Best Adaptogens for Strength, Stamina + Stress Relief

Best Adaptogens for Strength, Stamina + Stress Relief

Do you suffer from adrenal fatigue, hormone imbalance, or chronic stress? There are healthier ways then cupcakes and caffeine to get you through the day. One of my favourite ways is by using ‘adaptogens’.

Adaptogens are a special class of herbs that have been used for centuries in Chinese and Ayurvedic healing traditions to help the body adapt to stress and resist fatigue.

Russian scientist Israel Brekhman first coined the term ‘adaptogen’ in 1947, he outlined the following criteria to identify the use of a herb as an adaptogen:

  • Increases the body’s ability to cope with internal and external stresses;
  • supports the body to cope with an increase in working capacity and mental performance under stressful and fatigue-inducing conditions;
  • Normalises the hormonal stress systems;
  • Entirely safe and has no negative side effects, and can be effective in treating a wide variety of illnesses.

Adaptogens are probably my most prescribed class of herbs by Naturopath and Herbalist, and can deliver incredible results. However, it’s important to know which ones you actually need rather than jumping on the adaptogen bandwagon. Therefore, we have compiled a guide to help you understand the energetics and qualities of some of our favourite adaptogens, which are also the most soothing and nourishing for the body.

Infographic What are Adaptogens - Best Adaptogens for Stess, Stamina, and Strength

Ashwagandha: The mind, mood, and thyroid restorer

It’s suited for when you might say:

  • I’m tired and achey;
  • I struggle to concentrate for longer than 10 minutes;
  • I struggle to fall asleep but feel sleepy in the afternoon;
  • My short-term memory is getting worse;
  • I feel anxious over small things;
  • I have an underactive thyroid.

Ashwagandha has enjoyed over 4,000 years of traditional use in India and is used to heal deep exhaustion, regulate sleep and calm the mind. It is also particularly good for balancing the thyroid as it has been shown to improve the conversion T4 to T3.

However, please avoid this adaptogen if you have hyperthyroidism or if you are sensitive to the nightshade family. 

Dose: 500mg capsule 1-2 day or 1-4 ml (20 to 40 drops) of tincture in water 3 times a day.

Ashwagandha Leaves - Best Adaptogens and Nootropics Guide

Reishi Mushroom: The immune system and soul nourisher

It’s suited for when you might say:

  • I overthink at night;
  • My immune system feels weakened;
  • Infections always go to my lungs;
  • I feel off centre and sometimes anxious over nothing;
  • I feel overwhelmed by most things.

Reishi mushroom is highly regarded in Chinese medicine for its ability to nourish and support adrenal function. It calms the nervous system and can be taken before bed for deeper, relaxing, and restorative sleep. It is also powerful herb for your immune system, so if you’re getting sick a lot because of stress, or never get sick and then crash on your first day of vacation, this might be a great choice for you.

However, please avoid this adaptogen if you have a true mushroom allergy.

Dose: 3-9 g dried mushroom in capsules or tablets daily or 2-4 ml tincture in water 2 to 3 times a day.

 Reishi Mushroom - Best Adaptogens and Nootropics Guide for stress relief

Holy Basil: Yoga in a pill!

It’s suited for when you might say:

  • I struggle with anxiety, or low mood;
  • I have sleep problems;
  • I want help shifting to a new mindset and making healthy lifestyle changes;
  • I struggle with mental clarity;
  • I have chronic inflammation;
  • I have high blood sugar, cholesterol, or triglycerides.

Holy or “sacred” basil calms the mind and spirit, and promotes longevity. This herb, called ‘tulsi’ in Ayurveda, is used to improve energy and relieve fatigue. It elevates the mood, especially providing relief from mild depression. While this herb is related to common basil, it is not a substitute.

Dose: 2-3 ml (40-60 drops) tincture in water 3 times a day.

