adaptogens 101

adaptation is critical.

adaptation is arguably the most important foundation of health and wellness. our environment is changing much faster than our mind-body can update. our environment, technology, information, and social structures are changing much faster than our biology can understand and update accordingly. this is why modern dysfunctions and quality of life problems are dominated by anxiety, inadequate sleep, inflammation, toxicity, nutrient deficiency, and a weakened immune system.

adaptation at the rate we experience change requires mindfulness and work. there are many ways to help your mind-body adapt to the ever-evolving world. a powerful way to promote adaptation is through supplementation with adaptogenic herbs and mushrooms that help decrease sensitivity to stressors, helping lower nervous system tension and strengthen stress resilience. stress is guaranteed (and necessary to growth), but adaptogens help prevent dramatic responses to protect our nervous system, cellular integrity, energy and resources. a 2009 pharmaceuticals journal publication on the effect of adaptogens on the nervous system calls this protection the "stress-protective effect".

there is no lasting progress in a health-related goal without a balanced nervous system.

to avoid maladaptive resource allocation, stress resilience should be at the core of all holistic protocols.

to make things happen in life, you're going to experience stress, uncertainty, fear, and curveballs. health, wellness, and performance are largely defined by our ability to navigate these inevitable obstacles and push forward without accumulating the damages of chronic stress.

stress pushes your mind-body into the sympathetic nervous system to respond to a perceived threat. if the stress response is consistently being triggered, the consequence becomes maladaptive as resources are diverted away from the growth and reparative processes. by design, stress changes the mind-body from a proactive to a reactive state. proactive (parasympathetic) processes like digestion, detoxification, cellular detox and tissue repair, learning, neurogenesis, etc. are given fewer resources in order to prioritize the reactive (sympathetic) state.

this is fight or flight or freeze and it's only designed to run for a short period of time in response to a perceived threat. when stress is chronic, your mind-body doesn't spend enough time in a proactive state of resource allocation. instead, more energy is used to fuel fight or flight (or freeze) and less is given to the immune system, building new brain cells, repairing tissues, absorbing and processing nutrition, learning, etc...

the mechanisms of adaptogens.

calming stress reponse. controlling cortisol.

adaptogens reduce cortisol and minimize time spent in the sympathetic state by preventing overreactions to stress. this is accomplished through modulating/calming the hpa axis (the system coordinating the fight or flight or freeze response). you will still deal with stressors on a regular basis, but adaptogens help “buffer” your stress response so pressures of daily life don’t trigger the release of stress hormones.

a balanced and resilient nervous system helps you stay calm and collected when dealing with adversity or pressure. this also applies to common daily stressors that build tension over time. calming the hpa axis reduces your mind-body's unnecessary stress load, giving you more bandwidth to process more productive challenges.

conceptual graph by roots apothecary.

if you've studied stress, you've probably seen a graph like this.

adaptogens act as a "buffer" to help keep the stress response from pushing deep into the sympathetic state. this is called the stress-protective effect, and it's the most studied and published benefit of adaptogens.

adaptogens also keep the mind-body from dipping deep into exhaustion following a stressful event. basically, tension and exhaustion are not as dramatic with a therapeutic adaptogen routine.

notice the baseline of the adaptogen curve starts and ends higher than the baseline of the non-adaptogen response. this is the "stimulatory" effect of some adaptogens that help increase baseline energy levels. you will see a lot of companies and research explaining this phenomenon as the primary energy benefit of adaptogens, but this isn't true over time.

the stress-protective effects of a consistent adaptogen routine will limit the amount of time the mind-body spends in the sympathetic state of resource allocation. the more time you spend in the sympathetic state, the more energy you're burning while resources are diverted toward reactive processes and mindsets.

conceptual graph by roots apothecary.

