Managing stress is super important because its side effects can be long lasting if your body isn’t able to bounce back from it (ie: adrenal fatigue, weight gain, low immune function etc). But sometimes managing stress isn't enough or ii's just unavoidable. That's where herbal tonics or adaptogens can be very helpful for mental, physical and emotional stress.
These herbs are often considered a tonic for the body. They have the ability to be both uplifting and calming at the same time. They are powerful, but not pushy. If you’re tired, they can make you more alert and clear headed. If you’re feeling anxious and restless, they can help ease your mind and make you calmer, but not drowsy.
Adaptogenic herbs are just that adaptable. The same herb can bring you back into balance, whether you are feeling jittery from stress or feeling down from stress. While all adaptogens can be good for helping the body find homeostasis, some are a little better at certain situations than others.
Here are my 5 favorite adaptogens and their best uses:
Tulsi (Holy Basil)
In India, tulsi is a sacred plant and customary that every home have a plant that is well tended to. It can be good for fatigue, anxiety, sleep, blood sugar and hormone balance (like cortisol). It is effective as a tea and is very mild and pleasant tasting. It also comes in pill and tincture forms. Sometimes it's also referred to as Holy Basil since it is in the same family as basil.
As a pill or tincture this herb can be good for anxiety, to help regulate sleep and encourage a healthy inflammatory response. It’s also just fun to say ash-wa-gand-a. A report from 2012, found this conclusion when studying its efficacy:
"The findings of this study suggest that a high-concentration full-spectrum Ashwagandha root extract safely and effectively improves an individual's resistance towards stress and thereby improves self-assessed quality of life."
It comes in a pill or tincture form. It is helpful for moodiness, brain fog, low energy, focus and even jet-lag. Watch Juliette's story here, on how she has used rhodiola to treat the depression she was suffering after 9/11 when her prescription medications weren't giving her the relief she needed, and how another woman (one of the doctors in the story) used it to treat her severe fatigue from Lyme disease.
Siberian Ginseng (Eleuthero Root)
Not technically a true ginseng but it has similar benefits to ginseng. Eleuthero can be taken regularly whereas true ginsengs should be alternated. Eleuthero is helpful for the immune system, brain fog, fatigue, healthy cortisol and inflammatory response as well as stamina. In Germany, it is approved for use to treat chronic fatigue syndrome. It’s found in pill, tinctures and teas too.
It is highly effective as a tea or essential oil rather than a pill (in pill form it's better for digestion). It’s the aroma of peppermint that can clear your mind, be uplifting and energizing but also help you feel relaxed. I love a cup of this tea in the afternoon if I need to wake up or even after dinner to relax. I'll also pop in a piece of peppermint gum or mint if I’m on the go (but watch those artificial flavors and sugars, I like Spry and VerMints brands). You can use a peppermint essential oil for aromatherapy too. Get a quality oil and use a diffuser. Don’t take a bath with peppermint oil though! It can be irritating to the skin and its cooling effects are so strong it can actually cause hypothermia if too much is used.
These adaptogens are sold on their own, but sometimes a combination works best. Many stress, anxiety and adrenal supplement formulas will contain a combination of these adaptogenic herbs (except for peppermint which will be in a tea form) for a greater effect.
Some brands I use are Gaia, Herb Pharm, MegaFoods, Ayurceutics, Whole Formulas and Health Force. I can find them on Amazon.com, LiveSuperfoods.com or at Whole Foods Market. Local, independent herb shops usually have a great selection of quality products also, my go to here in Kirkland is Herban Essentials of course.