Yes, I’m hooking you with the lure of glowing skin but adaptogen tea offers so much more than a boost to your appearance. There’s a reason why adaptogens have been getting their time in the spotlight, especially over the past couple of years.
Getting an adaptogenic boost is as simple as making an adaptogen tea, adding a concentrated herbal tincture to your drinks, or adding powdered herbs to your smoothies. Below I’m sharing five of my favorite adaptogen tea blends, plus recipes so you can make three of these at home. But first, here’s a 411 on what adaptogens are and how they support our health and even appearance.
What Adaptogens Are
Adaptogens are a class of plants (herbs and mushrooms) that help our body adjust to physical, chemical, or biological stressors. There are more than 70 different types of adaptogens, many of which have been used in Eastern Healing practices for centuries (Note: we’ve listed the most common adaptogens here). The term adaptogen was coined in the 1940’s when Nikolai V Lazarev of Russia named them from the Latin word ‘adaptare’, meaning ‘to adjust’.
An adaptogen is a substance that is defined as having three characteristics. These include: lack of toxicity, non-specific action, and a normalising action on the body. Adaptogens by definition are safe for long term use, and act as ‘tonics’, which act to strengthen and ‘tonify’ our biological system. They also increase resistance against multiple stressors by balancing the production of cortisol, our stress hormone, which helps us adapt to our changing environment. In other words, they help bring the body into a state of balance, or homeostasis.
The Right Adaptogen for the Job
WIth so many adaptogens to choose from (see our list of the most powerful adaptogens for energy here) the best place to start, is to identify areas where your body might need more support. We all cope differently with stress- and with life- and the following plants, which can be easily used in an adaptogen tea, can be a valuable support to our daily diet, particularly in times of change or uncertainty.
Getting that glow! Adaptogens that improve your hair, skin and nails. Antioxidants from herbs abound and are the most useful quality for improving your healthy glow. Turmeric, Moringa, Nettles, Oatstraw, Raspberry and Dandelion Leaf are packed with antioxidants that make you glow. Amla (Phyllanthus emblica) which is known to have 20 times more vitamin C than oranges is also great for enhancing hair growth and pigmentation, whereas Astragalus may be the best for skin disorders like burns or small tumours. He shou wu (Reynoutria multiflora) can diminish hair loss, and holy basil contains ursolic assic – one of the herbs that impvoes skin elasticity and reduces wrinkles. Hallelujah! Shatavari can be applied topically for sores and also helps improve skin tone and lustre.
Adaptogens that improve your sleep. Relaxing nervines can be the key to a good night’s rest after a busy day, encouraging the body to let down, digest, and unwind. Ashwaganda (Withania somnifera) can help with challenges such as anxiety, fatigue, and insomnia, and is also supportive of the endocrine system – offering a gentle boost to an underactive thyroid, and nourishing the adrenal glands. Other herbs like Skullcap (Scuttellaria lateriflora), Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata), Lemonbalm (Melissa officionalis), Chamomile (Matricaria lateriflora) and Hops (Humulus lupulus) can give a hypnotic effect, allowing for a deeper sleep and improved overall rest.
Adaptogens that improve your mood. Lightening up can be as simple as taking the time for tea. Adding herbs like Rhodiola (Rholdiola rosea), Schizandra, Siberian Ginseng, Damiana, and Lemonbalm, can work together to lift the spirits. Stronger herbs like St. John’s Wort can also be used, but should be taken consistently to garner consistent results.
Adaptogens that improve your mental focus. Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum) and Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica) both belong to a class of plants called nootropics which translated from Greek means ‘acting on the mind”. These adaptogens can help with forgetfulness, mental clarity, focus and concentration.
Adaptogens that support immune function. Ashwaganda (Withania somnifera) is immune modulating, so it can balance out immune responses in the case of hypo or hyper-immune function. Ganoderma spp and Eleuthero can also be used as modulators, but also can have a stimulating effect on the immune system, so are useful at the first signs of a cold or flu. Astragalus on the other hand is best used preventatively, so you might want to skip it if you’re already sick.
Adaptogens that boost energy and stamina. Ashwaganda, Eleuthero, Gotu Kola, American ginseng can be used in cases of fatigue or for restlessness as they help to balance the body’s production of cortisol.
Adaptogens that support women and men’s health. Ashwaganda (Withania somnifera) is rich in iron, which can help women who lean toward anemia due to heavy bleeding. Aprodesiac herbs can also boost libido and Eleuthero, Schizandra, Shatavari, Maca and Damiana can enhance sexual drive. Endocrine function is also enhance by plants.
