By Vidyaeswari

Beverages are consumed for their ability to promote balance, resilience, and well-being in the body. Beverages encompass a vast array of liquid refreshments, from invigorating coffees to soothing teas, quenching sodas to nutritious smoothies. They serve as both sustenance and indulgence, catering to diverse tastes and cultural traditions. Energizing energy drinks offer boosts for the weary, while fresh fruit juices provide vital nutrients. Alcoholic beverages like beer, wine, and spirits are enjoyed socially and ceremonially, each with its own rich heritage and flavors. Herbal infusions offer medicinal benefits, while youngsters enjoy milkshakes and hot chocolates on their palate. Whether hot or cold, stimulating or calming, beverages play a pivotal role in daily rituals and communal gatherings.

Adaptogens are a class of herbs and botanicals that possess unique properties to help the body adapt to stressors, both physical and mental, while promoting homeostasis – the body’s state of equilibrium. Unlike stimulants, which temporarily boost energy levels before causing crashes, adaptogens work subtly and gently, supporting the body’s natural resilience without overtaxing its resources. The term ‘adaptogen’ was coined by Russian scientist Dr. Nikolai Lazarev in the 1940s to describe certain herbs that could enhance the body’s resistance to stress. Later, Dr. Israel Brekhman furthered research on adaptogens, identifying key botanicals like Rhodiola rosea, Siberian ginseng, and Panax ginseng as prime examples of these stress-modulating agents.

Adaptogenic herbs such as Ashwagandha, Rhodiola rosea, or Panax ginseng promotes functional health and helps body to adapt to stressors, regulate hormonal balance, support immune function, and enhance energy metabolism. Whether enjoyed as teas, elixirs, coffees, or tonics, adaptogenic beverages offer a natural and holistic approach to managing stress, boosting vitality, and promoting overall health. These drinks help you stay healthy and balanced. They encourage people to use the natural power of plants to feel better.

Mechanisms of Action:

Adaptogens exert their effects through various physiological pathways, influencing the body’s stress response system, immune function, and hormonal balance:

  • Hormonal Regulation: Adaptogens help regulate the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which controls the body’s response to stress. By modulating cortisol levels and supporting adrenal function, adaptogens promote a more balanced stress response.
  • Enhanced Energy Metabolism: Certain adaptogens like Rhodiola rosea and Panax ginseng enhance energy metabolism at the cellular level, increasing stamina and reducing fatigue.
  • Immune Support: Adaptogens possess immunomodulatory properties, regulating immune function and enhancing the body’s resistance to infections and illnesses.
  • Neuroprotection: Some adaptogens exhibit neuroprotective effects, supporting cognitive function and mitigating the effects of chronic stress on the brain.
  • Antioxidant Activity: Many adaptogens are rich in antioxidants, neutralizing free radicals and protecting cells from oxidative damage caused by stress and environmental toxins.

A diverse array of herbs and botanicals fall under the umbrella of adaptogens, each with its unique therapeutic properties:

  • Ashwagandha: Revered in Ayurvedic medicine, ashwagandha promotes resilience to stress, vitality, and overall well-being.
  • Rhodiola Rosea: Known for its adaptogenic properties, Rhodiola rosea increases endurance, reduces fatigue, and supports mental clarity.
  • Panax Ginseng: Also known as Korean ginseng, Panax ginseng improves energy, cognitive function, and resilience to stress.
  • Holy Basil: Prized for its adaptogenic and anti-inflammatory properties, holy basil promotes emotional well-being and supports immune function.
  • Eleuthero: Siberian ginseng enhances resilience to stress, improves athletic performance, and supports vitality.

Beyond their traditional use and modern popularity, adaptogenic beverages are gaining attention from scientific researchers who seek to understand their mechanisms of action and potential health benefits. Recent studies have shed light on the physiological pathways through which adaptogens exert their effects, offering valuable insights into their therapeutic potential. One area of interest is the impact of adaptogens on the body’s stress response system.

Chronic stress triggers adverse health effects like inflammation, immune dysfunction, and metabolic disturbances. Adaptogens alleviate these effects by regulating stress hormone production, such as cortisol, and fostering a balanced stress response. They operate on various receptors and signaling pathways, aiding in restoring homeostasis and shielding against stress-related harm. Adaptogens additionally influence immune function, energy metabolism, and cognitive processes. They bolster the body’s natural defenses, enhance energy production, and fortify cognitive function by promoting neurogenesis, neurotransmitter activity, and guarding against oxidative damage. Moreover, adaptogens may possess antidepressant and anxiolytic properties, aiding in mood disorder and anxiety symptom management.