stress is energy-intensive and hugely impactful on how the mind-body uses available resources. in this graph, you can start to see the cumulative impact of repeated stress over a period of time. you can probably relate to a time in your life when things were significantly chaotic. maybe you got thrown to the wolves at a new job, or you went through a rocky period in a relationship, or you overtrained through an injury, or you hustled through finals week. whatever the situation, you can probably relate to abnormally high periods of tension followed by fatigue. you can probably remember, instability in your energy, mood, mental capacity, etc.

the stress response is often illustrated as a buffer that protects you from feeling high tension and the following exhaustion from a single stressful event. however, this isn't super helpful for illustrating chronic stress over time which is the most damaging form of stress. high stress in a single incident or a short period of time isn't that big of a deal because that's how the system is designed to operate. the real problem comes with repeated occurrences of stress in daily life. if this stress is not managed, it will push your mind-body into spending more time in states of high tension and exhaustion than in a balanced state that also prioritizes parasympathetic processes.

conceptual graph by roots apothecary.

this graph illustrates the increasing imbalance of tension and exhaustion from poorly managed stress over an extended period of time. this trend can be obvious to those experiencing it, but more often, our clients don't notice this trending imbalance until they're in a dysfunctional state. at this point, multiple mind-body processes are dysfunctional, such as digestion and vagus nerve connection, immune system, circadian rhythm, neurotransmitters and neurogenesis, cellular waste removal, protein synthesis and more. you can try to address all of these problems individually, but without a solid stress management protocol, you are not getting to the root of the issues and any results will be short-lived.

adaptogens and stress management practices play a critical role in maintaining balance and healthy resource allocation over time. the longer chronic stress goes without a course correction, the more energy and resources are diverted to the sympathetic state and less to the proactive state. this erodes the health of all other systems. digestion suffers, inflammation increases, nutrient adsorption declines, sleep is disrupted, mood declines, mindset becomes less productive and more.

expanding bandwidth.

states of high tension or exhaustion don't leave much mental or physical space to take on new challenges or even process daily information through a productive lens. high tension and exhaustion are unsustainable and will wear on your quality of life. by reducing the time spent in these disruptive states, adaptogens create more mental and physical bandwidth.

use this increased adaptogen bandwidth to make some lifestyle updates. don't just sit on this extra bandwidth, use it to cultivate a mindset, implement processes and organize your daily life in a way that will reduce your stress load and increase productivity. this doesn't necessarily mean working harder at your job. increased bandwidth can be used to spend more time with friends and family, start training for that spartan race, carve out time to read each night, start meditating, and start keeping a journal. do activities that you feel will add value to your life. don't use adaptogens as a crutch, use them as a tool.

strengthening cellular resilience. stress inoculation.

with consistent use, adaptogens like ashwagandha act like a workout for your cells. adaptogens help to strengthen resistance to oxidative stress, strengthen mitochondrial health, and repair damaged proteins that weaken cellular function. this cellular workout, called stress inoculation, stimulates the production of molecular chaperones like hsp70 (70-kda heat shock proteins) that protect the body from physical consequences of ongoing stress like inflammation, oxidation, and dna damage. this benefit, through stress inoculation, is called the hormetic effect of adaptogens and greatly improves endurance and resilience under stress.

stress and the reactive mind. IN DEVELOPMENT...

upper brain and lower brain.

the lower brain is sometimes called the lizard brain, reptilian brain, or primitive brain because it controls instinctual survival behaviors that are less sophisticated. the limbic system and amygdala control primitive responses to stress / fear. these sections of the lower brain are concerned with very short-term outcomes because, for the vast majority of human existence, threats required an immediate and forceful response (fight or run). this response isn't necessary as often these days, but the software is running in overdrive by responding to perceived threats like social anxiety, financial stress, relationship drama, work pressures, overtraining, etc.

upper sections of the brain, which evolved later, control complex problem-solving, introspective thinking, emotions, language, learning, memory, empathy, and intrapersonal skills. this is where intentional thought, reason, and informed action happen. this is where conscious decisions are made. the upper brain thinks before doing and considers long-term outcomes.

