The Top 5 Adaptogenic Herbs to Relieve Stress

Written by Tim Skwiat

Adaptogenic Herbs for Stress

Take a minute to ask anyone—including yourself—how they’re doing. Chances are you’ll hear words like “busy,” ”rushed,” or “swamped.” You know the drill; these are just ways folks communicate that they’re stressed. Stress is ubiquitous, and for most people, it serves as the backdrop of their lives. A mentor of mine has referred to stress as the “wallpaper of the 21st century.”

Many people celebrate stress and pride themselves on being busy. In fact, a good deal of folks would tell you they wouldn’t know what to do with themselves if they weren’t so busy. Ah, stress…what a bugger. Stress isn’t bad; in fact, just like the Goldilocks Principle tells us, we need just the right amount to thrive. Too little can be just as harmful and impairing as too much.

By and large, however, most people have too much on their plates (even if it’s just a matter of perception). And too much stress can do quite a number on:

• Mood and feelings of wellbeing
• Decision making and creativity
• Brain health and memory formation
• Weight management
• Eating behaviors
• Sleep
• Recovery and athletic performance
• Immunity
• Relationships
• Gut health
• Digestion
• Blood pressure and heart health
• Carb tolerance and insulin sensitivity
• Skin health
• Aging
• Muscle tension
• Sexual function and libido


That’s right, too much stress for too long can adversely affect virtually every aspect of your life. That’s why practicing stress-management tactics—like setting boundaries, practicing yoga, meditating, taking a walk, exercising, breathing deeply and slowly—are priceless for protecting you and your valuable, limited resources.

On top of that, making sure you’re getting plenty of restorative sleep, properly aligning your circadian rhythms, and eating the right foods in the right amounts at the right times are all important factors in keeping your stress levels in check.

Does all of that stress you out? Yeah, me too. Wouldn’t it be easier to just take a “chill pill”?

Adaptogenic Herbs and Stress

Believe it or not, herbalists have been keen on using certain herbs for quite some time to help regulate stress. They refer to these herbs as “adaptogens,” which essentially support the body’s ability to “adapt” ideally to its environment. Adaptogenic Herbs are thought to have very unique bimodal functions, either providing a stimulant effect or relaxing effect depending on the needs of the individual in a specific situation.

The term “adaptogen” is applied to an herb with phytonutrients that regulate metabolism when a body is perturbed by physical or mental stress and help the body adapt by: 1. Normalizing system functions; 2. Developing resistance to future such stress; and 3. Elevating the body’s functioning to a higher level of performance.1

Ideally, an adaptogenic herbs should: a) decrease stress-induced damage, b) be safe and produce a beneficial effect even if the number of administrations is more than required, c) be devoid of any negative effects such as withdrawal syndromes, and d) not influence the normal body functions more than necessary.2

In other words, adaptogenic herbs are used to strengthen the body’s immune response and increase an individual’s ability to cope with physical and mental stress. That is, adaptogens help shift the body toward balance.3

Adaptogens are typically used for stress relief, brain health, and adrenal health, and they have been shown to improve health in a variety of ways:3

  • Reduce fatigue
  • Regain or improve athletic performance
  • Regain or improve mental acuity
  • Improve appetite control
  • Improve sleep quality
  • Improve mood
  • Increase resistance to infection

There are several members of the adaptogenic herbs family, and here are some of the most popular and effective.

The Top 5 Herbs for Stress

1. Ashwagandha

Also known as Withania somnifera, Ashwagandha is an evergreen shrub found in the arid parts of India. Ashwagandha literally means “smell of horse,” which is in part because it’s commonly believed that it can help develop strength and vitality similar to that of a horse.4

Referred to as a “royal herb” because of its well-known rejuvenating effects, Ashwagandha has been shown to combat stress, promote health and longevity, slow the aging process, revitalize the body, improve feelings of wellbeing, increase resilience and stress tolerance, improve sexual function, increase muscle mass and muscular strength, and boost endurance. Overall, Ashwagandha is one of my favorite adaptogenic herbs, and I prefer to use the multi-patented, all-natural Ashwagandha extract called Sensoril®.

