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From Turmeric to Ginseng: Demystifying the Wellness Trend of Adaptogens

by Voices Wellness 28 Jun 2021
Photo: Unsplash

Supplements to boost your mental wellbeing? Here’s a quick guide to adaptogens and what they can do for your body and mind.  By SAMANTHA FRANCIS.

The ever-changing wellness landscape has seen all sorts of fads, from juice cleanses to ketogenic diets. With increased stress levels brought on by the ongoing pandemic, it’s no surprise that more of us are seeking alternative methods to ease mental anxiety and promote a better sense of wellbeing. Aside from regular exercise and a healthy diet, some are turning to adaptogens—plant-based medicine believed to boost the immune system and relieve stress.

Those in Asia will likely be no stranger to traditional adaptogens such as turmeric and ginseng. The former is believed to improve brain function and reduce depression, while the latter aids working memory, reaction time, and encourages calmness. In short, adaptogens, as its name suggests, helps the body and mind to adapt to both short- and long-term physical and mental stress. Overall, they can amplify immunity and wellbeing. Research has shown that adaptogens offer a host of benefits like enhancing mental performance, easing anxiety, and combat fatigue.

Photo: Vitable

Here’s how they work. When facing stressful moments, our bodies undergo general adaptation syndrome, a three-stage response inclusive of alarm, resistance, and exhaustion. What adaptogens do is help us remain in the resistance phase for a little longer, thanks to a stimulating effect that keeps exhaustion at bay. This then allows us to cope better with the stressor at hand.

On social media, you might’ve seen adaptogens consumed in many ways, whether mixed into smoothies and protein shakes or swallowed like pills. Some buzz-worthy brands include Moon Juice, which offers a line-up of supplements made with potent and sustainable ingredients to boost energy levels and support your body, as well as Vitable, an Aussie-based company that offers customised subscriptions of vitamins and adaptogens backed by nutritionists.

Photo: Moon Juice

Some commonly used adaptogens include the following:

Goji berry

Also known as wolfberries, these berries have traditionally been used for medicinal purposes in China for ailments related to the kidney, eye, and liver. As a good source of antioxidants, it helps to boost the immune system and maintain blood sugar.


Packed with compounds ginsenosides and gintonin, ginseng is a powerful adaptogen known for its anti-inflammatory properties and ability to improve brain function. Ginseng can boost energy and decrease fatigue for those who tend to feel lethargic often.

Raw cacao

Not to be mistaken for cocoa, raw cacao is an unprocessed chocolate superfood that offers health benefits like balancing mood swings, improving digestion, and combating fatigue. Believed to have been first used by the Maya civilisation, it’s now a common ingredient in plant-based diets.

Reishi mushroom

One of the most popular adaptogenic mushrooms, reishi mushrooms help to support the function of the adrenal glands by secreting cortisol—a hormone that helps our body with the stress response. It has also been attributed to lower blood sugar levels. 


A valued fungus in Traditional Chinese Medicine, cordyceps have been used to cure inflammation for centuries. Rich in antioxidants, it’s believed to help athletic performance and manage diabetes.


High in flavonoids, turmeric is known for its ability to nourish the body by reducing inflammation, protecting the liver, and improving blood circulation. Plus, it’s said to help boost brain function.

Disclaimer: We highly recommend seeing a medical professional before consuming any of these mentioned adaptogens.

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