12 Of The Best Adaptogens For Stress Relief & Anxiety
Written by: Lauren Villa - Nov. 8, 2019
Stress is everywhere in our world. Work stress. Relationship stress. Financial stress. Stress impacts our entire mind and body, and especially our cardiovascular and gastrointestinal systems. Our increasingly stressful lifestyle makes it even more difficult to slow down, relax, and de-stress.
Thankfully, there are a variety of strategies that can help alleviate chronic stress from your life—like practicing aromatherapy, yoga, and listening to your favorite song. But, if you’re looking for a holistic remedy to reduce your daily stress and improve your nervous system that doesn’t take up your time or energy, an adaptogen supplement might be the solution you’ve been searching for.
In this blog, we’ll cover everything you need to know about taking adaptogens for stress, including:
- What are adaptogens?
- How do adaptogens help with stress?
- Top 12 best adaptogens for stress & anxiety
- #1 adaptogen supplement for stress
What Are Adaptogens?
Adaptogens are a huge buzzword in the health and wellness world, and for good reason. They are widely used in Chinese medicine and Ayurveda. These herbal allies manage the body’s responses “fight or flight” instincts and protect our minds and bodies from stress. (1)
Adaptogens are packed with phytochemicals that stabilize your physiology and make it easier to release negative emotions. In fact, adaptogens encourage homeostasis and help maintain the balance in the body. Fun fact: the word “adaptogen” is actually derived from the Greek word “adapto”, which means “to adjust.” (1)
Each adaptogen has a different therapeutic function. Some help lower stress levels, while others balance hormones. The amazing part of adaptogens is their ability to bring the entire body back to equilibrium slowly and subtly. Put simply, adaptogens help your body function better.
But, what about adaptogens for stress? What are they exactly and which one is the best? Short answer—it depends. The best adaptogens for stress will largely depend on your body and your chemistry. In order to find which adaptogens are most beneficial to you in managing stress and anxiety, it’s best to pinpoint your stressors and try out a few tailored blends to see how you feel.
How Do Adaptogens Help With Stress?
Have you ever seen an Olympic athlete compete? They push their bodies to the ultimate max and compete at their highest level of intensity. After they’re done competing, their body returns to normal levels of stress. That’s because an athlete trains every day and their body has learned to adapt to spans of intense physical and mental stress.
If you or I were to compete in the same Olympic event, it would take us a much longer time to return to a normal because our body would have a much harder time coping with the intensity of putting our mind and body under that much stress. (2) This is an example of how our bodies adapt to stress.
Adaptogens for stress work in a similar way. They get their name from the word “adapt.” Adaptogens regulate the production of cortisol (stress hormone) in the body to help us deal with stress in the most resourceful way possible. In this way, they act as a regulator of stress and energy levels. If your stress levels are high, they can calm you down by normalizing your body and getting rid of the overstimulation. They do this by supporting our adrenal function and central nervous system. When adaptogens sense that the body is overstimulated, they kick into gear and help the nervous system to calm down. (2)
There are two different types of stress in the body: Acute stress and chronic stress. Both types of stress can lead to things like trouble sleeping, colds and flu, hypertension, low sex drive, thyroid issues, and adrenal fatigue. Using adaptogens for stress every day can help your body respond to both acute and chronic stress in the best way possible. Whether you take adaptogens right after a stressful event or regularly, they are shown to help reduce stress levels. (2)
Best Adaptogens For Stress & Anxiety
Adaptogens work through two master control systems in the body, the HPA axis (hypothalamic/pituitary/adrenal axis). The HPA axis controls our nervous system, immunity, and endocrine function. When you use adaptogens, they help keep your body functioning properly even under chronic or acute stress. (2)
So, what is the best adaptogen for stress? As mentioned earlier, it’s different for everyone and depends largely on how your body manages stress, but here are my favorite picks based on personal experience. When I’m under intense physical or emotional stress, I turn to adaptogens on this list. Keep in mind that adaptogens are subtle, and will not produce dramatic changes unless taking regularly.