Sensoril® contains the highest, most potent levels of stress-fighting, cognitive-enhancing bioactive constituents, and it has been shown to support stress reduction; promote energy levels, mental acuity, and concentration; support cardiovascular health; support healthy weight management; and promote more restful sleep. That’s why Ageless Body®, which contains Sensoril®, is a staple in my supplement arsenal.

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2. Rhodiola rosea

Rhodiola, also known as golden root, is used in Russia to combat fatigue, ward off sickness, and improve mood. Rhodiola’s most popular applications include relieving fatigue and improving concentration, memory, and productivity.1 Several studies have shown that supplementation with Rhodiola can:

  • Stimulate focus and cognitive function
  • Calm emotions
  • Enhance learning
  • Reduce fatigue
  • Improve sleep
  • Reduce irritability
  • Increase strength
  • Increase quantity and quality of work
  • Improve mental and physical performance
  • Improve feelings of wellbeing

Overall, Rhodiola is considered “an excellent choice for individuals who are weighed down by stress and fatigue as a result of demanding intellectual work.”1

While most Rhodiola supplements contain 3% Rosavins and 1% Salidrosides (the “active” components of the adaptogen), I prefer RhodiolaMax™, which contains 5% Rosavins and 2% Salidrosides. RhodiolaMax™ can be found only in Brain Bright®.

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3. Magnolia and Phellodendron

Magnolia (Magnolia officinalis) and Phellodendron (Phellodendron amurense) are adaptogenic herbs commonly used for reducing stress and anxiety. Research has shown that the combination of Magnolia and Phellodendron both reduces exposure to the stress hormone cortisol as well as the perception of stress and anxiety.

What’s more, this combo of adaptogenic herbs has been shown to improve weight loss in folks inclined to stress-related eating. In one recent study, participants using Magnolia and Phellodendron for 4 weeks had significantly lower cortisol levels compared to a placebo. What’s more, the folks using the adaptogens also reported more energy and better mood states, including less perceived stress, tension, depression, anger, fatigue, and confusion.6

4. Ginseng

Ginseng is one of the most well-known adaptogenic herbs. In fact, Ashwagandha is often referred to as Indian ginseng. Along those lines, there are multiple types of ginseng. In this section, I’ll be referring to Asian ginseng, which also goes by the name Panax ginseng.

Asian ginseng is considered one of the most stimulating adaptogens, and several studies have demonstrated that Asian ginseng can enhance physical performance. What’s more, research has shown it may have a benefit on physical and mental fatigue, reaction time, and abstract thinking. Asian ginseng also has a reputation as a libido-enhancer.1

5. Eleuthero

Eleuthero, sometimes mistakenly referred to as Siberian ginseng (a name that was dropped because eleuthero is not really a member of the ginseng family), is a shrub or small tree native to central eastern Asia. Traditionally, eleuthero has been used to increase vitality and energy, improve quality of sleep, improve appetite control, and help manage activity-related flare-ups.

Eleuthero is arguably the most well-known and well-researched adaptogenic herbs, and it is often referred to as the “king” adaptogen. These predominantly Russian studies show that it can enhance:

  • Mental alertness
  • Mental acuity
  • Work output
  • Work quality
  • Athletic performance
  • Physical endurance
  • Exercise capacity
  • Recovery from stress
  • Circadian rhythms
  • Energy and vitality

Generally speaking, eleuthero is often a good choice for younger individuals as well as athletes.

Take a Chill Pill

Stress is ubiquitous. It’s inevitable. The irony is that we need it to get better in any domain in our lives. The conundrum is that most of us experience a bit too much of it—well, at least we perceive that we do. So, if you want to help your body best cope with and adapt to stress—whether it’s physical, mental, or emotional—you might find that the adaptogenic herbs, which give a whole new meaning to “chill pill,” discussed above might provide the subtle advantage you need to thrive.

