Sometimes, the right medicine was there all along. For more than 4,000 years, adaptogens, or healing herbs and plants, have been used in Chinese and Indian Ayurvedic healing traditions. Predominantly used to treat stress, adaptogens have been used for centuries, and later on these natural remedies helped treat soldiers’ stress during World War II; the term “adaptogenic” was coined years later in the 1950s by Soviet scientist Dr. Nikolai Lazarev.

Adaptogens primarily help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. Overall, they relieve any inflammatory conditions caused by stress, including heart disease, obesity, cancer, arterial disease, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, and more. “Stress is one of the root causes of everyone’s health issues,” Phil Catudal, certified personal trainer for the National Academy of Sports Medicine and author of Just Your Type: The Ultimate Guide to Eating and Training Right for Your Body told us. “Be it an athlete, an executive, or a stressed parent, what holds us back from peak performance or feeling truly healthy is our high stress levels. High stress levels means high levels of inflammation, and when we have a fire inside us, which is exactly what inflammation means.”

Predominantly available in supplement form, other adaptogens are available as more edible roots, herbs, and berries. American ginseng root, ashwagandha root, Asian ginseng root, cordyceps, dang shen root, eleuthero root, holy basil herb, jiaogulan herb, licorice rhizome, rhaponticum root, rhodiola root, schisandra berries/seeds (also known as Wu Wei Zi), maca, and reishi mushroom are all adaptogens and basically have the same effect: They reduce stress.

We broke down some ways adaptogens can help you chill out, boost endurance in the gym (and sack), prevent illnesses, and beyond. In the end, the less stress, the better the health.