the mind and body instinctively prioritize short-term threats over long-term priorities and health. when the mind-body is stressed, the lower brain is prioritized to respond to a perceived threat (even if there is no real threat). since stress response is designed for immediate action, connection to the upper brain is choked which weakens emotional control, language, problem-solving, perspective, and most processes that would help to understand a situation. your lower brain doesn't care about understanding a situation, it just needs to do something about it now. this is fight or flight.

this is why perspective is difficult when you're dealing with a stressful situation. your stressed brain wants to react and get through whatever is happening. that's been its' MO for most of human existence. it's difficult to weigh the pros and cons, to consider multiple angles of a problem, or to think objectively when the pressure is on because the connection to the upper brain is choked by fight or flight.

as stress accumulates over time, nervous system tension creeps up. as this tension rises, your bandwidth or adaptive capacity declines. if nothing is done to bring that tension consistently back to balance, your daily operating tension will rise to become sympathetic dominant on a regular basis.

sleepy brain is impulsive & grumpy

when you're really tired, you probably notice you have less patience or less capacity to process new information, think objectively, and act intentionally. you may be a little more "snippy" or irritable. this is a consequence of the lower brain being prioritized when energy is in low supply. this makes a lot of sense for survival (which the stress response is designed for). if your energy and resources are low, your mind-body will err on the side of caution and crank up the sensitivity of the stress response just in case a threat is around the corner. your mind body is pulling resources away from the area of your brain associated with critical thinking and away from the adaptive immune system because these things aren't important to your immediate survival.

some people find sleep deprivation to be a good "hack" when getting the thinking brain out of the way is helpful. if the thinking brain is overthinking and paralyzing progress on a project, some people skip sleep to choke the connection between thinking and reaction to help them make a move. i've seen this most with writers.

sleepy brain is impulsive & grumpy

nothing is free. the upper brain is brilliant, but it can overthink. it can ruminate and worry. the upper brain can think of a stress response into action, giving the driver seat to lower brain thoughts and responses, landing on pathways of anxiety and fear. things can spiral as the lower brain takes the wheel. ego gets involved, thoughts and actions become defensive, negative outcomes replay in your mind, and intrusive thoughts interfere with productivity and presence.

keeping cool in a threatening situation.

even when facing a truly dangerous situation today, you want upper brain control over reactive processes. there's very little margin for error in a life-threatening situation, and panic often results in failure. responses to threats are best when quickly informed by the upper brain. survival training is centered around keeping enough composure (front brain control) in a life-threatening situation so you can survive.

popular adaptogens. IN DEVELOPMENT.

click for more information.


master adaptogen. stress resilience. adrenal balance.

ashwagandha is a grounding adaptogen and nervine (nerve tonic) used to calm ruffled nerves. ashwagandha assists healthy thyroid and adrenal function supports both mental and physical stamina and promotes a healthy response to stress by reestablishing our intrinsic adaptive capacity. it is highly supportive for frequent anxiety, and those that have trouble with sleep. ashwagandha works its magic heavily by actively regulating the hpa axis to support adrenals.

reishi mushroom

immune support. stress resilience. liver + kidneys. overall wellbeing.

reishi is very diverse in benefits with high anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety and immune-boosting properties. reishi is considered an adaptogen for its ability to calm the fight or flight response and strengthen resilience in both physically and mentally stressful situations.
reishi is additionally known for its potential benefits to the kidneys and liver by reducing inflammation and reducing erosion of the nephron outer membrane (decreasing kidney permeability).

reishi’s immune-supporting properties are well-rounded, including the promotion of innate immune function, humoral immunity, and cellular immunity. in particular, reishi extract may improve the function of b and t lymphocytes, dendritic cells, macrophages, and natural killer cells. beta-d-glucans are the polysaccharides present in reishi that are responsible for these immune-supporting properties

cordyceps mushroom

physical + mental endurance. inflammation.

