By Joelle Mintzberg, CNP

It’s that exciting yet stressful time of year where we are back into routine full force! Often times it can be a little stressful getting back into the swing of things. So luckily, our herbal friends, the adaptogens, are here to give us a helping hand during those times of stress and prevent adrenal burn-out.

Adaptogens are herbal medicines that modulate your response to stress or a changing environment. These natural medicines help the body cope with external environmental stresses such as toxins or harsh weather and internal bodily stresses such as anxiety and insomnia. The many benefits of adaptogenic herbs include:

  • Protecting the immune system
  • Helping combat the effects of stress
  • Improving learning, memory, and reaction time
  • Reducing anxiety and depression without causing drowsiness
  • Stabilizing blood sugar
  • Offering anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits
  • Enhancing sexual potency for both men and women

Here are the top five adrenal herbs that will help you survive stress:


ashwaganda-rootAshwagandha, is one of the most powerful herbs in Ayurvedic healing. It is frequently referred to as “Indian ginseng” because of its restorative properties, even though botanically, Ginseng and Ashwagandha are unrelated. This herb contains withanolides (steroidal lactones), alkaloids, choline, fatty acids and amino acids that help to balance blood sugar fluctuations, adrenal stress and thyroid function. In doing so, Ashwaghanda helps to promote energy, balance mood, achieve satiation, modulate weight and balance thyroid function. This herb is best taken as a powder, herbal tincture or in capsule form.



Siberian Ginseng

Siberian_ginseng_erminSiberian Ginseng or ‘Eleuthero’ originates from Russia where it has long been used to help locals survive the stress of harsh winters. Although it is referred to as a ‘ginseng’ it has very different properties. It is more tonifying and restorative than the true Ginsengs and is appropriate for daily use. Siberian Ginseng contains eleutherosides and polysaccharides that enhance immune function, increase cortisone levels and promote anti-inflammatory responses. It will relieve dream-disturbed sleep and insomnia. This herb also helps optimize mental and physical performance. It is anabolic, which means that it helps build muscle and prevents the breakdown of muscle as we age. Also, unlike the Panax Ginseng, it will lower high blood pressure, not raise it. Daily use has been found to reduce the longevity of the cold and flu and suppress the outbreak of herpes infections. This herb is best taken as a powder, herbal tincture or capsule.


Holy Basil

sacredbasil2Holy Basil or ‘Tulsi’ promotes lightness in the body, cleansing of the respiratory tract and relief from digestive gas and bloating. This herb is a rich source of essential oils, containing eugenol, nerol, camphor, and a variety of terpenes and flavonoids. The oil is strongly anti-microbial against bacteria, fungi, and parasites. This herbs both fights infection, protects the immune system and improves energy through adrenal modulation. Holy basil also enhances cerebral circulation and memory, relieving mental fog and depression. This herb can be taken as a tea, herbal tincture or in capsule form.




Rhodiola_RoseaRhodiola has a long history of traditional use in Europe, particularly for stress and endurance. Modern studies have demonstrated benefits for fatigue, stress, protection from oxygen deprivation, cancer, inflammation, immunity and sex-drive. It has a strongly protective effect on the nervous system preventing inflammation in the brain and stimulating neurochemicals and transmitters that promote memory, learning, attention, pleasure, satiation, energy and work capacity. The chemical properties responsible for Rhodiola’s adaptogenic benefits include salidroside and rosavin. This herb is best taken in herbal tincture or capsule form.



Lemon Balm

Lemon-BalmLemon balm is fragrant herb that can be grown in any garden – just be careful it doesn’t take over! It has been used since the Middle Ages in Europe to reduce stress and anxiety, promote sleep, ease pain, improve appetite and digestion. It reduces feelings of nervousness and panic and will often decrease a racing heart. Lemon Balm contains plant chemicals called terpenes, responsible for the herb’s relaxing and antiviral effects. It also contains tannins which may be responsible for antiviral effects. Lemon balm also contains eugenol, which calms muscle spasms, numbs tissues, and kills bacteria. This herb can be added fresh to salad or taken as a tea, tincture or capsule.



When emotionally stressed, lifestyle is also an important factor. It is important to eat well, exercise regularly and allow time for relaxation. Yoga, meditation, a nice walk or light exercise can be very helpful in relieving stress. Talk to your naturopathic doctor before taking any herbal medicine to ensure they fit well with your needs and to avoid any side effects or interactions with medications.


Chevallier, Andrew. Encylopedia of Medicinal Plants. The Definitive Australian Reference Guide to 550 Key Herbs with all their Uses as Remedies for Common Ailments. 2001; p. 115