5 Adaptogens For Building Stress Resilience


Adaptogenic plants assist your body in developing increased stress resilience. If you’re anything like me, you might use some more “stress support” at this precise moment. So, what is it that makes a plant an adaptogen? And how does it work?

Adaptogens are defined as having three main attributes.

  1. They are non-toxic and safe to take longterm
  2. They build the body’s inherent stress resilience
  3. They have a balancing effect on the body

Adaptogens work by modulating the body’s stress response. They do this by regulating the HPA axis, aka the control center of your stress hormones.

When your body is under stress, the HPA axis goes into overdrive and starts secreting stress hormones (including cortisol).

Cortisol is the body’s primary stress hormone. When cortisol is released within the body, it works to raise blood sugar as well as overall energy levels.

This is good for acute bouts of stress when your body needs energy, however, chronically high levels of cortisol can have a damaging effect on your health.

Thus, using adaptogens can help to control your HPA axis, which controls cortisol release. A win-win for naturally combatting stress.

So what are the best adaptogens? Below is my list of some of the best adaptogens for regulating stress.

1. Rhodiola

Rhodiola is a slow-growing plant that grows in the high altitudes and cold climates of Europe and Asia. The scientific name for this herb is Rhodiola rosea. It has a few others names, including golden root and roseroot

A recent clinical trial found that Rhodiola had an anti-fatigue effect. This resulted in an increased ability to concentrate and a decrease in overall cortisol levels.

Rhodiola is also known as an energizing, brain-stimulating herb. It’s great to take this herb in the morning (similar to a herbal shot of caffeine).

2. Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is an herb that has been used around the globe for centuries with amazing benefits for overall well-being. It’s one of the favorite herbs within the Ayurvedic system of medicine.

Research shows that ashwagandha may help reduce stress levels by regulating the HPA axis and thus decreasing the amount of cortisol that’s released in your body.

Additionally, researchers speculate that ashwagandha may also have an anxiolytic effect. It’s thought that this is due to ashwagandha’s ability to modulate the HPA axis.

As an added bonus, Ashwagandha can also help to increase sleep quality. A recent clinical trial showed that Ashwagandha helped to reduce the time that it took to fall asleep.

This is a big finding, especially for those of us that have sleep problems at night. It showed that ashwagandha root extract helped to improve sleep latency (i.e. the time it takes to fall asleep). After the 10 week trial, a reduction in anxiety was also observed in the patients given the extract.

3. Holy Basil

Holy Basil has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years and is often regarded as an “elixir of life”. This herb is also known as “tulsi”.

This plant is scientifically known as Ocimum tenuiflorum. It’s a perennial plant in the Lamiaceae family (mint). It’s native to India and is grown throughout Southeast Asia.

A 2016 study showed that Holy Basil may have the ability to re-regulate the HPA axis, specifically through modulating the release of cortisol. This is vital for balancing stress.

4. Reishi

Not all adaptogens are herbs… Some of the adaptogens are mushrooms!

Reishi is known as the “Mushroom of Immortality”. It’s one of the more popular remedies in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) as it has been used for thousands of years.

During a study in 2014, researchers tested a reishi supplement on athletes at risk of over-training. The results showed that cortisol levels stabilized after races, demonstrating the possibility that the supplement protected the athlete from overtraining and fatigue.

5. Schisandra

Schisandra is an adaptogen that loves growing in the cold northern climates of China, Russia, and Korea. It’s also known as the “five-flavor berry” due to the fact that its berries are said to contain all 5 flavors (sweet, salty, savory, sour, and umami).

During a study in 2015, researchers found that Schisandra seemed to have a protective effect on the cell structures of the adrenal cortex (the largest part of the adrenal gland).

The five-flavor berry seems to have the ability to re-regulate the body & some of its functions during stress.


Adaptogens are well-tolerated herbs that are generally safe to consume for most people.

Clinical research appears promising in regards to fighting stress and lowering cortisol. If you’re looking for extra stress resilience, then consider adding adaptogens to your life.

Whether you decide to utilize an “adaptogen coffee” blend like this one, or you choose to try an individual adaptogen tincture, there are plenty of options out there.

As always, if you are considering adding something new to your diet or supplement routine, remember to check with your doctor.

And if you give adaptogens a shot, leave me a comment below with your experience!


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Daniel Powers
Daniel Powers has a master's degree in herbal medicine. He is the founder of The Botanical Institute, where he can be found writing about adaptogens and other kinds of herbs.


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