Adaptogens are all the rage these days, and it makes sense! We live in a chronically stressed world and adaptogens promise the ability to improve our stress-handling capacities. The only problem is this: we are using that same magic-bullet mentality with herbal adaptogens as we do with synthetic drugs. Got a headache? Take 2 tylenol. Mucusy? Take some mucinex. Stressed out? Take some Ashwaghanda!
There is some truth to this mentality: when we are hurting, we want to take action to resolve our issues. We crave a quick fix so we can get on with our busy lives. However, herbal medicine provides slow and steady solutions for long-term resolution. Herbal medicine practiced correctly promises ultimate alleviation from our maladies by seeking out the root of the problem.
There are over 20 known adaptogens, and while all of them do increase our adaptive energy, work on our nonspecific immunity, influence our HPA axis, and function amphoterically (balancing in nature), they all have different energetics.
Ashwaghanda (Withania somnifera, Solanaceae), for example, is an amazing adaptogen and incredibly popular these days (I find it on the shelves at TJ Maxx of all places!), but it is powerful and not for everyone. While herbs can be safe, herbs used improperly can hurt you. Ashwaghanda is a very yang plant, energetically. By yang, we mean that it generates outward energy, as opposed to yin plants, that are more building, nourishing, and moistening in nature. Ashwaghanda is warm, hot, and generates energy for work and endurance. This is why athletes love it so much. However, Ashwaghanda might be too much for the average American who is already living a yang-dominant life, meaning they are always on the go and always exerting energy. Ashwaghanda can also irritate hyperthyroid conditions, so you definitely want to stay away from this plant if you have any sort of high thyroid condition. Lastly, many people are sensitive to Nightshade plants, such as tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers. Ashwaghanda is a Nightshade, so avoid this adaptogen if you have Nightshade-induced inflammation.
For our fat balls, we balance the yang (think of the hot, drying outward energy of the sun as yang) power of Ashwaghanda with the gently nourishing yin (think of the cool, moistening inward energy of the moon as yin) power of Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus, Liliaceae), a lesser-known but equally amazing adaptogen. Shatavari is generally "safer" than Ashwaghanda for it doesn't directly influence the thyroid and it moistens and restores exhausted, dried out tissue. Our culture has enough outward, busy energy. Focusing on nourishing tissues by using more moistening Shatavari is a good practice for adaptogen use.
We infuse our fat balls with the carminative, calming nature of Cardamom (Eletarria cardamomum, Zingiberaceae) and increase the bioavailabilty of our adaptogen medicine by decocting the powdered roots in coconut butter and grass-fed butter before making the batter.
We hope you enjoy our recipe, and please leave your questions in the comment section below!
Balanced Yin-Yang Fat Balls
1/2 c Coconut oil, melted
1/4 c grassfed butter
1/4 c coconut butter
10 green cardamom pods (or 1 1/2 tsp cardamom powder)
1/3 c Shatavari powder
1 1/2 tbsp Ashwaghanda
3 tbsp Red Reishi powder
1 cup coconut shreds (toasted if you prefer this taste over raw)1/2 c almond butter
1 cup raw cashews, soaked and toasted
2 tsp cinnamon
3 medjool dates (pitted)
1/3 c. almond or coconut milk
pinch sea salt
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
2 tbsp cacao nibs
In a saucepan, heat up coconut oil, coconut butter, grass-fed butter, vanilla, cardamom + Ashwaghanda, Shatavari, and Red Reishi powders. Bring to a slight simmer, stirring often. Let slightly simmer for about 5 minutes or until the butter is fragrant (this a crucial step to fully decoct all the medicine from the adaptogens).
In a blender, pulse all the other ingredients except the milk, cacao nips and chocolate chips. Add the milk a little a time, scraping down the sides and processing until a sticky dough forms. Add the cooled, decocted adaptogen mixture. Transfer the mixture to a sealable container and refrigerate at least 2 hours (this makes it easier to form into balls later on). Once refridgerated, roll into 1" diameter balls, coating in cocoa powder, extra shatavari powder, or coconut shreds for a decorative touch. I like to sprinkle with a bit more sea salt. In an airtight container, keep in the refrigerator for up to 10 days or in the freezer for up to 2 months
Eileen Brantley & Amy Wright
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