5 Adaptogens for Stress and Anxiety Management by Leigh Ann Lindsey

5 Adaptogens for stress & Anxiety

Learn about 5 potent adaptogens for stress. Discover how they work within the body to reduce and/or relieve symptoms of stress and anxiety.

What are adaptogens?

The term “adaptogen” is a more modern term coined in the late 1960’s. What this term is referring to is a type of plant that protects against stress as well as enables and enhances the body’s ability to respond to stress (physical, chemical, emotional). The stress response system of the body is multi-faceted (meaning it involves several different organs, signals and systems within the body), it is important that each of these key players are functioning optimally.

Adaptogens can achieve this through a multitude of ways, a few of which are: strengthening the adrenal glands, the endocrine system and how it communicates with the brain.

Any plant that has been deemed an adaptogen must pass three qualifying factors:

  1. They cannot be toxic or have any harmful side effects
  2. They work to bring balance within any given function of the body (For example, an adaptogen would be able to help both the individual with hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism come back into balance)
  3. They must be stress protective

It is no secret that our environment and bodies are being bombarded with more toxins than ever. But the toxins we are finding in our food, water, air and even products are not the only stressors. Long work days, high-stress environments, little-to-no self-care, artificial lighting, poor sleep, poor emotional support, toxic relationships, all contribute to the stress we are forcing our bodies to bare on a daily basis.

1. adaptogens for stress – ASHWAGANDHA

What Is It:

An Ayurvedic Indian herb, belongs to the same family as tomatoes

Adaptogen Benefits:
  • Cortisol: Reduces cortisol levels
  • Anxiety/Stress: Blocks stress pathways through the regulation of the chemical signaling within the nervous system; reduces symptoms of stress and anxiety (concentration, fatigue, vitality, social functioning)
  • Depression: May reduce symptoms of depression
  • Fertility: Increases testosterone levels, sperm count and sperm motility in males
  • Inflammation: Decreases inflammation throughout the body; increases activity of immune cells to fight infections
  • Brain/Memory: Antioxidant activity can protect nerve cells from free radical damage; may boost memory by reducing oxidative stress; may also increase reaction time/cognitive function and attention
  • Anti-Cancer: Can help induce apoptosis (the programmed death of cancer cells); impedes the growth of new cancer cells
Ashwagandha – Photo – Monterey Bay Spice Company

2. adaptogens for stress – HOLY BASIL

What Is It:

Also known as Tulsi, member of the mint family

Adaptogen Benefits:
  • Anxiety/Depression: Reduces levels of stress and symptoms of anxiety and depression
  • Oxidative Stress: Extremely high in antioxidants to protect against free radical damage
  • Infections: Highly anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-viral and anti-inflammatory; acts as a natural painkiller
  • Stress: Human studies showed reduced stress, sexual problems, sleep problems, forgetfulness and exhaustion
  • Diabetes: Can help prevent symptoms like weight gain, hyperinsulinemia, high cholesterol, insulin resistance and hypertension
  • Joint Pain: Reduces joint pain caused by inflammation and oxidative stress
  • Stomach: Lowers stomach acid, increases mucus secretion, increases mucus cells and lifespan of mucus cells (great for those who suffer from stomach ulcers)
Holy Basil – Photo – Healthline

3. adaptogens for stress – CORDYCEPS

What is it:

Adaptogenic mushroom

Adaptogen Benefits:
  • Exercise Performance: Can increase production of cellular energy ATP
  • Anti-Aging: Increases antioxidants which help improve memory, sexual function, sex drive and energy
  • Anti-Cancer: Have been shown to inhibit the growth of human cancer cells (lung, colon, skin and liver); can also reverse negative side effects of cancer treatments (ex. leukopenia)
  • Inflammation: Suppresses inflammation causing proteins within the body; also reduces inflammation of the skin when applied topically
  • Heart Health: Reduces injuries to the heart caused by kidney disease; used to treat arrhythmia; decreases LDL cholesterol levels; decreases triglyceride levels
  • Diabetes: Can mimic the action of insulin and help keep blood sugar levels balanced
Cordyceps – Photo – Healthline

4. adaptogens for stress – RHODIOLA

What is it:

An adaptogen grown in mountainous regions of Europe and Asia

Adaptogen Benefits:
  • Stress: Can reduce symptoms of stress (fatigue, exhaustion, anxiety, concentration)
  • Fatigue: Can reduce fatigue and low concentration
  • Depression: Helps balance neurotransmitters in the brain; can reduce symptoms of depression (insomnia, emotional stability, self-esteem)
  • Brain: Can reduce mental fatigue, improves mental performance, improves sleep patterns
  • Exercise Performance: Can increase stamina through increased oxygen uptake
  • Anti-Cancer: Has been shown to inhibit the growth of cancer cells in the bladder, colon, breast and liver
  • Diabetes: Has been shown to lower blood sugar levels by increasing production of glucose transporters in the blood
Rhodiola – Photo – Healthline

5. Adaptogens for stress – SCHISANDRA

What is it:

A bright red berry commonly used in Chinese medicine

Adaptogen Benefits:
  • Stress: Phenols fight against free radicals within the body to protect against stress and increase the body’s ability to manage stress
  • Depression: May alleviate symptoms of depression; has also been used alongside antidepressants to help make them more effective and allow patients to reduce the dose of their medications
  • Menopause: Alleviates common symptoms of menopause (hot flashes, sweating, heart palpitations)
  • Liver Protection: Reduces inflammation and free radical damage within the liver to heal damage as well as protect against future damage
  • Neural Protection: Blocks the formation of excess amyloid beta peptides, which lead to the formation of amyloid plaque in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients; highly anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective
  • Asthma: Reduces coughing and lung inflammation; inhibits antibodies that lead to allergic reactions and the spasming of airways
  • Fatigue: Increases endurance and mental performance (mental alertness, energy, stamina, feelings of well-being and libido)
  • Adrenal Function: Stimulates the adrenal gland and the production of epinephrine
Schisandra – Photo – Lost Empire Herbs



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