Have you ever wanted to try a brain-boosting elixir created with nourishing adaptogens? We connected with Erin Michel, a holistic nutritionist and founder of Pure Feast, to chat about adaptogens and living a healthy lifestyle.
Erin started Pure Feast because she was always searching for the highest quality ingredients and struggled to find them locally or online. She now only includes her favorite products in her e-commerce store so everyone can have access to her pantry. Along the way, Erin discovered a passion for adaptogens which she uses almost daily! Luckily for us, Erin has shared her complete guide to adaptogens so you can love them as much as she does!
WEHL: Tell us about yourself and why you got involved in nutrition.
EM: I did a double-major for my secondary education in Fine Art and Graphic Design, studies that I felt I naturally gravitated towards after growing up in a creative and entrepreneurial family. I’ve always loved food and cooking and have spent a lot of time in the kitchen making meals from scratch, and the activity of cooking has always been another really important creative outlet for me. Although I was cooking most of my meals, they weren’t very healthy dishes.
It was in my late twenties when I began noticing some less than desirable health issues creeping into my life such as overwhelming fatigue, weakening immune system that caught every bug going around, and just overall feeling of poor malaise. I started working with some really great naturopathic doctors and endocrinologists who were able to discover that I had an autoimmune condition known as Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis.
I also began noticing a correlation between what I was eating and how I was feeling, and decided I needed to do some research into nutrition and holistic health to figure out how I could manage my disease and be able to thrive despite it while still eating really great food I wanted to make and eat.
Eventually, my thirst for more information and desire to be able to heal my body and help others in similar positions lead me to enroll in formal studies at holistic nutrition school. I graduated as a Holistic Nutritionist a few years ago and still try to learn as much as I can about health and nutrition every day.
WEHL: Why did you want to open an online store?
EM: I wanted to do something with my love for food that involved sharing the products that really help with my recovery, that energize me and make me feel good about what I’m eating. Many of the brands that I search out I choose because I think they’re the highest-quality of their kind available, but there wasn’t anywhere that I could go shopping online that carried all of the quality products that I wanted in one place. I wanted to create a place where people could easily shop for really healthy products and not have to worry about what was being sold on the site, because all the products have been highly scrutinized and curated by a holistic nutritionist.
If there’s a product that I won’t eat because I don’t believe the ingredients to be good for me, then I’m not going to carry it in Pure Feast to sell to others. There are other online retailers out there who do carry some really great products, but unfortunately they also carry some really junky products that do not contribute towards a person’s health at all. The retailer may state that they are in business to provide wellness to people, but you really have to sift through a lot of non-healthy items to find the good stuff.
I wanted to create an online space that is all good stuff, that you don’t have to worry about reading every ingredient in a product to make sure there’s nothing hidden in there that won’t contribute to you living a healthy life, because I’ve already taken the time and done the in-depth research for you.
WEHL: What are adaptogens?
EM: Adaptogens are incredible botanicals found in nature that help your body adapt to stress, support your hormones and their normal metabolic functions, and help to deliver balance in your body.
They are herbs and other plants that contain high levels of antioxidants that nourish your organs as well as enhance and preserve the energy flowing through your body. They help your body increase its natural defenses against different forms of stress such as physical, mental, emotional or environmental stressors.
They have been used for thousands of years in ancient China and India, and beginning around the 1940’s they began to be studied in earnest scientifically by the Soviets. Fascinating information about these herbs started catching the attention of the Western World and by the 1970’s the Americas were conducting in-depth scientific studies on them. Much research has been done to date studying their effectiveness on things such as boosting immunity, strengthening and regenerating the body, balancing the neuroendocrine system and decreasing stress.
WEHL: How do they work in the body?
EM: There are many different ways that adaptogens can work in your body. Some of them can increase energy, providing endurance and strength for physical activity, as well as helping to improve focus and cognitive function. They help with reducing stress in addition to supporting the body recover more quickly from stress.
Other adaptogens work with promoting relaxation, helping to support detoxification, and providing protection from illness, chronic disease and aging. They do this by helping to restore balance to the body’s normal metabolic systems and functions through regulating hormones. They help to lower and balance cortisol, your body’s main stress response. High cortisol levels have been shown in research to have a negative impact on your body’s proper functioning.
