The 7 Best Adaptogens for Stress + Fatigue, According to Science

The 7 Best Adaptogens for Stress + Fatigue, According to Science

Nature’s gift at bringing us balance

The natural world is full of things that can be beneficial to humans. Over the years, many scientists have discovered a wide array of compounds that treat a variety of ailments. Most of modern medicine comes from simply copying and refining what already exists in nature; from the acetylsalicylic acid that was medically used for thousands of years in the form of willow tea and now used in aspirin, to antibiotics such as penicillin that were discovered in fungi. Adaptogens are another such thing - in this case, herbs and fungi that contain compounds which counteract biological stress responses. In this list, we’ll cover seven top adaptogens whose compounds have been shown to have the potential for counteracting stress and fatigue.

 

1. Ashwagandha

Also referred to as Indian Ginseng, Ashwagandha has been used in ayurvedic medicine for centuries. It is known for its potential in lowering stress and anxiety. In a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled study, this adaptogen has been shown to have an effect on lowering serum cortisol levels [1], meaning it lowered the stress response of the human body. Lowering cortisol levels in the bloodstream also means it has potential in reducing bodily inflammation since it has been observed that prolonged stress alters the effectiveness of cortisol to regulate the inflammatory response because constant, high exposure can decrease tissue sensitivity to the hormone [2].

 

2. Eleuthero Root

Commonly called Siberian Ginseng, this adaptogen, when taken in combination with rhodiola rosea, has been shown to promote cognitive performance when under stress. In the trial, “Forty healthy females aged between 20-68 years, who claimed to have felt stressed over a long period of time due to living under psychologically stressful conditions” [3] were split into two parallel groups, given a Stroop Colour-Word Test in order to mentally exhaust them, then were given either a tablet containing a mixture of Eleuthero Root and Rhodiola Rosea or a placebo. After waiting for 2 hours for the tablet to take effect, they were then given a d2 Test of Attention.

As shown in the graph above, the group of women given the adaptogenic tablet outperformed the group given the placebo. There were no major side effects either, with only cold-extremities being reported.


3. Rhodiola Rosea

This adaptogen in particular has been the focus of much research because of its potential benefits. Other than its synergistic cognitive improvement effects as mentioned earlier, this antioxidant rich herb [4] has also been shown to help modulate cortisol levels after exercise induced stress, and to reduce general anxiety as well. [5]

 

4. Maca Root

Known scientifically as Lepidium meyenii, this Peruvian root is highly nutritious and high in fiber. It has been shown to have a wide array of potential health benefits and is a versatile adaptogen. It is especially useful for women, as it is a potent hormone regulator, [6]  helping bring balance to one’s body. It can reduce stress by improving one’s mood and libido as well, as there’s evidence it does so by helping regulate serotonin levels as seen in studies seeing Maca’s efficacy in treating conditions which can throw serotonin levels off balance. [7,8]

 

5. Cordyceps Sinensis

You may have already heard of this odd mushroom. Extremely high in antioxidants, it helps cells stay free from damage caused by free radicals released when stressed or tired. As shown in the graph below, both cultured (A) and natural (B) variants of Cordyceps Sinensis have a high level of antioxidant activity: [9]

This means that supplementary, long term use of this adaptogen can lower oxidative stress in the body, helping organs such as the skin stay in great shape over the years, as well as keeping cells healthy throughout time.

 

6. Reishi Mushroom

This once hard to find oriental mushroom is sustainably grown these days using saw dust or spare hardwood, and high in antioxidants that help fight against aging.[10] Rich in selenium, an essential trace mineral that is highly effective against bodily oxidative stress [11], this mushroom in particular has great immunomodulating potential through mitogenicity (the reproduction of cells) and activation of immune effector cells, like T-cells and macrophages.[12] Thus, including this adaptogenic mushroom into your diet can give a slight boost to your immune system that you can need after a tiring exercise routine or stressful day at work, helping you stay active and healthy.


7. Holy Basil

Originally from India and also known by its Hindu name as Tulsi, this ayurvedic herb is one of the best adaptogens there is. A beneficial herb overall, it is primarily known and studied for its effects in reducing stress and anxiety, as well as lowering muscular/intestinal inflammation (and therefore pain, which in turn reduces stress). Holy Basil’s primary adaptogenic effects on stress seem to come from two phytochemical compounds: Ocimumoside A and B. Although the exact mechanism of action on how the two compounds work in reducing stress caused by excess corticosterone, it seems to be through regulation of the monoaminergic system (which is in charge of releasing dopamine, serotonin, and nor-adrenaline - all of which are chemicals that can bind with or synaptically block stressors like corticosterone, thus reducing the amount of stressors affecting the body).[13]

Holy Basil’s second beneficial effects as an anti inflammatory have been tested against other known NSAID’s such as Aspirin, and have been shown to be statistically significant in reducing inflammation as well or better than current common medications.[14]

 

As shown in the above table, Holy Basil oil managed to protect against intestinal inflammation caused by castor oil irritation in rats almost to the same degree as aspirin - however, unlike NSAIDs like aspirin, Holy Basil oil has not been shown to cause stomach irritation with use. That means it can aid in this without causing stomach issues means there’s potential for it to aid metabolism even when stress in life irritates your digestive system.[15]


And as shown in this secondary table, Holy Basil had a better effect against muscular inflammation than even Aspirin and other NSAIDs! 

