Top 10 Adaptogens for Stress Relief

If you’re living with stress, you must learn how to protect yourself from its damaging impacts.

Many of us face stressful situations day in and day out.

This chronic stress causes disruptive symptoms, degrades our quality of life and leads to problems like heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and mental illness.

Medicinal plants, known as adaptogens, increase our resistance to stress and sickness.

I want to tell you about 10 adaptogens that you can start using now to restore your strength, enhance your stamina and make you immune to the threats of stress.

But, before I do, let’s talk about how stress affects our bodies so we can recognize the signs of imbalances… before they progress into major health problems.

How Stress Affects The Body

Stress induces immediate and significant changes to help us respond to an imminent threat.

When we’re stressed, our brains inhibit our digestive function so that our energy and resources can be diverted to resolving the source of the stress. 

Our blood pressure goes up, our heart rate goes up and our blood is diverted to our extremities, away from our guts and other vital organs.

These changes are actually beneficial. Without our stress response, we would be ill-equipped to fight immediate threats to our survival.

The problem arises when stress is not resolved, and instead, becomes chronic. 

Cortisol is released by our adrenal glands to help us cope with stress. It has anti-inflammatory properties and is necessary for healthy metabolism. 

Cortisol is released in response to stress factors like…

Unfortunately, many of us consider one or more these stressful scenarios on a daily basis, leading to constantly elevated cortisol levels.

Here’s what happens when we endure chronic stress:

The pancreas suppresses production of digestive enzymes, inhibiting our capacity to breakdown our food and assimilate nutrients. Our digestion stagnates as the stress-altered behavior of the valves between different sections of the gut inhibit motility. 

As our guts become sluggish, toxins begin to recirculate into the bloodstream, instead of being eliminated. 

Our thyroids suffer as well. We rely on our thyroids to produce hormones that influence every single cell in our bodies. When our ability to assimilate nutrients becomes hampered by stress, we can’t absorb enough iodine, selenium and zinc to produce those vital thyroid hormones. 

Plus, the thyroid provides energy for every cell in the body. As our levels of thyroid hormones decrease, the functioning of all of our organs decreases. For example, if we lose 20% of our thyroid hormones, the capacity of our minds, immune system, metabolism, liver, kidneys and gut will all be reduced by 20%. 

It’s not hard to see how problems with our thyroid quickly affect our health, mood and wellbeing.

Our sex hormones become imbalanced as well, especially for women.

We rely on our guts to eliminate estrogen that our bodies no longer need. When our motility suffers and toxins re-enter our bloodstream, used estrogen gets recirculated. (Of course, if our thyroids are compromised, our livers will be less able to filter used estrogen into the gut in the first place.)

Stress also depletes our progesterone levels. That’s because when we’re stressed, our adrenals must produce more cortisol. When stress is prolonged, our adrenal glands convert progesterone to cortisol to keep up with the incessant demand.

As a result, our estrogen levels go up and progesterone levels go down. Estrogen and progesterone must balance each other. Rising estrogen levels due to stress and poor motility lead to an estrogen dominant hormonal imbalance. 

Estrogen dominance causes heavy, painful periods, fibroids, ovarian cysts, tender breasts, weight gain, moodiness and irritability. It also further suppresses the thyroid.

Sustained, elevated cortisol levels also suppresses the function of insulin, which means our cells can’t metabolize sugar. This makes us crave carbs and gain weight.

Blood sugar imbalance is acutely dangerous. If insulin gets out of balance, it can cause death in 8-12 hours.

To restore balance, our bodies produce extra testosterone, which makes us more sensitive to insulin. For women, the ovaries will grow cysts, which produce testosterone to save us from the deadly risk of insulin imbalance.

Sustained high production of cortisol in response to stress eventually fatigues the adrenal glands. This causes low libido, joint pain, fibromyalgia symptoms and the loss of connective tissue that causes our skin to become saggy and inelastic.

Clearly, chronic stress creates problems throughout the body that none of us wants to live with!

Stress is an unavoidable part of life. 

In order to thrive, we must enhance our ability to cope with and respond to stress.

Adaptogens are a powerful resource for enhancing our capacity to cope with stress and protecting us from the negative impacts of stress that cannot be avoided.

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How Do Adaptogens Work?

