adaptogenic herbs for adrenal fatigue

Adaptogenic herbs are a unique category of herbs that are known for supporting the body’s stress response system (aka the HPA axis). In particular, adaptogens help the “A” part of the HPA axis by regulating production in the adrenal glands.

In this article we’re going to look at some adaptogenic herbs that can help with adrenal function and balancing cortisol.

More specifically, we will look at:

  • Commons signs of excessive stress and adrenal overload.
  • 7 adaptogen for lowering cortisol.
  • How to incorporate these herbs into your daily routine.

Note: this post contains affiliate links and I earn a commission (at no additional cost to you) if you use them to make a purchase.


For many women, excessive fat around the waist is a common indicator that their cortisol levels are elevated.

Some women commonly refer to this as “cortisol belly,” and “menopause belly.”

Whatever terminology you use, it’s important to know that the accumulation of fat around the waistline is considered a sign of metabolic syndrome (which includes high blood pressure, obesity, high cholesterol and insulin resistance) – source.

Besides abdominal fat, excessive stress and cortisol can also show up as:

  • fatigue.
  • low libido
  • irritability
  • mood swings
  • sleep disruption
  • high blood sugar
  • impaired cognitive function.
  • excessive hair growth throughout the body
  • digestive issues (such as bloating, constipation or diarrhea)


Maca, rhodiola, eleuthero, ashwagandha, holy basil, schisandra and reishi mushrooms are adaptogenic herbs that can be used to support the adrenals.

In this section we’re going to look at each of these so you can understand their multi-faceted benefits when it comes to cortisol and other aspects of hormone balance.

1. Maca

adaptogenic herbs for adrenal support maca powder

Grown in the Andes Mountains in South America, maca comes in yellow, red and black varieties.

This potent (and surprisingly yummy) root has historically been used to (source):

  • Boost energy.
  • Improve sleep quality.
  • Enhance mood.
  • Reduce anxiety.
  • Increase libido.
  • Improve menopause symptoms, including hot flashes.
  • Support fertility.

2. Rhodiola Rosea

Rhodiola is most known for its ability to regulate cortisol production during stressful times and therefore, prevent the adrenals from burning out (source).

In addition, rhodiola also (source):

  • Improves focus and concentration.
  • Boosts physical performance.
  • Eases depression and anxiety.
  • Lowers (and in some cases, eliminates) binge eating.

3. Eleuthero (Siberian Ginseng)

adaptogenic herbs for adrenal support siberian ginseng eleuthero in bowl

Eleuthero comes with a laundry list of benefits related to adrenal function and overall health.

Here’s an overview of what eleuthero has to offer (source):

  • Boosts immunity.
  • Improves chronic fatigue symptoms.
  • Treats insomnia.
  • Increases energy.
  • Supports heart health.
  • Improves athletic performance.
  • Used to treat arthritis, kidney disease and other chronic conditions.

4. Ashwagandha

Known to stabilize mood, restore healthy cortisol levels and improve insulin sensitivity, ashwangandha is one of the most popular adaptogens for adrenal support.

In addition, to the above, this popular Ayurvedic herb can also help:

  • Balance the immune system.
  • Improve estrogen and progesterone levels.
  • Support healthy thyroid function.
  • Act as a natural tonic to reduce inflammation, and promote overall health and longevity.
  • Protect the brain from oxidative stress.

(sources: 1, 2, 3, 4)

5. Holy Basil (aka Tulsi)

Like many adaptogenic herbs, holy basil has a long history of use in Ayurvedic medicine.

It provides a wide variety of benefits, such as (source):

  • Lowering stress.
  • Fighting off viruses, bacteria and fungi.
  • Reducing inflammation.
  • Lowering blood sugar.
  • Improving depression and anxiety.

It’s worth noting that when it comes to depression and anxiety, some research shows that holy basil can be as effective as prescription drugs.

6. Schisandra Berry

adaptogenic herbs for adrenal support schisandra

One of the main benefits of schisandra (sometimes written as schizandra) berry is its ability to improve liver function.

A healthy liver means your body is able to eliminate toxins that contribute to chemical stress.