This adaptogen can truly help bring balance to your life. Perhaps that is why it is seen as a sacred herb in Hinduism.


And that concludes our top 7 science-backed Adaptogens that can help you fight off stress and fatigue. Which do you think you might incorporate into your diet?

Stay tuned for more articles like this every week, along with tasty recipes and spotlight reviews, where we cover more herbs and fungi with adaptogenic properties and do the heavy lifting when it comes to research for you! 

If you're looking for a way to incorporate adaptogens into your life, take a look at our wellness blends

 

 

References:

  1. Chandrasekhar, K., Kapoor, J., & Anishetty, S. (2012). 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 Journal of Psychological Medicine, 34(3), 255. doi: 10.4103/0253-7176.106022

Retrieved December 9, 2019 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3573577/

  1. Carnegie Mellon University. (2012, April 2). How stress influences disease: Study reveals inflammation as the culprit. ScienceDaily

Retrieved December 9, 2019 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120402162546.htm

  1. Aslanyan, G., Amroyan, E., Gabrielyan, E., Nylander, M., Wikman, G., & Panossian, A. (2010). Double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomised study of single dose effects of ADAPT-232 on cognitive functions. Phytomedicine, 17(7), 494–499. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.phymed.2010.02.005

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  1. Schriner, S. E., Abrahamyan, A., Avanessian, A., Bussel, I., Maler, S., Gazarian, M., … Jafari, M. (2009). Decreased mitochondrial superoxide levels and enhanced protection against paraquat inDrosophilamelanogastersupplemented withRhodiola rosea. Free Radical Research, 43(9), 836–843. doi: 10.1080/10715760903089724

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  1. Jurcău, R., Jurcău, I., & Bodescu, C. (2012). Anxiety and salivary cortisol modulation in exercise induced stress, using a phytotherapic product containing Rhodiola Rosea. Palestrica of the Third Millennium Civilization & Sport, 13(3), 213–217. 

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  1. Stojanovska, L., Law, C., Lai, B., Chung, T., Nelson, K., Day, S., … Haines, C. (2014). Maca reduces blood pressure and depression, in a pilot study in postmenopausal women. Climacteric, 18(1), 69–78. doi: 10.3109/13697137.2014.929649

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  1. Brooks, N. A., Wilcox, G., Walker, K. Z., Ashton, J. F., Cox, M. B., & Stojanovska, L. (2008). Beneficial effects of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) on psychological symptoms and measures of sexual dysfunction in postmenopausal women are not related to estrogen or androgen content. Menopause, 15(6), 1157–1162. doi: 10.1097/gme.0b013e3181732953

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  1. Li, S., Li, P., Dong, T., & Tsim, K. (2001). Anti-oxidation activity of different types of natural Cordyceps sinensis and cultured Cordyceps mycelia. Phytomedicine, 8(3), 207–212. doi: 10.1078/0944-7113-00030

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  1. Cilerdzic, J., Stajic, M., Vukojevic, J., & Duletic-Lausevic, S. (2013). Oxidative Stress and Species of Genus Ganoderma (Higher Basidiomycetes). International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms, 15(1), 21–28. doi: 10.1615/intjmedmushr.v15.i1.30

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  1. Rathore, H., Prasad, S., & Sharma, S. (2017). Mushroom nutraceuticals for improved nutrition and better human health: A review. PharmaNutrition, 5(2), 35–46. doi: 10.1016/j.phanu.2017.02.001

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  1. Gao, Y., & Zhou, S. (2002). The Immunomodulating Effects of Ganoderma lucidum (Curt.: Fr.) P. Karst. (Ling Zhi, Reishi Mushroom) (Aphyllophoromycetideae). International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms, 4(1), 11. doi: 10.1615/intjmedmushr.v4.i1.10

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  1. Singh, S., Majumdar, D., & Rehan, H. (1996). Evaluation of anti-inflammatory potential of fixed oil of Ocimum sanctum (Holybasil) and its possible mechanism of action. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 54(1), 19–26. doi: 10.1016/0378-8741(96)83992-4

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