The world can be a stressful place: work, family, relationships, health, education, politics and finances are just some of the common troubles that can keep us up at night. In times of need, consider turning to the kitchen – not to emotionally eat your way through a pint of dairy-free ice cream or a batch of grain-free cookies, but to draw on the pool of amazing herbs that we can use as culinary adaptogens.
What are Adaptogens?
Adaptogens are plants that help our bodies adapt to mental, physical and emotional stress. They bring our bodies back into balance, supporting the adrenal glands (tiny glands that make our stress and sex hormones) and often improving the central nervous system, mood, energy and cognition.
While you can purchase adaptogens in capsules, we like to incorporate them into the kitchen to reap the health benefits. Some of the ways you can make and use culinary adaptogens are:
- Tinctures. Steep the herbs in alcohol, which you can then take on its own or incorporate into beverages. Learn how to make a tincture here.
- Teas. Steep the leaves in hot water and sip plain, or add dairy-free milk and your favourite natural sweetener.
- Elixirs. These sweet drinks with a function are the perfect vehicles for adaptogenic herbs. Discover 20 amazing dairy-free elixir recipes to get you started.
- Smoothies. Adaptogens, powders and superfoods can always find a home in your blended smoothies.
- Nut + seed milks. Amp up your nut milk game by blending adaptogens into the mix.
- Treats + snacks. Take your baked goodies, granola bars or chia pudding to the next level with adaptogens.
- Soups + stews. Culinary adaptogens don’t always need to be used in a sweet context! Try them in savory recipes like soups and stews for a warm, stress-relieving meal.
And now, let’s talk specifics: these are some of our favourite adaptogens and how you can use them!
Maca root grows on the Andes mountains in Peru. It thrives in a harsh climate, and maca’s resiliences helps us become hardy and strong, too. Maca can help relieve stress, boost energy levels, balance hormones and increase your sex drive.
How to Use It: Maca has a malt-like flavour and works well in smoothies, elixirs, muffins, granola and homemade chocolate. You can also sprinkle it on cereal, dairy-free yogurt, or chia pudding.
Known as the queen of the mushroom world, reishi mushrooms soothe and calm the nervous system. They contain immune-modulating compounds called beta-glucans that help boost the immune system or dial it down as needed, and they have anti-cancer, liver-protective and blood sugar-balancing properties.
How to Use It: If you can find whole reishi mushrooms, you can boil them to extract the beneficial properties. Strain and drink as a tea, use it as a base for soups, or chill the liquid to use in smoothies.
Powdered reishi can be incorporated into warm and cold drinks, ice cream, cereal + porridge, chocolate recipes, or used in raw desserts.
Chaga is the king of mushrooms and like reishi, it’s a powerful immune-booster that has anti-cancer and anti-oxidant properties.
How to Use It: You can use chaga like reishi above.
Panax or Asian Ginseng
How to Use It: We prefer drinking ginseng in tea or using it in soups.
How to Use It: Drink powered ashwagandha as a tea, add it to your smoothies or pair it with chocolate. It also makes a lovely beverage when mixed with plant-based milk, honey, ghee or coconut oil, cardamom and cinnamon.
Image: iStock/Vladislav Nosick
How to Use It: Blend rhodiola into smoothies, smoothie bowls and elixirs.
This sweet herb can raise blood pressure, support those with adrenal fatigue and aid digestion. It has anti-viral and anti-microbial properties, too.
How to Use It: Like other adaptogens, licorice makes a wonderful tea and can be used in smoothies and elixirs. You can make your own licorice candy, blend it into mashed sweet potatoes, or add it to the braising liquid of meat dishes.
The best thing about adaptogens is they don’t just target one part of you – they have multiple, widespread benefits for the entire body. Start experimenting with adaptogens in your kitchen and let us know which ones are your faves!
Need some adaptogen recipe inspiration? Try out a few of these beauties!
- 2 ripe avocados
- ⅓ cup nut or seed milk of choice
- ¼ cup raw cacao powder
- ¼ cup maple syrup
- 1 heaping Tbsp chaga powder
- Add all ingredients to a food processor or blender and blend until silky smooth. Adjust sweetener to taste.
- Chill in the fridge for at least an hour before serving.
- 1 cup of spinach (or another leafy green - kale, romaine, arugula, etc.)
- ¾ cup water or nut/seed milk of choice
- ¾ cup frozen blueberries
- 2 Tbsp hemp seeds
- 1 tsp maca
- ¼ tsp cinnamon
- Add all ingredients to the blender and blend until smooth
Header image: iStock/marilyna