Adaptogens are herbs and medicinal plants that have been used around the world for thousands of years. 

To be considered an adaptogen, a plant must:

  1. Be generally safe for everyone
  2. Increase stress coping capacity
  3. Restore balance to hormones

Adaptogens soothe inflammation, lower cortisol levels and support the adrenals, thyroid and reproductive organs.

These traditional medicines also stimulate the nervous, endocrine and immune systems simultaneously and by multiple pathways.

They balance, normalize and enhance the function of the brain, nerves, pituitary, thyroid, parathyroid, adrenals, thymus, pineal gland, pancreas, reproductive organs and immune system.

The key to the health-sustaining benefits of adaptogens is the way they help us respond to stress by stimulating our natural defense systems.

In response to chronic stress, adaptogens stimulate and balance the nervous system, immune response, blood sugar and adrenals.

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Best Adaptogens for Stress Relief

Many adaptogens are available to help you combat the destructive impact of chronic stress on your body and mind. 

These are some of my favorites:

American Ginseng

Chief medicinal plant of the Cherokee, ‘grandfather ginseng’ was used for shortness of breath, coughing, digestive upset, headaches, convulsions, fatigue, headaches, convulsions, female reproductive disorders and general weakness. Recent studies confirm that American ginseng restores depleted adrenals, boosts the immune system and soothes an over-stressed nervous system. It also offers protection from Type 2 diabetes and erectile dysfunction and boosts digestion and absorption of nutrients. 

Ashwagandha

In ayurvedic medicine, Ashwagandha is said to give one the stamina and strength of a stallion. In ancient India it was used for prolonging life, stimulating the mind, enhancing libido and sexual performance and recovering from illness and injury. Although most adaptogens are stimulating, ashwagandha is known for its calming effect. It is beneficial for anxiety, fatigue, brain fog, stress-induced insomnia and nervous exhaustion. Ashwagandha enhances the adrenals and is one of the few herbs that directly boosts thyroid function.

Asian Ginseng

Asian ginseng has a long history of use in China, where it is regarded as a ‘kingly tonic.’ It is used broadly throughout Asia for malaria, diarrhea, vomiting, coughs, diabetes, dizziness and general weakness. Asian ginseng is one of the most studied herbs in the world. Research confirms its traditional usages and reveals new applications for modern ailments. It is considered the most stimulating of adaptogens, which makes it ideal for weak, deficient and exhausted people. It profoundly benefits the immune system, adrenal glands, pancreas, circulation and nervous system.

Astragalus

Astragalus is native to China where ancient texts document its effectiveness for treating asthma, chills, fevers, kidneys, coughing and “hundreds of diseases in children.” Astragalus was traditionally used to strengthen the tendons, bones and muscles, and to boost the immune system. Today, it continues to be used to tone the spleen, stimulate appetite and improve circulation. It prevents cold, influenza, bronchitis, pneumonia and other infections. Astragalus also prevents immuno-suppression in cancer patients and inhibits the growth of tumors.

Cordyceps

The cordyceps mushroom grows in the foothills of the Himalayas in Tibet and Bhutan where it is used for kidney failure, heart failure and to enhance libido. In Traditional Chinese Medicine cordyceps is used to replenish the kidneys, strengthen the spleen and enhance fertility, bone strength and hearing. It also helps with infertility, night sweats, dizziness, ringing in the ears, and fatigue. Studies confirm that the cordyceps mushroom increases aerobic capacity and cellular energy stores, lowers cholesterol, prevents oxidative damage and regulates immune function. 

Holy Basil

Holy basil is a sacred herb in the Hindu tradition, where it is regarded as rasayana, meaning it promotes long life and nourishes perfect health. It has been considered one of India’s most powerful herbs for 3,000 years. Daily use of holy basil is believed to balance the energy centers of the body and to induce a state of goodness, virtue and joy. It is a remedy for bronchitis, upset stomach, vomiting, nasal congestion, ear aches, fevers, UTIs, gas, intestinal cramps, ulcers, colds, influenza, headaches and coughs. Modern research shows that holy basil is antioxidant, neuroprotective and stress reducing. It protects the liver, lowers blood sugar, heals ulcers and alleviates depression.

