A stressful time of the year is lying ahead of us - the end of the year and the holiday season are inching closer. It is a time where we often don't get enough sleep, finish up work projects, buy gifts, and give the kids holiday experiences that take away the last bit of our sanity, like visiting a pumpkin patch. This is also the time when we need to support our body as much as we can.
Stress hormones are the number one topic I keep bringing up, because we live in a time of constant stress. And sadly our body is just not designed to withstand so much stress. Stress hormones shut down all of our body's functions such as good sleep, a well tuned metabolism, digestion, muscle recovery, fertility, libido, the ability to pay attention, and so much more. Stress hormones are constantly being released, whether we think we are stressed or not. A flooded inbox, a nagging child or just someone cutting us off in traffic; all of that raises our stress hormones. In the worst cases, constant stress hormones lead to being burned out, feeling deeply exhausted, so that not even a good night's sleep will make us feel better. Most of us are just dragging ourselves through the day, every day, thinking that is normal. Our bodies are meant to feel great, alive, and ready to take on the day. So what can we do? After all, stress will always be in our lives!
Enter a superfood group called adaptogens. The name gives away what they do. They literally adapt our body to deal better with stress so we don't get so run down when we are stressed. They are quite versatile, so for example they can enhance our sleep but also make us more alert during the day. They work on several systems on our body, and sense what we need, and then adapt their response. Sounds amazing, right? Even though they have been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda for thousands of years, they are only now becoming more mainstream. I am very happy to see them pop up in cafes instead of regular coffee and tea offerings. Unlike pharmaceuticals, they are non-toxic, and if your our doesn't need them, they just get eliminated.
There are quite a few herbs and mushrooms that have this adaptogenic ability, but today I will highlight two:
Reishi is a Chinese mushroom that has been shown to adapt the body to stress, help with kidney problems, boost the immune system, and help regulate blood sugar in diabetics, and lower cholesterol. It is your new best friend, and it is safe to be taken daily. Make sure to look for organic, hot water extracted reishi powder (rather than ethanol extracted), and check that it was grown in nature (if it says mycelium don't buy it!). Reishi powder is available in most health food stores or check out Four Sigmatic, the market leader for medicinal mushrooms.
Also called Indian ginseng, ashwagandha is one of the most powerful herbs used in Ayurveda. It strengthens the immune system, reduces anxiety and depression, stabilizes blood sugar, increases libido, and most of all combats stress. I prefer to take all my herbal medicine in the form of leaves or powders, rather than capsules. Adding ashwagandha to a drink like in this recipe makes you forget the bitter taste.
If you want to know more about stress hormones and how to deal with stress especially during the holiday season, please check out the "Surviving the holidays" ebook. It dives deeper into how stress effects our body, how to support your body in a time of stress, and includes 14 delicious recipes!
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Makes 1 big or 2 small servings:
2 cups coconut milk (make your own - super easy, super yummy!)
2 Tbsp raw cacao powder (here is why you should always buy raw, not Dutch processed or regular coco powder)
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground reishi mushroom
1/4 tsp ashwagandha powder
1 Tbsp raw honey or maple syrup
Add coconut milk to a small pot and heat over medium heat. Do not bring to boil.
Whisk in cacao powder, cinnamon, reishi, ashwagandha, and honey until frothy. You can also blend the warm milk with the other ingredients in a heat proof blender to get it more creamy.