Yes, it’s a strange name, but ashwagandha (also called Indian ginseng or winter cherry) is shown to have calming effects on monkeys, cats, dogs, rats, and mice. This calming adaptogen has many uses, including treating insomnia, lowering stress, and improving sexual performance. (1)
2. Ginseng root
Ginseng is one of the classic adaptogens for stress and a popular traditional Chinese medicine. This herb helps the body respond to stress, while also being shown to enhance mental function and improve work performance. In a study of diabetic patients, ginseng was shown to improve mood, hemoglobin, physical activity, and reduce fasting blood sugars. In addition, ginseng is shown to help with depression and hypertension. (1)
3. Holy basil
Tulsi or holy basil plays an important role in Ayurveda medicine. This adaptogen is anti-inflammatory and commonly used to treat a variety of illnesses, including heart disease, malaria, colds, stomach disorders, headaches, and inflammation. (1)
4. Rhodiola mushroom
When you think of the best adaptogen for stress, Rhodiola is up there. As a popular medicinal, adaptive plant, Rhodiola is used to improve work productivity, fight fatigue, combat depression. Rhodiola adaptogens for stress work in your system to protect against toxins, colds, and mental and physical stress. (2)
Schisandra is an adaptogen that helps to decrease inflammation and fatigue, improve performance, and increase endurance. Studies find it’s even effective at stimulating contractions and helping women ease into labor. (3)
6. Reishi mushroom
Reishi is an adaptogenic mushroom that helps the body handle stress and supports a healthy immune system. Studies find that reishi helps control blood glucose levels, improve immunity, boost antioxidants, lower lipids, and protect against liver and gastric problems. Some studies even find anticancer effects as well as antibacterial and antiviral effects. (4)
7. Cordyceps mushroom
If you feel tired, and tend to sling back coffee and energy drinks to keep you going, try to switch it up with a natural remedy like cordyceps mushrooms. Cordyceps are used to restore health to the body. Cordyceps are effective at treating chronic fatigue and helping with exhaustion and recovery. In addition, cordyceps are powerful antioxidants and work with the HPA axis to reduce stress and protect the body. (5)
Codonopsis is one of the best adaptogens for anxiety, given that it helps to regulate immune function, improve heart health, restore balance to gut function, and regulate endocrine function. In addition, codonopsis is high in antioxidants and has antibacterial and anti-aging qualities. (6)
This root has long been used in Ayurvedic medicine. Shatavari is used to heal ulcers, reduce inflammation, calm anxiety, and even control symptoms of AIDS. (7)
Eleuthero (sometimes called Siberian ginseng) provides adrenal support and belongs to the family of Panax ginseng. In addition to reducing inflammation, this adaptogen improves stamina, brainpower, and immunity. Studies find that eleuthero is also used to protect against radiation, reduce cortisol levels, and aid cancer patients while they undergo chemotherapy. (8)
Turmeric, also known as curcumin, has been used in Ayurvedic medicine in South Asia for many years. It’s packed with antioxidants and can reduce inflammation, boost brainpower and cognitive function, lower your risk of heart disease, ease joint pain, and is helpful for treating age-related memory issues.
12. Lion’s Mane
Lion’s mane is a medicinal mushroom that is packed with brain, heart, and gut benefits. It gets its name because it looks like the mane of a lion. And just like a lion, it’s the king of neuroprotective mushrooms. Lion’s mane is known to improve memory and help with “mental fog”. It may also help reduce anxiety, depression, inflammation, and oxidative stress.
Best Adaptogen Supplement For Stress & Anxiety
Adaptogens improve the way your body responds to stress and studies show that certain types can help speed recovery, help with illness, and boost immunity. Taking a daily dose of adaptogens for anxiety can provide your body with the natural reinforcements it needs to handle whatever comes its way!
Finding the right adaptogen supplement for you will ensure that your body remains in homeostasis—meaning all of your systems will work in harmony with one another.
Together, SkinnyFit Skinny Greens and Beauty Juice contain 8 of the 12 best adaptogens for stress, including ashwagandha, ginseng, Rhodiola mushroom, reishi mushroom, turmeric, lion’s mane, holy basil, and cordyceps mushroom. Each of these adaptogen-rich superfood formulas can help reduce your stress levels and balance out your entire body. Simply mix 1 to 2 scoops of each with water—or even better, mix them both together!— to experience the incredible stress-relieving benefits for yourself! To learn more about Skinny Greens, Beauty Juice, and their 70 powerful superfood ingredients, click here.
- Ray, A., Gulati, K., & Anand, R. (2016). Stress, adaptogens and their evaluation: an overview. J Pharma Reports, 1(110), 2.
- Adaptogen, A. P. P. (2001). Rhodiola rosea: a possible plant adaptogen. Altern Med Rev, 6(3), 293-302.
- Botanical Medicine for Women’s Health. (2010). Chapter 5- Menstrual Wellness and Menstrual Problems.
- Wachtel-Galor, S., Yuen, J., Buswell, J. A., & Benzie, I. F. (2011). Ganoderma lucidum (Lingzhi or Reishi). In Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition. CRC Press/Taylor & Francis.
- Lin B, Li S. Cordyceps as an Herbal Drug. In: Benzie IFF, Wachtel-Galor S, editors. Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition. Boca Raton (FL): CRC Press/Taylor & Francis; 2011. Chapter 5.
- Gao, S. M., Liu, J. S., Wang, M., Cao, T. T., Qi, Y. D., Zhang, B. G., … & Xiao, P. G. (2018). Traditional uses, phytochemistry, pharmacology and toxicology of Codonopsis: A review. Journal of ethnopharmacology, 219, 50-70.
- Alok, S., Jain, S. K., Verma, A., Kumar, M., Mahor, A., & Sabharwal, M. (2013). Plant profile, phytochemistry and pharmacology of Asparagus racemosus (Shatavari): A review. Asian Pacific journal of tropical disease, 3(3), 242-251.
- Swilling, J. D. (2011). U.S. Patent No. 7,927,633. Washington, DC: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.