the art of using adaptogenic herbs to mitigate stress

When it comes to stress and fatigue we are swimming in “quick fix” solutions. Specialty chocolates, coffees, teas, baked goods and energy bars abound. Most will give a lovely boost but rarely will they address the root of the stress response. The most targeted way to address longterm unrelenting stress and fatigue is by nurturing the adorable little glands that sit atop our kidneys: the adrenals.

It turns out, there is a family of herb medicine tailored to do just that: adaptogenic herbs. Adaptogens have been used in Traditional and Chinese medicine for centuries to promote a sense of well-being. They have a unique ability to help you adapt to stress in your life by normalizing and regulating the adrenal stress response. While some work quickly, others tend to be more subtle requiring consistent usage to experience their medicinal impact.

Below are my top 5 favorite adaptogens and why:

ashwagandha: the soothing adaptogen

Ashwagandha is calming and anti-inflammatory. It is used to improve sleep, reduce anxiety, improve memory, and reduce inflammation.

dose: 3-6 g dried herb in capsule or 1-4 mL tincture in water 3 times daily

rhodiola: the spirit calming + anti-anxiety adaptogen

Rhodiola extract helps promote a calm emotional state and supports strong mental performance, optimal immune function, and hormonal balance. It is a key adaptogen for reducing anxiety. It improves mental and physical stamina, improves sleep, and reduces stress, “burn out,” and irritability.

dose: 200-400 mg in capsules or tablets daily OR 2-3 mL (40-60 drops) of tincture, in water, 2-3 times daily

holy basil: the vitalizer

Holy or “sacred” basil has been revered in India for over 5,000 years as an herb that calms the mind, spirit, and promotes longevity. In Ayurvedic medicine it is called Tulsi, which means “incomparable one.” It is used to improve energy and relieve fatigue.

dose: 2-3 mL (40–60 drops) of tincture, in water, 3 times daily

shatavari: the hormone harmonizer – queen of women’s adaptogens

Shatavari is considered the “Queen of Herbs” in Ayurvedic medicine, where it is beloved as one of the most powerful rejuvenating tonics for women. It is nourishing and calming, as well as hormonally balancing; it is used for irritability and many hormonal imbalances affecting the mood, for example, emotional symptoms of PMS and menopause.

dose: 2-4 mL (40-80 drops) of tincture, in water, 2-3 times daily

reishi mushroom: the immune nourisher

Reishi mushrooms are highly regarded in Chinese medicine to nourish and support adrenal function. While Reishi is best known for promoting health immunity, resistance to colds and infections, and reducing inflammation, Reishi also helps support the body’s natural ability to calm the nervous system, promoting deeper, more relaxing and restorative sleep.

dose: 3-9 grams of the dried mushroom in capsules or tablets daily OR 2-4 mL of reishi tincture, in water 2- 3 times daily


  • not to be used while pregnant
  • avoid if you have bipolar depression with manic behavior
  • avoid if you have a history of estrogen-receptor positive cancer
  • avoid with blood thinners and medications that lower blood pressure, based on theoretical risks of drug interactions

Click HERE to download a pdf consolidating everything into an “on the go” shopping list. My favorite brands? Gaia + Herb Pharm [unaffiliated of course].

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