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5 Herbal Supplements That May Help With Adrenal Fatigue

Published on March 30, 2023


By Kristen Boye BS, Natural Health

Kristen Boye

Kristen Boye is a natural health expert, writer, copywriter, and editor. Kristen was raised on an organic farm in British Columbia which inspired her life’s work. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Natural Health, is a Certified Natural Foods Chef, co-owner of a medicinal herb farm, and is a natural foods and children’s health advocate. Kristen lives with her husband and two children on their medicinal herb farm in Western North Carolina.

https://www.holisticwritingconcepts.com

Suppose you feel run-down, wired and tired, unfocused, moody, or unable to maintain your optimal weight. In that case, you may be suffering from adrenal fatigue, also known as adrenal burnout or HPA axis dysfunction.

If this sounds like you, adaptogenic herbs may offer some relief.*

Whether it's a stressful day at work, a challenging interaction with a loved one, a loss, or just the fast-paced 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, which may cause us to feel generally off.

Here, we discuss the science and symptoms of adrenal fatigue and how adaptogenic herbs may help restore balance to your tired body.*

What is Adrenal Fatigue?

Adrenal fatigue, also known as adrenal burnout or scientifically known as HPA axis dysfunction· REF#1100 typically occurs when we are under prolonged periods of stress.

Persistent stress has been shown to cause imbalances in the hypothalamus pituitary adrenal axis, resulting in less sensitivity to stress hormones.

This can cause: 

  • Feelings of extreme fatigue
  • Sleep disturbances that leave you feeling wired and tired
  • An inability to relax
  • Anxiety
  • Immune issues 
  • Mystery symptoms
  • Metabolic ailments
  • Weight gain

The adrenal glands are true multitaskers of the human body.

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 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, 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 support the adrenal glands and promote stress relief and equilibrium of mind, body, and spirit.*

What are Adaptogenic Herbs?

Adaptogens are a category of herbs and mushrooms that help the body adapt to stress.* 

Research has shown adaptogens improve stress response and help the body adapt by normalizing physiological processes during stressful times.* 

Adaptogens achieve this by regulating homeostasis via their actions on the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis. They also control vital mediators of the stress response, such as heat shock proteins and stress hormones like cortisol and nitric oxide.REF#1101

Some adaptogens 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 be an excellent way to support your body and easily fit into your daily routine. 

You can take adaptogens supplements such as Gaia Herbs Adrenal Health® Daily Support Liquid Phyto-Caps®, or 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 nighttime tea.

Adaptogenic Herbs and Adrenal Fatigue

Adaptogenic herbs are a healthy way to support energy and HPA axis function while nourishing the adrenals.* 

Let’s discuss how these herbs may help support your adrenals during times of stress.*

When you experience any type of stress, your body begins a process called general adaptation syndrome (or GAS for short). General adaptation syndrome progresses through three stages:REF#1102

  1. Alarm
  2. Resistance
  3. Exhaustion

We’ll look at each stage in more detail and see how adaptogenic herbs may help.*

General Adaptation Syndrome

Alarm Phase

The alarm phase refers to the initial symptoms your body experiences when under stress, such as:REF#1102

  • Heightened senses
  • Increased pulse rate
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Agitation
  • Sweating

During the alarm phase, your body releases cortisol (a stress hormone) followed by a boost of adrenaline to help you address the problem.

The alarm phase is largely autonomic—meaning it’s involuntary or unconscious—so you can’t do much to control it.

Although the chemical response in your body may be greater or lesser depending on the stressor, the alarm phase of the GAS is similar to the immediate surge of adrenaline experienced when you see something that frightens you.

That’s not to say you’ll feel the same degree of fight-or-flight response when you experience stress, but the mechanism 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. Still, you can reduce the immediate impact it has by practicing meditation, deep breathing, or mindful awareness when you feel stressed.

Resistance Phase

Shortly after the initial shock of the alarm stage, your body begins to repair itself to avoid the negative impacts prolonged cortisol and adrenaline can have on 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.

Your body will remain on high alert for a time, 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 ideal situation doesn’t always occur in the real world. For many of us, stressful situations continue for extended periods.

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 last for days, weeks, and even months or years.

Some circumstances that may cause your body to remain on high alert include project deadlines, illness or death in the family, financial trouble, not getting along with a coworker, marital issues, and many others.

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 stress hormones by becoming resistant to cortisol and adrenaline and establishing a “new norm” for your heart rate and blood pressure.REF#1103

That means even when the stress has finally abated, your body may still function as if the stress is present. 

The resistance phase is characterized by the following symptoms over weeks or months:

  • Irritability
  • Frustration
  • Poor concentration
  • Brain fog

If the resistance stage continues for too long, your body will enter the exhaustion phase.

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:

  • Fatigue
  • Burnout
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Decreased stress tolerance

What’s more, the physical effects of the exhaustion stage may weaken your immune system and increase your risk for stress-related illnesses.

How Adaptogenic Herbs May Help

Because of their stimulating effects, adaptogenic herbs may be able to support your by helping it 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.REF#1122

Korn highlights how some adaptogenic herbs may help indirectly with other health issues resulting from prolonged stress, such as pain, digestive problems, and occasional sleeplessness.*

These other health issues can often exacerbate the original stress and create a self-perpetuating cycle. 

