All adaptogenic herbs help to increase the body’s resistance to stress but some of these have specific individual quirks that make them a bit special so I’ve singled out some of my favourite adaptogens to create a top ten list, which was very difficult as they all have such wonderful and useful properties.
- Ashwaghanda – Withania is a wonderful adaptogen with a particular focus on the nervous and endocrine systems. It calms the nervous system, improves mood, supports fertility and helps to convert thyroid hormone to the more active form. I use this one a lot with my fertility patients, particularly those who have issues conceiving due to stress.
- Gotu Kola – great for breaking down keloid scar tissue, and this is a great herb to use for weak and debilitated people suffering nervous exhaustion. It’s a great long-term adaptogen particularly with the elderly and helps to support improve cognitive function. I find it extremely useful to add to a mix for women who are experiencing memory loss associated with menopause.
- Tulsi – traditionally used in Ayurveda as a lung tonic to clear mucus, this herb is so much more! It’s a great brain herb, it’s a wonderful anti-depressant and anti-anxiety herb and it really lifts the spirits. If you’re into yoga it helps to balance the chakras so it’s a good daily tea to brew. I use it in my clinic to balance cortisol and stress response in general, to calm and to support my neuropsychiatric patients, those who suffer with personality disorders, ADHD, schizophrenia, etc. It’s a wonderful herb for people who complain of brain fog also, for whatever reason it’s occurred. Tulsi also contains the triterpenoid ursolic acid (also found in rosemary) an incredible anti-cancer compound which is also wonderful for skin elasticity.
- Siberian ginseng – great for blood sugar balancing, an energy tonic and it can be used to enhance athletic performance as a safe stimulant, a great adrenal and thyroid supportive herb, plus it tastes great. I find it very useful as a liver protective herb and as a cardioprotective herb. I’ve used it a lot in my practice with cancer patients to mitigate the harmful effects of radiation and chemotherapy. It does interfere with some medications so don’t self-dose.
- Rhodiola – the herb for stamina and increasing energy levels. It also supports you through stressful periods at work or exam time as it’s a great nootropic. It’s a great herb for anxiety and depression and sexual dysfunction in both men and women. I have found that it helps to support and restore the immune system where there has been chronic fatigue and chronic illness for prolonged period of time
- Amla – this is a traditional Ayurvedic herb and a potent antioxidant, very high in vitamin C and traditionally used as an immune protective herb to prevent disease and as an anti-ageing herb. It’s great skin herb and a wonderful ant-histamine – I add it to powder mixes in my practice for people who need a good adaptogenic blend, who might have some autoimmune issues and who struggle with high cholesterol as it’s a great cholesterol-lowering herb.
- Liquorice – This is an amazing herb for adrenal fatigue and a great stomach healer. It helps to restore a frazzled nervous system. It is also a great anti-inflammatory and I use it in a number of different formulations, including hormone mixes, cough mixtures, skin creams and it’s a great herb to use to counteract liver damage. Caution using this one when there is high blood pressure and it does interaction with a whole load of medications due to the steroidal saponins it contains so again, don’t self-dose. Be careful with liquorice even with teas!
- Reishi – one of my favourite medicinal mushrooms (although extremely bitter and unpalatable!), this is a great immune tonic and anti-inflammatory. Great for balancing blood sugar and oxygenating the blood. I use these mushrooms with my cancer patients and with people who are recovering from chronic viral infections. They are great liver protectors and are amazing for restoring a depleted immune system. I prefer to give these as powders to add to smoothies rather than in tinctures.
- Schisandra – This is a great for someone who is a bit deficient and malnourished and who has an immune system which is not functioning properly. It’s a great immune tonic and it’s a great liver protector. I use it in my hormone formulas to encourage healthy liver detoxification and it’s also wonderful for your skin. It’s a lovely nervine so it calms the nervous system and relaxes. It’s also great if there are night sweats.
- Shilajit – I love this one because it looks like tar and it’s an ancient, mythical medicine. IT’s used traditionally as a panacea – for diabetes, ulcers, liver disease, epilepsy, gallstones. It’s a traditional Himalayan medicine that I use as part of a powerful adaptogenic blend with my patients to increase overall robust health and immune function. It’s a great adrenal restorative, a powerful blood sugar, mood and cholesterol regulator and a wonderful anti-inflammatory.
If you would like to find out more about adaptogens and how you can use them in your life or for a specific health concern.