My sister has three kids and before every Halloween she sends out a bat signal to Addictive Wellness: "Send me my chocolates RIGHT NOW! It is an emergency! I need ‘Energy' chocolates for me and ‘Tranquility' for them stat!” She certainly knows how to prep for this holiday. As you gathered from the urgent tone of her note these chocolates are not just any old sugar laden candies but the healthiest, yummiest, children & parent-tested treats in the world. Although these treats are also coming with a trick: they are infused with powerful Adaptogens.
But what is an Adaptogen? Besides seeing them everywhere for the past couple of years what do we really know about them?
Humans around the world have been consuming Adaptogenic herbs and experiencing their benefits for thousands of years but it was not until 1947 that Russian scientist and physician Dr. Nikolai Lazarev coined the term “Adaptogen.” During World War II, Lazarev’s work only centered around performance enhancing stimulant drugs but after the war his focus turned to substances that could enhance not just human performance but general well-being as well, all without any negative side effects. His study of Adaptogens began with Ginseng, (possibly the most famous herb in the world) and later expanded to Siberian Ginseng which was more readily available for him in Russia.
As it is now understood the category of Adaptogens is comprised not exclusively of plants but also features substances of fungal, animal and mineral origin. They have a remarkable ability to increase one’s resilience to a wide variety of different physical, emotional, chemical and biological stressors. These herbs help your body maintain a healthy state of balance regardless of the stress you may be experiencing and yet doesn't excessively stimulate you beyond what is necessary to counteract the challenge.
Adaptogens are a fundamental part of Taoist tonic herbalism and closely connected to its three treasures philosophy. From the Taoist perspective life is comprised of three forms of energy: Jing, Qi and Shen. The Jing is best understood as your deep vital force or energy reserves that you are born with. Qi is your active energy, vitality, cognitive and immune functions. Finally Shen is your spiritual energy or higher self. In order to qualify as a superior Tonic Herb, the herb must help you to cultivate one or more of these three treasures. The superior class of herbs known as Tonic Herbs can be taken in small amounts on a regular basis over the course of your life to build adaptability, life-force, immunity and spiritual energies.
The ‘Tranquility’ chocolate contains three wonderful Tonic Herbs: Reishi, Ashwaganda and He Shou Wu.
Reishi is called the herb of immortality and spiritual potency. It strengthens the nervous system as well as the immune system, and also calms the heart and the mind.
Prepared He Shou Wu is is one of the most popular and highly revered Tonic Herbs. It can nourish the blood, calm the nervous system and tonify the organs.
Ashwagandha has been used in the traditional herbal system of Ayurveda for over 3,000 years and continues to be regarded as one of the elite Adaptogenic herbs in the world. It has been found in studies to have potent anti-anxiety effects. Several studies also found significant decrease in cortisol amongst otherwise healthy but stressed individuals.
The magic of Ashwagandha is that it is both calming and energizing! It is not stimulating yet it is one of the greatest energy tonics known to mankind. Its action is cumulative, as any truly healthy tonic dietary supplement would be and that’s why you can find it not only in the ‘Tranquility' but also in the ‘Energy' chocolates - alongside Mucuna and Cordyceps.
Mucuna is a tropical pod from South America and it increases energy and drive in both men and women! It is extremely high in L-Dopa the primary precursor to the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is associated with positive mood, energy, pleasure, and motivation. Cordyceps boosts energy and endurance by increasing aerobic capacity, improving oxygen utilization, and stabilizing blood sugar metabolism. It is used to strengthen sexual functions, brainpower, structural integrity and healing ability, it fights inflammation, supports the heart, and also has anti-aging properties. Wild Cordyceps is so rare and hard to find that it's one of the most expensive Tonic Herbs in the world, costing $20,000 per kg. The most fascinating story is how it got the nickname "ZOMBIE HERB” !
Cordyceps spores find their way inside the carpenter ant and release a chemical that hijacks the insect’s body, draining it of nutrients and hijacking its nervous system. Over the course of a week, the Cordyceps gets control of the ant's muscles and compels it to leave the safety of its nest and ascend a nearby plant stem. It stops the ant at a height of 25 centimeters—a zone with precisely the right temperature and humidity for the fungus to grow. It forces the ant to permanently lock its mandibles around a leaf and wait for the inevitable end. Eventually, it sends a long stalk through the ant’s head, cultivating a fruiting body full of spores and because the ant typically climbs a leaf that overhangs its own colony’s foraging trails, the fungal spores rain down onto his fellow workers below, zombifying them in turn. Interestingly Cordyceps is more accessible now than it has ever been and you don’t need to wait for Halloween to consume this amazing zombie mushroom - you can have it all year long! I add it to my morning drink every day especially if I head out for a yoga class or a run. Don’t worry, cordyceps only has this effect on insects. Humans have been consuming it for thousands of years and enjoying the benefits.
Are Adaptogenic herbs just another health fad that will be left behind like the soy protein and low fat craziness of the 1990s? Highly unlikely. Man-made supplements and diets go in and out of vogue with increasing frequency, yet these herbs have been central components of indigenous cultures for thousands of years. They have stood the test of time and as more and more scientific research is done we continue to gain a deeper understanding of how they work in the body and how powerful they truly are. Until recent history many Adaptogens such as Reishi mushroom and Cordyceps could only be found in the wild and thus were extremely rare and expensive. Recent developments in technology and cultivation techniques have made them much more widely available. We are incredibly fortunate to live in a time when we have all these Tonic Herbs at our fingertips. They are incredible tools provided to us by nature to improve our ability to adapt to an ever-changing world with ease and grace.
Notes: Addictive Wellness Cordyceps is 100% vegan. While wild cordyceps is grown on insects and worms, cultivated cordyceps is grown in a controlled environment without any animals involved.