Adaptogens and Tea: A Perfect Pair

Adaptogens and Tea: A Perfect Pair

Roots and rhizomes, leaves and fungi — we use them when we cook, we brew them in teas, and we encounter their names on the labels of supplements brands. And some of them, too, fall within a unique category of botanical: adaptogen.

First officially recognized in 1947 in the former Soviet Union, adaptogens today are widely recognized as plants with compounds that help the human body adapt to stress. The name, beginning with the word “adapt,” captures the wellness essence of these magnificent plants.

People around the world, but especially in Asia, have engaged with some of these plants, such as the root ginseng, for thousands of  years. But they only entered the mainstream in the United States during the past decade. And now, they are attracting buzz: Google Trends reports that during the past five years, searches for adaptogens reached their height during the first two months of 2023.

Some of them, like ginseng and maca root, may boost energy. Others, like ashwagandha, are better known for sparking relaxation. They come in many forms, including tinctures, pills and powders. Fortunately, they also offer unique flavors and provide their wellness benefits when brewed into tea. We offer a range of teas that incorporate adaptogens.

What are some different adaptogens?

A jiaogulan plantation in China, with rows of flowering plants.

It is not known how many plants contain botanicals with adaptogenic qualities. But thankfully, we already enjoy a robust list of them, which includes:

  • Ashwagandha, a root that offers benefits for stress management, mood, immune function and memory
  • Rhodiola, a plant leveraged for mental performance, concentration, stress and more.
  • Turmeric, a spice with a key ingredient, curcumin, which ratchets back levels of cortisol and soothes inflammation
  • Reishi, a mushroom that people take to boost immunity, promote longevity and more.
  • Licorice, a root popular for optimizing digestion and respiratory function, while also managing stress.
  • Tulsi, a plant widely used to promote well-being and bolster resilience.

How do adaptogens work?

Researchers believe that adaptogens support the body’s hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, a term that simply refers to interactions between the hypothalamus, pituitary gland and adrenal glands. The HPA matters: it controls the body’s response to stress. And research suggests that adaptogens help balance the HPA axis, and thus promote healthy stress responses.

Adaptogens at Ku Cha House of Tea

Many Asian grocery stores carry different adaptogens. Ginseng is almost a guarantee.

Most of our teas with adaptogens include them as constituent parts of blends, with one exception: our jiaogulan tea. People in China have been enjoying this vining plant, also known as “Southern ginseng” and a relative of the cucumber, for thousands of years for energy. People embrace for its energy-boosting properties, along with how they find it useful for managing anxiety, cholesterol and even diabetes. 

We sell jiaogulan by itself, and as part of our Immortal Tea blend. Other adaptogens that we leverage are turmeric, licorice and tulsi. Read on for details about three teas containing adaptogens that we think you’ll love.

Adaptogens and Tea: Beauty Tea (Tulsi)

Beauty tea uses two adaptogens, tulsi and licorice root.

This lovely tea contains two adaptogens, tulsi and licorice, in a caffeine-free blend that aims to promote hair, skin and nails health. Rich in A, C, E and B-complex vitamins, Beauty Tea strengthens the keratin found in hair and nails, while simultaneously battling acne and keeping skin elastic and nourished.

Tulsi, one of the adaptogens, is also known as “Holy Basil,” and revered across India, where it is used by Ayurvedic medical practitioners to deal with a variety of conditions, including infections, skin diseases, colds and more. Tulsi is a champion plant: flooded with powerful botanicals, highly flavorful and versatile: with its slight anise notes, tulsi plays nice with nearly all other flavors.

The other Beauty Tea adaptogen, licorice root, is well-known among naturopathic physicians for its abilities to improve digestion and alleviate throat discomfort. But relatively few people realize that licorice is also an adaptogen, one that can help people navigate and diminish symptoms of stress. 

The blend also contains nettle, rose hip and orange, for a delicious flavor and additional wellness benefits.

Adaptogens and Tea: Immortal Tea (Ginseng and Jiaogulan)

Immortal tea has a pair of potent adaptogens, ginseng and jiaogulan.

We have already discussed Jiaogulan, which is also known as “Immortality herb” in China, and are thrilled to offer it in this superb blend, as well as on its own as a single-herb tea. In addition to jiagoulan and its stimulating properties, Immortal Tea includes ginseng, which is the OG adaptogen in terms of its resonance in popular culture. Anybody who visited an Asian grocery store at any point during the past 30 years or more has probably come across ginseng teas, tinctures and a counter, behind which the store holds its whole ginseng roots, often preserved in an amber liquid.

Ginseng is famously stimulating. We savor its rich flavor, with its strong herbal notes wreathed in hints of anise, and drink it across mornings and afternoons. We steer clear of it, though, in the evening. Ginseng’s energy is nothing like caffeine; it doesn’t make the mind race. In fact, we find it nurtures balance. But nevertheless, it might keep you awake if it’s consumed close to bedtime.

Adaptogens and Tea: Sunrise Chai (Turmeric)

This turmeric-heavy chai is packed with adaptogenic excellence.

This chai is no shrinking violet! With ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, clove, cardamom, fennel, black pepper and cayenne, it’s probably our most flavor-intense chai, and that’s saying something: Our chais amount to a parade of flavor bombs.

The adaptogenic component of Sunrise Chai, turmeric, represents another botanical with which people are widely familiar — the rhizome became quite the trendy botanical in the 2010s —but often don’t realize is also an adaptogen. With turmeric, the compound curcumin serves as the adaptogen. Among other things, it may help reduce cortisol and inflammation. 

Turmeric is one powerful plant. Its rise in popular culture revolved — and continues to revolve — around its abilities to mitigate inflammation. Many medical researchers and experts point toward inflammation as a primary culprit for many human ills; anything that helps massage away inflammation offers at least some health benefits. 

In addition to its wellness advantages, we delight in turmeric’s strong, woody, earthy flavor. It’s exceptionally warming. You will thrill to this outstanding chai.

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