Mind & Body

Adaptogens next big thing in an alcohol-free happy hour, what are they

If you turn to a glass of wine or two to relax after a busy day at work, cutting down on the grog might be a difficult choice make. But what if you could chill out with a drink that contains zero alcohol? Enter: adaptogens.

Australians, and indeed most of the world, experienced a rather sharp increase in the amount of alcohol we consumed in 2020. It was a stressful year, granted, and as depressant and sedative, alcohol can certainly help take your mind off.

Now that lockdowns have eased, though, 20 percent of us wish we’d drank less than we did and while life is still stressful, we’re looking for new ways to help wind down at the end of the day without the buzz and subsequent hangover.

Enter adaptogens, the big thing in the US right now

Adaptogens are certainly not new. The use of these non-toxic plants can be traced back to the early beginnings of Ayurveda in India and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), two ancient medical systems that were known to use these herbs. The term ‘adaptogen’ wasn’t coined until the 1960s, though, and today they are experiencing a renaissance as alternatives to spirits in cocktails. Curious Elixirs and Kin Euphorics are brands in the United States really making their mark.

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Basically, though, they’re marketed as a way of helping your body handle stress.

How they work

It’s helpful to have a basic understanding of what happens to our bodies when we’re experiencing stress. Typically, we move through three phases: alarm, resistance, and exhaustion.

When you’re lifting weights, for example, your body starts churning out hormones to improve performance and concentration through the resistance phase, which is why you likely feel fiercely focused and energised as you lift. When you start to fatigue, you’re entering the exhaustion phase.

Adaptogens are supposed to work by extending out that phase of resistance, staving off that fight-or-flight response and allowing us to cope better. This could also mean wonders for reducing belly fat, as cortisol (the stress hormone) is often a culprit for weight gain, especially around the waist.

The new happy hour?

It’s these factors that make adaptogenic drinks a great alcohol-free alternative at happy hour because they allow your faculties to stay sharp while still offering the same relaxation as alcohol.

One study showed Siberian ginseng had anti-fatigue properties and anti-depressive effects; while Schisandra is seen to be helpful for people not only experiencing extreme fatigue but it was beneficial for those with mental disorders like schizophrenia.

But you can also add them in powder form to your smoothie (Gwyneth is a big fan of this!), or look out for ingredients like herbal licorice, ginseng, holy basil, and turmeric in teas or supplements.

While these new-age adaptogenic, booze-free cocktails limited to the United States right now, we can’t help but feel they’re going to be huge in Australia soon.