October 21, 2021

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Vitamin alternative: Adaptogens offer a new way of boosting the immune system

Supplements, vitamins and other botanicals have been a part of the health and wellness industry for years, and public interest shows no signs of slowing. According to a market research report by Fortune Business Insights, the immune health supplements market is expected to grow $13 billion over the next seven years.

And while health stores have always sold various capsules, powders and tinctures, there’s another wave of immune-boosting remedies called adaptogens that are becoming increasingly popular.

Not sure which adaptogenic mushroom is right for you? Keep reading to determine which you should put in your morning potion.

• Chaga. This immune-boosting mushroom is packed with antioxidants and is believed to fight inflammation.

• Shiitake. According to webmd.com, shiitake mushrooms are high in natural copper, which might support healthy blood vessels, bones and overall immune system health.

• Maitake. Known as the “dancing mushroom,” maitake is believed to promote mental and physical well-being. Popular for its immune-boosting properties, it is also used to aid in hormonal balance.

• Reishi. Similar to chaga, reishi is full of antioxidants but can also help relieve depression. Reishi is also believed to help lower cholesterol and maintain heart health.

Heather Harmon and Jimmy Aston founded local apothecary the Shasta Shop, which opened last year and exists both online and in pop-up form at the Downtown Summerlin Farmers Market every Saturday, as a way to offer the community affordable access to herbs and adaptogens.

“Shasta really came out of a love of health and wellness—mental health, physical health,” Harmon says. “To be healthy and to be thoughtful doesn’t necessarily have to be that expensive.”

Harmon had suffered a stress-related injury and was taking more than 20 pills and capsules to keep herself feeling healthy. But the price of those supplements started to add up.

“I have always lived a really high-stress lifestyle,” Harmon says. “I was trying to process how [to] deal with the pressure and stress of everyday life and still be healthy and get all the nutrients you need.”

“I was doing things a bit backward,” she continues, “taking all these vitamins and running in circles. That’s when I started looking at reishi and chaga [mushrooms] and solutions that have been available to people for centuries.”

Harmon and Aston say that instead of taking a daily concoction of vitamins and supplements, you can get similar or better effects from a teaspoon of adaptogens and superfoods in your coffee, tea or morning smoothie.

“All adaptogens have a similar foundation of benefits,” Aston explains. “All of them are loaded with vitamins and nutrients and antioxidants, [but] each one has a special something that stands out more than anything else.”

Aston recommends a shiitake or maitake mushroom powder to start. “That’s a good all-around adaptogen that helps you in every situation and every part of your life. It’s great for mental and physical health, and it has all these vitamins and nutrients.” The couple also suggests lion’s mane, which Aston says has received “quite a lot of press” during the past few years for its alleged ability to produce new neural pathways—something that could potentially help prevent Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Root and mushroom powders aren’t all that Shasta has in store. The son of Taiwanese restaurateurs, Aston created his signature eggplant crisps after tweaking a family recipe that’s been passed down through generations.

“I veganized this recipe from my great-great-great-grandmother and then used it as a marinade for the eggplant,” Aston says. “There’s only four ingredients. We marinate it for over 24 hours, put it in a dehydrator for another 24 hours and then have these incredible snacks.”

“We work seasonally,” Harmon adds, explaining that Shasta uses fresh fruits and vegetables when they’re available. “When persimmons are gone, they’re gone. We don’t fight to have something that isn’t in line with the natural cycle or order of things.”

As Harmon and Aston gear up for winter, they’re excited to offer shungite powder, a rare provision found only in a specific region of Russia. According to healthline.com, shungite is a black stone from Shunga, a village in Karelia, Russia. The stone is composed of fullerenes, a type of carbon nanostructure that is believed to fight pathogens, bacteria and viruses, as well as shield against electromagnetic frequencies.

Like all adaptogens, however, the benefits of each mushroom, powder or root takes time. It should be noted that there’s little long-term research about adaptogens’ effects on the body over time. As with all other supplements, you should talk to your doctor before adding adaptogens to your diet or routine.

“Adaptogens are not something you take once,” Harmon says. “They’re about dedication. They definitely gain traction and are a slow build.”

“Instead of us taking 19 different capsules and supplements,” Aston says, “we have some coffee or matcha, put in a measured scoop of our lion’s mane and pine pollen and call it a day.”

This story appeared in Las Vegas Weekly.

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