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Why adaptogens are great for people with a lot of stress


It’s a bit of a strange-sounding word. At a glance, “adaptogens” might sound more like the name of a science fiction novel than a group of nutritional supplements. But in reality, some of their purported health benefits are pretty out of this world.

So what, really, is an adaptogen? It’s essentially a fancy term for an herb or other plant that is said or has been shown to relieve stress in the body. Think of adaptogens as the stress-busting supplement in your medicine cabinet. One influential study published in 2010 found that “the stress-protective activity of adaptogens was associated with regulation of…key mediators of stress response.”

Before you make an investment, here’s what you need to know about adaptogens, how they work, and which ones are right for you.

So what exactly are adaptogens?

Adaptogens are a class of herbal pharmaceuticals, or nootropics, that proponents believe can have powerful stress-busting properties in the brain.

Here are some examples of herbs that belong in the adaptogens category. All have slightly different effects, though all are generally viewed as potential weapons in the fight against stress.

– American ginseng
– Ashwagandha
– Cordyceps
– Goji berry
– Eleuthero root
– Jiaogulan
– Licorice root
– Magnolia berry
– Rhodiola
– Tulsi
– Turmeric

Although these herbs are most commonly found in capsule form, they also are available as powders or teas. Enjoy a soothing cup of stress relief or mix the powder in with your morning smoothie or coffee.

Benefits of adaptogens

When the body faces a stressful situation or stressor, adaptogens can help your body fight that stressor over the shorter and longer terms. According to the 2010 study, adaptogens help increase mental alertness in the face of stress while warding off the depression and anxiety that stress can so often cause.

Adaptogens also can potentially have a positive effect on your weight by reducing unhealthy amounts of the hormone cortisol, which your body releases to help you combat stress. Too much cortisol can mean weight gain. Less stress response, less cortisol!

There is even recent evidence showing adaptogens can help prevent and fight viral infections and speed recovery after infection.

Image Point Fr/Shutterstock

How (and when) to use adaptogens

Although all adaptogens are viewed as beneficial for their stress-fighting abilities and can be used like any other nutritional supplement, not all are created equal. Read labels carefully and do your homework when deciding which of these herbs is right for you and your unique situation.

One larger difference between adaptogens has to do with when you should take them during the day. This is because some adaptogens provide gentle stimulation (i.e., they’re good for the morning), while others have a calming effect (better taken at night).

While these effects aren’t strong enough to singlehandedly put you to sleep or give you a double espresso’s worth of alertness, they can help accentuate your body’s natural rhythms.

Calming adaptogens include:

– Ashwagandha
– Cordyceps
– Holy basil
– Maca

The best adaptogens for energy include:

– Eleuthero (aka Siberian ginseng)
– Ginseng
– Lion’s Mane
– Rhodiola
– Schisandra
– Shatavari
– Shilajit



Although adaptogens are generally considered to be very safe and well-tolerated by the general population, check with your health care professional if you have questions. The most common side effects are mild and typically include gastrointestinal disturbance or an allergic reaction.

As a word of caution, some in the medical community have raised red flags about companies making false claims about adaptogens and their ability to fight certain conditions. So, as always, buyer beware.

You should also keep in mind that adaptogens are not meant to cure any disease and should be used as intended–as a supplement to your existing routine–rather than a silver bullet that will end your problems.

Let’s face it: this is a stressful world. Any advantage you can gain could be of great benefit to you if you’re attempting to get your stress under control. Adaptogens may be a part of your solution by easing stress in various ways and helping you to stay naturally alert and calm as you go about your day. Give them a try and see whether they work for you.

BlissMark provides information regarding health, wellness, and beauty. The information within this article is not intended to be medical advice. Before starting any diet or exercise routine, consult your physician. If you don’t have a primary care physician, the United States Health & Human Services department has a free online tool that can help you locate a clinic in your area. We are not medical professionals, have not verified or vetted any programs, and in no way intend our content to be anything more than informative and inspiring.

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Scott Harris
Scott Harris is a freelance writer based near Washington, DC, with more than a decade of experience covering health…
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