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We all experience stress, and each has different ways of managing it, whether through lifestyle, diet, or supplements. During periods of ongoing stress, adaptogens can be a great way to support ourselves, help us cope, and build resilience.

How stress works in the body

Chronic stress can take its toll not only on our mental but physical health. It can manifest as feeling anxious and irritable or symptoms like headaches, insomnia, low energy, and upset digestion. It can also lead to fatigue and burn-out and urge us to more severe health issues if not managed well. 

Our adrenal glands (which sit on top of our kidneys) are essentially our stress regulators. Anytime our bodies encounter stress. It triggers a chain of events that results in our adrenals producing cortisol, AKA our stress hormone. And when our bodies stay in a ‘fight or flight’ state during chronic stress, this can lead to cortisol abnormalities.

Aside from addressing lifestyle as a way to manage stress, what else can you do to reduce the effects of stress? Below are the top 3 types of adaptogens that help the body cope better and regulate cortisol.

What are adaptogens?

Adaptogens are a group of botanical herbs with stress-busting properties. Just like their name, these herbs help your body ADAPT to ongoing stress and protect it from its harmful effects. In addition, they can also help your body recuperate after you’ve experienced excessive stress. You’ve probably heard of adaptogens before (like ashwagandha), but those specific adaptogens can have different effects. It depends on how pressure shows up in your body (AKA it makes you exhausted or have low energy?). 

  • Restorative adaptogens

All adaptogenic herbs will benefit your adrenals. These types of adaptogens are go-to’s for when you’re expecting a stressful event or need to recover from the stress you’ve already experienced. They can help your ability to ‘perform despite the additional strain and bounce back faster afterward.

Some good restorative adaptogens to look out for are AshwagandhaLicoriceSiberian ginseng, and Astragalus.

  • Stimulating adaptogens

Are you feeling drained, exhausted, or unmotivated? These adaptogens may give you a fast-acting boost during periods of both acute and long-term stress. They will also increase mental stamina and focus.

RhodiolaSchizandraKorean ginseng, and Bacopa may help give you that push you need when your stress levels peak.

  • Calming adaptogens

Is your stress manifesting as restlessness, racing thoughts, or insomnia? These adaptogens may balance any nervous energy you’re feeling and help you overcome that ‘tired but wired’ sensation. 

Check out Holy basilRehmanniaDong Quai, and Codonopsis to chill out.

Adaptogens can take it in different forms, such as tinctures, teas, decoctions, or capsules. It complexes with multiple herbs for a broader range of stress support.

Find what’s right for you.

Not sure what kind of stress fighter(s) you might need? Salivary hormone testing can help assess adrenal fatigue and cortisol imbalances. It also paints a picture of your cortisol pattern throughout the day. Traditionally, our cortisol levels peak early in the morning and reduce down during sleep. If you’ve been suffering from chronic stress, your adrenal glands may be making more significant amounts of cortisol at the wrong times. It can guide what type of adaptogen or other supplements (s) might help you fight that stress!

As always, please seek assessment and care from your healthcare practitioner. They can help determine which supplements may suit your needs!

Here’s to your resilience,

Dr. Caroline Lewis, ND MSc

Dr. Lewis is a licensed ND in the Greater Toronto Area and recently helped create a Stress Recovery Program, for which she is currently accepting patients via telemedicine. Check out her Instagram @healthwithcare to learn more!

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