Your Guide to Culinary Adaptogens

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

Maca Root - Guide to Adaptogens

Image: iStock/marekuliasz 

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.


Reishi

Guide to Adaptogens - Reishi

Image: iStock/ukjent

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

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

Ginseng - Guide to Adaptogens

Image: iStock/myistock88 

Ginseng is a wonderful herb that can improve our mental and physical performance, reduce fatigue and relieve stress. It also helps to boost the immune system and has antioxidant properties.

How to Use It: We prefer drinking ginseng in tea or using it in soups.


Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha, an Ayurvedic herb, is used to relieve stress, calm the mind, boost energy levels and reduce inflammation. It can also support the thyroid and suppress tumor growth.

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.


Rhodiola

Rhodiola - Guide to Adaptogens

Image: iStock/Vladislav Nosick 

This adaptogen is a fantastic one to use for increasing mental and physical energy. Rhodiola can also help reduce stress and anxiety and may benefit depression and mood disorders.

How to Use It: Blend rhodiola into smoothies, smoothie bowls and elixirs.


Licorice Root

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!

Your Guide To Culinary Adaptogens

Need some adaptogen recipe inspiration? Try out a few of these beauties!

Chocolate Chaga Mousse

Prep time: 

Total time: 

Serves: 4

A super fudgy, dairy-free chocolate mousse packed with superfoods.
Ingredients
  • 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
Instructions
  1. Add all ingredients to a food processor or blender and blend until silky smooth. Adjust sweetener to taste.
  2. Chill in the fridge for at least an hour before serving.

Fruity Maca Green Smoothie

Prep time: 

Total time: 

Serves: 1

Start off your day with a boost of maca-mazing energy and flavour.
Ingredients
  • 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
Instructions
  1. Add all ingredients to the blender and blend until smooth

 

Header image: iStock/marilyna

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4 responses to “Your Guide to Culinary Adaptogens

  1. Denise February 8, 2018

    Fantastic,
    I have one question please
    What can one do with chronic insomnia ?
    What herbs , tinctures etc would really benefit
    Many thanks
    Denise

    1. Academy of Culinary Nutrition February 12, 2018

      Hi Denise. Check out this post: https://www.culinarynutrition.com/20-healing-herbs-for-tea/. It has a few suggestions for herbs that are calming and soothing. We also have a post coming up very soon on foods for sleep – so stay tuned.

  2. Rosa March 11, 2018

    Hi! Great info! I like the effects of rhodiola and ashwagandha but not the taste of them. If I am cooking with it, is it better to use the powder (from a capsule), or extract to avoid the taste? I want to use the same effective dosage in each serving. Thanks!

    1. Hi Rosa. It depends on the strength of the herbs you are taking, but you could use either. Smoothies and elixirs are pretty great at hiding herbs, so that could be the recipes you start experimenting with. Also, if you don’t like the taste, you could keep taking the capsules and experiment with other herbs you enjoy in a culinary context. It’s OK not to like everything!

Let us know what you think!

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