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What Are Adaptogenic Herbs?

January 04, 2018

Adaptogenic herbs (as their name suggests) are herbs that help your body “adapt.”

Today, adaptogenic herbs are best known for their ability to fight stress, but how they do this is very unique.

They are not natural sedatives; adaptogens actually help your body adapt to and resist stress, something most of us need.

Stress is something that is never going to go away completely. It’s a part of everyday life. The good news is the more you use adaptogenic herbs, the more resilient your body becomes to stress.

Over time, using adaptogens can prevent you from reacting to things that would normally stress you out.

Common Traits of Adaptogens

  • Safe for regular use
  • Calm or energize as needed without being over-stimulating
  • Support your glands, especially your adrenals. Some balance cortisol and other stress hormones (epinephrine or norepinephrine).
  • Encourage balanced mood and mental focus
  • Support physical endurance. Some help the body utilize oxygen.
  • Anti-inflammatory and antioxidant for overall health and immune response.

Who Are Adaptogens For?

Adaptogens work well for most people to reduce stress, and enhance general health.

They are balancing herbs, helping to normalize the body, so you’re better prepared for whatever changes life brings you.

We all face challenges and daily stress. Our schedules change or become more demanding.

We may deal with family stress, job stress, or financial stress. We may be under more physical stress, trying out a new sport or workout program.

Adaptogens perform many actions to help your body “adapt.” Adaptogens like rhodiola help mountain climbers or travelers adapt to higher altitudes by improving the body’s use of oxygen.

Adaptogens like Asian ginseng help athletes and people performing physical exercise by supporting the endocrine glands.

How Long Can You Use Adaptogenic Herbs?

Most adaptogens take at least 1-3 months to build in the body to be effective.

Skilled herbalists combine adaptogens with herbs that have a more immediate activity to help deal with an acute concern while also building better resistance to the problem in the future.

You may feel the benefits of special adaptogens right away, but this is usually not the case.

The adaptogens, ashwagandha and gotu kola, may calm mild stress in a few hours. Similarly, maca and red ginseng can increase energy quickly in some people.

Still, even these adaptogens should be used for at least 1-3 months to experience their full benefits.

Are There Situations Where Adaptogens Aren’t Helpful?

Yes. Adaptogens aren’t helpful for acute fevers, colds, or flu, although they may promote faster recovery in these cases.

Adaptogens don’t relieve high anxiety or an acute panic attack. However, using them may help you become more resistant to these reactions.

What Are the Best Adaptogens for Stress?

My all time, favorite adaptogen for stress is ashwagandha. Ashwagandha helps soothe frazzled nerves, and increases focused energy.

Ashwagandha is ideal for people who have heavy workloads and struggle to get enough rest.

A 2012 study published in the Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine shows ashwagandha reduces stress and anxiety by 44%, and lowers the stress hormone cortisol by 28%.

My second favorite adaptogen for stress is schisandra. Schisandra supports the adrenal gland – the glands most affected by chronic stress. It calms or energizes depending on the person’s needs.

I find it’s amazing for people with fatigue caused by chronic stress. Preliminary tests show good results for schisandra in protecting the adrenal cortex for animal under stress.

Partial List of Adaptogenic Herbs

  • Ginseng root (all types: American ginseng, Asian panax, Tienchi ginseng (Korean), Red Asian ginseng)
  • Eleuthero root (Siberian)
  • Reishi mushroom
  • Cordyceps mushroom
  • Schisandra berry
  • Ashwagandha root
  • Rhodiola rosea root
  • Gotu kola leaf
  • Jiaogulan leaf
  • Maca root
  • Ginkgo biloba leaf
  • Astragalus root
  • Licorice root
  • Tulsi (Holy Basil) herb
  • Codonopsis root
  • Fo ti root
  • Shatavari root
  • Suma root
  • Bacopa herb
  • Goji fruit
  • Jujube date

Adaptogens have an amazing affinity with our bodies. They normalize and balance, encouraging a natural state of homeostasis.

They help the body cope with new challenges, and become more resilient to chronic stress that can make you sick. They take time to become effective, but their benefits are well worth the wait.



Alban, D. (2015, Aug.) Adaptogenic herbs: Ancient balancing tonics for stress and anxiety. Retrieved from Reset Me,
Adaptogenic herbs. (2016) Retrieved from Women Living Naturally,
Chandrasekhar,K., Kapoor, J., & Anishetty, D. (2012). A prospective, randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study of safety and efficacy of a high-concentration full-spectrum extract of Ashwagandha root in reducing stress and anxiety in adults. Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine, 34(3), 255-62. Retrieved from;year=2012;volume=34;issue=3;spage=255;epage=262;aulast=Chandrasekhar
Sun, L.J., Wang, G., Wu, B., Wang, J., Wang, Q., Hu, L.P., et al. (2009, Feb.) Effects of schisandra on the function of the pituitary-adrenal cortex, gonadal axis and carbohydrate metabolism in rats undergoing experimental chronic psychological stress, navigation and strenuous exercise. National Journal of Andrology. 15(2), 126-9. Retrieved from