If you feel run-down and unfocused, you may be suffering from adrenal fatigue. Adaptogenic herbs may be able to help.*
Whether it's a stressful day at work, a challenging interaction with a loved one, or just the go-go-go cadence of life, we all experience moments that demand a lot of our mental, emotional, and physical energy. When this happens, our adrenal glands take a hard hit and we can feel generally off.
Here, we discuss the science and symptoms of adrenal fatigue and how adaptogenic herbs may be able to help restore balance to your tired body.*
What is Adrenal Fatigue?
The adrenal glands are true multitaskers of the human body. They influence your stress response, immune health, sleep patterns, and even your mood.
These small but powerful glands produce hormones that naturally assist in maintaining functions ranging from blood pressure and cardiovascular activity to blood sugar levels and metabolism.
Because the adrenal glands are absolutely vital to well-being, we like to refer to them as the unsung heroes of the endocrine system.
When your adrenal glands are operating at 100%, you’ll feel a sense of mental clarity that can help you maintain alertness throughout the day.
When your adrenal glands are fatigued, however, you'll feel physically run down with low energy levels, a weakened immune system, and an inability to adapt to stress.
Optimizing adrenal gland function is essential to combating stress and living a more balanced life. Adaptogenic herbs like those found in Gaia Herbs Everyday Adaptogen help by supporting the adrenal glands and promoting stress relief and equilibrium of mind, body, and spirit.*
What are Adaptogenic Herbs?
Adaptogens are herbs and mushrooms that help balance and restore the body.* Some adaptogens act to stimulate the body and enhance mental performance, while others help calm the body and soothe the adrenals.*
Adaptogens can also support the body's natural circadian rhythm (also known as your internal body clock) and help promote more restful sleep.*
Adaptogenic herbs can fit easily into your daily routine. You can take adaptogens as a pill with Gaia Herbs Adrenal Health® Daily Support Liquid Phyto-Caps®, or you can use an herbal powder such as Gaia Herbs Everyday Adaptogen and blend them into your morning smoothie.
You can also use the powder to make an energy-boosting caffeine-free snack or even add the powder to a nourishing night time tea.
Adaptogenic Herbs and Adrenal Fatigue
Adaptogenic herbs are a healthy addition to your balanced diet and can help restore balance in a variety of ways.* Let’s discuss how these herbs help to reduce adrenal fatigue specifically.
When you experience stress — be it physical or mental — your body begins a process called general adaptation syndrome (or GAS for short). General adaptation syndrome progresses through three stages:
We’ll look at each stage in a bit more detail and see how adaptogenic herbs can help.*
General Adaptation Syndrome
The alarm phase refers to the initial symptoms your body experiences when under stress, such as:
- Heightened senses
- Increased pulse rate
- Elevated blood pressure
During the alarm phase, your body releases cortisol (a stress hormone) followed by a boost of adrenaline to help you deal with the problem.1
The alarm phase is largely autonomic — meaning it’s involuntary or unconscious — so you can’t do much to control it.
Though the chemical response in your body is significantly less depending on the stressor, the alarm phase of the GAS is similar to the immediate surge of adrenaline you get when you see something that frightens you.
That’s not to say you’ll feel the same degree of the fight-or-flight response when you experience stress, but the mechanism in your body is very similar.
So, instead of releasing a large amount of cortisol and adrenaline as it does when you’re frightened, your body may only release a small amount of cortisol and adrenaline when you’re stressed.
As we mentioned, there’s little you can do to control this part of your body’s autonomic system, but you can reduce the immediate impact it has by practicing meditation, deep breathing, or mindful awareness when you feel stressed.
Shortly after the initial shock of the alarm stage, your body begins to repair itself because prolonged exposure to cortisol and adrenaline can have negative effects on your health.
At the start of the resistance phase, your endocrine system releases less cortisol and adrenaline, your heart rate slows, and your blood pressure returns to normal.
For a time, your body will remain on high alert, but if you resolve the stressful situation, your hormone levels, heart rate, and blood pressure will eventually return to their normal, pre-stress levels.
That, of course, is an ideal situation that doesn’t always occur in the real world. For many of us, stressful situations continue for extended periods of time.
These might not be the fight-or-flight situations we experience when danger is present, but work, family, and life in general can put demands on us that can last for days, weeks, and even months or years.
Situations such as project deadlines, illness in the family, financial trouble, not getting along with a coworker, marital issues, and a long list of others that might not be readily resolvable can cause your body to remain on high alert longer than it was meant to.
When this happens, your body continues to secrete cortisol and adrenaline and your heart rate and blood pressure stay elevated. They might not be as high as that first initial “shock” when the stress hit, but they will be above your normal resting numbers.
Over time, your body adapts to the ongoing stress, and the prolonged presence of hormones that shouldn’t be there, by becoming resistant to the cortisol and adrenaline and establishing a “new norm” for your heart rate and blood pressure.
That means that even when the stress has finally abated, your body will still function as if the stress is present.1 The resistance phase is characterized by the following symptoms over a period of weeks or months:
- Poor concentration
- Brain fog
If the resistance stage continues for too long, your body will enter the exhaustion phase.
The exhaustion phase is the direct result of too much stress for too long and is exactly what it sounds like: your body no longer has the physical, emotional, and mental strength to deal with ongoing stress.
Some individuals can handle weeks, months, or years of prolonged stress, while others can only handle a few days.
