What are Adaptogens and Should You Take Them on Vacation?

Adaptogens are hot right now. Beauty influencers tout the benefits of adaptogenic skincare. Wellness warriors show off their adaptogenic protein smoothies on Instagram. Alternative medicine practitioners extol their virtues, while skeptics lambaste their purported benefits. They’re supposed to be a cure-all for everything from adrenal fatigue to low libido. But what are adaptogens, really? And can they help you plan and enjoy an (almost) stress-free vacation? Let’s dig a little deeper into adaptogens, travel, and you.

Adaptogens 101:

Adaptogens are herbal supplements that are said to help the body adapt to stress, both mental and physical. And even though this is a broad classification with rather fuzzy boundaries, there are a couple of characteristics that all adaptogens have. First, they must be safe and non-toxic. Second, they must be non-habit forming, even when taken regularly. Also, they must be non-specific. That is, they promote balance throughout the whole body, rather than affecting individual organs and systems.

Adaptogens have been on the wellness community’s radar for only a few years. However, they’ve been used in traditional medicine across the globe for hundreds of years. In fact, many adaptogens are cited in ayurveda, which originated over 3,000 years ago.

Fast forward to modern times, 1947 specifically, when a Soviet scientist named N.V Lazarev coined the phrase to refer to substances that may increase the body’s resistance to stress. Since then, many studies have been done across the globe, with varying results. However, some studies support the claim that adaptogens change the body’s stress response. But most of these analyze how adaptogens affect individual cells, not entire people. Bottom line: adaptogen science is a bit murky. That said, they do have a very long history of use. And today there is no shortage of naturopathic doctors, herbalists, and everyday people who use adaptogens with overwhelmingly positive results.

Who Needs Them?

People who live in the modern world, have busy lives, and need a vacation. That is, practically everybody.

That is, everybody who wants to boost their overall wellbeing and find more equilibrium in life. Used in conjunction with a solid basic self-care regimen, adaptogens might bring some much-needed balance to your mental and physical energy. Whether you’re exerting yourself getting through the day-to-day stuff, or planning for a much-needed getaway.

**Common Sense Disclaimer: “Ask you doctor if adaptogens are right for you.” This post constitutes what we think is helpful information for our visitors. It is not professional medical advice, which you should seek before adding any supplements to your wellness regimen. Only your healthcare provider knows what’s what’s optimal for you. Statements and products herein have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not meant to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or illness.

Best Adaptogens for Travel

This seems a tad ironic, but a lot of us feel at least mildly stressed out about an upcoming vacation. Of course, a small amount of stress is quite normal and healthy. In fact, it’s essential. For example, your concern for having a nice place to stay forces you to property research your hotel. So, stress = not all bad.

However, even the most laid-back travelers face a myriad of things that aren’t totally controllable. Being stuck on a flight with a snotty and sneezing seat mate, for example. Or the fear of flying. Jet lag. Different eating and drinking habits. Squabbles with your fellow travelers. The list of travel situations that test the body and mind is seemingly endless. That’s why we’ve picked our must-pack adaptogens for your next trip.

Korean Ginseng a great adaptogen

Asian Ginseng

Asian Ginseng (Panax ginseng) The Long-Hauler

  • Purported benefits include reducing fatigue, increasing overall mental capacity and function, and boosting energy levels. Promotes a sense of calmness and wellbeing. Also used for erectile dysfunction.
  • Real-Life Use: Throw in your bag for those extra long travel days with multiple forms of transportation. You know, the ones where you have to be fresh-faced for 3 hours after you arrive?
top view of dried cordyceps militaris (adaptogen) mushroom with cloth bag on old and crack wooden table.

Dried cordyceps militaris mushroom

Cordyceps (Ophiocordyceps sinensis) The Cheerleader

  • Adaptogenic mushroom also known as Caterpillar Fungus. Used mainly to boost athletic performance but many users report increased mental sharpness, as well. Perfect for when you have brain fog or need to perform.
  • Real-Life Use: Perfect for backpacking weekend wilderness warriors and sightseeing parents with multiple kids in strollers. Add to your AM coffee or smoothie or take-along water bottle.
maca root and maca powder on white wood background

Maca root and maca powder

Maca (Lepidium meyenii) The Spicer-Upper

  • Also known as Peruvian Ginseng. Said to increase strength, stamina, and improve libido and sexual function. Also said to lower stress levels.
  • Real-Life Use: Pack it for that honeymoon or other romantic getaway to help heat things up a bit. Add some powder to your morning oatmeal or smoothie.
Ashwagandha powder and roots. Superfood, adaptogen, nutritional supplement.

Ashwagandha powder and roots

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) The Soother

  • Also known as Indian Ginseng. Combats stress and acts as a sleep aid. Also has anti-inflammatory properties. If you only take one adaptogen along, pick this one.
  • Real-Life Use: Try some before and during your flight if you have travel anxiety. Also a relaxing end for a hectic day of activities, as can egulate sleep. Add to your favorite warm and comforting (caffeine free) beverage.
Spoon with dry root of Rhodiola rosea, and fresh flowers on a napkin from a sacking on a background of wooden boards

Spoon with dry root of Rhodiola

Rhodiola (Rodeola rosea) The Sharpener

  • Also known as Panax Ginseng. Boosts alertness and concentration. Combats mental fog and low energy. Also used to fight altitude sickness.
  • Real-Life Use: You’ve been going on little sleep and are jet lagged, but you want to be on your toes today. Add some to your morning latte.
A brunch of holy basil leaf on wooden board - adaptogens

Holy basil leaf

Holy Basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum) The Defrazzler

  • Also known as Tulsi. Supports a healthy response to stress and sharpens mental focus. Also has antimicrobial properties.  
  • Real-Life Use: That business trip with the mega-important presentation you absolutely have to nail. Make an herbal tea and sip along with your PowerPoint. Added bonus: May protect you from airplane germs.
Siberian Ginseng/ eleuthero bark Powder

Siberian Ginseng/ eleuthero bark Powder

Eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus) The Enhancer

  • Also known as Siberian Ginseng. Boosts physical and mental energy and stamina, reduces fatigue.
  • Real-Life Use: Pack some for your hike in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Add to your cold water bottle or a thermos of hot apple cider.
Ganoderma Lucidum Mushroom on wooden background

Ganoderma Lucidum Mushroom

Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) The Immortalizer

  • Also known as Lingzhi. A supermushroom that decreases anxiety and supports healthy sleep cycles. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, reishi’s healing powers are such that it’s been dubbed the “mushroom of immortality.”
  • Real-Life Use: Use to get some restful ZZZs after crossing time zones. Many people also use it to ward off different types of illness and the general fatigue of travel. Add to your morning matcha smoothie.
Schisandra on white background


Schisandra (Schisandrae chinensis) The Vitalizer

  • Also known as five-flavor fruit and Wu Wei Zi. Keeps hormones at an even keel and gives a gently vibrant energy boost. Full of antioxidants to nourish and improve skin’s appearance.
  • Real-Life Use: Perfect for any vacation where you want to be sharp yet calm, and really radiate vitality. A cruise, a wellness retreat… anywhere, really! Add to your favorite nut milk or some hot hibiscus tea.

Now you know: Adaptogens can work wonders for all of us… it’s not all just professional biohackers and celebrities whipping up tonics.