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    7 Adaptogens for Stress and Anxiety to Try ASAP

    Adapto-what? Adaptogens or adaptogenic herbs are plants and herbs that help balance your brain and hormones and can help your body adapt to stress better.

    It might sound crazy, but I didn’t realize I had anxiety until I was in my late 20’s. My baseline was butterflies in my stomach and nights awake with a hamster wheel running in my brain. I’d alleviate it with alcohol or hyperfocus on my work, which, of course, begets more anxiety. I had no idea that everyone on the planet didn’t always feel this way.

    When I had a baby three years ago, I changed my eating habits to lose the baby weight. Those changes helped me reduce inflammation, which inspired me to begin a meditation practice, and also start incorporating herbs and supplements into my daily routine. With those small changes, I noticed that I was actually sleeping through the night, and my stomach wasn’t upturned constantly. I felt calm. Cool. Collected.

    This is a story about what adaptogens have worked for me to keep my stress at bay.

    7 Adaptogens for Anxiety

    One of the biggest things we have learned from our Ayurvedic, Biochemist formulator, and from cannabis is that no one chemical compound is a cure-all. This is true for CBD, for specific adaptogens, and all other botanicals we talk about in this article.

    Adaptogens work synergistically. This means that the sum of the parts (which also include lifestyle changes) will be more affectatious than they are alone.

    Here are the adaptogens I’ve used pretty regularly for a few years – upping my doses in times of stress.

    Ashwagandha 

    This is an ancient medicinal herb known to increase energy, focus and also reduce stress. It does this by supporting your brain-adrenal axis. In several human and animal studies, it has been shown to reduce symptoms of stress and anxiety123.

    It hasn’t been thoroughly studied, but early reports indicate that ashwagandha can reduce symptoms of depression as well. Finally, ashwagandha has been shown to have beneficial properties for men’s sexual health. Studies show it can increase testosterone levels in men4 and improve sperm quality5

    Cordyceps

    Cordyceps is a mushroom (fungi) that has been used for centuries to alleviate fatigue, help with low sex drive, and quell general malaise. Science is still emerging to substantiate these ancient claims, but what we know is pretty promising. I personally use Cordyceps for an energy boost when I’m dragging.

    Here’s what science says about this magical mushroom. Cordyceps is a proven energy enhancer6. In one study, it was shown to increase vivacity and reduce fatigue. Another study showed that it raises levels of ATP7. ATP stands for adenosine triphosphate. It’s the molecule that carries energy from the food you eat around your body. It’s been called the “ultimate” form of energy for people.

    In addition to its energy-boosting properties, cordyceps can help improve your workouts and fitness. One study found that it improved the quality of exercise for elderly people in high altitudes8. It also has anti-inflammatory properties – which can help alleviate anxiety and even aches and pains9.

    On top of energy and fitness, cordyceps can help you withstand stress better10. This means that if you find yourself in a stressful situation, it can help you overcome it with greater ease or face it more calmly.

    Schisandra 

    Schisandra comes from a berry, but it’s not a berry you’d probably like to eat (because it doesn’t taste delicious). What it lacks in good flavor it makes up for in medicinal value. It’s been used throughout Asia for years.

    The benefits of Schisandra are vast. One study showed it had a positive effect on Alzheimer’s disease1112 on account of its anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties. It’s also been used to treat the discomfort associated with menopause13.

    Schisandra shines when it comes to depression and anxiety. In two different rodent studies, it expressed anti-depressant effects1415. However, it hasn’t been tested yet to treat depression in humans. Schisandra is a natural energy enhancer. It’s been shown to aid the production of hormones like epinephrine16, which can help with cognitive function, fatigue, and an overall good mood.

    Reishi

    Reishi has been shown to reduce the stress of the day and help you feel calmer, which has made it a go-to in Eastern medicine 17. One of the most significant benefits of reishi is that it gives your immune system a boost18. It can help to quell inflammation19 and also supports the function of white blood cells (immune cells), which help your body fight infections and illness.

    Though reishi is most studied for its immune-enhancing benefits, some research is emerging about its anti-depressant qualities as well. Studies show that it can alleviate irritability and reduce fatigue. In those studies, the participants also suffered less anxiety, too2021.

