8 Adaptogen Herbs That Combat Adrenal Fatigue

Adaptogens are non-toxic herbs that help your body cope with stress.

You’ve probably seen the word adaptogen appear on products at your local health store, however, the idea of consuming herbs for their medical benefit is not new.

Many modern adaptogens have a history rooted in ancient Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic medicine.

Below is a list of eight common adaptogens found in adrenal fatigue supplements with a research-backed description of each.

  1. Ashwagandha
  2. Panax Ginseng
  3. Acerola Fruit
  4. Astragalus Root
  5. Rhodiola Rosea
  6. Licorice Root
  7. Suma Root
  8. Holy Basil

1. Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is a small bush with yellow flowers native to India and northern Africa. It’s one of the most common ingredients in adrenal fatigue products and testosterone boosters.

Research consistently shows that ashwagandha can decrease cortisol levels in people suffering from chronic stress.

One study published in the Indian Journal of Medicine examined the effect of 300mg of ashwagandha extract taken daily. (1)

After 60 days, the 64 participants had an average decrease in cortisol of 27.9 percent. They also improved their scores on mentally challenging tasks.

Bottom Line:

Ashwagandha can help decrease cortisol, reduce anxiety and decrease stress. (1,2)

2. Panax Ginseng

In ancient Chinese medicine, people believed each form of ginseng had its own healing properties. Today, research on Panax ginseng shows that it may have properties that help you cope with stress.

One study published in Human Psychopharmacology examined the effects of 200mg and 400mg of *Panax ginseng* on the mood of young, healthy individuals. (3)

The researchers found that the group that took 400mg of Panax ginseng per day self-reported increased calmness.


Bottom Line:

Panax ginseng may increase calmness, aid symptoms of depression and decrease inflammation. (3,4,5)

3. Acerola Fruit

Acerola is a type of fruit that looks like a large cherry but tastes more like a sour apple. It’s a rich source of vitamin C.

There isn’t as much research on the stress-relieving effects of this adaptogen compared to Panax ginseng and ashwagandha. However, acerola is an incredible source of vitamin C, which is an essential vitamin that acts as an antioxidant in your body.

Researchers at the University of Campinas examined the amount of vitamin C in an acerola extract supplement. They found that it contained about 2600mg about (26 times your RDA) of vitamin C per 100g of acerola.(6)

Bottom Line:

Acerola fruit is high in vitamin C. Research shows vitamin C supplementation can slightly decrease cortisol levels, improve your circulation, and enhance your immune system. (7,8,9)

4. Astragalus Root

Astragalus is also called huang qi or milk vetch. People in China have used this legume for hundreds of years for medicinal purposes.

Modern research backs astragalus as an adaptogen. In particular, astragalus may have benefits for boosting your immune system. There’s nothing more stressful than getting sick, so to prevent colds and cases of the flu, you can take this root daily.

A study performed at the National College of Natural Medicine in Portland, Oregon found that 1.23g of astragalus root taken daily increases T-cell count. T-cells kill germs and boost immunity. (10)

Bottom Line:

Astragalus root is an adaptogen with immune boosting properties.  It may also decrease nasal congestion. (11)

5. Rhodiola Rosea

Rhodiola rosea root grows in the mountains of Europe and Asia and is also known as arctic root. It may help combat several of the symptoms of adrenal fatigue including lethargy, and depression.

One study published by researchers at Armenian State Medical University looked at the effects of Rhodiola rosea on healthy physicians. The researchers found that after the physicians took 170mg of this herb per day for two weeks, they reported decreased fatigue and their work performance increased by about 20%. (12)

Bottom Line:

Rhodiola rosea supplementation may improve symptoms of fatigue and depression as well as help you cope with stress. (12,13,14)

6. Licorice Root

Licorice root is another herb that people in ancient China used medicinally. Licorice is most famous for its use in candy, but it has several medical properties of interest to anybody with chronic stress or adrenal fatigue.

According to research published in Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology, consuming licorice extract can help your body regulate cortisol levels. (15) Licorice root may have a slight dampening effect on your testosterone because of its potential to increase cortisol levels. (16)

Bottom Line:

Licorice extract taken in dosages over 500mg a day can help your body regulate cortisol production. (15)

7. Suma Root

Suma root is a plant with several other names including Brazilian ginseng. However, it’s not related to other plants in the ginseng family. People originally used Suma root in South and Central America for its potential medical benefits.

Suma root is an adaptogen that contents antioxidants and other nutrients that can supply your body with energy such as amino acids, electrolytes, and minerals.

Suma root contains ecdysteroids, which may improve muscle building when coupled with a high-protein diet. (17)

Bottom Line:

Suma root contains antioxidants and other nutrients that may reduce stress in your body.

8. Holy Basil

Holy basil is an adaptogen that may protect your liver and provide antioxidant support.

A study published in 2011 examined the effect of holy basil on immunity.(18) After four weeks, the 24 participants in the study had a boost in their T-helper cell count. T-helper cells are vital for adaptive immunity. The results of this study show that holy basil may benefit your immunity.

