“In the current wave of natural-product innovation, ginseng—both Asian and American varieties—remains prevalent and has been a popular ingredient globally,” Euromonitor’s Howard Telford notes. In fact, he goes so far as to crown ginseng “the most popular adaptogen overall.”
Calling ashwagandha a “prized herb in Ayurveda,” SPINS’ Veronica Eckl notes that ashwagandha is valued for its apparent role in supporting youth, fertility, and vitality, as well as immunity. “Clinical studies have also suggested that it could play a part in calming the nervous system.”
Tulsi, or holy basil, is another adaptogenic herb in the Ayurvedic pharmacopeia. “Holy basil has traditionally been used for bronchial and cardiovascular support, and animal studies in the last decade or so have shown it as a promising anti-stress agent, containing possible cortisol-reducing compounds,” Eckl says.
Maca, an indigenous Andean botanical, has claimed a measure of fame as a superfood, but Eckl notes that its history supporting hormonal health and energy levels dates back well before its current renown. “This herb is also a powerhouse of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients,” she says. “It can easily be included in drink mixes or smoothies.”
And mushrooms—from maitake and shiitake to chaga, reishi, and beyond—are attracting attention as adaptogens. Practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine have administered both the fruiting bodies and mycelia of reishi mushrooms for more than two millennia thanks to their “impressive list of medicinal qualities,” Eckl says. She says reishi is even known as “the mushroom of immortality.”
Tonics made with reishi revitalize energy, Eckl notes, while reishi’s polysaccharides and beta-glucans support immune health. “There’s even been promising preliminary research showing that reishi can help promote sleep and decrease stress,” she says.