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What to Know About Adaptogens

The consumption of illegal and banned substances including some adaptogens and supplements are not permitted for Marines to use. The Marine Corps does not encourage the use of non-approved substances by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Always consult your primary care provider before adding adaptogens or supplements to your diet or routine.

Adaptogens are ingredients found in certain plants and mushrooms that have the potential to affect the way your body responds to stress symptoms, anxiety, and fatigue. When consumed, these plants are intended to target specific chemical reactions in the body. For example, if stress is associated with increased cortisol levels, certain adaptogens might be taken to try to lower cortisol levels.

For plants to be considered an adaptogen, they must modify a stress-response by increasing the ability to adapt to and resist the chemical stress reaction. An adaptogen is non-toxic when taken in normal doses and has the ability to return the body to a state of balance when stress hormones from anxiety, fatigue, or other concerns prevent the regulation of homeostasis, or natural balance.

Commonly used adaptogens include supplements such as ginseng for immune system support, ashwagandha for stress management, and eleuthero for stress and fatigue.

Are service members allowed to use adaptogens?

Service members are prohibited from using dietary supplements containing substances on the official DoD Prohibited Dietary Supplements Ingredients List, which has been prepared in compliance with DoDI 6130.06. This database of ingredients is provided to help service members know what to avoid when considering dietary supplements. To search for banned supplements be sure to check Operation Supplement Safety at

What are the risks associated with taking adaptogens?

While many studies focus on the positive factors surrounding the consumption of adaptogens and have discovered beneficial and healing properties, it is important to know and understand the risks. Adaptogens may interact negatively with certain medications and, like all supplements, are not regulated by the FDA. Some adaptogens may cause drowsiness, increased thyroid hormone production, increased blood sugar, increased blood pressure, and in some cases could produce a false positive urinalysis result. Because adaptogens do not provide a permanent solution for stress reactions and symptoms of anxiety, mistaking them for a permanent solution may lead to prolonged exposure to symptoms that may be better addressed in other ways.

For more information regarding substance abuse and prevention, visit

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