Adaptogen is a name for herbal remedies that have been used for hundreds and sometimes thousands of years. The term adaptogen was originally coined by Russian scientist Dr. Nikolai Lazarev in 1947, during the Soviet search for natural and safe remedies to increase the resistance to biological stress.
When our ancestors were sick they turned to plants for healing, using knowledge passed down from generation to generation, and this more modern search found many of the exact same herbs, subjecting them to scientific analysis and testing.
Take a look at this list of adaptogens and see if any might work for what ails you. Let us know if you’ve tried any of these.
Amla / Amalika / Indian Gooseberry – Amla has been used in traditional Indian Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years, and scientific studies confirm its many health benefits. Very high in vitamin C and other antioxidants, and has been studied in regards to the treatment and prevention of cancer and has been show effective against diabetes and high cholesterol. Learn more about amla. Where to find it.
Ashwagandha – Ashwagandha has many similar benefits to ginseng. It is a powerful antioxidant that is beneficial to the cardiovascular, nervous, endocrine and immune systems. It has also been shown to be effective against depression. People in the Himalayas have used Ashwagandha to enhance their resistence to oxygen deprivation. Studies have shown that taking this adaptogen can increase oxygen consumption to improve physical endurance. Learn more. Where to find it.
Astragalus – Astragalus has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, and is sometimes used directly for wound care. It might also have antiviral properties, and has been used to strengthen the immune system. It has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years. Learn more. Where to get it.
Bacopa -Bacopa is also known as brahmi or water hyssop. Several studies show that Bacopa has the ability to regulate cortisol levels during stress, and further, to improve cognitive performance in those facing chronic stress. You can read more about Bacopa studies in this article. Where to find it.
Bilberry – Bilberry can be used for urinary tract problems. It can also be used for the respiratory, reproductive and endocrine systems. Both the leaves and fruit are used. The berries are high in antioxidant and can be used for eye disorders. Learn more. Where to get it.
Cordyceps – This adaptogen is a medicinal mushroom that has been used for centuries to enhance immune function. When animals received a cordycepin supplement, it reduced depression symptomss and lowered their stress markers. The animals also showed higher levels of the growth factor BDNF (brain-derived neurotropic factor) after taking the supplement. Where to find it.
Dang Shen – Also known as codonopsis, dang shen is one of an adaptogenic herbs said to strengthen your ability to defend against high levels of stress, anxiety, trauma and fatigue. It has also been studied as a reducer of colon inflammation and has a long tradition in Chinese medicine. Where to find it.
Eleuthero – Eleuthero is used to help reduce the body’s stress response. It also strengthens the immune system and increases endurance and stamina. It is also sometimes called Siberian Ginseng. Learn more about eleuthero. Where to find it.
Ginseng – Ginseng is the most common adaptogen. It is a root that has a long list of potential benefits. It can be anti-cancer, anti-fatigue, anti-inflammatory, and helpful in both cancer and diabetes treatments. There are many different forms of ginseng. The most common is form is Panax or Asian. Learn more. Where to find it.
Guduchi – Used traditionally for thousands of years in Ayurveda in India for its detoxifying, rejuvenating, immune-boosting properties. It has been studied for cold and flu prevention, immune support, skin disorders, arthritis, liver disorders, gout, and even to mitigate the negative effects of chemotherapy. Where to find it.
He Shou Wu – This herb used in traditional Chinese medicine has neuroprotective properties, and is used to treat the liver, kidneys and blood, improve energy, and has been said to even reverse gray hair. Learn more. Where to find it.
Holy Basil / Tulsi – Holy basis is anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial and one of the mildest adaptogens. It has been used for 3000 years to treat circulatory, immune, and nervous systems. It has also been used in cancer treatments with success. Holy basil also helps with memory and concentration. Studies show that it helps the body maintain stabalize the stress hormone cortisol. Learn more. Where to find it.
Jiaogulan – This has a popular name of “the immortality herb”. Also known as gynostemma, it’s a Chinese plant in the cucumber family that has been used for several thousand years. The leaves are used to make tea. Studies show that this herb has many of the same benefits as Ginseng. It has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol, stabilizes blood sugar and improves immunity. To learn more, read this article. Where to find it.
Licorice root – Licorice root can affect blood pressure and should be used only under the supervision of a doctor. It has been shown to increase energy and endurance in addition to boosting the immune system. It is used for stress reduction. Licorice root protects the thymus gland (which produces T cells for the immune system) from being damaged by cortisol, the hormone that is elevated due to stress. Where to get it.
Lycium / Wolfberry / Goji Berry – Lycium contains antioxidant and anti-inflammatory carotenoids, flavonoids. It supports healthy vision and healthy bowel flora. It is also said to support the liver, kidney and can strengthen weak muscles and ligaments. Lycium polysaccharides support the immune system and have been shown to enhance the effects of chemotherapy and radiation. Learn more here. Where to get it.
Maca – Maca is known as “Peruvian ginseng,” although it is nothing like ginseng. It is a root that reportedly increases strength, stamina and libido. Where to find it.
Reishi – Reishi mushrooms are the most well known medicinal mushrooms. They can help in the treatment of fatigue, respiratory complaints, cancer, heart disease and liver ailments. They are also regarded as general immunity boosters. Learn more. Where to find it.
Rhodiola – Rhodiola is used for a wide range of issues, including like most adaptogens, strengthening the immune system. Is is also used to restore balance in blood sugar and helps with fertility. It boosts alertness, lessens fatigue, and combats depression. Learn more about rhodiola. Where to find it.
Schisandra – Schisandra is also called wuweizi by the Chinese. It is most commonly used as a tonic. Schisandra protects the liver from toxins and is used for respiratory problems. It can also improve memory. Learn more. Find it here.
Shatavari – This herb is considered the queen of herbs. It’s used as a tonic primarily by women. It is believed to increase fertility. You can read more about the symptoms it is used to treat here. Where to find it.
Suma – Suma can be purchased in a capsule form or as a dried herb powder. People often refer to suma as Brazilian ginseng. It is commonly used to boost energy. It is used to prevent fatigue and boost immunity. You can read more about Suma in this article. Where to find it.
You may notice a common theme among these herbal adaptogens, and there’s a good reason for it.
To be classified as an adaptogen, a plant must meet three criteria. 1.) be nontoxic and generally safe 2.) have broad benefits that improve overall immune system strength and not just for one organ or system and 3.) provide balance within the body.
You can read more about adaptogens in these articles:
We love these two books on adaptogens, available at Amazon.
Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief This terrific paperback book is both very accessible to the lay reader, but also extremely comprehensive in both how many adaptogens it covers and how they can be used individually or in combination.
Adaptogens in Medical Herbalism: Elite Herbs and Natural Compounds for Mastering Stress, Aging, and Chronic Disease This thick, hardback book is literally a textbook! Although it is not an easy read, it is the most comprehensive book on adaptogens we have ever seen.
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