In this blog we will explain how adaptogens work and why they are helpful for anxiety. After developing a preliminary understanding, we will discuss several options you can try for anxiety adaptogens. The list contains research citations and product recommendations as well.
What are the Best Adaptogens for Anxiety?
The best adaptogens for anxiety are:
- Holy Basil
- Rhodiola rosea
- Schisandra Berry
- Licorice Root
- Eleuthero Root
- Lion’s Mane
- Goji Berry
- Gotu Kola
- Lemon Balm
- Bacopa Monnieri
- He Shu Wu Tea
- St. John’s Wort
What is an Adaptogen?
An adaptogen is a substance extracted from plants and herbs as a remedy for environmental stress. These are highly special flora that are generally found in extreme conditions. They either grow in harsh climatic regions or they grow in rough terrain.
What’s special about these plants is that they are pretty tough-skinned. Despite the stressful conditions of their environment, they are able to endure the challenges and continue surviving. These plants are natural fighters.
The rationale behind deriving adaptogens from them is to see if their extracts can help humans endure stress as well. Using adaptogens is a historic practice in herbal and traditional medicine. Today, a lot of research is going into whether these plants can help with mental health.
How do Adaptogens Help Anxiety?
An adaptogen can help people dealing with anxiety by causing certain chemical changes in their bodies to ameliorate symptoms. The compounds taken out of the adaptogen will cause some reaction when our body parts are exposed to them.
This can lead to alterations in neurotransmitter production, reduced stress hormones, relaxed muscles, and an elevated mood.
All these outcomes are desirable for someone struggling with anxiety. Researchers are looking into the safety and non-addictiveness of adaptogens so that they can be used instead of psychiatric drugs.
Which Adaptogens are Good for Anxiety?
In this section, we are going to discuss various adaptogens for anxiety in detail. We will expand on how the plant is helpful for anxiety, the evidence that backs this claim, and product recommendation.
Since these substances come from plants, they are all natural. If you’re looking for an alternative to conventional drugs for anxiety, here are some adaptogens you can try.
Withania somnifera, known commonly as ashwagandha, is a plant native to India and North Africa. The Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine published that ashwagandha root extract safely and effectively improves an individual’s resistance towards stress.
The 2012 study was conducted to assess the anxiolytic effects of ashwagandha. By measuring the serum cortisol levels of subjects, the authors confirmed this hypothesis.
Our top 3 Ashwagandha Recommendations
The roots of Panax plants are called ginseng. These roots have been used in traditional medicine for over centuries. Ginseng is commonly sold as dietary supplements because of its many benefits.
Research on these benefits have investigated the effect of ginseng on diabetes, menopause, and memory. Experts have even demonstrated that ginseng helps in the attenuation of anxiety symptoms.
Our top 3 Ginseng Recommendations
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Lepidium meyenii (Maca) comes from the highlands of Peru. Maca root is an important ingredient in traditional medicine in the Andes. The country exports maca in the form of powder, capsules, pills, flour, liquor, and extracts.
Evidence from experimental studies reveal it’s positive impact on nutrition, fertility, memory, and mood. A review on randomised clinical trials reported that maca powder improved mood and reduced anxiety in people.
Our top 3 Maca Recommendations
Penny Pettman did a review of literature on the natural ways to relieve anxiety and stress. One of the methods discussed was the use of holy basil to reduce stress hormones. Anxiety is correlated with high production of cortisol and adrenaline.
Therapy for anxiety disorders primarily consists of training the client to learn how to slow down this production. Holy basil products as an adaptogen may be of assistance here.
Our top 3 Holy Basil Recommendations
Rhodiola rosea is a flowering plant found in arctic regions. Parts of this plant have been used in alternative healing treatment plans for depression and anxiety. A pilot study examined the effect of rhodiola on the symptoms of general anxiety disorder (GAD).
The Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale was used to measure symptoms. The findings suggested that rhodiola improved these symptoms significantly. Thus, rhodiola can serve as an excellent adaptogen for anxiety.
