You’ve probably heard some buzz about adrenal health lately, but do you know why it’s important to have healthy adrenals—or what and where your adrenals are in the first place? Read on for the information you need to know.
The Adrenal Glands
While you might rarely consider them, the adrenals are superstar multitaskers and the unsung heroes of the endocrine system.
These walnut-sized, triangular-shaped glands rest atop the kidneys. They influence the body's stress response, immune health, sleep patterns, and even mood by secreting numerous hormones, including cortisol, DHEA, and adrenaline.
These hormones naturally assist the body in maintaining functions ranging from blood pressure and cardiovascular activity to blood sugar levels and metabolism. If it sounds like the adrenal glands are responsible for a lot, it’s because they are.
That’s why adrenal health is so important.
Let's examine the adrenals and their most common hormones a little more closely. Keep in mind that the adrenal glands are also called the suprarenal glands (supra means “above” and renal is related to the kidneys).
The inner part of the adrenal gland, called the medulla, secretes hormones such as adrenaline, which prepares your body to deal with a perceived threat by initiating the fight-or-flight (or stress) response.
These hormones are naturally secreted after the sympathetic nervous system is activated. Adrenaline—also called epinephrine—increases your heart rate and blood pressure, as well as temporarily boosts your energy levels.
The outer part of the adrenal gland, called the cortex, produces hormones such as cortisol. Cortisol is also released in response to stress; it is your body’s primary stress hormone.
In the presence of a perceived stressor, cortisol halts all nonessential bodily functions. And during the stress response, this hormone increases blood sugars. But cortisol also regulates how the body converts macronutrients (fat, protein, and carbohydrates) to glucose for energy.
Your cortisol levels naturally fluctuate throughout the day. Usually, this hormone peaks in the morning and drops to its lowest level during the night. This rhythm supports normal sleep that lets you wake up feeling refreshed and energized.
Adrenaline and cortisol both naturally increase when the body is under a perceived threat, so letting the body return to equilibrium after a stressful event also can help promote normal, restful sleep.
Keeping cortisol levels in check is part of the body's way of maintaining balance. As such, optimally functioning adrenals help support a healthy inflammatory response throughout the body.
The hormone DHEA, produced in the cortex, is a critical component for mental clarity and cognition, and it is produced both in the brain and by the adrenals.
When the adrenal glands have to divert their attention and respond to stress, their ability to produce DHEA is limited. Normal DHEA levels ensure your body has a sufficient supply of necessary hormones available on demand.
DHEA naturally decreases after age 30, particularly in women. Fortunately, keeping the adrenals in balance helps maintain normal DHEA levels as we age.
With all the stress we face in our modern, busy lives, however, the adrenals often aren’t in a balanced state. In fact, they tend to be always “on.” This can lead to what many call “adrenal fatigue.”
When you are under mental, physical, or emotional stress (or a combination of all three), your body automatically copes. It begins a process called General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS). This involves three stages—alarm (a.k.a. the fight-or-flight response), resistance, and exhaustion—and is related to adrenal fatigue.
You can read more about the GAS process here.
Adrenal fatigue is not an official medical diagnosis, but the idea is that long-term stress can drain your adrenal glands.1 This, in turn, can potentially cause symptoms like brain fog, low energy, negative feelings and outlook, salty and sweet cravings, and lightheadedness.1
If you feel fatigued often, speak with your doctor, as fatigue can have many serious underlying causes, such as anxiety or depression, anemia, heart disease, diabetes, and more.
However, given the fast-paced and stressful nature of life, it also makes sense to prioritize your adrenal health and provide your adrenal glands a little extra care. How? Turn to adaptogenic herbs for support.*
Below, we’ll tell you about five adaptogenic herbs as well as a few herbal supplements that are specifically designed to support adrenal health.*
Adrenal Health and Adaptogenic Herbs
Before we talk about specific adaptogenic herbs, it’s worth examining the definition of adaptogens. Adaptogens help “ the body deal with the physiology of stress” and they “exert a normalizing influence on the body.”*2,3
Basically, adaptogens rejuvenate and tone your whole body, especially your endocrine and immune systems, and help your body cope with stress in a healthy way.*
That said, adaptogenic herbs are just the right thing when it comes to caring for your adrenal glands.* There are many herbs and mushrooms that are adaptogenic, but here, we will focus on five that we love to use specifically for adrenal support.*
Ashwagandha is a green leafy plant and an adaptogen that can be used to help your body better handle stress.* Also sometimes called “Indian Ginseng” or “Winter Cherry,” it has been used for over 4,000 years in India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.
In different places and traditions, it has been used to promote learning, memory retrieval, normal sleep patterns, and a healthy inflammatory response, just to name a few of its benefits.*
Schisandra, also known as “Chinese Magnolia Vine” and “Five Flavored Fruit,” is a well-loved plant within Traditional Chinese Medicine that is used to support the endocrine system, digestive system, and liver.*
It gets its names from the five flavors—bitter, sweet, sour, salty, and hot—of the Schisandra berry, which corresponds to the five elements of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
In addition to offering antioxidant protection and supporting the liver, as an adaptogen, this berry helps support your body’s natural adaptation to stress.* It also supports mental endurance and metabolic efficiency.*
As a stand-out adaptogenic herb, Holy Basil is used to help support a healthy response to stress, as well as to maintain blood sugar levels, promote longevity, nourish the mind, and elevate the spirit.*
Three specific active constituents of Holy Basil—rsolic, rosmarinic acids, and eugenol—have antioxidant properties and support normal levels of inflammation.*
Rhodiola is one of our favorite herbs when it comes to adrenal health, and it has a long history of traditional use.