And less chemical stress means your stress response system and adrenals are not constantly being triggered!

In addition to the above, schisandra can also improve (source):

  • Insomnia.
  • Fatigue.
  • Irritability.
  • PMS.
  • Night sweats.
  • Memory loss.

7. Reishi Mushrooms

Animal and human studies show that reishi mushrooms are beneficial for (source):

  • Improving sleep.
  • Fighting stress.
  • Boosting energy.
  • Supporting the immune system.
  • Enhancing strength and stamina.


To get the benefits of adaptogenic herbs for adrenal health, you can take them in the form of a:

  • Tea
  • Tincture
  • Supplement
  • Powder

1. Adaptogenic Tea

Tea is a soothing and effective way to enjoy the medicinal properties of herbs.

Generally speaking, you need 1 teaspoon of dried herb for every cup of boiling water.

And you also want to let the herbs steep in the water for at least 15 minutes.

There’s just one thing to watch out for with adaptogens: some of them don’t taste all that great!

So, you’ll have to experiment a little to find a blend that tastes good and addresses your symptoms.

2. Adaptogenic Tincture

Tinctures are super convenient and easy to absorb.

While it is possible to make your own, a simpler option is to buy one.

One brand that I always recommend is Herb Pharm. 

I love this brand because of their organic farming practices and the fact that they’ve been making herbal products for several decades now.

Different brands have come and gone, but Herb Pharm has stuck around, which speaks to the quality of their products.

For adrenal support, check out Herb Pharm’s Stress Manager tincture.

It’s a blend of schisandra, holy basil, reishi mushrooms and rhodiola.

3. Adaptogenic Supplement Capsules

Another convenient way of taking adaptogens is in capsule form.

For herbal capsules, I like anything from Gaia Herbs. You can check out their Adrenal Health formula (which contains ashwagandha, holy basil, rhodiola and schisandra).

Similar to Herb Pharm, Gaia follows clean farming practices (which means less worry about additional hormone disruptors entering your body).

In addition, the herbs are delivered in a liquid capsule which is easier for your body to absorb.

4. Adaptogenic Powder

The benefit of using an adaptogenic powder is that you can blend it into hormone balancing smoothies, soups and even desserts!

Just be mindful of the fact that adaptogens tend to have strong flavors that can be difficult to mask.

Personally, I’ve found maca to have the best flavor of them all.

It’s caramel-like and tastes delicious in smoothies as well as hormone-balancing energy balls.

Ashwagandha is pretty good too, although it has a salty aftertaste that makes it less versatile.

To eliminate the trial and error, I like adaptogenic powder blends like this one from Four Sigmatic.

Four Sigmatic specializes in a variety of adaptogenic products and this blend is optimized for both taste and health benefits!


How long should you take adaptogens for?

Some experts recommend following these guidelines for safe use of adaptogens (source):

  • take one day off per week.
  • if you’ve been using them six weeks straight, take a week off.
  • if you’ve been using them for 6 months, take a full month off.

Is exercise good for adrenal health?

Overall, exercise is a mood booster that can re-energize you, reduce cortisol and adrenaline, while also stimulating the production of feel good hormones like endorphins (source).

However, if exercise is too intense, it can be another source of stress and place further stress on the adrenals. So, it’s important to really listen to your body and only do as much (or as little!) exercise as you can tolerate.


Adaptogenic herbs are just one of many things you can do to regulate cortisol and support your adrenals. To stack the deck in your favor, it’s also a good idea to evaluate your diet and lifestyle, to see if you need to make improvements.

For help with the dietary aspect, I suggest reading these guidelines for how to put together a hormone-balancing diet plan. As for lifestyle, check out some of my favorite tips on how to start a self care routine.

vertical image showing 7 essential herbs for cortisol and adrenals

Related Content:

Top 10 Herbal Teas for Balancing Women’s Hormones Naturally

Benefits of Schisandra for Hormones and How To Use It

11 Adaptogens for Hormone Balance and Weight Loss

How to Treat Hormonal Imbalance With Herbs

Best Supplements For Female Hormonal Imbalance (that you probably don’t know about)