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The Ultimate Guide to Adaptogens, the Buzzy Wellness Trend You’re About to See Everywhere

Being healthy is trendier than ever. And while we’re not one to blindly follow fads (looking at you, intermittent fasting), lately we’ve been seeing adaptogens popping up everywhere—from our favorite juice bars to our Instagram feed. (And OK, we’re curious.) Here’s everything you need to know about these so-called super herbs.

What Are Adaptogens, Anyway?

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Adaptogens are a special group of herbs, mushrooms and roots that are taken over a long period of time in order to help your body cope with physical and mental stress. The name comes from their supposed ability to “adapt” their function, depending on what the body needs. And while you may have only started hearing about them recently, adaptogens have actually been used for hundreds of years in in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine. Find out more about these special plants here.

Health Benefits

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Adaptogens are thought to provide a host of health benefits, and scientists all over the world are studying the herbs’ ability to boost energy levels, balance hormones and soothe inflammation. Different adaptogens can help your body cope with different ailments—here are four of the most popular adaptogens and how to use them.

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Looking to chill out? Pronounced ash-wa-gone-duh, this woody shrub has been shown to reduce cortisol levels (aka “the stress hormone”) and reduce anxiety. The most common way to take ashwagandha is in powder form, but it tastes slightly bitter, so you’ll definitely want to mix it up with other ingredients. (Don’t worry, we’ve got some great recipes below.)

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This adaptogenic herb (also known as “golden root”) is grown in the arctic areas of Eastern Europe and Asia, and is known for its fatigue-fighting effects and ability to boost mental performance. Taken in capsule or tablet form, one Swedish study found that it increased the ability to concentrate while another study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that it improved endurance.

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You may already have come across this Peruvian root vegetable—maca powder can be found in most health sections of the grocery store and in any juice bar worth its greens. Its purported list of benefits includes energy boosting, hormone balancing and libido-revving (yep, really). While there is some evidence to back these claims up, what we do know is that maca’s nutty, butterscotch-esque taste makes it a delicious addition to any smoothie, oatmeal or yogurt.

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Looking to knock a couple minutes off your running PB? This funky mushroom (it’s called this because it, um, grows on the backs of caterpillars) could help boost your endurance and stamina by reducing the amount of oxygen the body needs when exercising, nutritionist Lorraine Kearney tells us. There’s also some evidence that this functional mushroom has anti-inflammatory effects. These mushrooms grow in the mountain regions of China, but there’s no need to trek there to try them—you can find cordyceps tablets at vitamin stores.

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Beauty Tricks

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Anyone who’s ever had a huge zit emerge on the day of a big work presentation knows that stress can be pretty terrible for your complexion. Which is why many brands are turning to adaptogenic ingredients to even out discoloration, protect skin from the elements and add hydration from head to toe. From moisturizers to shampoo, here are the adaptogen-infused beauty products to get on your radar.

How to Cook with Adaptogens

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Adaptogens come in many different forms, including pills, powders and tinctures. And while many can be taken on their own, we think that the most delicious way to try them is to incorporate them into some seriously beautiful recipes.

Heart Beet Kitchen

Pink Moon Milk

This bedtime drink made with soothing ashwagandha gets its gorgeous color from cherry juice (a known sleep aid).

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Local Milk Blog

Coconut Cacao Bliss Balls

These delightful bites are loaded with nutritious ingredients—including the adaptogenic mushroom reishi—so you shouldn’t feel bad about eating two (or three).

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Sweet Potato Maca Soup

Next time a blustery day comes along, balance your hormones and warm up with a bowl of this creamy soup.

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Where to Buy Them

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PureWow Coterie member Lauryn Evarts (the boss woman behind popular website The Skinny Confidential) loves to get her adaptogens from Los Angeles shop Moon Juice, which also has an extensive online shop. Sun Potion is another popular online destination for adaptogens.

Before You Try…

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Adaptogens are generally considered to be safe, nutritionist Chelsea Williams tells us. But you should always check with a doctor before adding them into your diet, as some can interact negatively with certain medications and conditions.