Our top 3 Rhodiola rosea Recommendations
Schisandra chinensis, also called schisandra berry or magnolia berry, a plant native to East Asia. The fruits of this vine are bright red berries found in dense clusters.
An overview of Russian research on this medicinal plant reports several health benefits of schisandra berries. These benefits are for both physical and psychological health. Numerous clinical trials have demonstrated the efficiency of schisandra berries in treating neurosis.
Our top 3 Schisandra Berry Recommendations
Anxiety disorders cause individuals to persistently return to fight-or-flight mode. This is when the body feels stressed and starts producing cortisol. Anxiety both produces and uses up cortisol.
A paper citing research done on the use of botanicals for stress found interesting results for licorice root. The studies reveal that licorice might act synergistically with cortisol.
These compounds can mimic cortisol and by doing so extend its half life. It was concluded that licorice root can help counter the immunosuppressive nature of long-term anxiety.
Our top 3 Licorice Root Recommendations
Eleuthero is another plant from East Asia and is also referred to as the Siberian ginseng. The root of this plant is highly popular in the use of herbal adaptogens for environmental stress.
There have been plenty of scientific discussions on the positive effect of eleuthero root on sleep and stress issues. This 2012 publication says that it is a safe and effective treatment option for anxiety and insomnia.
Our top 3 Eleuthero Root Recommendations
This edible mushroom is identified as Hericium erinaceus in the scientific world. It can be spotted growing on hardwoods, having long spines in a single clump of dangling needles.
Nagano et al (2010) demonstrated that 4 weeks of Lion’s Mane intake reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety. This and similar studies have promoted the endorsement of Lion’s Mane as an adaptogen for anxiety.
Our top 3 Lion’s Mane Recommendations
A very recent study confirmed the anxiolytic and antidepressant properties of cordyceps, another fungus. This is a genus of ascomycete fungi that includes about 600 species.
Cordyceps are believed to have many advantages for health, including anti-aging, anti-inflammation, and other preventive effects. The study mentioned recommended the use of cordyceps as a functional food to prevent depression and anxiety.
Our top 3 Cordyceps Recommendations
Astragalus is a medicinal herb used in Chinese traditional practices for its health advantages. It is said to boost immunity, prevent inflammation, and delay aging. Astragalus is considered one of the 50 fundamental herbs used in traditional Mongolian medicine.
Researchers have shown interest in the anxiety-reducing effects of astragalus as well. Another 2020 paper reported that astragalus was markedly effective in lowering blood cortisol levels and improving immunity.
Our top 3 Astragalus Recommendations
Similar effects on cortisol levels can be induced using turmeric, report these Indian nutritionists. Turmeric is a close relative of the ginger plant and is often confused for it. But once cut open, the turmeric’s distinct bright yellow colour reclaims its identity.
Indian culture celebrates the nutritional benefits of turmeric as can be seen from its generous use in cooking. Besides lowering stress hormones, turmeric can also help with pain, inflammation, rashes, and healing injuries.
Our top 3 Turmeric Recommendations
Goji berries are small red berries that come packed with antioxidants. They are said to have a preventive role in serious diseases like cancer, diabetes, and liver damage. These tiny berries are packaged either as powder or dried units.
Proponents of goji berries also claim that it can promote healthy skin, protect the eyes, and prevent mental illness. As confirmed by this experiment on rats, goji berry intake improved anxiety, depression-like behaviour, and learning performance.
Our top 3 Goji Berry Recommendations
Ganoderma lucidum or Reishi is a mushroom that grows in hot and humid areas. It is kidney-shaped, red in colour, and looks like it has a coat of varnish.
People take reishi mushrooms to enhance their immunity, improve sleep, and help with high blood pressure or cholesterol. Ali, Muhammad, and Akbar (2016), found that reishi mushroom has anxiolytic activity which is comparable to 1 mg/Kg of diazepam.
Our top 3 Reishi Recommendations
Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.
Gotu Kola, or Asian pennywort, is a herbaceous, flowering, perennial. In Asia, it is popularly used as a culinary vegetable and is said to be good for high blood pressure. Gotu kola is often promoted as a remedy for skin conditions or wounds.