It was used by the Vikings and was also discussed by a Greek physician in the first century A.D. In more modern times, Rhodiola began to appear in scientific literature in the 1700s.
Today, we use the fragrant root, called Rhodiola Rosea root or roseroot, to support the body’s resiliency, the functioning of the adrenal glands, and a healthy stress response.*
Hailing from Asia and Russia, Eleuthero is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine and, through Russian research, is the model for all other adaptogens.
While we still don’t fully understand exactly how Eleuthero works, studies have shown that this adaptogenic herb can increase the body’s ability to withstand a variety of stressors, like heat, noise, motion, exercise, and an increase in workload.*
There is, however, one thing to watch out for when it comes to Eleuthero. While it’s always important to know where your herbal supplements come from and to make sure that the products are screened for purity and potency, it's especially important with this plant.
In the United States, some companies sell a different species of the plant or sell the herb Periploca but market it as Eleuthero.
Here at Gaia Herbs, we are committed to transparency. Because we believe you deserve to know exactly what is in your herbal supplements and where the herbs come from, we created meetyourherbs.com, the world’s first herb traceability platform. By entering the unique herb identification number on your product’s packaging, you will discover the origin of your herbs, learn how they were grown, harvested, and extracted, and see validation of your product’s level of purity and potency.
How to Support Adrenal Health
Nourishing your adrenal glands with herbs is an easy, natural way to support adrenal health and help combat adrenal fatigue.*
We’ve taken the five adaptogenic herbs listed above and created expertly formulated herbal supplements designed specifically for adrenal health. Let’s take a look at them so you can decide which one is right for you.
Adrenal Health® Daily Support
We’ll highlight Gaia Herbs Adrenal Health® Daily Support first because it’s our best-selling formula, traditionally for the stressed and overworked to help sustain healthy energy and stress levels.* This is a popular formula for those feeling overwhelmed and rundown.
It contains a synergistic blend of adaptogenic herbs, including Rhodiola, Holy Basil, Ashwagandha, and Schisandra. And it’s made with Gaia-grown® Oats, which are extracted fresh immediately after harvest to preserve full spectrum compounds for optimal potency.*
These Oats are grown on our very own Certified Organic Gaia Farm nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. On this 350-acre plot of rich alluvial soil, our Oats and other herbs are nourished by clear mountain waters.
To support adrenal health, adults should take two capsules of Adrenal Health® Daily Support each morning. For additional support, you can take the same dose again in the afternoon.
Keep in mind that this supplement is not for use during pregnancy or lactation, and Rhodiola should not be taken by individuals with bipolar disorder.
Adrenal Health® Nightly Restore
Because your body repairs and restores itself during sleep, it’s important to sleep well (soundly and long enough) every night. But when you’re stressed, sleep can be extra hard to come by. Give your body the support it needs with Gaia Herbs Adrenal Health® Nightly Restore.*
Every day, take two capsules in the evening after dinner. For best results, continue to use long-term. This product is not for use during pregnancy or lactation.
Adrenal Health® Jump Start
Gaia Herbs Adrenal Health® Jump Start is an award-winning supplement intended for short-term stress support.*
With exhaustion and stress common in our fast-paced world, this formula is designed to help sustain healthy energy and stress levels.* Start with this product to get your body back on track before switching to a long-term adrenal support supplement.*
Because this herbal supplement is formulated for short-term support, we recommend taking two capsules daily in the morning for eight to 12 weeks, then transitioning to Adrenal Health® Daily Support.
Note that this product is not for use during pregnancy or lactation.
Rhodiola Rosea is a powerful herb for adrenal health.* It is traditionally used for supporting healthy stamina and helping your body cope with stress.* It is a favorite herb among those who are physically active.
Count on this supplement to contain a potent dose of Rhodiola Rosea and—just like all Gaia Herbs supplements—no dairy, gluten, or soy. To reap the benefits of this wonderful herb, simply take one capsule twice a day between meals.*
Keep in mind that Gaia Herbs Rhodiola Rosea is not for use during pregnancy or lactation, and Rhodiola should not be taken by individuals with bipolar disorder.
Herbal Support for Hard-Working Adrenals*
Did you know how much responsibility the adrenals have within the body? As you learned in this article, they help you adapt to life naturally.
To support your adrenals, especially in cases of adrenal fatigue, turn to adaptogenic herbs such as Ashwagandha, Schisandra, Holy Basil, Rhodiola, and Eleuthero.
And remember, you can easily work these herbs into your wellness routine by taking Gaia Herbs Adrenal Health® Daily Support for long-term support or Adrenal Health® Jump Start for short-term support when you need to get your body back on track.* Call on our Adrenal Health® Nightly Restore and Rhodiola Rosea for a helping hand as well.*
Don’t wait to provide much-needed support to your hard-working adrenal glands!
1. Marcelo Campos, MD, “Is Adrenal Fatigue ‘Real’?,” Harvard Health Blog, updated January 29, 2020,
2. The Naturopathic Herbalist, “Adaptogen,” accessed on January 22, 2021,
3. Edward C. Wallace, N.D., D.C., “Adaptogenic Herbs: Nature's Solution To Stress,” Chiro, accessed on January 22, 2021, https://chiro.org/nutrition/FULL/Adaptogenic_Herbs.shtml