Adaptogens—5 stress-busting herbs to keep you happy, healthy, and sane

Feb 01 , 2019


Adaptogens—5 stress-busting herbs to keep you happy, healthy, and sane

Adaptogens—5 stress-busting herbs to keep you happy, healthy, and sane

01.29 Siberian Ginseng

Despite the best efforts of scientists everywhere, we still don’t have a cure-all—but adaptogens are a worthy consolation prize. These herbs are credited with everything from ensuring longer life to healing disease. Though no magic wand, they act as a buffer between outside stresses and your body’s coping mechanism, the adrenal glands.

Chronic stress can tax your system to the breaking point, and adaptogens do possess at least one herbal superpower: they support your adrenal glands in the thankless task of dealing with stress. Adaptogens regulate hormones, boost immune function, and restore the body’s natural healing ability.

No stress is the same—read on to make sure you pick the adaptogen that’s right for you.

Schizandra Berry (Schizandra chinensis): Known in traditional Chinese medicine as “five flavour berry,” Schizandara balances all bodily systems. The berry supports the skin, bestowing a rosy, youthful glow. It also enhances detoxification pathways, and creates a sense of calm while focusing the mind.

Who: The exhausted idealist searching for the fountain of youth—this might be as close as you can get, as recent research reveals schizandra’s potential to promote healthy aging and longevity. Schizandra is also a sexual tonic for men and women.

Eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosis): Also known as Siberian ginseng, this adaptogen is less stimulating than its well-known cousins, but still provides a much-needed boost to your adrenals. Eleuthero is credited with increasing physical and mental endurance­—keep it on hand for marathons, whether you’re pounding the pavement or hitting the books.

Who: Not just for Olympic athletes, Eleuthero is ideal for the Average Joe, armed with coffee, dark circles under his eyes, and a long to-do list. Eleuthero promotes restful nights and keep stress levels below boiling.

Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra): Cortisol gets a pretty bad rap but even that prickly rush has essential functions, including regulating blood sugar and naturally boosting energy in the morning. Overworked adrenals are too exhausted to pump out the necessary amounts, but licorice root boosts cortisol in a beneficial way, helping your body restore its natural rhythms.

Who: The final year med-school student whose adrenals are cooked. Licorice root is ideal for severe cases of adrenal fatigue, and has an added bonus: it can soothe ulcers and other GI complaints—not unusual in cases of extreme stress.

Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea): Rhodiola acts like a thermostat, helping to balance levels of cortisol and other hormones. It fights fatigue by supporting cellular energy metabolism, and acts as a mild side effect free stimulant to the CNS (central nervous system). The herb alleviates weakness and amenorrhea while boosting fertility, and increasing blood circulation.

Who: The Victorian heroine who can’t (or won’t) get out of bed. She’s mildly depressed and chronically fatigued; rhodiola helps restore vitality and balances mood.

Ashwaganda (Withania somnifera): This Ayurvedic herb is the quintessential chill pill, a rare calming adaptogen. Though adrenal fatigue often leads to physical and mental fatigue, all that stress-induced cortisol is a recipe for anxiety attacks.

Who: The girl (or guy) next door with performance anxiety, who has nightmares and can’t relax. Ashwaganda helps you return to baseline.

Though adaptogens by definition are safe for long-term use, they’ve each got their own idiosyncrasies, so consult a nutritionist or naturopath before popping any pills, no matter how natural.


Ma, X., Lian, Q. Q., Dong, Q., Ge, R.S. (2011) Environmental inhibitors of 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 2. Toxicology. Jul 29;285(3):83-9.

Panossian, A., Wikman, G. (2009) Evidence-based efficacy of adaptogens in fatigue, and molecular mechanisms related to their stress-protective activity. Curr Clin Pharmacol, Sep;4(3):198-219. Epub 2009 Sep 1.

Shen, B., Truong, J., Helliwell, R., Govindaraghavan, S., Sucher, N.J. (2013) An in vitro study of neuroprotective properties of traditional Chinese herbal medicines thought to promote healthy ageing and longevity. BMC Complement Altern Med. Dec 27;13:373. doi: 10.1186/1472-6882-13-373.

Darcy Smith, RNCP

Originally posted at: and used with permission.

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