5 Best Adaptogenic Herbs or Adaptogens That Help to Reduce Stress

It’s estimated that 75-90% of visits to the doctor’s office are related to chronic stress 1. There is plenty of research that gives evidence to the long-term health consequences of excessive stress.

In other words, the effects of chronic stress are more far-reaching than just your mood or how you temporarily feel from it. Not only is it unpleasant, it can be damaging to your body if it lasts more than one day.

What Causes Stress and Anxiety?

Anything that we perceive as threatening or troubling activates the fight or flight response in our bodies.

This refers to the activation of our “sympathetic” nervous system (the stimulating nervous system). We get a rush of stress hormones like cortisol and epinephrine along with quickened breathing and a rise in blood pressure.

The fight or flight response was meant to help us survive physical threats, but in modern life, complicated and theoretical “threats” (like our thoughts) keep us stressed for long periods of time, which was never the aim of the stress response.

This Is Your Body on Stress

When your body is stressed out for too long, the effects are not good. Chronic stress is linked to the debilitating and common diseases of our modern world, such as degenerative diseases like cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus, arthritis, depression, and Alzheimer's 2,3.

Take depression and Alzheimer’s for instance. The constant barrage of stress hormones on your brain can cause the death of neurons (brain cells) 3. That’s not good. No wonder chronic stress can increase your chances of feeling poorly or developing memory problems.

In general, chronic stress damages your body, and this sets you up for disease and accelerated aging 4,5.

What Are Adaptogens and What Does ‘Adaptogenic’ Mean?

If you don’t have to use harsh pharmaceutical drugs to beat stress and anxiety, all the better.
Luckily, nature has provided us with an army of safe but effective herbs to de-stress our bodies.  

And research is showing, year by year, just how incredibly effective nature’s herbs are!

These anti-stress herbs are called adaptogens, and they have two essential qualities:

  1. They move your body toward balance by lessening the physical signs of stress.
  2. They increase your stamina and ability to deal with stress.

In other words, these herbs adapt your body to whatever challenges it.

5 Top Adaptogens for Stress and Anxiety

    1. Tulsi (Holy Basil)

      Used in ancient Indian medicine, this adaptogenic herb has a reputation for chilling people out. When consumed as a tea, it is referred to as “liquid yoga” because it makes you feel relaxed and balanced. Tulsi can reduce the cortisol stress hormone, and researchers describe the herb as having anti-anxiety and antidepressant properties 6.

      Research on animals and some on humans has shown tulsi’s anti-anxiety and antidepressant effects 6. In humans, tulsi is shown to “reduce stress, anxiety,” and low mood 6.

      Two great sources of Tulsi:

          2. Cordyceps

          This one is a mushroom! When you feel beaten down by stress, your body needs its strength built back up. Modern research shows that cordyceps enhances endurance 7. Cordyceps can also fight the damaging oxidative stress that is produced by emotional stress or hard exercise 7.

          No wonder ancient Indian sources described it as “enhancing vigor and vitality” 8.

          Two great sources of cordyceps:

            3. Rhodiola

            This plant grows in northern regions, and researchers have high words of praise for rhodiola’s stress-busting effects. They say that the herb can help “prevent chronic stress” 9. And many studies show that people feel the stress-reducing effects of rhodiola 10.

            Rhodiola also gives you the much-needed kick of energy: research has shown that feelings of positive “arousal” and “pleasure” increase after rhodiola-supplemented workouts 11.

            Two great sources of rhodiola:

                4. Bacopa Monnieri (Brahmi)

                This herb was popular in ancient India. It was thought to promote awareness and the “creative potential that emerges from pure awareness.”

                Researchers have been so impressed with the far-reaching benefits of bacopa in fighting nearly all of the physical effects of stress in animals that they proclaim it “possesses a potent adaptogenic activity” 12.

                Brahmi might be especially effective at protecting your brain from the effects of stress along with boosting mood and memory 13.

                Two great sources of brahmi:

                    5. Ashwagandha

                    This is another traditional Indian herb that has shown impressive anti-stress effects in studies. In several studies, ashwagandha significantly reduced stress hormone levels in humans 14,15. In one incredible case study, a woman taking ashwagandha for months had significant decreases in stress hormones and improved adrenal health 16.

                    Ashwagandha is especially effective at boosting levels of thyroid hormones in your body, which can give you more energy and fight the low thyroid function that stress can cause 16,17.

                    Two great sources of ashwagandha:

                        BONUS - 5 Anti-Stress Lifestyle Habits

                        Besides adaptogens, your lifestyle habits are powerful ways to minimize stress.

                        Here are some great habits:

                        1. Realize that our own minds generate stress

                        It might be an epiphany for some people to realize that we generate most of the stress we experience. Your thoughts can stress you out, so choose them wisely! All of the great spiritual and philosophical traditions remind us that it’s in our power to worry less.

                        2. Meditate

                        In studies, meditation has been shown to significantly decrease self-perceived stress, and it even appears to positively affect brain structure, promoting healthy neuronal maintenance and growth 18.

                        3. Get regular exercise

                        Exercise boosts the neurotransmitters in your brain that help you feel good and fight stress 19,20.

                        4. Laugh more

                        Laughing melts away stress, and modern research confirms this 21,22.

                        5. Make time to relax

                        It’s important to take time away from work and have a little recreation in your life! Read a book, take a bath, listen to music, or find some other way to release the tension.

                        Do you want a natural way to support your adrenal health?

                        Did you know that you can naturally maintain healthy adrenal function with certain foods and remedies without the harsh effects of prescription drugs?

                        It’s true, and we’d love to share them with you!

                        Evan Burns, lead nutritionist and researcher at Nutracraft, shows you the 3 steps to take to reset your adrenals and conquer fatigue while helping to balance your mood and promote a calmer response to external stressors.

                        Click here to download this FREE report now.

                        Evan Burns

                        MSC in Nutrition

                        Evan Burns

                        MSC in Nutrition

                        Evan has years of experience researching and writing about the health effects of food and nutritional supplements.

                        He is especially passionate about nutritional pharmacology and the bioavailability, efficacy, and actions of supplements. He wants to spread knowledge about how effective diet and supplements can be at treating ailments and promoting well-being.

                        Follow these three simple steps to naturally calm your body while reducing anxiety without the need for prescription drugs.

                        In this insightful guide, you’ll learn:

                        • Why swapping this one favorite morning beverage for another not only reduces stress, but makes you feel better overall!

                        • Which foods help naturally calm the body by having it release GABA, an important neurotransmitter that affects feelings of calm and contentment.

                        • Which foods to avoid to prevent unwanted “fight or flight” feelings that can leave you feeling jittery (hint: sugar isn’t the ONLY thing that makes you feel this way!).

                        • How deficiencies of certain vitamins can cause the body to overreact to mild stressors and leave you feeling exhausted (and what to do to get your body back on track).