Functional beverages and adaptogenic beverages:

Both types of beverages share similarities but also have distinct differences in their composition, purpose, and targeted health benefits. Functional beverages encompass a broad category of drinks that are formulated with specific ingredients to provide tangible health benefits beyond basic hydration and nutrition. These beverages often contain vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, probiotics, and other bioactive compounds designed to support various aspects of health and well-being.

Adaptogenic beverages, on the other hand, are a subset of functional beverages that specifically incorporate adaptogenic herbs and botanicals known for their ability to help the body adapt to stress, enhance resilience, and promote balance. While adaptogens are indeed functional ingredients, not all functional beverages contain adaptogens. Adaptogenic beverages prioritize the inclusion of adaptogenic herbs as key ingredients to address stress-related concerns and support overall vitality. The primary difference lies in their targeted effects and mechanisms of action. Functional beverages may target specific health goals such as immune support, gut health, cognitive function, or hydration, depending on the ingredients they contain. For example, probiotic-rich beverages aim to promote gut health and support digestive function, while antioxidant-rich beverages focus on combating oxidative stress and inflammation. Adaptogenic beverages, on the other hand, primarily target the body’s stress response system and promote resilience to stressors, both physical and mental. Adaptogens work by modulating the production of stress hormones like cortisol, supporting adrenal function, and enhancing the body’s ability to cope with stress. Unlike many functional beverages that target specific health concerns, adaptogenic beverages offer a more holistic approach to well-being by addressing the underlying mechanisms of stress and promoting overall balance and vitality. In terms of ingredients, functional beverages may contain a diverse array of bioactive compounds sourced from fruits, vegetables, herbs, and other natural sources, depending on the desired health benefits. Adaptogenic beverages, however, prominently feature adaptogenic herbs such as ashwagandha, Rhodiola rosea, Panax ginseng, holy basil, and Eleuthero, which have been traditionally used for centuries in various healing traditions around the world. Therefore, while functional beverages encompass a wide range of drinks formulated to provide specific health benefits, adaptogenic beverages represent a specialized category within the functional beverage space, focusing specifically on promoting resilience to stress and supporting overall well-being through the targeted use of adaptogenic herbs and botanicals.

The Rise of Adaptogenic Beverages:

In recent years, adaptogenic herbs have been integrated into an array of beverages, blending tradition with innovation.

Adaptogenic Teas: These teas combine adaptogenic herbs with traditional varieties like green tea and herbal infusions, promoting relaxation, mental clarity, and overall well-being.

Adaptogenic Elixirs: Crafted with a blend of adaptogens, superfoods, and botanical extracts, adaptogenic elixirs offer a potent dose of stress-relieving nutrients in a convenient liquid form.

Adaptogenic Coffees: By infusing coffee with adaptogenic herbs, these beverages provide a balanced energy boost without the jitters associated with traditional caffeine consumption.

Adaptogenic Tonics: Traditional herbal tonics, such as Ayurvedic rasayanas and Chinese medicinal brews, feature adaptogenic herbs as key ingredients, supporting vitality, resilience, and longevity.

Embracing Balance and Wellness Adaptogenic beverages serve as nourishing allies in the quest for balance and wellness, encouraging individuals to embrace the healing power of nature’s potent botanicals. Whether enjoyed as part of a morning ritual or a calming evening elixir, these beverages offer a holistic approach to managing stress, enhancing vitality, and promoting overall health.

Adaptogens alleviate anxiety, reduce fatigue, and increase energy, help in coping with trauma, regulate emotional reactions to stress, boost immune system.

About the author

Vidyaeswari is a Research Analyst at F1rst. She has done her master’s in food science and technology from Central university of Punjab. Her interests are in sustainable packaging materials and minimally processed packed foods. She has worked previously in food safety sector and has good knowledge on fssai regulations. She has also done many labelling guidance and have been a trainer for the food handlers from catering, manufacturing, and retail industry. She can be contacted at vidyaeswari@firstmr.com