adaptogenic hot chocolateThis adaptogenic hot chocolate is chocolatey, creamy, and sweet enough to feel like a treat. It’s an excellent replacement for coffee in the morning or a way to wind down in the evenings. You’ll never know this delicious hot cocoa packs a powerful dose of adaptogens. The recipe is vegan (dairy-free, egg-free), grain-free (gluten-free), soy-free, and refined sugar-free.

What Are Adaptogens

Adaptogens are a select group of medicinal herbs, roots, and fungi that enhance the body’s adaptive response to stress. They often grow in unforgiving environments, so they must ‘adapt’ to survive.

Consumption of adaptogens increases the body’s ability to resist physical, chemical, and biological stressors and allows the body to return to balance (homeostasis).

Adaptogens don’t have a specific action. The term ‘adaptogen’ was first recorded in 1947 by N.V. Lazarev, a Russian scientist, who described this non-specific effect that increases the body’s resistance to stress. (1)

How Adaptogens Work

The herbal action in adaptogens increases or decreases chemical reactions within the body. In other words, they operate a bit like a thermostat. When the thermostat senses that the room temperature is too high, it brings it down; when the temperature is too low, it brings it up. 

For example, if you experience stress (= elevated cortisol), an adaptogen will respond by reducing cortisol levels. If you experience chronic fatigue (= low cortisol levels), an adaptogen will increase cortisol levels in your body. According to research, adaptogens do this by interacting with the HPA (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis), which controls the release of many hormones. 

The main health benefits of adaptogens include alleviating anxiety, reducing fatigue and/or increasing energy, regulating stress, and boosting immunity. 

Top Adaptogens

The most common adaptogens – as recognized by the herbalist David Winston in his book Adaptogenic Herbs – include*:

  • Ashwagandha: the herb’s root and flower have been used in Ayurveda – a traditional Indian system of medicine – for over 3,000 years. Ashwagandha helps the body modulate stress and anxiety while supporting restorative sleep. (2, 3) Different studies have used different dosages. Some research suggests taking 250-600 mg daily can reduce stress. Other studies have used much higher dosages. (4
  • Astragalus: the herb’s root has been used in Traditional Chinese medicine for over 2,000 years. In alternative medicine, astragalus is most known for boosting immunity and potentially buffering the effects of stress. (5, 6) However, Western research has yet to provide much evidence of its effectiveness. Due to insufficient scientific information. there’s no standardized dosage for astragalus.
  • Cordyceps: prized for their natural ability to enhance energy levels, these fungi have been commonly used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for at least 5,000 years. Cordyceps boost ATP production – an organic compound that brings energy to every cell – and enhance lactic acid metabolism, making exercise and other physical activities less challenging. (7, 8, 9) A moderate dose of 2,000 mg is the amount experts recommend for daily use. However, studies on athletic performance have used daily doses of up to 4,500 mg. (8)
  • Eleuthero (Siberian Ginseng): a close relative of true Asian ginseng, this herb was first used as a remedy in China 2,000 years ago. The main benefits of eleuthero include improved athletic performance, reduced fatigue, and a more robust immune system. (10, 11) There isn’t enough reliable information to know an appropriate dose of eleuthero, but most studies use a daily dose of 400-1,200 mg.
  • Ginseng (Panax Ginseng): ginseng was first used as an herbal medicine in China 2,000 years ago. It has been shown to improve feelings of calmness (12) and help reduce mental fatigue and stress. (13) A daily dosage is 200-3,000 mg.
  • Holy Basil (Tulsi): this herb has been used for thousands of years in Ayurveda and is known as the “elixir of life.” Tulsi can help manage stress, improve cognitive function, and relax the nervous system. (14) The typical dose range for holy basil is between 300-2,000 mg per day.
  • Maca (Peruvian Ginseng): this nutrient-dense root has been used by the natives of the Andes for at least 2,000 years. Maca can assist in increasing endurance, enhancing mood, improving cognitive function, and balancing hormones. Unfortunately, there’s insufficient evidence to determine an appropriate dose of maca root, but the standard daily dose is between 1,500-3,500 mg. (15)
  • Reishi: also known as the “Queen of Mushrooms,” reishi is revered worldwide for its ability to help the body adapt to stress. The use of reishi was first recorded over 2,000 years ago in ancient China by Taoist monks and sages for cultivating spiritual energy, reducing stress, calming the mind, and fighting insomnia. (16, 17) Most studies have found that 2,000-9,000 mg of reishi extract or powder is enough to impact health positively. (18)
  • Rhodiola: also known as “arctic root,” this herb was first used by Vikings and Ancient Greeks 1,000 years ago. The medicinal compounds of Rhodiola come from the root of the plant and have been used to help treat occasional stress, anxiety, mental and physical fatigue, and depressed mood. (19, 20, 21) Clinical doses of a rhodiola rosea extract are commonly 200-600 mg per day. 
  • Schisandra Berry: referred to as a “five-flavored fruit,” this herb was used along with other ancient adaptogens like ginseng and reishi by Taoist masters over 2,000 years ago. Research surrounding Schisandra is conclusive that it’s a powerful anti-anxiety herb. It also has the ability to boost mood by lowering stress levels and enhancing mental performance. The typical dose is 1,000-3,000 mg up to twice a day.
  • Turmeric: the use of turmeric dates back more than 3,000 years to the Vedic culture in India, where it was used as a culinary spice. What people may not know is its energizing potential. Studies find that the active compound in turmeric – curcumin – plays a role in managing anxiety and stress and has a whole-body, inflammation-reducing response. (22) Studies typically use 500–2,000 mg of turmeric daily, often as an extract with a curcumin concentration much higher than the amounts naturally occurring in foods. For example, turmeric spices contain around 3% curcumin, compared to 95% in extracts. (23)

*All dosages are of standardized extracts.