One study published in the Nepal Medical College Journal looked at the stress-relieving effects of holy basil on humans. They found that holy basil may help reduce symptoms of general anxiety. (19)

Bottom Line:

Holy basil may help decrease stress, boost immunity, 18 and improve symptoms of anxiety. (19)

Quick Disclaimer

Ashwagandha and Panax ginseng have the most research to support them as stress-relievers of any of the herbs we examined. However, what works for somebody else might not work for you.

This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of medical advice or treatment from a personal physician. Readers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither the author(s) nor the publisher of this content take responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All readers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement or lifestyle program.


1. Chandrasekhar K, Kapoor J, Anishetty S. 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 J Psychol Med. 2012;34(3):255-62.

2. Biswal BM, Sulaiman SA, Ismail HC, Zakaria H, Musa KI. Effect of Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha) on the development of chemotherapy-induced fatigue and quality of life in breast cancer patients. Integr Cancer Ther. 2013;12(4):312-22.

3. Reay JL, Scholey AB, Kennedy DO. Panax ginseng (G115) improves aspects of working memory performance and subjective ratings of calmness in healthy young adults. Hum Psychopharmacol. 2010;25(6):462-71.

4. Wiklund IK, Mattsson LA, Lindgren R, Limoni C. Effects of a standardized ginseng extract on quality of life and physiological parameters in symptomatic postmenopausal women: a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Swedish Alternative Medicine Group. Int J Clin Pharmacol Res. 1999;19(3):89-99.

5. Jung HL, Kwak HE, Kim SS, et al. Effects of Panax ginseng supplementation on muscle damage and inflammation after uphill treadmill running in humans. Am J Chin Med. 2011;39(3):441-50.

6. Cefali LC, De oliveira maia L, Stahlschimidt R, et al. Vitamin C in Acerola and Red Plum Extracts: Quantification via HPLC, in Vitro Antioxidant Activity, and Stability of their Gel and Emulsion Formulations. J AOAC Int. 2018;101(5):1461-1465.

7. Davison G, Gleeson M. The effect of 2 weeks vitamin C supplementation on immunoendocrine responses to 2.5 h cycling exercise in man. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2006;97(4):454-61.

8. De marchi S, Prior M, Rigoni A, Zecchetto S, Rulfo F, Arosio E. Ascorbic acid prevents vascular dysfunction induced by oral glucose load in healthy subjects. Eur J Intern Med. 2012;23(1):54-7.

9. Carr AC, Maggini S. Vitamin C and Immune Function. Nutrients. 2017;9(11)

10. Zwickey H, Brush J, Iacullo CM, et al. The effect of Echinacea purpurea, Astragalus membranaceus and Glycyrrhiza glabra on CD25 expression in humans: a pilot study. Phytother Res. 2007;21(11):1109-12.

11. Matkovic Z, Zivkovic V, Korica M, Plavec D, Pecanic S, Tudoric N. Efficacy and safety of Astragalus membranaceus in the treatment of patients with seasonal allergic rhinitis. Phytother Res. 2010;24(2):175-81.

12. Darbinyan V, Kteyan A, Panossian A, Gabrielian E, Wikman G, Wagner H. Rhodiola rosea in stress induced fatigue--a double blind cross-over study of a standardized extract SHR-5 with a repeated low-dose regimen on the mental performance of healthy physicians during night duty. Phytomedicine. 2000;7(5):365-71.

13. Darbinyan V, Aslanyan G, Amroyan E, Gabrielyan E, Malmström C, Panossian A. Clinical trial of Rhodiola rosea L. extract SHR-5 in the treatment of mild to moderate depression. Nord J Psychiatry. 2007;61(5):343-8.

14. Schutgens FW, Neogi P, Van wijk EP, Van wijk R, Wikman G, Wiegant FA. The influence of adaptogens on ultraweak biophoton emission: a pilot-experiment. Phytother Res. 2009;23(8):1103-8.

15. Al-dujaili EA, Kenyon CJ, Nicol MR, Mason JI. Liquorice and glycyrrhetinic acid increase DHEA and deoxycorticosterone levels in vivo and in vitro by inhibiting adrenal SULT2A1 activity. Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2011;336(1-2):102-9.

16. Armanini D, Mattarello MJ, Fiore C, et al. Licorice reduces serum testosterone in healthy women. Steroids. 2004;69(11-12):763-6.

17. Chermnykh NS, Shimanovskiĭ NL, Shutko GV, Syrov VN. [The action of methandrostenolone and ecdysterone on the physical endurance of animals and on protein metabolism in the skeletal muscles]. Farmakol Toksikol. 1988;51(6):57-60.

18. Mondal S, Varma S, Bamola VD, et al. Double-blinded randomized controlled trial for immunomodulatory effects of Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum Linn.) leaf extract on healthy volunteers. J Ethnopharmacol. 2011;136(3):452-6.

19. Bhattacharyya D, Sur TK, Jana U, Debnath PK. Controlled programmed trial of Ocimum sanctum leaf on generalized anxiety disorders. Nepal Med Coll J. 2008;10(3):176-9.

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