Adaptogenic Teas – The Stress busting brew!
Everybody loves a good cup of soothing tea to relieve stress and often, we see tea lovers clutching their travel mugs in rush hour commutes or in professional environments as they battle to cope with rather high-pressured arenas. A lot has been said about herbal teas and their ability to soothe like chamomile or lavender or green tea. This is because they contain a source of L-theanine, an amino acid that is said to provide a calming effect.
In recent times, there has been a pivot towards some teas that are found to be better at relieving stress – adaptogen teas, to be precise.
So, what are adaptogens?
Adaptogens are a class of plants that are thought to fight stress and balance the body. Adaptogens have been used for centuries in a variety of cultures, from Chinese to Indian, Russian and Scandinavian - they are completely natural and are an essential part of traditional medicines.
It was coined by Soviet toxicologist N. V. Lazarev in 1947 to describe a substance with “non-specific” resistance to adverse influences like stress. In a nutshell, adaptogens help to reduce stress and bring back balance to the adrenal system. They are also known to boost the immune system and come with other wellness properties. When taken internally as adaptogen teas, they are said to “adapt” to your body’s particular needs.
Some adaptogens are commonly found in Ayurveda, a medical system that originated in India over 3,000 years ago, though not all adaptogens are ayurvedic. While many plants may show some adoptogenic activity, there are only a few of that are the real deal. There are accounts of adaptogen herbs being used widely in ancient Chinese medicine as well.
The most important adaptogenic plants are Schisandra, Rhodiola, Siberian ginseng, Asian Ginseng, Ashwagandha and Tulsi.
Best Adaptogen Teas
Two adaptogens from India: Tulsi (also known Holy Basil) and Ashwagandha have been widely used in Ayurvedic medicine in India for thousands of years – and today, they are gaining quite a following globally.
Tulsi (Holy Basil), is considered one of India’s most powerful herbs, and is revered in Ayurveda. It has been referred to as the “The Queen of Herbs” or “The Elixir of Life” because of its powerful wellness properties. Tulsi is a member of the mint family, but it doesn’t really taste like mint. It’s known to soothe the nerves and stomach, protect against colds while supporting the immune system and releasing stress.
Ashwagandha, usually comes in a powdered form comes from the root of the same plant (botanical name: Withania somnifera) and is referred to as Indian ginseng. This restorative herb is quite popular all over India and is packed with some powerful wellness properties. In Sanskrit, Ashwagandha loosely translated means “the smell of a horse.”… (in Sanskrit, - ashwa means horse and – gandha means smell) - no, don’t wrinkle your nose!
It doesn’t actually smell like a horse but means - ‘to give you the vigor and strength of a stallion’. It said to boost your immunity, energize and protect your health – hence, the stallion reference. Ashwagandha tea has a bold earthy flavor and its unique flavor can be mellowed with the addition of milk, spices, honey, and cardamom. It’s been thought this herb boosts fertility, is great stress reliver and has anti-inflammatory properties which also protects overall health.
Now, it’s always important to consult a medical professional for advice and guidance before consuming any herbal blends of any sort, including teas if you are pregnant or suffer from any ongoing illnesses.
Now, there are other adaptogen teas – what we prefer to call “true adaptogens’, besides Ashwagandha and Tulsi.
Ginseng, being one of them is said to have an energizing effect and this herb has been known to be used in China as an aphrodisiac for more than 2,000 years. How interesting!
Maca root is another adaptogen herb, a native of the Andes mountains of Peru – historical accounts seem to suggest that Inca warriors consumed it before they went to battle. This ancient herbal energizer is also known for its libido-boosting properties and hormone-balancing effects, especially in times of significant stress. Battle is stressful, I believe, so quite plausible that Inca warriors would want to have it.
Chaga mushroom is a fungus, yes, it is a fungus – all mushrooms are mostly fungi and this one is found all over the Northern hemisphere. It mostly grows on birch trees and has been used in traditional, folk medicine for thousands of years. It’s also rich in antioxidants and is believed to reduce fatigue, boost mental sharpness and increase energy levels.
Then, there is the Reishi mushroom, one of the best known adaptogens that has been in use for more than 2,000 years by – you guessed it - traditional Chinese healers. It is rich in antioxidants, could help protect against cell damage and enhance immunity. It is said that Chinese monks imbibed it to nourish the spirit and boost immunity – some historical accounts alluded to it as a “immortality tea”!
Well, there you have it! Obviously, all of these adaptogenic herbs come in various tea blends with complimentary herbs that enhance their taste. While the taste may need a little getting used to or be outright acquired – one cannot escape its popularity. Today most adaptogenic teas are blended with complimentary herbs by tea mixologists to give you maximum benefits with a truly appealing taste.
**Always consult a qualified medical professional before consuming any herbal blends if you are pregnant or suffering from ongoing illnesses or serious medical conditions.