Perhaps you have heard a celebrity talking about adaptogens or have come across the term on a particular health website. Like most people who have heard of the term elsewhere, you may have been left wondering what they are and what their importance is. In brief, adaptogens are herbs that are mainly used for stress relief. Not only that but those who use them claim that they have additional benefits, depending on the herb you are using. We have put together a list of adaptogens here, including the most commonly used adaptogens and their purported benefits. Take a look!
Adaptogens List: What Are Adaptogens?
WebMD defines adaptogens as certain herbs, greens, or mushrooms which are believed to have several health benefits (2). Following their popularity, manufacturers have produced them in different forms, such as liquid extracts, teas, food flavors, tinctures, powder, or capsules (2).
Most of these greens or herbs are marketed and used for stress relief. That said, manufacturers claim additional benefits of various adaptogens, although more research needs to be done to support these claims. You should always discuss the use of adaptogens or other supplements with your doctor before trying them. Before we delve into our list of all adaptogens and possible functions, let us first look at the different types of adaptogens.
Types Of Adaptogens
WebMD reveals that at least seventy herbal plants are classified as adaptogens. Most of them have gained attention in popular culture as they have been used in traditional Eastern medicine for centuries. Here is an overview of the most commonly used herbal adaptogens (2):
- Rhodiola Rosea L.
- Tulsi (Holy Basil)
These five herbs are the adaptogens we will focus on today. That said, this does not mean that they are the only adaptogens. Here is a look at others, a brief overview of their uses (6), (2):
- Maca: The root has a nutty and sweet flavor, mainly used for stress relief.
- Reishi: The reishi mushroom is used as a medicine and is often found in powder form, meaning you can add it to food or use it to make tea.
- Magnolia berry or Schisandra berry is used to enhance endurance and mental performance.
- Jiaogulan: It is used for stress relief and to boost endurance.
- Eleuthero root: The root is consumed to help keep mental fatigue at bay and improve focus.
- Goji berry: This adaptogen has several purported health benefits, including improving sleep, promoting calm sensations and a sense of well-being, and enhancing mental and physical performance.
- Cordyceps: This adaptogen has been claimed to increased stamina.
- Saw Palmetto: This adaptogen ranks most adaptogens lists for prostate health due to claims that it may have a benefit for urinary problems, including an enlarged prostate.
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List Of Adaptogens And Benefits
The adaptogens above make up the most commonly identified herbal shrubs worldwide. As a result of this, they are referred to as the primary adaptogens. They have been used and revered traditionally by many cultures for different reasons. Here is a detailed look at the possible benefits of each adaptogen:
Ashwagandha is an evergreen shrub that grows in India, the Middle East, and the regions of Africa. Its name describes its root’s smell, meaning “like a horse.” Similarly, by definition, the term ashwa means horse.
The shrub gained popularity in numerous places like America due to its use for medicinal purposes. Some of its health claims include (6):
Stress And Anxiety Relief
A few studies have found that Ashwagandha may have calming effects that reduce stress and anxiety symptoms (6). In addition, it has been shown to lower cortisol levels, which is known as the stress hormone (6).
Relieving Arthritis Pain
It is also sometimes used to relieve arthritis pain by possibly preventing pain signals from traveling along the central nervous system (6). It also has antioxidant properties that are believed to have the potential of reducing pain.
Better Heart Health
Ashwagandha is said to promote better heart health by reducing high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, easing chest pain, and reducing cardiovascular risk. Even so, Medical News Today acknowledges that there is little research to support the heart health benefits associated with the shrub (6).
Treating Alzheimer’s Disease
A 2011 review suggested that when mice and rats consumed Ashwagandha during the early stages of a disease, it may have conferred protection against neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s disease (3).
Animal studies also show promising early results on the possible effect of Ashwagandha in preventing cancer cell growth (6).
It is important to note that different uses require a different dosage. For example, Medical News Today suggests consuming 250 to 600 mg daily for stress reduction (6). Again, it would be best to consult a professional because this herb comes in different forms, including a liquid extract, powder, and capsule.
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Rhodiola Rosea L.
Rhodiola Rosea is a high-altitude flowering herb that grows in the mountainous parts of North America, Asia, and Europe (7). It is also referred to as the arctic root, king’s crown, golden root, or roseroot.
This shrub has been used in traditional medicine for decades, mainly in Russia and Scandinavia. Although most of the studies on its benefits are small or flawed, it is believed by users to have the following potential health benefits (7):
Rhodiola Rosea has been termed a versatile adaptogen due to the belief that it can increase the body’s resistance to stress (7). In addition, evidence from a few small studies also suggests that shrub may have mental health and heart health benefits, and that it has promise as a possible treatment for stress-induced heart problems (7).
