If you’ve recently visited a juice bar, or have read up on any of this year’s health and wellness trends, chances are you’ve heard the word adaptogen. And if you’ve ever had maca, reishi, chaga or ashwagandha in your latte or smoothie, then you’ve tried them too. Simply put, adaptogens are herbs that help our bodies adapt to stress – which is likely why people are starting to catch on to how beneficial they can be for us. To offer some more insight into the wonders of adaptogens and how we can start incorporating them into our diets, we sought out Tori Holmes, owner of Vancouver’s Nectar Juicery and an expert on all things adaptogen.
As a trained nutritionist herself, Tori is on a mission to awaken wellness and make people healthy through functional nutrition. Tori’s concept behind Nectar was to take traditional foods and make them medicinal. By offering something like an adaptogen latte, her goal is to turn someone’s daily ritual into their daily medicine, using healing herbs and foods as teaching tools around health, wellness and nutrition. When you step into Nectar, you immediately feel that you’re in experienced hands, which is no surprise as all her employees are trained in nutrition, herbology, ayurveda, or all three.Can you describe in your words what an adaptogen is?
An adaptogen is often considered a “king herb”. Certain herbs affect specific organs and systems, but basically what it’s doing is regulating the body, as opposed to stimulating it. Adaptogens are great to work with because you can’t easily take too much or not enough of them, so they’re really a great entry. For example, oregano oil, which is a really popular herb (though not an adaptogen), people use when they feel sick, but you have to be careful with herbs like this because you can often throw your body off balance if you take too much. I often describe adaptogens as everyday medicinal foods. Imagine that you cleaned and fine tuned your car every day, that’s kind of the way I look at adaptogens. For me, I wake up, and I use them as a ritual, since they’re best used in small doses, over a lifetime.
What should people look out for when buying adaptogens?
It’s really important where they’re grown, how they’re grown, and how they’re extracted. Just because something has a certain name doesn’t mean it’s medicinal. As adaptogens become more mainstream and popular, there’s going to be more education needed, so choosing brands you know are reputable, or coming to a place like Nectar is important. Basically, I wouldn’t buy something somewhere unless someone can really explain it to you. That’s sort of a good rule of thumb, if the person who’s selling it to you can’t tell you the source, what the function is on the body or how to use it, that’s probably not the right place to get it.
Do adaptogens work the same for someone using them as a one-off, or do they work better for those who consume them on a regular basis?
What I would want people to know is that there isn’t this immediate caffeine-like experience that’s a quick fix. But the physiological impact on the body, whether it’s one time or every day is kind of like working out. It’s incremental and builds, but that one day you go and get your blood flowing, your organs moving, there is gain happening there. So it’s better if you have it every day. But if I’m going to make a choice between something that has a negative impact or a positive impact, always choose the positive. For example, with coffee, people feel like there’s a ritual, or an emotional relationship to having a warm drink. An adaptogen latte is another great way to still have that ritual, but it isn’t going to have a negative impact on the body. So given the opportunity to go and get your third coffee of the day or to get an adaptogen latte why not choose the latte.
Do you think adaptogens work better on someone who is already in tune with their body or can anyone feel the benefits pretty obviously?
I think there’s always a scale, and that’s very subjective. The number one thing with our adaptogen lattes specifically is that they taste absolutely delicious. They have sprouted almond milk, honey and then a curation of adaptogens to help your body come into homeostasis (balance) or help you with how you want to feel that day – energized, happy, etc. So even if someone is out of touch with their body, they are still enjoying it as a beverage. And the second part, I think what people notice, is they don’t get the after feeling of coffee. So maybe they don’t notice the impacts right away, but they notice how they don’t feel.
For someone who has never tried adaptogens, what are the least daunting and most effective ones to start with?
First, my recommendation is wherever you live, find The Nectar, find The Moon Juice, and go in and have a conversation. Ceremonial foods, which is what adaptogens are, are really about having a conversation with your body. Though if someone does want to try them on their own, my instinct would be Reishi. It’s very gentle, supports the hormones, the liver, the adrenals – it’s very all-encompassing. It’s quite easy to use and has less of an herby and more of an earthy caramel taste. One of the things I recommend is infusing it into your coffee, wherever you need to start, start there.
Which adaptogens do you take every day?
First I have triphala on its own, which is an ayurvedic tri-doshic adaptogen (meaning it balances all three doshas, a.k.a ayurvedic constitutions). Triphala focuses on the digestive system, is great for regulating pH, cleansing, and has brightened my skin. I’ve had a better experience of me since taking it, and I recommend it to everybody. I didn’t take it for two days when I was away recently and immediately felt it – I felt swollen and hangry. It’s good to take it in the morning and also before I go to bed, so my intestines are regulating while I’m sleeping. Everyone needs a digestion plan and this one is very accessible as it’s very gentle.
I then move on to an adaptogen latte that has an almond and rose water base, collagen, schisandra berries, reishi, pine pollen and cordyceps. In terms of brands, I use mostly Sun Potion, but also source some of my own adaptogens direct from farms. This is what I’ve been having lately, but I rotate my adaptogens give or take every season.
If you haven’t been to Nectar and tried their juice or adaptogen latte (which we LOVE), you can find them in Gastown at 102 West Hastings, and later this month at their new 3633 Main St. location, which Tori describes as a witchy apothecary that will bring conscious plants back to the block and offer a daily ritual, and their 153 West 7th location which will be Nectar’s innovation hub, offering medicinals foods on the fly for everyday urbanites.
For more information on adaptogens that manage stress, read our article here.