Licorice

Native to southeastern Europe and southwestern Asia, licorice has been used as a long time as both a food and medicine in China and the Middle East. Ancient Greek texts record its uses for dry coughs, respiratory disease and to heal the stomach, throat, liver and kidneys. Licorice is considered the most commonly used herb in ancient China, where it was used to balance all of the organs, strengthen the bones and connective tissue, enhance muscle growth and heal topical wounds. Today it is celebrated for its adaptogenic, immune-enhancing and anti-inflammatory benefits. It heals the liver, restores the adrenals and alleviates the symptoms of IBS.

Reishi

Varieties of reishi mushrooms can be found in Asia, Europe, North America and the Amazon rainforest. In Traditional Chinese Medicine it is regarded as the “herb for immortals” and has been used to strengthen the eyes, calm the mind, increase compassion, prevent senility and increase lifespan. It strengthens the spleen, relieves coughs, tones the kidneys, relieves joint pain and strengthens the muscles, bones and connective tissue. Reishi has been extensively researched by modern scientists who have found that it enhances immune function, fights cancer, improves all aspects of cardiovascular health, eliminates inflammation, improves adrenal function and relieves stress.

Rhodiola

Rhodiola is native to Canada, Scandinavia and Siberia. In Tibetan medicine it is used to lower fever, improve circulation, nourish the lungs and enhance energy. As knowledge of its uses spread, it became a cherished medicinal plants of the Chinese, Greeks and Vikings. Rhodiola alleviates depression, enhances alertness, reduces fatigue and improves memory. It prevents and reverses immune depletion caused by stress and overworking. Rhodiola balances blood sugar, enhances reproductive function, prevents stress-induced damage to the heart and is recommended for treating cancer, fibromyalgia, diabetes and congestive heart failure. 

Schisandra

Schisandra is a fruit that is native to China. It benefits the liver, kidneys, heart, lungs and spleen and has traditionally been used to treat coughs, weakness, congestion, dysentery, diarrhea and jaundice. Recent research shows that it relieves excess sweating, night sweats and menopause. It protects, repairs and enhances the function of the liver. Schisandra enhances reflexes and mental capacity, but is also calming and stress-relieving. It restores the immune system from damage caused by chronic anger, anxiety, depression and fear. 

*          *          *

These adaptogens have been used around the world for thousands of years to keep us healthy and balanced in an often-stressful world.

Stress is an inevitable part of life and the changes induced in the body by stress allow us to overcome immediate threats to our survival.

Stress becomes dangerous when it is chronic, but it also offers us opportunities to learn, grow and change.

The key to thriving in spite of the stresses we encounter every day is the way we respond to it. 

Choose to be grateful for the challenges that spur you along on our journey and remember to use adaptogens to keep you energized, balanced and healthy.

Drop a note in the comments to tell me about a stressful experience that made you happier and stronger in the end.

Goodness Lover

Goodness Lover

COMMENTS 36

  • Marta Altheide

    My go to never fail for stress is 1. praying and
    2. deep Cleansing breaths all through the day and evening.
    3.Forgiveness
    4. Unconditional love for
    all, especially for the unlovable
    5. Live for the benefit of others.

  • Marta Altheide

    Almost forgetting
    Eat live foods raw,
    limit processed foods or avoid.
    Sweets to special occasions only.
    Lots of fresh air and sunshine plus playing with
    children in our lives, they are so life giving and loving

  • Terrie

    I am on synthroid .75mcg daily for past 13 years And wonder if I could take Ashwagandha
    I also had a bilateral mastectomy 1 1/2 years ago for precancerous Brest lump tried to come off synthroid but levels would not allow
    I was also on birth control until I was 50 so I know all played a factor
    I also have Crohn’s disease taking Stelara every 4 months

    • Goodness Lover

      Hi, Terrie! It is considered safe to use ashwagandha while taking Synthroid. In fact, ashwagandha is not known to interact with any drug. The thyroid is vulnerable to stress and inflammation. Ashwagandha reduces inflammation and enhances our capacity to cope with stress. It is considered a great choice for supporting the thyroid while working to resolve the underlying causes of low thyroid. I hope it helps you!

  • Debbie

    This is very interesting. Is there a brand that contains all of these adaptogens in it in a sufficient quantity to help the body? I would like to try it to improve my health.