Holy Basil - Best Adaptogens and Nootropics Guide for stress relief

Maca: The hormone and stamina enhancer

It’s suited for when you might say:

  • I want more vitality;
  • I have a low libido;
  • I have low progesterone;
  • I want to improve my fertility;
  • I often feel cold.

The Quechua Indians of Peru consider maca a food that promotes mental acuity, physical vitality, endurance, and stamina. Maca reduces anxiety and depression and is rich in essential amino acids, iodine, iron, and magnesium, as well as sterols that may possess a wide range of activities that support adrenal and hormone function.

Dose: 75-100 mg/day.

Maca root - best adaptogens and nootropics guide

Rhodiola: The energy enhancer and brain booster

It’s suited for when you might say:

  • I have very little stamina;
  • I feel wired but tired;
  • My brain doesn’t feel like its not working properly;
  • My belly fat increases whenever I’m stressed;
  • I feel worse when I’m not exercising.

Rhodiola rosea has been used for centuries as part of traditional medicine systems in Europe, Asia and Russia. The Vikings also used rhodiola to enhance physical strength, while the Sherpa people used it to climb at high altitudes, even to conquer Mount Everest.

Rhodiolas benefits include the normalisation of cortisol levels, helping with fat-burning, depression, anxiety and of course improving athletic performance.

Dose: The recommended supplemental dose of Rhodiola rosea extract (containing rosavin) is around 250–700 mg per day (typically split into 1–2 doses).

Rhodiola - Best Adaptogens and Nootropics Guide for brain power

Schizandra: The beautifier and detoxifier

It’s suited for when you might say:

  • I am easily distracted and feel irritable;
  • I often feel breathless;
  • I get tired out easily with physical exertion;
  • My skin if dull and lifeless;
  • My hangovers are terrible;
  • I feel like I need to detoxify.

The Chinese for Schizandra is a ‘wu wei xi’ which means ‘five flavours fruit’ (sour, bitter, sweet, pungent and salty). Having all these tastes in one herb provide a variety of actions able to work on multiple “meridians” within the body to restore internal balance and health. In traditional Chinese herbalism Schizandra most well-known for boosting liver function and helping with adrenal functions. It can also work as a powerful brain tonic and to enhance mental focus, while having calming, anti-anxiety effects. It’s also been widely used to enhance athletic performance and endurance.

However, this adaptogen is not safe for use during pregnancy.

Dose: 20-30 drops of extract once or twice a day, or 2-4 capsules daily.

Schizandra - Best Adaptogens and Nootropics Guide for strength and stamina


Shatavari: The female hormonal harmoniser

It’s suited for when you might say:

  • I feel like I need rejuvenation;
  • My skin, hair and nails feel dry;
  • I have hormonal imbalances, including PMS, fertility, or menopausal problems;
  • I am easily fatigued;
  • My food doesn’t always digest properly.

Also known as wild asparagus, shatavari is considered the ‘Queen of Herbs’ in Ayurvedic medicine and a rough translation of the name shatavari is ‘she who has 100 husbands. This has a great deal to do with its nourishing effects during menopause where it helps with libido. It is hormone-balancing and often used for irritability, dryness and hormonal emotional outbursts.

However, please avoid this adaptogen if you have a history of oestrogen dominance or oestrogen-receptor-positive cancer.

Dose: 2-4 ml (40-80 drops) of tincture in water 2 to 3 times a day

Shatavari - Best Adaptogens and Nootropics Guide - for female matters

How to take these adaptogens?

When taking adaptogens for burnout or for acute symptoms of stress and imbalance then start with the lowest dose. If, however, you feel pretty robust and are taking them as a preventative, then start with an upper dosage.

I recommend starting with one at a time and noticing how they make you feel before taking a bunch of different ones. Note that adaptogens are helpful for exhausted new mums and are considered safe while breastfeeding, but they are not recommended for use in pregnancy. 

If you think you might need an adaptogenic upgrade but want some more guidance then consider seeing a medical Herbalist or Naturopath. Remember, no two people are the same, and it’s always good to make sure you have the right herbs to treat the root cause of your symptoms.

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