    Lion’s Mane

    The final mushroom on the list is one of the strangest look fungi around Lion’s Mane. What this odd-looking adaptogen lacks in good looks, it makes up for in healing powers. For one, Lion’s Mane can help with cognitive function by helping you produce brain cells22. It has been heavily studied in combatting Alzheimer’s – preventing memory loss in mice2324. Both of the studies I mentioned were rodent studies, but Lion’s Mane does seem to boost your cognitive function.

    If you’re suffering from mild anxiety or depression, Lion’s Mane can help with that too. Lion’s Mane’s anti-inflammatory properties have been shown to quash symptoms of anxiety and also build cells in the hippocampus, the area of the brain that controls your emotions and memories2526. In another study, participants saw their symptoms of depression dissipate after using Lion’s Mane.

    Holy Basil

    Holy Basil, also called “Tulsi,” is one of my secret weapons when anxiety strikes. It’s not the same basil you’d find on your Margherita pizza – it’s an incredible plant medicine, native to Southeast Asia.

    Holy Basil is used as a remedy for a lot of different ailments, and when it comes to stress, it’s one of the best. On study deemed it “an herb for all reasons.”27. Regardless of the root of your stress, Holy Basil has your back. If you’re feeling pain from a hard workout, holy basil can improve your recovery. It can reduce stress, help you sleep better, fire up your cognitive prowess, and alleviate exhaustion. It has anti-depressant and anti-anxiety properties, and in one study, people who took 500 milligrams of holy basil daily felt reduced anxiety, lower stress, and their depression was alleviated28.

    A 2017 study of holy basil says it best: “{holy basil} addresses the psychological [mental], physiological [how your body functions], immunological [immune system], and metabolic [relating to the metabolism in your body] stresses of modern living.”29

    Rhodiola

    Feeling blue? Feeling stressed? Feeling like the metaphorical edges of life are too sharp? Rhodiola can help. I know, because I take it daily and it’s helped me a lot. Rhodiola helps you quash stress without messing with the natural balance of your body. And it’s not just anecdotal, Rhodiola’s stress-reducing properties are well documented. Though, with all herbal medicine, there’s a lot more research to be done.

    Here’s what we know: Rhodiola does appear to alleviate symptoms of depression in humans30. It can also quell tension and help you handle stressful situations better3132. In a study about work-related stress, participants felt less fatigue and anxiety in just three days33. It also helps alleviate some of the symptoms of adrenal fatigue (basically … burn out) like overall stress and a feeling of depression34.

    What’s more, Rhodiola can help with overall fatigue. In a study of 100 participants, the daily use of Rhodiola for eight weeks showed reduced stress, fatigue, a better quality of life, enhanced mood, and greater focus. The researchers made these observations just one week into the eight-week study – and the results lasted throughout35.

    One last note about Rhodiola, because of its energizing effects, don’t take it before bedtime.

    Related Article: 6 Terpenes Your Immune System Will Love

    Bonus Adaptogen: CBD

    CBD isn’t technically an adaptogen because it doesn’t work with your adrenal system. Still, it basically mirrors the effects of other adaptogens listed above – it just uses different pathways to get there. It helps you deal with stress better and quells the onset of stress. It can decrease anxiety and reduce inflammation. A 2010 study found that it alleviates social anxiety36 by not only making people feel better but also by changing the way their brains respond to stress. A review of research in  2015found that CBD also reduces symptoms of panic disorder, generalized anxiety, and PTSD37. I’d be remiss not to add it to the list because it has radically improved my life, my outlook, and my productivity.

    As I mentioned earlier, no one molecule is a cure-all. Herbs and botanicals can be your superpowers in curing what ails you. Still, they work better with changes in lifestyle and incorporating mindfulness into your day.  Also, note that many of these adaptogens take time and regular usage to really work. Plant medicine works best when you’re attacking challenges from a lot of different angles. So find the right adaptogen cocktail by testing a few and see how you feel. Throw in some breathing exercises, and then get ready for the butterflies in your stomach to go away.

    Related Article: CBD + Terpene Combinations For Relaxation and Stress Relief

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