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All About Adaptogens and Chinese Medicine

Adaptogens are one of the latest health crazes, promising less stress and improved well being. But are adaptogens all they’re made up to be?

Ongoing research is shedding light on how these power plants could help us become healthier and more resilient – despite the stressors of modern life.

Let’s learn more about these adaptogens and how you can experience their many benefits with Chinese Herbal Medicine.

What Are Adaptogens?

Put simply, adaptogens are plants and herbs that help the body adapt. Rather than stimulate your body to do one thing or another, their actions vary based on what your body needs to find balance.

 On a molecular level, adaptogens help you maintain homeostasis. This could mean balancing hormones, managing body temperature, regulating our circadian rhythms, slowing the aging process, strengthening our innate immunity, reducing stress, and more.

Many ancient medical systems (like Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine) used adaptogens for healing and longevity. They found that these plants restored the body’s energy and sped up the healing process. In Chinese Medicine, these adaptogens are often called tonics because they tonify, or build up, the body’s natural strength and resources.

While Chinese herbalists have used adaptogens (or tonics) for centuries, the term adaptogen was only coined in 1947 by Dr. Nikolai Lazarev while studying the amazing properties of Siberian ginseng. He concluded that to be considered an adaptogen, an herb must be:

  • Nontoxic. The herb must be safe to ingest and have little to no side effects.
  • Nonspecific. The herb must adapt our energy to restore balance, rather than causing a specific effect.
  • Normalizing. The herb must enhance our normal homeostasis.

What are the Benefits of Adaptogens?

Each adaptogen has unique characteristics and abilities, but many offer the same positive effects. Here are some of the most common benefits of adaptogens:

  • They increase your resilience to stress.
    Adaptogens are most famous for helping us relieve stress. Studies show that these plants help us reverse the negative effects of stress on the nervous system like inflammation and hormone imbalance.

    Adaptogens are also known for helping us improve our natural resilience to stress. By taking adaptogens regularly, your brain and body are better equipped to handle the daily stressors of life.

  • They improve your energy.
    Because fatigue is a common symptom of chronic stress, adaptogens are well-known to boost energy. So much so, that many companies make herbal “coffee” out of adaptogens to give us the same energizing rush without the jitters of caffeine.

    However, adaptogens aren’t just a replacement for an energy drink. They also help to boost stamina, endurance, focus, and other activities that rely on a constant source of natural energy.

  • They boost the immune system.
    Have you ever gotten a cold after a time of high stress? Stress weakens the immune system and makes us more likely to catch colds, develop hives, or suffer from allergies.

    Adaptogens can help. They strengthen the immune system’s response and enhance the power of the immune cells. At the same time, adaptogens also moderate the immune system and keep it from becoming overactive. This balance helps prevent issues like allergies and autoimmune conditions.

Adaptogens at Best Chinese Medicines

Because many adaptogens are already used in Traditional Chinese Medicine, adaptogens can be found in many of our Chinese herbal products. Here are some of our favorite adaptogenic herbs, teas, and formulas you can find here at Best Chinese Medicines:


Ginseng is one of the world’s most famous energy and longevity tonics. In Chinese Medicine, it is considered a potent qi tonic, meaning that it can strongly boost your body’s natural energy. It is best used by those who are weak and fatigued, often due to overwork or chronic illness.

Our formula, Shen Ling Bai Zhu Pian is a commonly used Chinese herbal formula with ginseng for fatigue, exhaustion, or weak digestion.


Astragalus is one of the most commonly used adaptogens in Chinese medicine. This root has similar properties of ginseng but is more mild and gentle. It also has a unique ability to draw energy upwards for problems like prolapse, sagging, or edema.

You can find astragalus in a wide range of our Best Chinese Medicines products. Try Dang Gui Bu Xue Tang to boost both your qi and blood. Or, consider Shen Qi Da Bu Wan for issues like bloating, loose stools, fatigue, and brain fog.


Schisandra is an adaptogenic berry with many health benefits, largely due to its high concentration of lignans. It is particularly helpful for regulating the immune system, healing the liver, balancing hormones (especially in menopause), and reducing stress and depression.


Reishi is one of many medicinal mushrooms that are considered adaptogens. Reishi’s gentle nature makes it the adaptogen of choice for calming the mind and relieving emotional stress and anxiety. It also significantly boosts the immune system with antioxidants, regulates blood sugar, and may help to prevent diseases like cancer.

Find resihi in both the Real Mushrooms Reishi 415 or the 5-Defenders immunity blend.


Jiaogulan, or Gynostemma leaf, is an adaptogen known for reducing stress and improving blood flow through the body. As such, Jiaogulan is commonly used for issues like high blood pressure, heart health, cholesterol regulation, and improving the overall cardiovascular system. It also has anti aging properties and can protect your memory.

At Best Chinese Medicines, we offer Jiaogulan in both tea pills and liquid extract form for your convenience.

Relieve Stress with Adaptogens and Chinese Herbal Medicine

 Could adaptogens be your secret herbal weapon against stress? We think so! At Best Chinese Medicines, we’ve seen the power of adaptogenic herbs at work in some of our most prized traditional Chinese herbal formulas.

Ready to try adaptogens for yourself? Consider one of our adaptogenic herbal formulas to relieve stress.

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About the Author

Kaitlan Downes, MSAOM, L.AC

Kaitlan Downes, MSAOM, L.AC

Kate Downes is a Chinese medicine practitioner with a passion for herbal medicine. In fact, it was her love for plant and earth medicine that first drew her to study Chinese medicine.

Kate has a MSAOM (Master of Science, Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine) certification and practiced acupuncture in Indianapolis, IN for five years before packing her bags to roam the world. In order to stay in touch with the wellness community and continue to help others thrive with herbal medicine, she transformed her work from face-to-face patient care to spreading wellness through words. Her life as a remote herbalist and writer has allowed her to work with a variety of wellness brands, health pioneers, and her wonderful clients. She has a special interest in working with women’s health.

Kate thoroughly enjoys writing educational and useful pieces for Best Chinese Medicine. Her goal is to help the public gain a better understanding of the wonders of Chinese herbal medicine so they can be empowered in their own quest for natural, vibrant health.

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