WEHL: Are they safe for everyone to use?
EM: Yes, for a herb or plant to be classified as an adaptogen, they must be by definition non-toxic, having no significant side effects on your body. However, you have to be careful to make sure a certain herb you’re considering taking is officially considered an adaptogen, as there are non-adaptogen herbs that should not be used in certain conditions such as if you’re pregnant, nursing, or on any medication. If you’re unsure if it’s safe, check with your doctor or qualified healthcare provider to make sure a certain adaptogen is right for you.
WEHL: How are adaptogens different from supplements?
EM: As mentioned earlier, by definition adaptogens are nontoxic, whereas some supplements when taken in large doses can result in toxicity in your body. All adaptogens come from whole food sources whereas some supplements are created in a lab using synthetic vitamins and minerals. Both adaptogens and supplements can be taken together as they work differently from one another in the body.
WEHL: Why are adaptogens so expensive?
EM: Adaptogens can be considered expensive because they really are a case of the concept of you get what you pay for. You want to make sure you are getting the best adaptogens that you can, that you’re buying the highest-quality that are grown in conditions that allow them to produce adequate amounts of the stress-protective compounds that exist in them that make them so beneficial for us. Making sure good adaptogens are growing in the right conditions is time-consuming and intensive work, and premium adaptogens are not something that can be mass produced efficiently while maintaining the level of effective plant properties that are needed for them to work in your body.
On the plus side, as these are very powerful foods, if you’re buying superior adaptogens you only need to take a very small amount in order for them to be effective, so a bottle of them will last you a good amount of time. If you’re purchasing cheaper adaptogens, you will require much higher doses in order to see any performance out of them, but they still will not be as powerful or potent in your body as a premium adaptogen will be taken at a much lower dose.
WEHL: What are the best adaptogens to boost your brain power?
EM: Adaptogens have a strong effect on the brain and nervous system, helping to balance neurotransmitters and may alleviate neurological problems such as headaches, anxiety, impaired concentration, depression, and poor memory. Research has shown that adaptogens may also be able to enhance the amount and quality of mental work that a person undertakes. Here are a few of the studied herbs that help to provide improved cognition, attention and memory function:
- Ashwagandha – this super antioxidant herb is classified as an elite herbal medicine as it is beneficial for many different purposes in the body, especially related to aging and improving cognitive function. Studies have shown that Withanolide A, a naturally occurring steroid found in ashwagandha root, is effective at regenerating brain health by rejuvenating synapses and reconstructing neurites in badly damaged neurons in the brain. ()
- Rhodiola – this adaptogen has been studied to show that the bioactive compound salidroside that it contains can help improve cognitive function, enhance memory and learning, protect the brain from aging, and boost mood. ()
- Schisandra – the fruit and seeds of this Chinese berry, known as the “five flavours fruit” for its unique taste profile that is bitter, salty, pungent, sweet and sour, has been studied to provide support to the central nervous system, including the brain. Research shows that schisandra may improve memory deficits and enhance learning aptitude. ()
- Gotu Kola (centella asiatica) – this brain tonic herb helps to nourish the nervous system and can protect the brain from oxidative stress. It’s also used to enhance memory, concentration and learning. ()
WEHL: What’s your favorite way to incorporate adaptogens into your lifestyle?
EM: The Brain-Boosting Elixir Recipe.
This brain-boosting elixir is designed to create focus and energize your brain. In addition to the nourishing adaptogens, I’ve added a grind of black pepper which in this recipe acts as a nutritional agent that will help to enhance the absorption in your body of the bioactive compounds in the adaptogens, as well as coconut butter and MCT oil, as the saturated fat found in them is one of your brain’s favourite foods for providing energy and nourishing cell membranes.
Ingredients: ½ tsp Ashwagandha, ½ tsp Rhodiola, 1 tsp Meditation Tonic, 1 tsp Matcha, 1 tbsp Cacao powder, ½ tsp Cinnamon, Grind of black pepper, 2 tbsps Coconut butter, ½ tbsp MCT oil, 1-2 tsp maple syrup, 1 ½ cups hot water.
Combine all the ingredients in a blender and blend on high until creamy.
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