I am a doctor, patients will not stop asking about these 2 adaptogens

Has this been the secret to living without stress?

In the never-ending quest to fend off feelings of exhaustion, a craze that has taken over the wellness world has ancient roots, literally.

Yes, we were talking about adaptogens, the herbs, roots and plants that are supposed to help our bodies manage stress and restore balance after difficult situations, according to UCLA Health. Many of these potions and pills have been around for thousands of years, but only recently have they become ultra-fashionable.

Adaptogens are really interesting because [theyre] a little vague, but essentially they’re a combination of herbs and roots and other plants, like mushrooms, Dr. Natasha Bhuyan, a primary care provider at One Medical in Phoenix, tells The Post. And the idea is that they are supposed to restore balance to our bodies and help them manage stress. But people in the adaptogen industry say it affects each person differently.

People looking to relieve their stress or gain more energy have turned to adaptogens that don’t have much research to back up their many claims. Getty Images/iStockphoto

These herbs will not cause any harm by definition, adaptogens should be non-toxic at regular doses, but they also may not be the magic mushroom you are looking for. It means you’re just wasting your money on the latest snake oil in the wellness world.

Bhuyan says many patients in her practice seek counseling for anxiety or stress. And there is almost never a silver bullet solution.

When you think about stress, there’s often no underlying cause, Bhuyan explains. Sometimes the stress is definitely emotional or mental health related. Other times the stress can be physical, hormonal [or] influenced by our relationships. What we eat or drink, our sleep patterns, our work situation or economic situation. So if you think about it, how can an adaptogen address all of these underlying factors?

Still, some small studies have shown positive results from taking an adaptogen at least in the short term.

Some people have a benefit. And you have to wonder, is it a placebo effect or does the adaptogen actually play a role in stress regulation? you ask Bhuyan.

Despite shaky evidence, two adaptogens come up again and again in her practice: ginseng and ashwagandha. Before you give them a shot (or swallow), here’s what to know about each one.


Some small studies have shown that ginseng may help with chronic fatigue or improve cognitive function. Getty Images

Used for thousands of years to improve overall health, ginseng is one of the top adaptogens Bhuyan says his patients can’t stop asking about.

Proponents claim it can do everything from lower blood sugar to fight inflammation in the body. Some studies have also shown that ginseng can help relieve stress and improve immune function.

People are looking for ways not to feel tired. People say, ‘Give me a pill, give me something that makes me feel awake and alive,'” says Bhuyan.

As for energy, a small study from nearly a decade ago showed that the root could help people manage chronic fatigue. Another 2018 study showed that Korean ginseng had a positive cognitive effect on people taking memory tests over six months.

In short, more research is needed, but there is some promising evidence for this ancient root.


Ashwagandha can help relieve stress and provide a sense of calm. Getty Images

This ancient plant has been studied several times, but current research says it’s difficult to draw conclusions because most studies have been small and preparations of the plant vary from study to study.

It’s supposed to help reduce anxiety and give people a calming effect, Bhuyan says. And so I have people take it before bed and it helps them sleep. And, you know, if that’s the case, I think that’s fine. But ashwagandha is not the solution to all our stress and anxiety.

After anecdotal reports of melatonin hangover sufferers feeling groggy the morning after taking the popular sleep supplement, it’s no wonder wellness seekers are looking for a different fix.

Like many other adaptogens, no long-term studies have been done on ashwagandha to determine how safe it is. Research says it’s safe for up to three months, but if you’re chronically stressed, ashwagandha may not be able to help.

Before taking these pills

Experts stress the need to deal with underlying stress issues rather than just taking pills to relieve symptoms. Getty Images/iStockphoto

If you have high blood pressure, diabetes, or take medication for depression or a thyroid condition, talk to your doctor before starting to smoke weed, Bhuyan says. Experts also note that you should avoid ashwagandha if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

And while you can try supplements to combat your fatigue and combat your insomnia, Bhuyan stresses that it’s essentially just a Band-Aid solution.

It encourages people to think about the root cause rather than looking for a quick fix with a supplement or pill.

What are the other things we can do to reduce stress, improve sleep and ultimately relieve fatigue? Bhuyan asks. “We can throw supplements and drugs at anything, but we’re actually trying to treat the underlying problem.”

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