cordyceps is known for supporting mental and physical performance and is especially popular in the athlete community. this mushroom (which is technically not a mushroom) supports healthy adrenal function through its stress-protective effects (as an adaptogen) while increasing atp and vo2 (peak oxygen uptake during exercise). enhanced oxygen utilization is attributed to cordyceps ability to increase vasodilation (widening blood vessels) and blood flow. cordyceps is highly recognized for helping improve acute and chronic fatigue and is often paired with lion’s mane to promote creative focus. studies have associated cordyceps supplementation with increasing activity of catalase (cat), superoxide dismutase (sod) and glutathione peroxidase (gpx) making it a powerful anti-oxidant as well.

panax ginseng

energy. immune system. blood sugar.

panax (“all-healing”) ginseng, or asian ginseng, is highly revered for its wide therapeutic range, from supporting heart, immune, and mental health to increasing endurance. this adaptogen has the ability to balance out the stress response by regulating the hpa axis and stabilizing the release of cortisol. keeping cortisol levels in balance modulates blood glucose levels, providing an anti-diabetic effect. along with this regulation, ginseng encourages a healthy increase of energy through the stimulation of mitochondrial biogenesis. this provides the stage for higher rates of atp-synthesis and an increase of natural energy. along with these benefits, an active constituent in ginseng, ginsenoside, has been shown to improve cognition, increase natural killer cell (innate immunity) activity + t cell (acquired immunity) proliferation, and reduce inflammation.


mental and physical endurance. mental clarity. mood support.

rhodiola rosea is used to strengthen mental and physical stress resistance, helping to promote mental energy and a clear, calm thought process under challenging conditions. this flowering plant is shown to support an increase in endurance through improving vo2 max and increasing the concentration of atp (adenosine triphosphate) in skeletal muscles. this adaptogenic herb has also been shown to support mental fatigue such as exhaustion from exam stress. this is attributed primarily to its ability to influence the levels and activity of monoamines and opioid peptides such as beta-endorphins. rhodiola’s influence on the brain also contributes to anti-depressant support.


physical endurance. liver support. detoxifying.

schisandra, the five-flavor berry, has a long history of use in traditional chinese medicine to treat liver conditions, stomach disorders, and as a tonic to improve vitality. it is commonly used to support fatigue and sleep as well. two main compounds express this adaptogenic quality: schisandrin and gomesin. schisandrin has been studied for its ability to protect the nervous system against stress, while gomesin boasts anti-inflammatory power. researchers have studied these compounds for positive effects on the liver—specifically, the supporting role they play in liver detoxification.


energizing. physical energy. lymphatic system.

eleuthero is a root that helps restore balance when we’re feeling mentally and emotionally depleted. in other words—it’s seen as a form of plant-based relief for those feeling overworked and rundown. eleuthero helps to normalize and regulate the hpa axis, thus supporting healthy cortisol and inflammation levels. eleuthero is traditionally indicated for fatigue, lack of motivation and drive, and in tcm it is considered warming to a "cold and depleted state". its numerous powerful plant compounds, including phenylpropanoid glycosides and polysaccharides, are considered to be responsible for its adaptogenic activity.


immune supporting.

nourishing, supportive, and immune-enhancing—basically, astragalus root is like a warm hug from grandma. most notably, the health benefits of this sweet and nourishing herb include: supporting the adrenal glands, immune system, and lungs. astragalus supports strong lungs, helps maintain healthy blood sugar levels that are already in a normal range, and encourages the healthy production of normal red blood cells, white blood cells, and macrophages—the latter two being essential for immune health.

holy basil

calming nervous system tension. relaxing.  

holy basil (also known as tulsi) is an aromatic shrub used as a way to maintain homeostasis and protect the body from toxins and toxin-induced damage. these functions are also commonly linked to the high content of phenolic compounds and antioxidant properties. it addresses adrenal health and hpa axis balance, the effects of occasional stress (especially when it comes to a healthy inflammatory response), occasional tension, low spirits, and cognitive health. holy basil can also help support efficient digestion and absorption of nutrients from food. it has been shown to have alternative properties such as aiding in detoxification pathways and microbiome balance.

living on the edge.

peaks & crashes. mental exhaustion.

roots products & stress. IN DEVELOPMENT

almost everyone can relate to getting frustrated and doing / saying something they didn't think through. the best example of this is

adaptive cacao

holistic & complete.

