More and more people are turning to healing herbs as potential alternative remedies to conventional medicine, especially considering the ease of accessibility and low cost of herbal products.
One category of natural remedies that is becoming increasingly popular comprises a variety of herbs that work to promote a state of balance within the body and normalize physiological and psychological functions. This is mainly what an adaptogen is claimed to assist with.
Adaptogenic herbs strengthen the body’s defenses against stress and support proper mental and physical functions under conditions of emotional, psychological or physical distress.
In short, an adaptogen is a substance that helps the body adapt to different external stressors and combat the negative physical and psychological effects of stress on the body.
Over time, excessive stress and fatigue can impair the way your body functions by harming your endocrine, neurological and immune systems. When the body goes into fight or flight mode, the endocrine system is programmed to release harmful hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline.
Adaptogens may help promote optimal hormonal production and balance, additionally, they typically possess anti-fatigue, stimulating, neuroprotective, cardioprotective, immunotropic, antidepressant, anxiolytic, anti-inflammatory and/or antioxidant properties. (1)
Six of The Best Vitalizing Adaptogenic Herbs
The following is a quick review of six highly regarded herbal adaptogens that have a fair amount of scientific evidence to support their efficacy:
1. Siberian Ginseng (Eleuthero)
You may have heard about Asian panax ginseng and American ginseng, but there is one more distinct variety of this plant known as Siberian ginseng. All three of these plants have adaptogenic effects and they have different uses in traditional medicine.
Siberian ginseng, aka eleuthero, has a long history of traditional medicinal use for many health problems. Research has shown that this herb has the potential to combat stress-induced pathophysiologic changes in the body. It may also function as a tonic for the liver, kidneys and spleen. (2)
Siberian ginseng can assist in recovery from both mental and physical overexertion, acting as a natural antidote for fitness fanatics and hard-working professionals.
There is some evidence supporting the performance and endurance-enhancing effects of Siberian ginseng, (3) however, some studies also concluded that supplementation with this herb didn’t provide a significant advantage.
Despite the contradictory studies, this is considered one of the most potent adaptogens and many naturopaths and users vouch for its numerous health benefits.
You’d hardly find an article about adaptogens that doesn’t mention ashwagandha! Well, this is one of the most commonly used and extensively studied herbal remedies with a considerable ability to enhance physical and mental wellness. (4)
Several studies have shown that ashwagandha (withania somnifera) is helpful in managing stress and anxiety and counteracting stress-induced health issues like insomnia, cognitive impairment and sexual dysfunction in both men and women. (5, 6)
These benefits were specifically noted using one branded, full-spectrum extract of ashwagandha root called KSM-66. This standardized extract is thought to be superior to raw powder and other extracts in terms of quality and efficacy. Many major supplement brands use this specific extract in their products.
Schisandra is a shrub whose fruit has a few uses in traditional Chinese medicine. It possesses a potent antioxidant effect that can help the body reduce oxidative stress and may improve liver function. (9, 10)
A few studies reported anti-fatigue activity of schisandra and confirmed its potential to increase physical endurance, improve cognitive function, combat the effects of aging, and provide other health benefits. (11, 12, 13)
Maca (lepidium meyenii) is a root vegetable native to Peru where locals use it as food and medicine. Also known as Peruvian ginseng, this herb is renowned for being a natural stamina and libido booster.
Maca’s benefits for menopausal women are often more emphasized as it has a documented potential to alleviate negative physiological and psychological symptoms in pre- and post-menopausal women. (16, 17)
Research has also shown that maca may improve exercise performance and physical endurance in athletes. (18) Additionally, it has demonstrated antidepressant activity under stressful circumstances. (19)
5. Holy Basil
Holy basil, also known as tulsi, is an aromatic herb that belongs to the mint family. It has been used in Ayurvedic medicine since ancient times.
Revered as one of India’s most potent herbal remedies, holy basil is used as a healing tea, essential oil and dietary supplement. It is believed to have relaxing and vitalizing effects.
6. Rhodiola Rosea
Rhodiola rosea, also known as arctic root or rose root, has been used in Russia and Scandinavia for centuries as a treatment for depression, anxiety and fatigue, besides other uses.
This adaptogenic herb is commonly used to manage stress and improve stress-induced physical and mental fatigue. (24, 25) Its positive effects on both physical and mental energy make it one of the top recommended supplements for productivity enhancement.
Rhodiola rosea can be particularly beneficial for athletes looking to boost their energy and strength in a safe way. A few clinical studies noted positive effects of this plant on athletic performance. (26, 27, 28)
A Recommended Adaptogenic Blend: Adaptogen-R3
Adaptogen-R3 is a multi-herb formula that combines a few of the most powerful adaptogens in capsule form. This supplement is manufactured by Austin, TX-based Premier Research Labs.
- Rhodiola rosea (root extract)
- Eleuthero (Siberian ginseng) (root)
- Organic prickly pear (leaf)
- Organic maca (root)
- Organic rice concentrate (oryza sativa)
- Indonesian cinnamon (bark)
- Organic turmeric (root)
- Fermented cordyceps (mycelia)
You can check out this product and order it at PureFormulas. They also carry a huge selection of other single and multi-ingredient supplements from several reputable brands.