Improved Physical And Mental Performance
Before exercise, some individuals take it to boost physical performance or improve concentration and thinking (7). Some people also claim this herb reduced mental and physical fatigue and increased performance among runners (7). However, additional research suggests that these claims may be invalid because studies have shown a high risk of bias or flaws (7).
Reducing Anxiety And Depressive Symptoms
Evidence also shows Rhodiola Rosea may reduce symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder and depression (7). However, several studies indicate that the effects of the shrub in reducing depressive symptoms were mild. So, antidepressants like sertraline had better effects and milder side effects (7).
Reducing Stress-Induced Eating Disorders
Rhodiola Rosea contains an active ingredient known as salidroside that has gained attention among health scholars for its effects on binge eating. According to Medical News Today, a study conducted on rats revealed that salidroside reduced or eliminated binge eating among the animals (7).
Of importance to note is that the rats that were given Rhodiola Rosea in the study also had lower levels of a stress hormone that influences binge eating (7).
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Tulsi (Holy Basil)
Tulsi is also referred to as the “The Queen of Herbs,” “Mother Medicine of Nature,” and “The Incomparable One.” It is an aromatic plant belonging to the basil family Lamiaceae that is believed to have originated from north-central India. Today it is found all over the globe, mainly in the eastern world tropics (5).
Although it has a pleasing aroma, its taste is hot and bitter. Ayurveda practitioners believe that when consumed, this herb penetrates the deep tissues, dries tissue secretions and normalizes kapha and Vata (5). It is used for its medicinal and spiritual properties. Some of these alleged benefits include (5):
- Being used for spiritual rituals and lifestyle practices within India.
- Protection from toxin-induced damage due to its richness in phenolic compounds and antioxidants.
- Reducing cancer risk by eliminating toxic compounds that cause DNA damage and inducing apoptosis in precancerous and cancerous cells reduces the risk of tumors.
- Assisting with stress management.
- Increased stamina and resilience.
- Better skin complexion.
- Increased intelligence, general health, well-being and longevity.
- Treating coughs and colds.
- Treating scorpion bites.
Ginseng is a popular herb that is hardly missed from lists detailing adaptogenic herbs. Experts classify it under this category due to its nonspecific and tonic effects (1). That said, it is essential to note that there are two types of adaptogen, including American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) and Asian (Panax ginseng) (2). They are believed to have to the following benefits (1):
- Promoting vitality.
- Enhancing physical performance.
- Reducing aging effects.
- Stress management.
- Regulating vascular endothelial tone and blood pressure.
- Exerting cardioprotective effects.
- Combating inflammation.
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Astragalus membranaceus (Huangqi) is one of the most significant Qi tonifying adaptogenic herbs in Traditional Chinese Medicine, thanks to its extensive list of claimed health benefits (4). It has possible anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anticancer, immune-regulatory, antihyperglycemic, hypolipidemic, expectorant hepatoprotective, and diuretic properties (4). These properties contribute to their purported health benefits, which include (2) (4):
- Boosting the immune system.
- Treat health conditions like hay fever.
- Protecting the heart, kidney, brain, liver, intestine, and lung from oxidative stress-related injury.
- Protecting neurons.
- Treating different tumors due to their effects on tumor cells inhibiting their proliferation and metastasis and inducing apoptosis.
The Bottom Line
Ashwagandha, Tulsi (Holy Basil), Astragalus, Rhodiola Rosea L., and Ginseng are the most commonly used adaptogens and those that make up our adaptogens list. Although they are mainly associated with stress relief, each adaptogen is claimed to have additional benefits, most of which have little or no scientific evidence to support them.
For example, Ashwagandha is sometimes used to relieve arthritis pain, reduce cancer risk, and enhance cardiovascular health. It would be best to consult your doctor before consuming these adaptogens.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Adaptogenic effects of Panax ginseng on modulation of cardiovascular functions (2020, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Adaptogens: What to Know (2021, webmd.com)
- An Overview on Ashwagandha: A Rasayana (Rejuvenator) of Ayurveda (2011, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Anti-Aging Implications of Astragalus Membranaceus (Huangqi): A Well-Known Chinese Tonic (2017, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Tulsi – Ocimum sanctum: A herb for all reasons (2014, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- What are the benefits of ashwagandha? (2020, medicalnewstoday.com)
- What’s to know about rhodiola rosea? (2017, medicalnewstoday.com)