1600mg fruiting body mushroom extract / serving. 1x concentrations.

our most well rounded and complete of all roots products, serving the mind-body's many highly dependent systems like stress response, digestion, inflammation, mood, cognitive performance and immune system. the adaptive cacao is made with 1x mushroom extracts that retain most beneficial compounds found in fresh mushroom while harnessing the improving digestibility and absorption of an extract. 1x mushrooms are high in beta-glucan, pre-biotic fiber and trace minerals and are more well rounded in benefit than higher concentration extracts.

the adaptive cacao is also packed with anti-oxidant rich raw peruvian cacao, mineral rich himalayan salt, neuro-protective mct and adaptogenic ashwagandha. acacia fiber and agave inulin are powerful prebiotics that help strengthen your good, low inflammatory microbiome. as your good microbiome strengthens, the bad bacteria gets weaker. the more we learn about optimal health and performance, the more we understand the importance of healing your gut through a balanced microbiome.

adaptive greens

adaptogen powerhouse. gut health.

1600mg fruiting body mushroom extract / serving. 1x concentrations.

our most well rounded and complete of all roots products, serving the mind-body's many highly dependent systems like stress response, digestion, inflammation, mood, cognitive performance and immune system. the adaptive cacao is made with 1x mushroom extracts that retain most beneficial compounds found in fresh mushroom while harnessing the improving digestibility and absorption of an extract. 1x mushrooms are high in beta-glucan, pre-biotic fiber and trace minerals and are more well rounded in benefit than higher concentration extracts.

the adaptive cacao is also packed with anti-oxidant rich raw peruvian cacao, mineral rich himalayan salt, neuro-protective mct and adaptogenic ashwagandha. acacia fiber and agave inulin are powerful prebiotics that help strengthen your good, low inflammatory microbiome. as your good microbiome strengthens, the bad bacteria gets weaker. the more we learn about optimal health and performance, the more we understand the importance of healing your gut through a balanced microbiome.

authentic ashwagandha extract.

master adaptogen. powerful extraction.

1000mg fruiting body mushroom extract / serving. 8x-10x concentrations.

our adaptive honey is highly specialized with 8x-10x mushroom extracts that concentrate active compounds unique to each mushroom for a more targeted benefit. for example, lion's mane is known for supporting mental clarity, cognitive performance, neurogenesis, neuroplasticity and overall brain health. 1x lion's mane delivers these benefits with a variety of overlapping benefits with other mushrooms like stress reduction, digestion support and moderating inflammation. 8x lion's mane concentrates the active compounds that deliver a more powerful benefit of focus, clarity, neuroplasticity, neurogenesis and overall brain health.

Mushroom Extract - Reishi

reishi extract

1000mg fruiting body mushroom extract / serving. 1:1 + 8x-10x concentrations.

roots mushroom extract powders are blended with 1x and 8x-10x concentrations. harness the wide spectrum benefits of 1x mushroom extracts and the focused power of 8x-10x concentrations. mushroom powders are for those who like making their own stacks and the versatility of using a powder in just about anything. this is also the most cost effective way to supplement with a specific mushroom. if you’re wanting the most holistic and well rounded benefits of mushrooms, you should get the adaptive cacao. if you want the flexibility of making your own mushroom ratios and routines, get the powders.

manifestations of chronic stress. IN DEVELOPMENT

critical lifestyle improvements to make. IN DEVELOPMENT

better sleep practices.

let food be thy medicine.


live for something.  

a deeper dive into stress pathways. IN DEVELOPMENT

coming soon

stress & adaptogen FAQ. IN DEVELOPMENT

coming soon