It is also supposed to increase mental clarity. This evaluation of the anxiolytic effects of gotu kola revealed that its methanol and ethyl acetate extracts impart this influence.
Our top 3 Gotu Kola Recommendations
The Ginkgo biloba tree is the only living species in the division Ginkgophyta of the plant kingdom. It is suggested to be an effective alternative medicine for the treatment of mental disorders like dementia and anxiety.
That’s why most clinical trials on the subject have taken the elderly as subjects. This paper also looked into the use of ginkgo for anxiety and memory decline in 107 people with general anxiety disorder. In conclusion, the authors write that gingko is of particular value in elderly patients with these conditions.
Our top 3 Gingko Recommendations
Clinicians often prescribe lemon- balm as a mild mood elevator and calming agent for patients who have anxiety. This is a perennial herb that is part of the mint family. Along with anxiety, it is believed to help with stress, insomnia, indigestion, and dementia.
Abascal and Yarnell (2004) discussed in their article that nervine herbs like lemon balm are safe and non-addictive. They suggested that these should be used instead of addictive benzodiazepines.
Our top 3 Lemon Balm Recommendations
Bacopa monnieri or water hyssop is a creeping herb with small white flowers. It is adaptive to moist and tropical regions and is often used to decorate aquariums.
The compounds released from this plant on ingestion alter the levels of various neurotransmitters like dopamine, noradrenaline, and serotonin. These changes are suspected to lead to mood changes. A 2008 placebo-controlled trial exhibited that Bacopa monnieri has potential for safely enhancing cognitive performance in aging.
Our top 3 Bacopa monnieri Recommendations
He Shou Wu Tea
The root of Reynoutria multiflora, better known as Chinese knotweed, is used to make he shou wu or fo ti. This plant is listed in the Chinese Pharmacopoeia as one of the most popular remedies.
He Sou Wu tea is consumed for the purpose of healthy aging and conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. One must note that overconsumption of this tea may lead to toxicity. There is not a lot of accessible research done on this but Chinese healers swear by it.
Our top 3 He Shou Wu Tea Recommendations
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St. John’s Wort
St. John’s wort is a flowering plant either grown or found as a weed across the globe. It’s been used in herbal medicine for centuries and is used for healing wounds. Current trends in scientific inquiry want to examine if St. John’s wort can impact mental health.
It is found that in terms of anxiety, this is a better medicine for a comorbidity with depression. Often depression and anxiety go hand in hand. In such cases, St. John’s wort is a good adaptogen to try.
Our top 3 St. John’s Wort Recommendations
In this blog we explained how adaptogens work and why they are helpful for anxiety. After developing a preliminary understanding, we discussed several options you can try for anxiety adaptogens. The list contained research citations and product recommendations as well.
There is plenty of scientific evidence that adaptogens can be safer and non-addictive alternatives to anxiety medication. These substances relieve stress, lower anxiety, promote relaxation, and improve mood.
The adaptogens we talked about were ashwagandha, ginseng, maca, holy basil, Rhodiola rosea, schisandra berry, licorice root, eleuthero root, lion’s mane, cordyceps, astragalus, turmeric, goji berry, reishi, gotu kola, ginkgo, lemon balm, Bacopa monnieri, He Shou Wu tea, and St. John’s wort.
FAQs (Best Adaptogens for Anxiety)
What is the most powerful adaptogen?
There are a great deal of adaptogens that work really well with various health conditions. Experts recommend ginseng, ashwagandha, holy basil, maca, Rhodiola rosea, Bacopa monnieri, and turmeric.
Do adaptogens really work?
The use of adaptogens for stress and anxiety relief is a popular inquiry in numerous research papers. A significant amount of these publications cite that adaptogens are indeed effective. While some of these plant extracts need further investigation, many like ashwagandha, Rhodiola rosea, cordyceps etc., have sufficient evidence.
Can you take adaptogens every day?
Adaptogens need to be used more for short-term use than on a daily basis. The reason for this is that there isn’t enough research on chronic administration of these compounds. Even in traditional medicine, these are used more like bandages than a cure. Eventually, you will need to go to therapy to recover from mental illnesses.