This is the story about how I became an adaptogen pro. Follow my lead.
The more I have immersed myself in the study of nutrition for health and performance, the more I have realized I got things so wrong before and the more methods I continue to find to dramatically improve my daily nutrition for superior results.
My Journey Began with a Burning Desire
When I first began my health journey 20 years ago as a chubby teenager trying to lose weight (I did successfully lose 50 excess pounds in 6 months at age 16!), I didn’t yet realize the years of discovery ahead!
My eventual destiny: How to methodically increase the nutrient density of everything I put in my mouth and how to avoid the foods that made me weak and tired.
Back then, I thought eating Grape Nuts cereal (wheat gluten turned into tiny hard pebbles for massive gut irritation and vitality reduction) was cutting edge. Now I wouldn’t touch the stuff! I gradually upgraded to colorful, easy to digest, extremely nutrient-dense meals. I'm always upgrading and this is an invitation for you to too.
When I first started consuming herbs to necessarily fine tune my health, fitness, focus, and stress resilience, I played around with whole herb powders and lightly brewed herbal teas.
After a few years of consuming these weak forms of herbs and experiencing zero benefit, I realized that most of the whole powders did nothing (human digestion doesn’t extract most of the active compounds in herbs very well, but heat and solvents do) and the herbal teas were too tame for my needs as well.
This insight kicked off my 15-year bring-out-the-big-guns, non-stop, self-imposed research project of learning everything I could about herbs and supplements.
In fact, for the past 15 years there has been a world-wide explosion of herbal nutrition studies, technological herbal extraction advances, herbal nutrition production, and internet information accessibility in the marketplace. Our health potential is truly blessed to reap the benefits of such unprecedented innovation.
Studying herbs lead me to my enchantment with a category of herbs called adaptogens – herbs proven to help your body adapt and thrive amidst stress that you can take daily.
Adaptogens work because they have multiple novel nutrients in them that work together to trigger your body for optimal function. But most adaptogen products don’t concentrate these compounds well enough to make a big health impact.
Most of my early adaptogen extract exploration was with water extracts and tinctures.
Hot water extract powders are basically big long-brewed teas that are then dehydrated into an instant water-soluble powder. These can be excellent for some products, but not all adaptogen active compounds are water soluble and therefore a low amount make it into the final product.
Tinctures use ethanol (alcohol) to extract the ethanol-soluble (lipid/fat-based compounds) but most tinctures are inherently low-potency and further diluted. I boldly say that because of the very nature of most adaptogen tinctures, they have such a low concentration of active compounds that you’d have to get drunk to consume an ample dose.
Herbalism of the 21st Century!
Most adaptogen powdered extracts (powdered so you don’t have to consume or carry around the heavy weight of the extraction solvents used) are made the following ways:
Hot water extract powder: Water and ground adaptogens are mixed, heated (usually just below boiling) and agitated for a couple days, then strained to remove the inactive and fibrous part of the plant or mushroom, tested for the presence of active compounds, then dehydrated into a concentrated powder. Water extraction maximizes the concentration of water-soluble nutrients like beta-glucans (great for your immune system) in adaptogens like medicinal mushrooms.
Ethanol extract powder: Same process but with ethanol instead of water. Ethanol extraction maximizes the concentration of lipid-based compounds like the triterpenes (great for mental-clarity) in mushroom adaptogens.
Dual (hydro-ethanolic) extract powder: Both hot water and ethanol are used in a similar extraction process to maximize BOTH water-soluble and lipid-based active compounds. With most adaptogens, this creates the most comprehensive, full-spectrum extract so you can gain all the benefits the adaptogen has to offer.
Note: Ethanol and dual extracts are made in factories that use special equipment that prevents the ethanol from igniting. Do not add alcohol to a cooking pot of tea or near your stove top as this could create an explosion or fire!
I now use certified organic dual extracts (some of them used to be hot water extracts when I first launched them 8 years ago) for some of my most popular Longevity Power adaptogens:
Maca Bliss is a dual extract to maximize the nutrition of maca including the lipid-based macamides which are credited for maca’s fitness and sexual health boosting properties.
Epic Reishi contains a dual extract of reishi mushroom to maximize both the immune-strengthening water-soluble beta-glucan content and the mental-calm-and-focused-inducing lipid-based triterpenes.
Glow is a dual extract to maximize the full capabilities of he shou wu root including the cell-protective water-soluble antioxidant content (stilbene glycosides.)
Levity is a dual extract to concentrate red asparagus root’s immune-strengthening water-soluble polysaccharide content and the subtle mood-lifting lipid-soluble compounds.
When selecting for an herbal extract powder, make sure the extraction process does not use petroleum solvents like butane and acetone. These are as effective as but cheaper than ethanol and leave a detectable amount of toxic residue in the final product. I have never ever sourced these.
There are other non-toxic solvents out there like CO2 super-critical extract for concentrating lipid-based compounds. These usually come in an oil form rather than an extract powder
Success is Created From Daily Small Consistent ChoicesIf you’ve made it this far in my article, you’re determined about your health, you know that health gains take consistent effort to achieve your desired results. I have determined that most of the herbal and adaptogen products out there lack their full health-giving properties because of how they were made. This seems like such a waste of effort for those as serious as us.
So many adaptogens (not all but many of the top ones) beg to be dual extracted. Bringing into your health protocol dual extracts that insure your body receives all the biohacking properties the herb has to offer in this most potent, convenient and economical form.
I hope you enjoy optimally-extracted adaptogens so you can live life enhanced. Welcome to the 21st century!