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References

  • 1. Abascal K, Yarnell E. Increasing vitality with adaptogens: multifaceted herbs for treating physical and mental stress. Altern Complement Ther. 2003;9(2):54-60. doi:10.1089/107628003321536959.
  • 2. Panossian A, Wikman G. Evidence-based efficacy of adaptogens in fatigue, and molecular mechanisms related to their stress-protective activity. Curr Clin Pharmacol. 2009;4(3):198-219.
  • 3. Seely D, Singh R. Adaptogenic potential of a polyherbal natural health product: report on a longitudinal clinical trial. Evid-Based Complement Altern Med ECAM. 2007;4(3):375-380. doi:10.1093/ecam/nel101.
  • 4. Chandrasekhar K, Kapoor J, Anishetty S. A prospective, randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study of safety and efficacy of a high-concentration full-spectrum extract of ashwagandha root in reducing stress and anxiety in adults. Indian J Psychol Med. 2012;34(3):255-262. doi:10.4103/0253-7176.106022.
  • 5. Auddy B, Hazra J, Mitra A, Abedon B, Ghosal S. A standardized Withania somnifera extract significantly reduces stress-related parameters in chronically stressed humans: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study. JANA. 2008;11(1):50-56.
  • 6. Talbott SM, Talbott JA, Pugh M. Effect of Magnolia officinalis and Phellodendron amurense (Relora®) on cortisol and psychological mood state in moderately stressed subjects. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2013;10(1):37. doi:10.1186/1550-2783-10-37.
  • Vern (VeeLuv)

    Thanks for this invaluable & priceless information. GOD BLESS Y’ALL! Please keep it coming.

    • Cristina

      Hi Vern (AKA VeeLuv). Words do not suffice to express how grateful we are for your review.

      We will pass along your comments to our team. It is words just like these that keep us going. Your opinion also empowers other people in the community to connect with us and enjoy all the services we currently provide.

      Have a wonderful day, Vern.

  • Grant Jackson

    Hi Vern do you have all the top five stress and anxiety relievers all in one compound pill ?

    • Cristina

      Welcome, Grant. Thank you for taking the time to review the information provided in our article on the 5 adaptogenic herbs to help reduce stress.

      While we don’t have a supplement that includes all of these ingredients together, we do have two fantastic products which may benefit you in terms of reducing your symptoms of stress and anxiety. These two supplements are Ageless Body and Brain Bright.

      While a normal stress response plays an intricate role in healthy functioning, chronic exposure to stress and the stress hormone cortisol can be harmful to overall health and brain function. What’s more, stress can be downright distracting, acutely affecting one’s ability to remain clear and focused.

      Brain Bright’s neuro-nutrients promote stress tolerance, suppress cortisol, and improve focus and mental work capacity. Oxidative stress is one of the primary factors contributing to brain aging, and it is implicated in multiple age-related consequences.

      In addition, Brain Bright’s neuro-nutrients supply antioxidants to help “shield” the brain from the harmful effects of free radicals.

      In regards to Ageless Body, there are many forms of Ashwagandha available, however we use Sensoril, which is a multi-patented, all-natural, branded extract with the highest, most potent levels of stress-fighting, cognitive-enhancing bioactive constituents. Sensoril is the industry-leading, clinically-tested stress neutralizer, and this precise extract has been shown to support stress reduction, promote energy levels, mental acuity, and concentration, support cardiovascular healthy, support healthy weight management, and promote more restful sleep.

      If you have any questions about these or any of our other products, please do not hesitate to let us know. We would be more than happy to discuss how these could provide you with stress relief and improve your overall well-being.

  • Sofieann Berry

    Hi..great article! Like the gentlman below..am interested in the best advice for herbal fix for anxiety and panic attacks..Im really in hell here!.Thanks so much…S.

    • Cristina

      Hi Sofieann. I am sorry to hear you are having difficulty in managing your stress and anxiety. It is important to mention that our products are not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any illness or disease. Each of our products are made with natural ingredients and considered both safe and effective for healthy adults over the age of 18, however we always encourage you to obtain prior approval before including any supplements in your regime.

      With that being said, I would love to share an article with you written by Coach Tim which discusses stress management techniques such as deep belly breathing, mindful breathing, meditation, and yoga:

      Energy Leaks: Fixing Your Flat Tires

      Although this may not be exactly what you want to here, to get started, I want you to relax. Easier said than done, right? Well, stress can be extremely overwhelming, and truth be told, research shows that when we get down on ourselves over time, the damage can be worse than a hurricane (i.e., physical harm).