  • Eleni

    Hi,
    After having partial hysterectomy to treat my extremely heavy periods at the age of 46, I did yoga breathing at the hospital and avoided panicking because of difficulty of breathing after laparoscopy! If was a savior to be able to breathe with my yoga belly breaths!!

  • Mehru

    Hi Sarah
    Thank u so much for this important info regarding stress ..we all have stress in our lives and it’s imperative that We know some ways to relive stress. And help us become healthier ..you are awesome 👏

  • Bodil Brandow

    THANK YOU SARAH for your eagerness to share, which we all are benefiting from. Your idealism
    and generosity is warming many hearts. May you be rewarded with good health the rest of your
    life.

    Sincerely,
    Bodil Brandow (83 and still kicking, but slowing down in brain and body )

    P.S. My daughter in Melbourne, Australia who has IBS will benefit from your whole package,
    our Christmas present from us.

    • Bodil Brandow

      THANK YOU SARAH for your eagerness to share, which we all are benefiting from. Your idealism
      and generosity is warming many hearts. May you be rewarded with good health the rest of your
      life.

      Sincerely,
      Bodil Brandow (83 and still kicking, but slowing down in brain and body )

      P.S. My daughter in Melbourne, Australia who has IBS will benefit from your whole package,
      our Christmas present from us.

  • Louis Howard

    Sara, Sara… storms are brewing in your eyes(lalalala..) as the song goes. You guys are great, if you have a potion for these herbs in a single pill or 100% powder, put me on the purchase list. I’m dealing with some issues GERD and sleeplessness, due to the GERD. I have high blood pressure and my Doctor issued me a calcium channel blocker @ 10 MG over 1 yr ago. I intentional lost 40 and the Gerd showed up due to higher doses than needed. The sad thing is that I disclosed this information to my Doctor after researching the information though the internet. Why me O Lord??

  • debbie

    I know for a fact that at least a couple of these herbs have dangerous side effects that you failed to mention. I know that too much licorice can cause dangerous blood pressure effects. And that ginseng can cause blood thinning and should not be used by people on blood thinners. So these plants may be safe for many but not for all and the dosages have to be monitored.

  • Goldie

    Thank you so much for this information I find articles like this better for me (89)
    that I can always refer back to them Would have loved to get your recent package but ah love my husband of 94 needs the care of a baby. We get no help from Government so you can imagine what I am coping with on a fixed income. All the best . Thanks for trying to help.

  • Hilary A Weaver

    where can you find these ? do you take all of them? many seem to overlap what they help with so how do you decide which ones to take?

  • Dianne Koci

    So many situation over a lifetime; 6 children a business failure, mother’s death, icing often, one wonders if the accumulation can be overcome, but always discovering joy as I age and read the benefits of wisdom, not to minimise all the millions of good memories.
    Now about reversing the negative built up stress response.
    Thanks for this adaptogens
    Information, Dianne

  • K.O.

    I was stressed fo over30 odd years caused by my abusive husband.One year ago I decided to put an end to my stress.I decided to destress by opening up and telling people about my abusive husband .Since I started talking my health problems started to disappear.Every night I pray for the help I get from God,my guardian angels etc to give me the strength to continue living .I also consume healthy food I also take the adaptogens I read above.

  • Lorraine

    Ashwagandha is helping me with Rheumatoid Arthritis. I have only been taking it for just over a month and it has helped in calming the inflammation and pain in my right shoulder which was causing me sleeping issues.

  • Phuong

    Thank you very much for the wealth of knowledge! There are so many brands out there selling these types of herbs. Where do you recommend or how would we obtain these herbs? Specifically from which vendor or what should we look for to verify it is legitimate. Thank you!

  • Patricia Southan

    Can you take more than one at a time please or just chose one and then go on and take another
    Please let me know
    Thanks

  • Olivia

    Thank you for the information but how does one select, dose/ingest these herbs? Also, for what duration etc…

  • Joan

    I started my daughter on Ashwagandha over 6 months ago. She has had stresses from a job and finally a divorce. She complained of headaches daily. Along with just feeling exhausted. She feels much better and rarely has headaches.

  • DIANNA MAIER

    I am happier because of the info you put out and I listened to them all. am using the oils now and licorice marshmallow eat. thank you soooo much for all the help you put out for everyone. God Bless your work S!

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