Wellness drinks: get a healthy buzz with adaptogens & nootropics

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wellness drinks adaptogen adaptogenics nootropics

What are wellness drinks?

Wellness drinks are beverages that promote health and wellbeing with minimal to no negative side effects. They typically have low or no alcohol and include various ingredients known for eliciting healthy responses in the body. These health-related ingredients are known as adaptogens and nootropics. While some ingredients can be considered both adaptogenic and nootropic, each term refers to a specific set of benefits.

What are adaptogens?

Adaptogens are herbs or plants that increase the body’s ability to adapt to various kinds of stress and strengthen the body and mind. They produce similar effects in the body: they alleviate stress and increase energy levels. It’s said that adaptogens help balance your adrenal glands and hormones; thus, preventing adrenal fatigue. Have you heard of Siberian ginseng, ashwagandha, or rhodiola? These are all adaptogens.

What makes adaptogens work? How do they alleviate stress and increase energy levels in the body? What is adrenal fatigue? Well, first of all, it might be helpful to know a little bit more about stress.

What exactly is stress? Stress is a reaction that occurs in the human body due to certain stimuli, including thoughts and emotions. The nervous system produces chemicals called cortisol and epinephrine in response to stress. These chemicals activate the “fight-or-flight” mode, which prepares your body for physical activity.

When stress is too much or when the body stays in this mode for a long time, it can cause harm to different organ systems. Adaptogens are designed to help improve the body’s reaction to stress in order to reduce any negative physiological effects that could occur.

Adrenal fatigue is a non-scientific term referring to any general symptoms including body aches, digestive disorders, fatigue, anxiety and insomnia. Adaptogens can regulate the body’s adrenal response to help mitigate the aforementioned symptoms.

Health benefits of adaptogens

Adaptogens have been used over the centuries to relieve symptoms related to stress by balancing cortisol levels. They are also known to improve energy levels, increase attention and ward off fatigue. Although modern studies have shown anti-stress and anti-fatigue benefits, further research is needed to prove that adaptogens can also treat chronic diseases.

What are the different types of adaptogens?

These are the most well-known and most researched adaptogens:

  1. ashwagandha: a bitter Ayurvedic herb known as a rejuvenator
  2. cordyceps: a bright orange, slender fungus originating in the mountains of China
  3. eleuthero: a small woody shrub, sometimes referred to as “Siberian ginseng”
  4. ginseng: a root renowned for centuries in Chinese medicine to combat inflammation
  5. holy basil: originating in India and known for its peppery taste in cooking
  6. licorice: a root touted in Chinese medicine to combat adrenal fatigue
  7. rhodiola: a golden root that grows in the Arctic and Northern European regions
  8. schisandra: petite berries that contain sweet, salty, bitter, sour and pungent notes
  9. shilajit: sticky, decomposed plant matter found in the rocks of the Himalayas

What are nootropics?

Nootropics (a.k.a. smart drugs or cognitive enhancers) are supplements, drugs, and other substances that improve one’s cognitive abilities. Nootropic effects can include improvements in memory, motivation, attention, and concentration. They are also known as brain productivity enhancers, brain stimulants, focus and attention improvers or even mood and depression fighters, cognitive enhancement drugs.

Substances that enhance cognition by increasing the growth of neurons were first described in 1964 by researchers at the University of California, Irvine. Griffin & Sutcliffe’s paper was one of the first to identify that many natural substances used in traditional medicines have the potential for improving human brain functions such as cognition. These researchers studied substances within plants that have been used in traditional medicine by indigenous peoples of Thailand. These substances are now known as “nootropics.”

What are the different types of nootropics?

Although “nootropics” may sound like an esoteric term, some are very commonly used on a day-to-day basis. They include:

  1. caffeine
  2. nicotine
  3. creatine
  4. L-theanine
  5. gingko baloba
  6. bacopa monnieri
  7. noopept
  8. panax ginseng
  9.  rhodiola rosea

Caffeine is a great example because it’s so easily accessible and inexpensive. Nicotine is also widely available, especially in cigarettes. While posing serious long-term health hazards, nicotine has been shown to temporarily improve cognitive function in smokers.

Will wellness drinks with adaptogens or nootropics give me a buzz?

Because adaptogens naturally act as a stress reliever and nootropics naturally act as a brain stimulant, it is possible to feel a light “buzz” from these types of beverages. Nootropics can also help calm the nervous system while restoring neurotransmitters (e.g. dopamine and serotonin) to increase sensations of euphoria, bliss, concentration and happiness.

However, if you’re looking for the exact same kind of feeling you get from drinking alcoholic beverages, you’ll likely be disappointed. Alcohol can produce a much stronger, more distinct feeling of getting “buzzed” or “wasted” primarily due to ethanol. While ethanol initially helps release dopamine and serotonin to give the imbiber “liquid courage,” it can quickly become a depressant by suppressing the nervous system—leading to signs of drunkenness (dizziness, slurred speech, etc.) not produced by adaptogens or nootropics.

What wellness drinks have adaptogens and/or nootropics?

There are seemingly endless new wellness drinks that include adaptogens and nootropics. Here is a quick list of several you can check out and try yourself.

Adaptogen Drinks

These beverages and meant to help de-stress and relax you.

Nootropic Drinks

These beverages are said to provide mental clarity, focus and energy.

Where can I get adaptogenic and nootropic wellness drinks?

You can find adaptogenic and nootropic drinks online, in health-centric supermarkets (e.g. Whole Foods and Sprouts) and at your local specialty health, nutrition & vitamin shops.

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