**Always consult your medical doctor before starting an herbal protocol.

adaptogenic hot cocoa

Tips for Making Adaptogenic Hot Chocolate

Ingredients

This adaptogenic hot chocolate is inspired by Adaptogen Blend by Navitas Organics, which contains ashwagandha, maca, and reishi. Also, you might have noticed that I interchangeably use the terms adaptogenic hot cocoa and adaptogenic hot chocolate. The reason is that the taste and consistency of this drink fall somewhere between hot cocoa and hot chocolate. Hot cocoa is often flat and sweet; hot chocolate is rich and complex and only slightly sweet. So, without further ado, here are the ingredients you’ll need for this recipe:

  • Cashew milk: when choosing milk for hot cocoa, focus on a decadent, creamy texture. I find cashew milk the best, but oat milk or almond milk also works. 
  • Cacao powder: the less processed cacao is, the more nutrients it contains. I find the taste of raw cacao powder superior to standard unsweetened cocoa powder. But if you have only cocoa powder, feel free to use it. Just keep in mind that raw cacao powder is more bitter, while cocoa powder is generally sweeter. So, if you use cocoa powder, you can slightly reduce the amount of sweetener.
  • Coconut sugar: the caramel taste of coconut sugar pairs really well with the malty maca and rich cacao. Pure maple syrup would be a great substitute.
  • Adaptogens: all adaptogens taste different. Of the three I am using for this adaptogenic hot chocolate, maca is the most pleasant, with a nutty, caramel-like taste that pairs well with sweet flavors. Ashwagandha and reishi have a bitter taste reminiscent of dark chocolate, so they are often part of adaptogenic hot cocoa mixes. Other popular adaptogens used for cacao-based drinks include chaga and eleuthero.
  • Chocolate (optional): hot chocolate always contains real chocolate – that’s why it’s richer and thicker than hot cocoa. Hot cocoa, on the other hand, consists of just cocoa powder, milk, and a sweetener – it tends to be sweeter and lighter than hot chocolate. I used 70% dark chocolate, but it’s optional.

ingredients for adaptogenic hot chocolate

How to Make Adaptogenic Hot Chocolate

This recipe is so easy to make! All you have to do is:

  1. Warm up the cashew milk. Add the cashew milk to a saucepan and bring it to a simmer over medium heat. 
  2. Mix in the rest of the ingredients. Add the cacao powder, coconut sugar, adaptogens, and chopped chocolate (optional) to the saucepan and bring it to a simmer, stirring occasionally, until hot and smooth. 

warming up cashew milk

how to make adaptogenic hot chocolate

How to Serve Adaptogenic Hot Cocoa

If you’re going for a classic, serve the hot chocolate with coconut whipped cream and shaved chocolate. 

I like to serve this adaptogenic hot chocolate with just a sprinkle of cinnamon. The sweet and woody taste of cinnamon goes exceptionally well with chocolate. There’s a reason chocolate and cinnamon are such a popular combination.

adaptogenic hot chocolate recipe

MORE CHOCOLATE DRINK RECIPES

  • Hot chocolate: if you enjoy rich flavors and thick consistency, you’ll love this hot chocolate. It’s the epitome of “drinking chocolate.”
  • Hot cocoa: compared to hot chocolate, hot cocoa tends to be sweet and light. However, even though it’s not as chocolaty or rich, it’s just as comforting.
  • Frozen hot chocolate: in the hot summer months, frozen hot chocolate wins! It’s thick, frothy, and, of course, chocolaty. It’s essentially an icy-cold version of hot chocolate.

If you try any of these recipes, please leave a comment and rate the recipe below. It always means a lot when you do.

adaptogenic hot chocolate

Adaptogenic Hot Chocolate

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Yield: 2 cups
This adaptogenic hot chocolate is chocolatey, creamy, and sweet enough to feel like a treat. It's an excellent replacement for coffee in the morning or a way to wind down in the evenings. You'll never know this delicious hot cocoa packs a powerful dose of adaptogens.

Ingredients
 

  • 2 cups (480 ml) cashew milk
  • 2 Tbsp. (14 g) cacao powder
  • 2 Tbsp. (24 g) coconut sugar
  • 1 tsp. reishi mushroom powder
  • 1 tsp. maca powder
  • 1/2 tsp. ashwagandha powder
  • 1/4 cup (30 g) dark chocolate, ,chopped (optional)

Instructions
 

  • Warm up the cashew milk. Add the cashew milk to a saucepan and bring it to a simmer over medium heat. 
  • Mix in the rest of the ingredients. Add the cacao powder, coconut sugar, adaptogens, and chopped chocolate (optional) to the saucepan and bring it to a simmer, stirring occasionally, until hot and smooth. 
  • Serve. Pour the hot chocolate into mugs and add your favorite toppings (optional).

Notes

*Nutrition information is approximate and may contain errors. Please feel free to make your own calculations. Nutrition information is calculated without optional ingredients.

Nutrition

Serving: 1of 2, Calories: 114kcal, Carbohydrates: 19g, Protein: 3g, Fat: 4g, Fiber: 6g, Sugar: 9g
Course: Dessert, Drinks
Cuisine: American
Keywords: adaptogenic hot chocolate, adaptogenic hot chocolate recipe, adaptogenic hot cocoa