Adaptogenic herbs may 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

Here, we introduce you to five of the best adaptogenic herbs for adrenal fatigue that provide daily support for stress response, stress relief, and balance.*

#1 Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha, aka Indian Ginseng or Withania somnifera, is an ancient plant used extensively in Ayurveda (the traditional medicine of India) for over 3,000 years.

Its traditional uses include stress; menstrual difficulties such as PMS or irregular periods; adrenal health; sleep; immunity; thyroid support; sex drive; energy; and cognitive function.*

In herbalism, Ashwagandha is considered a nervine, which supports the nervous system, and an adaptogen, which helps the body adapt to physical, mental, and emotional stress.*

Modern science has conducted several studies on ashwagandha and identified over 50 chemical constituents, including steroidal alkaloids and lactones, collectively known as withanolides.REF#1104Chemical constituents are the active components in plants that may impart specific health benefits.

Ashwagandha has been proven to support normal cortisol levels, which affects the entire endocrine/hormonal system via the HPA (hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal)Axis.REF#1103 REF#1100

It’s also been shown to support sleep via its effects on the HPA axis, which governs your cortisol awakening response.REF#1105 1106

The cortisol awakening response refers to the naturally higher levels of cortisol a healthy body should produce after a sustained period of rest.REF#1107

This is again related to the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which controls cortisol secretion with the sleep cycle/circadian rhythm and your stress response.REF#1108

Learn more about Ashwagandha in The Essential Guide To Ashwagandha: Everything You Need To Know.

#2 Rhodiola Rosea

As an adrenal adaptogen, Siberian Rhodiola Rosea supports the functioning of the adrenal glands and encourages a healthy stress response.*

It’s been traditionally used in Siberia and across Asia for anemia, energy, fertility, immunity, mood, cognitive health, and low libido.*

Rhodiola has also demonstrated supportive effects on:REF#1109 REF#1110 REF#1111 

  • Cardiovascular function
  • Cognitive and mental health
  • Endurance
  • Physical performance
  • Stress

Rhodiola can be found in the following Gaia Herbs: Adrenal Health Daily Support and Everyday Adaptogen.

#3 Holy Basil

Holy Basil, also known as Tulsi. Liquid Yoga, or the Incomparable One, translates to balance, symbolizing its most common modern use. 

Considered a sacred herb in Ayurveda, the traditional wellness practice of India, Holy Basil has been traditionally used to support the stress response, immunity, eye health, digestive complaints, insect bites, anxiety, hiccups, and back pain.*.REF#1112

In addition to its potent adaptogenic properties, holy Basil has been shown to support immunity, detoxification organs, metabolism, inflammatory response, liver function, cognitive function, bacterial balance, and memory.REF#1113

Discover more about the history and science behind Holy Basil in An Essential Guide To Holy Basil.

#4 Eleuthero

Eleuthero, introduced initially to the United States as Siberian Ginseng until its name was changed in 2002 (Panax Ginseng is now considered the only “true” Ginseng per the FDA), is used extensively in Traditional Chinese Medicine to invigorate qi (chi or energy), strengthen and nourish the body, and to balance vital energy.*

Through Russian Research, Eleuthero became the model for all other adaptogens.REF#1112

It has demonstrated various beneficial properties, including: REF#1113 REF#1114 REF#1115 REF#1116 

  • Supporting immunity 
  • Supporting normal blood sugar and metabolism
  • Promoting bacterial balancing 
  • Supporting normal inflammatory response
  • Cognitive protection
  • Promoting energy and endurance

You can find authentic Eleuthero in these Gaia Herbs Products:

#5 Schisandra

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: 

  1. Sour (Wood)
  2. Bitter (Fire)
  3. Sweet (Earth)
  4. Acrid (Metal)
  5. Salty (Water)

Since these five flavors work synergistically to promote overall health and vitality, Schisandra is sometimes called the “ultimate superberry.”

Schisandra berries have been shown to: REF#1117 REF#1118 REF#1119 REF#1120 REF#1121

  • Enhance the body's natural resistance and adaptation to stressful influences
  • Support mental endurance and cognitive health
  • Promote normal immunity
  • Support central nervous system function, which is foundational to stress support
  • Promoting healthy circulation when combined with Sesamin, a component of sesame seeds
  • Supporting thyroid health

Learn more about Schisandra in: 5 Helpful Herbs For Thyroid Awareness Month.

You can find Schisandra in these Gaia Herbs products:

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 various forms, including Liquid Phyto-Caps, powders, and liquids, making it easy to incorporate adaptogenic herbs into your balanced diet.

You can take our Ginseng Supreme liquid herbal supplement — 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 an excellent 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 more convenient, no-mix, ready-to-take adaptogenic boost, try Gaia Herbs Adaptogen Performance Mushrooms & Herbs vegan capsules. 

If you are tired or rundown, this formula contains a blend of adaptogenic herbs, including Cordyceps and Ashwagandha.*

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.

Timing Adaptogens

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 must time it 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).*

Learn more about the science of timing adaptogen dosage in When Is The Best Time To Take Ashwagandha?

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: 

Remember, even small changes can lead to a significant improvement in how you feel.

Keep browsing our site and talk to your doctor or healthcare practitioner to learn more about adaptogenic herbs and explore which Gaia Herbs products best suit your needs.

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