      Chronic stress is a problem for health, well-being, body composition, learning, memory, mental clarity, relationships, communication, and pretty much every other domain of life, health, and wellness.

      In order to better understand how to overcome your stress and anxiety, it may be helpful to peel back the layers of the onion, so to speak, to discover what is causing you to feel this way. Once we have identified the underlying triggers, we can put together an action plan to manage it.

  • Rhonda J Hunter

    i have been taking Ashwagandha and panax ginseng for years for stress, and noticed a great difference. Maybe it’s time to add the others.

  • Pat Fulgham

    Could you take both ageless body & Brain Bright for a more powerful protocol for brain health?

    • Cristina

      Hi Pat. Excellent question! The short answer is yes, you may absolutely combine Ageless Body and Brain Bright in your efforts to improve your overall health.

      Truth be told, ever since both of these products were created, I have included them in my healthy diet. I need all the help I can get in supporting stress management, improving concentration, and avoiding mental fatigue.

      I am also all about aging gracefully, but if there are natural ways I can rejuvenate my skin and maintain a youthful appearance, I am not opposed to a little help.

      With Ageless Body, I have found my skin appears more firm and healthy, and I have noticed a sort-of glow that I hadn’t seen in years.

      The recommendations are to take 2 capsules daily, which is what I have been adhering to for roughly 6 months; however, it is both safe and effective to include up to 4 capsules per day for maximum anti-aging support.

      With Brain Bright I have noticed an increase in my productivity, and I am able to complete tasks more efficiently. What I mean by that is prior to taking Brain Bright, I was easily distracted and would jump from task to task, ending up with a bunch of incomplete work at the end of the day. Ever since including Brain Bright in my diet, I am able to stay focused, and cross things off my to-do list, thereby eliminating unnecessary stress.

      We recommend taking one (1) tablet two (2) times daily, preferably without food. Or, for enhanced focus and concentration, take two (2) tablets as needed.

      I can’t help but feel the combination of these products work together to keep me on top of my game with mental clarity, clear focus, and improvements to both my internal and external well being.

      Let me know if you have any additional questions about these or any of our other products, Pat. I would love to help you with making improvements to your health and wellness.

    • Hi Pat,

      I agree with Coach Cristina: Great question! I really like your thought process. Obviously, Brain Bright is scientifically-tailored to boost brain health, and you’re right on point about Ageless Body potentially being a formidable partner.

      For starters, Ageless Body contains several antioxidants (e.g., CoQ10, Curcumin, Glutathione, and Vitamin C), and the brain is particularly susceptible to oxidative stress. In fact, excess oxidative stress is arguably one of the key contributing factors to declining brain health and function with age. Speaking of Curcumin, in addition to supporting a healthy inflammatory response (which is also important for brain health), it has been shown to boost levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which protects existing brain cells, helps create new ones, improves neuroplasticity (the brain’s capacity to keep developing, changing, and healing itself), and enhances the ability to learn and master new tasks.

      As you may have read above, Ageless Body also contains Ashwagandha (the most concentrated form of the extract available), which can help the body regulate stress. This is important because chronic stress (and elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol) can have lasting negative effects on brain health and function. Further, CoQ10 helps support mitochondrial function, which is critical to optimal brain health and cognitive function. On the other hand, mitochondrial dysfunction is implicated in a variety of health conditions, including declining brain health and function.

      Finally, if you’re looking to optimize brain health, another piece of the puzzle may be OmegaKrill 5X, which provides a high concentration of the omega-3 fatty acid DHA. DHA also helps support healthy levels of inflammation and BDNF, and it is particularly important when it comes to brain health and function. DHA’s significance can be summarized by the fact that it is the most abundant omega-3 fatty acid in the brain, and it makes up nearly 20% of all the fats in the brain. To get a little scienc-y, DHA can affect neurological function by modulating signal transduction pathways, neurotransmission, neurogenesis, myelination, membrane receptor function, synaptic plasticity, neuroinflammation, membrane integrity and membrane organization. Clearly, it’s important.

      Thanks for sharing your question, Pat; I hope you found this helpful!

      Coach Tim