Adaptogens 101: What Are Adaptogens & How Do They Work?

Adaptogens 101: What Are Adaptogens & How Do They Work?


There are so many nutritional buzzwords of late. It can really make your head spin!  It’s hard to keep up, let alone understand what they mean, am I right? But when it comes to stress, there is one buzzword that keeps popping up – and for good reason: adaptogens.  


Stress is best described as a lack of adaptation to external (ie. work deadlines, long to-do lists, competing chores) or internal (ie. self-doubt, emotional instability) signals1.  Basically, when we can’t meet the expectation that has been set, like prepping for a meeting five minutes before it begins, we fail to adapt to the situation correctly.  This failure to adapt is what leads our bodies to panic and ignite the stress response. 

It is normal to stress from time to time.  It is even beneficial.  Afterall, stress is the thing that makes us slam on the brakes when we have to suddenly stop, or run out of the way when we see a baseball coming towards us.

The issue is not stress, but chronic stress.  The looming deadlines, emotional rollercoaster, sleepless nights kinds of stress.  Our bodies are not meant to be exposed to those long periods of stressful situations.  Ultimately, it affects our health for chronic stress has been associated with several diseases including, depression, diabetes, heart disease, anxiety, and high-blood pressure 2.


Natural remedies have been part of human existence since there has been human existence.  Most of us have those family recipes to clear up the sniffles, a sore throat, or even a headache.  So why not find a natural way to soothe stress, like adaptogens?

In a nutshell, adaptogens are a class of plants, herbs, and roots that help the body adapt (shocker!) to stressors. 3 4  They calm the body when deadlines are piling up, or turn the engines full steam when things need to be revved up (hello, late night study sessions).  Adaptogens work to bring the body back in balance, since that is what our bodies appreciate.  If you imagine a scale from 1-10:, adaptogens are trying to keep you at a solid 5 in order for the body to work as best as it can. 

There is literally an adaptogen for every reason.

Need to chill?  There are adaptogens to help relax. 

Need extra energy?  There are adaptogens for stamina. 

Need to power up?  You guessed it, there are some to improve focus.

Adaptogens work by boosting the body’s ability to challenge the HPA (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal) axis -- the hub of the stress response system -- while responding to stress.  The right adaptogen can do this by increasing tolerance to mental exhaustion, improving attention span, or calming the body down in order to unwind and find peace.  They're thought to counteract the effects stress has on the nervous system by helping us reach that balance the body strives for. This is no easy feat that’s for sure. 


Here at B.T.R. we are partial to a few adaptogens (although we love all of them equally!). When designing our functional protein bars, we made sure to match each adaptogen with the right vibe we were going for. 

For example, reishi, found in our Cherry Chocolate Chip ZEN Bar and Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip BLISS bar is an ideal option when looking to unwind and relax after a long day or just need a mid-morning chill sesh (we’ve all been there).  Reishi mushroom has been shown to have a calming effect on the muscles; and a calm body creates a calm mind.  Not only does it help you zen out, but several studies 6 have shown the various components in reishi mushrooms have antioxidant effects which helps protect cells from oxidative damage (think exposure to household chemicals, pollution, pesticides, and all the yucky stuff we encounter throughout the day).  As a bonus, reishi is known to help boost immunity.  Yay!  We’ll take it.

Cordyceps is the way to go when your engine needs a boost.  This is one of the adaptogens that works with the body to increase energy levels and keep going and going and going.  A study 7 conducted on sedentary participants who ingested cordyceps supplements saw a substantial increase in energy production and less fatigue after completing a workout, than the group taking the placebo.  Whether you need help running a faster mile, or simply making it through a jam-packed, nap-free day, cordyceps (found in the Cinnamon Cookie Dough ENERGY Bar) power you through those challenging bumps in the road.

We all know you have to plug in your phone regularly in order to work efficiently throughout the day.  Well, we do too!  Maca is mother nature’s charger and the perfect addition to our Dark Chocolate Brownie RECHARGE Bar and Cinnamon Cookie Dough ENERGY Bar. Maca is a plant in the cruciferous vegetable family (like kale and brussels sprouts) known for its ability to help boost energy and stamina. Maca is also known as Peruvian ginseng, and it was used for centuries by the Incas. The best maca you can find is sourced directly from Peru (and guess where we get ours from? Yep, Peru!) because it's grown in the harsh climate of the Andes mountains. Because adaptogens are so hardy and can thrive in the harshest climates on the planet, they're known to help our bodies cope better to our daily stressors as well. Adaptogens for the win!


Although currently used throughout most of the world, adaptogenic herbs have been used historically in Asia, Europe, and South America for millennia.  It is believed that even the Vikings used adaptogens to increase their endurance 8.  Who knew the Vikings were looking to be Bold, Tenacious, and Resilient?




Holistic Health & Wellness Coach

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. If you’re interested in trying out adaptogens and are currently taking a medication, consult with your medical practitioner to see if adaptogens are right for you!

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