Alcohol might be the original functional beverage — after all, it definitely has certain effects on the mood of whomever’s drinking it. But as more people give up booze because of its harmful health effects, new kinds of supposedly mind-altering drinks are taking its place. Sometimes called euphorics, or adaptogenic drinks, these beverages contain a cocktail of herbal and plant-based ingredients — from ginseng to cannabidiol (CBD) and more — and they make claims about increasing mental alertness and energy or helping you relax.

They stand out with eye-catching packaging and equally dramatic marketing — one brand is called Psychedelic Water and has an iridescent label — but do they actually have the mind-bending powers they claim they do? We asked experts to weigh in on whether these new drinks are actually healthy or not, and what you should know before you try them.

What Are Adaptogens?

Adaptogens are nothing new. The term was first coined in 1947 by Nikolay Vasilievich Lazarev, MD, a Soviet and Russian scientist and toxicologist, according to the European Medicines Agency. The name is fitting: It refers to herbs and other plant materials that help the human body adapt to stress. Uma Naidoo, MD, director of nutritional and lifestyle psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and author of This is Your Brain on Food, describes adaptogens as nutritional shock absorbers for the body.

“They can enhance physiological processes toward homeostasis — balance — over time, or as the body becomes ‘adapted,’” Dr. Naidoo says. “Many people turn to adaptogens as a more natural way to manage ailments including stress, fatigue, and poor sleep.”


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