Feeling Foggy? Try These Brain-Boosting Adaptogens
Written by: Kavata Kithome
Adaptogens have been well-loved for hundreds of years, thanks to the way they can support the immune system and physical stamina, but their influence over the mind and mental abilities is just as legendary. As a health coach, they’re one of my favorite things to study.
Most adaptogens offer support for the mind, but the kind of support varies from one adaptogen to another. Adaptogens can calm or stimulate the central nervous system or sometimes do both simultaneously, as seems to be the case with schisandra, for example. They can have a positive influence on memory, focus and learning, or on the amount and quality of mental work we are able to complete.
Although taking too much of certain adaptogens can leave you feeling jittery and out of sorts, the following eight adaptogens are less likely to leave you feeling overstimulated. This makes them good choices if you are already feeling tense from a noisy, distracting environment, coping with stressful events that leave you feeling wired, or struggling with that scattered feeling that can come from overwork.
Top 8 Essential Adaptogens:
1. Schisandra (Schisandra Chinensis)
If you hold a dried schisandra berry in your mouth for a few minutes, you will quickly realize that different parts of the fruit have different flavors. The peel is sweet, sour and a little salty, but when you bite into the seeds you will unleash the bitter and pungent tastes.
Although schisandra is generally considered a calming adaptogen, it actually has a double effect on the nervous system. Besides being calming and helping to soothe anxious feelings, it also enhances reflexes and concentration.
2. Jiaogulan (Gynostemma Pentaphyllum)
Jiaogulan and ginseng share some of the same properties, thanks to similarities in chemical makeup, but jiaogulan tends to have a more calming, focusing influence on the nervous system and is also less directly stimulating. It can be a nice choice if your difficulty focusing is accompanied by stress-related headaches or anxiety.
3. Ashwagandha (Withania Somnifera)
I wrote about this adaptogen sometime back, because I was astounded by all the information I learned about it. Ashwagandha has a reputation for being a soothing nervine and can be well-suited for someone who doesn’t want or need a stimulating adaptogen.
Nervous system health challenges such as anxiety, fatigue and insomnia from stress are all good reasons to consider ashwagandha. I call this my confidence boosting adaptogen.
4. Tulsi (Ocimum Sanctum)
Tulsi is considered one of India’s most powerful herbs. Today tulsi is used for the nervous system to help clear mental fog, support memory, support recovery from head trauma and support a positive mood.
5. Eleuthero (Eleutherococcus Senticosus)
Equally suitable for men and women and especially beneficial for the elderly, eleuthero is gentle, supportive and good for long-term use. Eleuthero offers nervous system and cognitive support for those working extremely stressful jobs or who must work long hours or have erratic schedules.
This adaptogen and traditional tonic from India has been used for centuries to enhance memory and cognitive function while promoting youthfulness. It also has a reputation as an aphrodisiac for both men and women! It’s a useful tonic when there is fatigue and poor appetite.
7. Dang Shen (Codonopsis Pilosula)
I only recently learned about dang shen. As the name suggests, it is Chinese Medicine that is used as a milder alternative to ginseng. Ginseng is widely used as an energy provider, for cognitive function and even as a remedy for the flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). But for some, ginseng can be overstimulating and this is where dang shen can be a great alternative. It can be an ideal adaptogen when there is a foggy mental feeling that goes along with being run down and fatigued.
8. Rhodiola (Rhodiola Rosea)
Rhodiola is part of the official Russian pharmacopoeia as an antidepressant and nerve tonic. Traditionally, this herb was used to increase mental stamina and physical endurance, to boost the immune system during winter and as a fertility and endocrine tonic for men and women. This herb also appears to increase sleep quality, which can be beneficial for mental focus.
We can talk about these amazing adaptogens all day, but I know that concept is only as good as the application. I am not as versed on all these adaptogens simply because, I am still learning about them. But I have picked up some recipes along the way and so I want to share one of my guilty pleasures with you.
Adaptogens are great companions for work or study, but remember not to burn the candle at both ends. Support your mind and overall health with enough sleep, good food, mixed with fun and time to relax instead of forcing yourself to run full steam ahead without a break in sight.
- Mix ashwagandha powder, maca powder, raw cocoa powder, cinnamon and unrefined sea salt in a bowl
- Add coconut butter, honey and hemp butter.
- Pour the mixture into a silicone mini-muffin tray or chocolate mold.
- Place in the freezer to set.
- Store in a cool place.
Try out the recipe and share your thoughts in the comments below! May your journey to health and balance be both rewarding and creative!
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Kavata Kithome is an advocate for living your best life, full of health and longevity. While working closely with gym owners and personal trainers, she was able to sculpt a well-rounded view of fitness and understands how to incorporate it with a healthy balanced diet. She is a regular contributor to the One More Step Lifestyle brand.
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