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14 Superfoods to Enhance Mental Clarity

Are stress, anxiety, and fatigue constant companions in your daily life? Envision certain all-natural superfoods containing adaptogens that can help you more easily navigate these challenges.

Adaptogens are a fascinating group of plants and mushrooms that have gained attention for enhancing the body’s response to stress, anxiety, fatigue, and overall well-being. These natural substances are believed to help individuals adapt to various stressors, promote resilience, and restore physical and mental health balance. They are thought to have numerous health benefits and are increasingly popular among those seeking natural ways to support their well-being.

Here are the 12 most potent adaptogens you may want to add to your routine. You can talk to your doctor or herbalist about which one (or combo) might be best for you to try. Since all bodies react differently to supplements and food, it’s recommended to only try one at a time until you know how it affects you.

Disclaimer: This is not meant to replace medical advice. Always consult your doctor first.  

1. Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha powder and roots in wooden cups
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Ashwagandha is an ancient herb (a shrub root found in India) renowned for reducing stress and anxiety. It works by balancing cortisol levels, the body’s stress hormone, and promoting a sense of calm. It is also believed to have anti-inflammatory properties and may improve mood, memory, and energy levels.

Common side effects are mild, including digestive upset, and it is contraindicated in pregnancy. You can take it as a supplement or mix the powder into a warm beverage.

2. Rhodiola Rosea

Root dry of Rhodiola rosea in spoon on napkin
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This adaptogen, also called Rose Root, is a popular in herb in European and Asian Eastern medicine. Evidence shows it may ward off mental and physical fatigue by regulating the body’s stress response. It can boost concentration and energy and improve mood.

It may cause dizziness, dry mouth, or excess salivation in some people. It is available as a capsule or tincture. It can also be drank as a tea, but it is then harder to gauge dosage.

3. Holy Basil (Tulsi)

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Holy Basil is a remarkable adaptogen with a rich history in traditional medicine, particularly in Ayurveda. It is revered for reducing stress and anxiety and promoting overall well-being. It is also known to enhance memory and thinking by regulating cortisol, the body’s stress hormone. It can also enhance immunity and help combat infections outside of stress-relieving properties.

While Holy Basil is generally safe when consumed in moderation, it may cause some individuals mild stomach discomfort or nausea. It can be consumed as a tea, often brewed from dried leaves, capsules, or tincture. Some people choose to chew fresh Holy Basil leaves for their potential benefits.

4. Panax Ginseng 

Ginseng tea
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Ginseng is a well-known adaptogen that boosts energy and reduces fatigue. It works by supporting the pituitary and adrenal glands and improving endurance. It has strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that help optimize the body’s functions.

Possible side effects include insomnia and digestive issues. You can take it as a supplement or in tea form.

5. Maca Root

Maca Powder
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Maca root, a form of ginseng root from the Andes, is prized for its ability to increase energy and reduce stress. It regulates hormone levels, helping to improve mood and stamina. It is also popular for its effects on libido and menopause.

Side effects are uncommon but may include digestive upset. Incorporate it into your diet by adding maca powder to smoothies or oatmeal.

6. Licorice Root

Herbal tea licorice inside the cup on wood
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Licorice root helps the body reduce oxidative stress on the body’s cells. In particular, it is used for it’s anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties to help treat skin issues and digestive issues like ulcers (commonly caused by stress).

Using this adaptogen cautiously is important, as excessive consumption can lead to high blood pressure and potassium loss. Thus, it is not indicated in pregnancy or in people with impaired kidney or cardiovascular function. You may enjoy it in tea or as a supplement.

7. Eleuthero (Siberian Ginseng) 

Dried root of siberian ginseng
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Eleuthero boosts energy and reduces fatigue, similar to Panax Ginseng (you may have noticed there are many forms of Ginseng from different regions in the post!). It works by increasing the body’s resistance to stress. It has also been found to be particularly helpful for anyone dealing with overcoming extreme exhaustion.

Side effects include mild insomnia and nervousness in some people. Take it as a supplement or tincture.

8. Reishi Mushroom

Detail shot of reishi medicinal mushroom
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Reishi is a medicinal mushroom that promotes relaxation and reduces stress. It does so by balancing the immune system and calming the nervous system- which can help with anxiety and depression. It contains bioactive compounds, including polysaccharides and triterpenes, which are believed to contribute to its adaptogenic and stress-reducing properties.

Reishi is generally considered safe for most people when used as a supplement or consumed as a tea. Side effects are rare but can include mild digestive discomfort such as upset stomach or diarrhea in some individuals.

9. Cordyceps

Dried cordyceps militaris mushroom
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Cordyceps is another mushroom adaptogen that enhances stamina and reduces fatigue. It improves oxygen utilization in the body, leading to increased vitality. It has also been used to help manage type 2 Diabetes in some people.

This mushroom is grown in a lab due to the high cost of natural harvesting, making it important to buy a supplement from a reputable source.

It can cause dry mouth, nausea, abdominal and throat discomfort, headache, and allergic reactions; it may also cause lead poisoning (depending on the source). It is not generally safe for people with Rheumatoid Arthritis, multiple sclerosis, or Lupus. 

10. Astragalus

Astragalus oroboides (Astragalus norvegicus)
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Astragalus supports the immune system and aids in reducing stress by regulating cortisol levels. It is also known for boosting energy levels and supporting optimal heart health.

It’s generally safe, with few reported side effects. However, it may interfere with drugs that affect the immune system. Enjoy it in tea or as a supplement.

11. Schisandra Berry

Schisandra chinensis, magnolia berry, five-flavor-fruit, wu wei
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Schisandra berry is found on a vine producing plant. It is an adaptogen that enhances endurance and mental clarity while reducing stress. It promotes balanced neurotransmitter levels in the brain, giving it potential benefits for depression and Alzheimer’s Disease.

Side effects include restlessness, sleep problems, and breathing difficulty. It can be found as a supplement or in powdered form.

12. L-Theanine

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While not a plant, L-theanine is an important amino acid (one of the body’s protein building blocks) found primarily in green tea. It can promote relaxation without causing drowsiness by increasing the production of calming neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin.

Side effects, such as headache or stomach upset, are rare and usually mild. It can be taken as a tea or supplement.

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