and subside on their own.

The majority of individuals who use adaptogens experience no adverse effects when sticking to the recommended dosages. Follow the suggested guidelines and listen to your body's response in order to feel the full potential of adaptogens while minimizing the likelihood of side effects.

Side Effects of Adaptogens

Adaptogens are generally regarded as well-tolerated by most people, and they come with virtually no side effects. They are natural ingredients—roots, spices, herbs, and mushrooms—that have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. 

If you’re a beginner with adaptogenic foods, you may experience:

  • Bloating
  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea

Some people may have an allergic reaction to adaptogens. If you discover any signs of an allergic reaction, discontinue use of the adaptogen immediately and seek medical advice.

Before adding adaptogens to your regimen, as with any supplement, consult with a healthcare provider, especially if you are using medications or have underlying health conditions.

Adaptogens FAQ

How long does it take for adaptogens to work?

The time it takes for adaptogens to work can vary depending on several factors, including the individual's unique physiology, the type of adaptogen, and the reason why you’re taking it. Some individuals may experience noticeable effects relatively quickly. Others may need two or three weeks of regular use. 

Adaptogens typically work in a gentle and gradual manner, supporting the body's natural processes over time rather than providing immediate and dramatic changes. Give adaptogens time (a period of weeks or even months) and a consistent daily intake to fully experience their potential benefits. Patience and consistency are key when incorporating adaptogens into your wellness routine.

What is the dark side of adaptogens?

The "dark side" of adaptogens primarily relates to potential misuse or excessive consumption. Taking adaptogens in excessive amounts beyond recommended dosages may lead to mild side effects such as gastrointestinal disturbances or restlessness. 

Some people may have specific health conditions or sensitivities to particular adaptogens. People allergic to fungi are likely to have allergic reactions to reishi, lion’s mane, and cordyceps mushrooms.

Who should avoid adaptogens?

While adaptogens are generally safe for many individuals, certain groups should exercise caution or consult with a healthcare provider before using them. 

  • Pregnant or breastfeeding women
  • Individuals with specific medical conditions (such as hormone-sensitive conditions, autoimmune disorders, or cardiovascular issues)
  • People taking certain medications 

Do adaptogens increase serotonin?

Adaptogens do affect hormones like cortisol, but their interaction with neurotransmitters like serotonin is not yet well-established. Serotonin is an important neurotransmitter that regulates mood. There is some evidence that particular adaptogens may interact with the serotonergic system, among others, to produce relaxing effects that may potentially help people with anxiety and depression.

…saponins from Rhodiola rosea have been also described as important molecules since they may have potential sedative and hypnotic effects by modulating serotonergic, GABAAergic, and immune systems. (Sánchez, et. al.)

Are adaptogens safe?

Adaptogens are generally considered safe when used responsibly and in the recommended dosages. They have a long history of traditional use, particularly in traditional Chinese medicine. 

Go with high-quality adaptogen supplements from reputable sources and follow the  recommended guidelines. As with any dietary supplement, different people have individual responses and sensitivities to specific adaptogenic herbs and mushrooms. 

Do adaptogens affect hormones?

Adaptogens may be able to help regulate estrogen levels in women, bringing low estrogen up and high estrogen down. They work with the endocrine system to control and balance hormones. When they are out of balance, hormones can affect your health and lead to issues like fatigue, problems with weight management, and mood fluctuations. 

In peri- and postmenopausal women, levels of estrogen fluctuate constantly, causing a wide range of accompanying symptoms, such as hot flashes and mood swings. In one study, reishi mushrooms showed estrogen-like activity and helped regulate hormonal levels in female rats. 

Are adaptogens FDA approved?

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not approve dietary supplements, including adaptogens, for specific health claims or treatments. However, the FDA does regulate the manufacturing, labeling, and distribution practices of dietary supplements to ensure safety and quality. 

Can adaptogens affect blood pressure and blood sugar levels? 

Adaptogens do not typically cause significant fluctuations in blood pressure or blood sugar levels because they have a balancing effect on our bodies. If you have pre-existing hypertension or are taking medications for blood pressure management, consult with your healthcare provider before incorporating adaptogens into your routine. 

For additional information on adaptogens and cardiovascular health, check out our article on the benefits of cordyceps for the heart

You might also be interested in learning how Cordyceps militaris helps regulate blood sugar levels and helps people with diabetes

How many adaptogens are there?

While it is difficult to put an exact number on adaptogens, researchers estimate that there are over 100 adaptogenic herbs identified to date. This is a rough estimate based on the number of different plants and herbs that have been used in herbal medicine and other traditional practices around the world. 

Here are a few more common adaptogenic herbs and mushrooms:

  1. Chaga mushrooms
  2. Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng)
  3. Maca
  4. Amalaki
  5. American ginseng
  6. Turmeric
  7. Goji berries
  8. Licorice root
  9. Shilajit 
  10. Astragalus root
  11. Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)
  12. Rhodiola rosea
  13. Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus)
  14. Five-flavor berry (Schisandra Chinensis)
  15. Holy basil (Ocimum sanctum)


Liao, L. Y., He, Y. F., Li, L., Meng, H., Dong, Y. M., Yi, F., & Xiao, P. G. (2018, November 16).A preliminary review of studies on adaptogens: comparison of their bioactivity in TCM with that of ginseng-like herbs used worldwide. PubMed Central (PMC).

Panossian, A., & Wikman, G. (2010, January 19).Effects of Adaptogens on the Central Nervous System and the Molecular Mechanisms Associated with Their Stress—Protective Activity. PubMed Central (PMC).

Shimizu, K., Miyamoto, I., Liu, J., Konishi, F., Kumamoto, S., & Kondo, R. (2009, February 1).Estrogen-like activity of ethanol extract of Ganoderma lucidum - Journal of Wood Science. SpringerOpen.

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