As people look for natural ways to improve their overall health, supplements are becoming more popular. A group of supplements can help you manage stress naturally and prevent any long-term harm to your body. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, stress can sometimes be good for us. However, repeated stress can lead to damage to your body and increase risk for obesity and heart disease.
Adaptogens are plants which help the body regulate hormone responses to stress. These adaptogens have been used for centuries in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine. They are used to reduce mental fatigue, increase energy, and manage stress. These adaptogens can give your brain an extra boost and help you deal with stressful situations.
In this article, we’re going to list all of the most popular adaptogens on the market right now. In each case, we’ll talk about their efficacy, safety, and how they fit into a broader nootropic stack. If you think something is missing from our adaptogen list, let us know in the comments!
The Most Effective Adaptogens
Below is our list of the most effective adaptogens you can take right now. These are all natural adaptogens which have been conclusively proven in robust scientific studies to actively reduce stress and anxiety. Since they are all adaptogens, they all work to make you more resilient to stress and anxiety, both mentally and physically. However, while similar in one important way all of the best adaptogens listed below work in very different ways and have subtly different effects. Be sure to research each adaptogen carefully befopre choosing the right ones for you.
Ashwagandha is one of the most studied types of adaptogen, and arguably the single best adaptogen for stress and anxiety. Ashwagandha is easily the most popular and widely used adaptogenic nootropic, and with good reason; it works!
According to a study published in the Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine, ashwagandha has been shown repeatedly to reduce stress-related injuries. A small study showed that people who consumed 300mg of ashwagandha root extract twice daily saw a decrease in cortisol levels. Cortisol, the hormone that your body makes when you are stressed, is what this study shows. Several other studies confirm that ashwagandha acutely lowers cortisol levels in humans, which in turn reduces the side effects of stress and anxiety (hypertension, brain fog, panic attacks, lossof appetite, etc).
2. Rhodiola rosea
Rhodiola rosea is easily one of the most effective adaptogens you can use, and perhaps the best adaptogen for long-term, daily use. This herb acts as a stimulant and helps the body regulate its stress response. Phytotherapy Review reports that Rhodiola rosea was effective and lasted between 4 and 6 hours. A second study, in the Nordic Journal of Psychiatry, details improvements in depression following supplementation with Rhodiola rosea for several weeks.
Exactly how Rhodiola rosea works is not firmly established. However, it is certain that a handful of compounds in Rhodiola rosea (i.e. rosavin, salidroside, rosarin and gallic acid) are collectively responsible for its observed effects on stress and anxiety. These compounds appear to signifciantly suppress the physiological stress response in humans, which means reduced brain fog, fatigue and nerousness in stressful situations. A lack of known side effects at reasonable doses makes Rhodiola rosea an incredible adaptogen.
3. Schisandra chinensis
S.chinensis seeds increase mental performance and decrease exhaustion. According to a Swiss medical journal Pharmaceuticals, it may also help those suffering from stress-induced depression to get back to normal sleep and decrease fatigue.
The Swedish Herbal Institute Research and Development reports that this herb, along with R. rosea and Eleutherococcus sendicosus, improves endurance and combats mental tiredness.
4. Siberian Ginseng
Siberian Ginseng is a popular option for people who take adaptogens. For centuries Siberian Ginseng has been used to improve mental and physical performance. It is particularly prized by men for its reported ability to promote vitality and sex drive in older men. According to Pharmaceuticals (Basel), it may be used to treat depression symptoms such as sleep disturbances, appetite changes and headaches.
There is good clinical evidence supporting the use of Siberian Ginseng to reduce stress and anxiety. Studies show supplementing with Siberian Ginseng reduces symptoms of stress and anxiety in most people.
5. Holy basil
This adaptogen is also popular and may help with anxiety and depression. A small study in the Nepal Medical College Journal showed that holy basil helped people suffering from depression.
These adaptogens have been shown to have minimal side effects. However, you should consult your doctor before you take any supplement. Prescription medications can be affected by them. A supplement can be taken daily or saved for when you are expecting a stressful event, such as your mother-in law visiting or an important presentation at work.
Benefits of taking Adaptogens
Taking adaptogens has numerous benefits, both for cognitive function and for overall health and performance.
One thing we find is that people who would benefit enormously from using a high-quality natural adaptogen don’t take them as they assume they are not right for them. Many people mistakenly believe that adaptogens are exclusively for people with severe anxiety or those going through immense stress. The truth is that adaptogens can improve overall cognitive function and brain health in practically everyone.
Let’s go through some of the main benefits of taking adaptogens to see how they might benefit you.
Adaptogens for Anxiety
Adaptogens are known for their ability to reduce anxiety. Different adaptogens work in different ways to suppress anxiety. Some tackle cortiol, the hormone which produces the side effects of anxiety. Some adaptogens promote neurotransmitters which promote positive mood and reduce anxiety levels. Others help soothe the CNS, while some help control blood pressure.
However they work, all adaptogens help fight anxiety by making your body more resistant to the mental and physical effects of anxiety. This means reduced jitters, hypertension, insomnia, digestive issues, and fatigue. With all of that comes improved cognitive performance.
Adaptogens for Stress
This is the main benefit of taking good adaptogens and one of the primary reasons why most of the best nootropic stacks contain some kind of adaptogenic compound. Adaptogens reduce stress. The best adaptogens not only tackle the symptoms and side effects of stress, but they actually help suppress the physiological mechanisms underlying stress before they can do any damage.
When taking adaptogens for stress, it is vital that you take them as a preventative measure, not as a cure. That means taking an adaptogen on a daily basis for long periods of time, before stress hits. This is the most effective way to use adaptogens for stress reduction.
Adaptogens for Depression
Few people realise that adaptogens can act as powerful natural anti-depressants. Well, they can! Clinical trials have found that adaptogens not only reduce reported levels of stress and anxiety, but they also significantly improve the mood of study participants.
People taking adaptogen nootropics like ashwagandha or rhodiola rosea has been found to be highly effective for improving mood and motivation levels in people with mild depressive symptoms. At least some of this effect will stem from lower anxiety levels, hgih anxiety being one of the leading causes of depression.
How to take the best adaptogens
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again; the best way to take adaptogens is to use them as a way to prevent stress, anxiety and depression. While adaptogens are usually effective at treating high stress levels, they are far more powerful when used as preventative measures. That way they can help keep stress levels low and prevent anxiety from ever doing any serious damage.
We recommend taking a comprehensive nootropic stack containing adaptogens on a consistent basis, ideally daily, for long periods of time. For most people, stress is a chronic issue, and so adaptogens need to be deployed like a chronic solution.
Brian Johnson is current Editor of Vagarights.com and a long-time writer for VAGA. A former psychologist, Brian is passionate about improving mental health and finding ways to stave off cognitive decline. He is an expert on nootropics, cognitive enhancement and biohacking more broadly. You can see his work on Google scholar.