With Adaptogens, Quality Matters
The key with any of the above is to know that not all adaptogens are created equally and the way a herb is grown, harvested, and the part of it used (flower, root, stem) gives each adaptogen it’s unique potency or lack thereof. Not all products are created equally, either. When you source a plant-based product it’s important to check that all of the ingredients are things you recognize. Note: powders may not last as long as the dried cut/sifted herb simply because they have more of the surface area exposed, whereas tinctures have the longest shelf life due to the fact that they preserve the plant constituents in alcohol. In general, using the actual dried herb, flower, or mushroom vs. powder always makes the adaptogen more powerful.
Five Adaptogen Tea Blends We Love
Voila, here are five of my favorite ways to drink adaptogen tea! These adaptogen blends are made by simply combining plants together to enhance their potency. Each offers a specific boost for your system, helping reduce stress, boost feelings of vitality, connect you with your intuition and give you a healthy glow. Big promises, I know. When it comes to finding benefits from any herbal infusions or decoctions, the best way to use them is frequently – up to three times a day!
How to make a decoction
If you’re interested in extracting roots, you’ll need to boil your tea in what herbalists refer to as a decoction. This way more of the constituents are extracted from the plant. Add the roots to cold water, and bring slowly to a boil for 10-15 minutes, then simmer for another 5 minutes. Adding some milk or honey can turn any strong decoction into a creamy and delicious treat, and by adding a fat you boost absorption of the plant.
Steeping adaptogen tea
Leaves and flowers can easily be infused and made into tea simply by adding hot water. Pour the hot water over the plant combination, and allow it to sit for 10-15 minutes before consuming.
And if you don’t want to make your own teas, here are two adaptogen tea blends that I drink all the time! Both can be ordered online
- Golden Immunitea – with Turkey Tail, Astragalus, Ashwagandha, Fenugreek + more.
- Chaga Chai – with Chaga mushrooms, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Fennel + more.
The following three recipes come from Susan Horning at Unity Herbals.
TULSI ROSE ADAPTOGEN TEA
- 20g Tulsi Vana
- 20g Tulsi Krishna
- 20g Tulsi Rama
- 20g Rose Petals
- 10g Chamomile Flowers
- 10g Dried Raspberry Fruit
Directions: Infuse 1 tbsp per cup, steep 10-15 minutes
MIDNIGHT MILK DECOCTION
- 1 /4 cup powdered ashwagandha
- 1 /4 cup powdered schisandra berries
- 1 cup powdered rose petals
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Directions: Blend together all the ingredients and store in an airtight container in the pantry until you are ready to use.
- In a small saucepan, heat 1 cup of your milk of choice until warm. Be careful not to scald or cook the milk.
- Pour the milk into a mug, and stir in 1 /4 –1 teaspoon of Midnight Milk Powder (as desired).
- Sweeten with a little honey, and drink in the evening or as part of a bedtime snack.
SANDMAN’S RESERVE ELIXIR
- 2 tablespoons powdered ashwagandha
- 1 tablespoon powdered rose petals
- 1 tablespoon powdered skullcap
- 1 /2 tablespoon powdered chamomile
- 1 /2 tablespoon powdered linden leaves and flowers
- 5 ounces brandy
- 4–5 ounces honey”
- Combine the ashwagandha, rose petal, skullcap, chamomile, and linden powders in a clean, dry glass canning jar. You can stir them or blend them together if you like, but you will be shaking the jar once you add the brandy, so it isn’t necessary.
- Pour the brandy on top of the herbs, and place the lid on the jar.
- Shake gently to combine, and allow to infuse for at least 2 weeks in a cool, dark cupboard.
- Check the jar with the herbs and brandy daily to make sure that the herbs stay submerged in the alcohol. Add more brandy if needed to keep the herbs submerged.
- At the end of 2 weeks, filter the herbs from the brandy and measure the extract to determine how much you have. It should be around 4 ounces, but this can vary based on how much alcohol the herbs absorbed and how much alcohol was left in the herbs when you strained them. Add an equal amount of honey, and stir gently until the honey and extract are combined.
- Transfer the elixir to a clean, amber glass bottle with cap, and make sure to label and date your creation. Most elixirs will be shelf stable at room temperature for at least a year, thanks to the preservative powers of the honey and the brandy.”
The key to using plant medicine effectively is to treat your symptoms regularly. For example, if you’re feeling extra stressed, or dealing with inflammation, take the Anti-Inflammation tea daily for at least two weeks and then gauge how it affects and supports your own system and your body.
Although adaptogens are a very safe and non-toxic class of plants, they can have some synergistic or antagonistic effects to certain medications. It’s always best to consult a qualified health care practitioner to determine the correct use and dosage for you.
- Barnes, Anderson, and Phillipson, Herbal Medicines.
- Noveilee, Agatha, The Complete Guide to Adaptogens.
- Winston, David and Maimes, Steven, Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief. Healing Arts Press, 2007.
Written by Herbalist, and Unity Herbals Founder, Sue Horning.