Adaptogens are a wonderful, broad-spectrum category of herb that help your body and mind adapt to stress. As you will see in the following adaptogens list, some adaptogens are energizing, some are calming, and some are balancing. You can take these beneficial herbs, roots, and mushrooms as tinctures, teas, capsules, or even incorporated into foods and beverages. If you are looking for a place to start, read on for an adaptogens list!
Nicknamed “the incomparable one,” the use of tulsi (holy basil) in the Ayurvedic tradition dates back thousands of years. This versatile adaptogen is calming and sattvic, but it won’t make you sleepy or groggy.
Tulsi is useful for dispelling excess phlegm in the respiratory tract, for soothing tension headaches, and for supporting a sense of calm and clarity. Additionally, “the incomparable one” also supports heart health (2).
You can enjoy tulsi in a number of ways. It is fairly tasty, so it makes a wonder stand-alone tea. Or, incorporate it into your masala chai or herbal infusions. Alternately, you can take tulsi in tincture or capsule form.
Gotu kola is a nerve-soothing leafy plant that has a number of applications in Ayurveda. It particularly helps calm stress that is associated with “hot” emotions and mental burnout. Furthermore, some say that elephants have such a great memory due to consuming gotu kola leaves as part of their regular diet (1).
For those who are familiar with Ayurveda, gotu kola is especially helpful for balancing the Pitta dosha. Plus, this spinach-like plant supports healthy collagen, connective tissue, and skin (1). It is generally safe to consume gotu kola in fairly high doses (3-30 grams per day) (2). Consider taking gotu kola as a powder, capsule, or tincture. You can even add the fresh or dried leaves to smoothies (1).
Known as the “mushroom of immortality,” reishi is particularly prized for its ability to support longevity. This mushroom has many health benefits, including supporting lung function, boosting the immune system, decreasing inflammation, and counteracting fatigue (1).
Enjoy reishi mushroom as a tincture, capsule, or even incorporate it into adaptogenic tea blends.
This reddish-colored root grows in a variety of Alpine, arctic, and coastal climates (3). Siberians macerate it in vodka to make a tonic (1). Used from increasing energy, vitality, and longevity, rhodiola is great if you need to boost your energy and increase stamina. For this reason, it is a popular choice for athletes, students, and anyone who wants to increase focus and performance (1).
Rhodiola is generally best taken as a tincture or capsule and you may find it in various adaptogenic herbal blends.
Sometimes nicknamed “man root” due to the root’s human-like appearance, ginseng is a time-tested energizing adaptogen. Chinese medicine practitioners have used ginseng for some 2,000 years (1). Its applications are many; consider ginseng if you feel sluggish, tired, or lack libido. In addition, this popular root is also helpful for immune deficiency (1).
There are different varieties of ginseng. Asian ginseng is Panax ginseng. American ginseng is Panax quinquefolius. The two types of ginseng are used for similar reasons. However, American ginseng is a bi gentler. You can take ginseng as a tea, tincture, capsule, extract, or lozenge (3).
Last but certainly not least on our adaptogens list is the adaptogens that are considered balancing. This is by no means an exhaustive list; here are a few adaptogens that are great for having a balancing effect. The first being ashwagandha, also known as “smell of a horse.”
Don’t let it’s nickname deter you, ashwagandha is a starchy, versatile root that actually has a fairly mild taste and smell in dried, powdered form. Ashwagandha can be both energizing and calming, depending on what you need. It is one of the best herbs for fatigue, sleep challenges, and any sort of Vata imbalance.
Consider adding a 1/2-1 teaspoon of powdered ashwagandha root to your morning porridge or smoothie. Ashwagandha can also be taken as a tincture or capsule. Or, take a teaspoon of Chyawanprash daily to get a dose of this tonifying adaptogenic herb!
Nicknamed “she who possesses a hundred husbands,” shatavari is known for its ability to nourish reproductive tissue and boost sexual health. This cool, nourishing root is known in Ayurveda as a female reproductive tonic, but it is nourishing and supportive for all genders.
Consider shatavari for fatigue, debility, imbalances associated with menopause, and as an overall rejuvenative. You can take shatavari decocted in milk, or as a capsule or powder. Also, Chyawanprash contains shatavari. Taking 1 teaspoon of Chyawanprash every morning is a great way to imbibe a variety of tonifying, adaptogenic herbs.
Schizandra is a lovely red berry used in traditional Chinese medicine. However, its adaptogenic properties have become more widely known; therefore, herbalists in other traditions have come to appreciate schizandra as well. Schizandra is known as a balancing, tonifying herb for people of most constitutional types (1).
Consider schizandra berries for liver issues and hormonal imbalances. The berry’s sour, bitter flavor indicates that it stimulates digestion and liver detoxification (1). Enjoy schziandra as a tea or take as a tincture.
Adaptogens on Your Side
I hope that this adaptogens list has given you some options and ideas if you are looking for ways to support yourself through stress. Stress can be acute or chronic. Sometimes you may need any energy boost and sometimes you might need calming. Or, other times you just need to get back into balance. Whatever the case, there are a number of adapotgenic plant allies that can improve your ability to deal with stress.
(1) Groves, M. (2016). Body Into Balance: An Herbal Guide to Holistic Self-Care. North Adams, MA: Storey Publishing.
(2) Dass, V. (2013). Ayurvedic Herbology: East & West. Twin Lakes, WI: Lotus Press.
(3) Herbal Academy. Herbarium. Retrieved from https://herbarium.theherbalacademy.com/
Greta Kent-Stoll is a Certified Ayurvedic Practitioner (NAMA), as well as a writer, editor, and Certified Iyengar Yoga Teacher. Her Ayurveda practice is based in Asheville, North Carolina and she is the co-owner of Iyengar Yoga Asheville.