The exhaustion phase may be characterized by a feeling of hopelessness, as well as other symptoms, including:
- Decreased stress tolerance
What’s more, the physical effects of the exhaustion stage can weaken your immune system and increase your risk for stress-related illnesses.
How Adaptogenic Herbs Can Help
Because of their stimulating effects, adaptogenic herbs may be able to help your body stay in the resistance phase longer and prevent it from “crashing” in the exhaustion phase.*
According to Leslie Korn, Ph.D., a Harvard Medical School-trained traumatologist, some adaptogenic herbs can inoculate us to stress and help us cope.*
Korn goes on to highlight how some adaptogenic herbs may have the potential to help indirectly with other health issues that result from prolonged stress, such as pain, digestive problems, and occasional sleeplessness.*2
In many cases, these other health issues can further exacerbate the original stress and create a self-perpetuating cycle. Adaptogenic herbs may be able to help you avoid that downward spiral by restoring balance to your body, which will help you deal with stress more effectively.*
The Best Adaptogenic Herbs for Adrenal Fatigue
In the following list, we introduce you to five of the best adaptogenic herbs for adrenal fatigue that provide daily support, help promote stress relief, and restore balance.*
Known for its grounding and restorative properties, Ashwagandha supports the nervous and endocrine systems and promotes a natural sleep cycle.* As a nourishing tonic, Ashwagandha can help the body adapt to stressful conditions.*
Adaptogenic herbs such as Ashwagandha help nourish and restore optimal health by supporting normal mood, energy levels, and overall immune function to help you stay centered and thrive in your busy life.*
2) Rhodiola Rosea
As an adrenal adaptogen, Siberian Rhodiola rosea supports the functioning of the adrenal glands and encourages a healthy response to stress.*
Rhodiola rosea is a great adaptogenic herb for adrenal fatigue.* If used regularly, Rhodiola rosea can support the body's natural resistance.*
3) Holy basil
Holy Basil, also known as Tulsi or the incomparable one, translates to balance, which is symbolic of its most common modern use. Holy Basil helps you respond to stress in a healthy way while nourishing the mind and elevating the spirit.*
As an adaptogenic herb, Holy Basil also supports adrenal health and a state of equilibrium in the body.*
Eleuthero is used to support mental alertness, performance and concentration, reduce stress, and help maintain healthy energy and stamina.*
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Eleuthero root is used to invigorate qi (chi or energy), strengthen and nourish the body, and to balance vital energy.*
Regarded as a harmonizing tonic and a popular adaptogenic herb, Schisandra berries contain a blend of five distinct flavor properties, which correspond to the five phases or Elements of Traditional Chinese Medicine: Sour (Wood), Bitter (Fire), Sweet (Earth), Acrid (Metal), and Salty (Water).
Since these five flavors work synergistically to promote overall health and vitality, Schisandra is sometimes called the “ultimate superberry.”
Schisandra berries can enhance the body's natural resistance and adaptation to stressful influences, support mental endurance, and help maintain overall metabolic efficiency.*
How to Take Adaptogenic Herbs
Supplements are the easiest and most convenient way to take an efficacious dose of adaptogenic herbs.
Our energy support products, for example, come in a variety of forms including Liquid Phyto-Caps, powders, and liquids, making it extremely easy to incorporate adaptogenic herbs into your balanced diet.
You can take our Ginseng Supreme liquid herbal supplement — which is made with an invigorating blend of adaptogenic herbs, including American Ginseng and Eleuthero, that help support energy and stamina — by administering a few drops in your mouth or by adding it to your favorite food or hot beverage.*
Similarly, our Everyday Adaptogen powdered herbal supplement is a great addition to recipes or beverages. Stir it into your tea or mix it into your smoothie for a healthy dose of adaptogenic herbs anytime.
For an even easier, no-mix, ready-to-take adaptogenic boost, try Gaia Herbs Adaptogen Performance Mushrooms & Herbs vegan capsules. If you are feeling tired or rundown, this formula contains a blend of adaptogenic herbs, including Cordyceps and Ashwagandha, that support healthy energy levels.*
Be sure to follow the dosing instructions of whatever adaptogenic herb you choose and talk to an Ayurvedic practitioner for more guidance and advice. It can also be beneficial to rotate your adaptogens every six weeks so that your body can benefit from the subtle differences among herbs.*
It’s also important to take your adaptogenic herbs at the right time of the day to experience the best effects.
This doesn’t mean you have to time it down to the exact hour and minute. It just means you’re better off taking certain adaptogenic herbs in the morning and others in the evening.
For example, take an energizing product that contains Rhodiola rosea — such as Gaia Herbs Adrenal Health® Jump Start — in the morning to start your day off right.*
Or take a calming product that contains Holy Basil — such as Gaia Herbs Adrenal Health® Daily Support — before bed (or any time you need to relax).*
Overcoming Adrenal Fatigue
Improving adrenal health can help you live a more balanced life.
In addition to herbal supplements, there are other ways you can help support your body, including adopting a healing mindset, practicing yoga, eating a healthy, balanced diet, getting enough sleep, and taking time for yourself each day.
And remember, even small changes can lead to a big improvement in how you feel.
Keep browsing our site to learn more about adaptogenic herbs and explore which Gaia Herbs products best suit your needs. You can also search by health concern to make it even easier to find the ideal herbs for you.
1 General adaptation syndrome stages. Healthline.com.
2 Korn L. (2017). The good mood kitchen: Simple recipes and nutrition tips for emotional balance. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company.