Not a week goes by when we don't hear about the next superfood that must immediately go into our daily food diary - some are legit (turns out turmeric is actually good for you) and some are just marketing hype with zero scientific basis (dirty lemon drink, we're talking to you). But the new superfood edition, adaptogens look like they may actually be long-term stayers with credible health-giving benefits. So what exactly is this new superfood and how soon can we get some?
According to leading herb guru, David Winston, co-author of Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief, "Adaptogens are herbs that counter the effects of age and stress on the body." Which they achieve by quietening down a stress-activated enzyme and at the same time stimulating cells to produce proteins that help resist stress and enhance longevity. Plus they teach your body to 'adapt' to resist adverse influences via regulating the immune and nervous system. Which all sounds pretty fantastic, especially considering that you're probably already accidentally ingesting some of these miracle tonics without even realising.
To qualify as an 'adaptogen' the herb (or herbal combination) must meet three criteria: be non-toxic; act to increase resistance to adverse biological, chemical and physical factors; help modulate system function. While many herbs are being claimed as adaptogens, to the purist (read: qualified) like Winston the list of plants that actually tick the checklist is limited to the following: American and Asian ginseng root, ashwagandha root, cordyceps, dang shen root, eleuthero root, holy basil, jiaogulan, licorice root, reishi fungus, maral root, rhodiola root, and schizandra berries.
That may read like a what the? shopping list that would never be on supermarket shelves but many of these superstar tonics are already in your diet and easy to access (ginseng tea, licorice, basil), while others you'll need to tap your local herbalist for a supply to add to your superfood-filled weekly meal plan. Seems like a no brainer diet addition if the result is younger, faster, stronger, right?