While there are hundreds of potential adaptogens identified, here is information about four of the more common ones:
Ashwaganda has been used in Ayruvedic medicine for over 3000 years to treat the effects of stress and improve overall well-being. An eight-week, prospective, randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled study examined the effects of a high concentration of ashwagandha root extract at various dosages on 60 healthy men and women who had significant stress levels. After 8 weeks, researchers found that dosages of 250mg per day and 600 mg/day reduced perceived levels of stress as well as cortisol levels.
Holy basil, also known as tulsi, is another herb long used in Ayruvedic medicine. It’s known as ‘the elixir of life’ as a tonic for body, mind, and spirit. Holy basil has been studied in hundreds of research publications that indicate that it might help the body and mind cope with a wide range of chemical, physical, infectious, and emotional stresses and restore physiological and psychological function.
Curcumin, the active component in turmeric, has been found to play a role in inhibiting large increases in cortisol production, which can protect against the damaging effects of stress that may in turn lead to a variety of diseases. Tumeric is often used as a spice in Indian cuisine, either fresh, dried, or in a combination of spices such as curry powder.
Asian ginseng contains natural antioxidant compounds called ginsenosides, which are believed to have multiple pharmacological effects. Ginseng shows promise in helping people regain homeostasis amid abnormal physiological changes caused by persistent stress, such as increased cortisol levels, as well as fend off chronic inflammation.
For more information about adaptogens, don't miss the post Adaptogens: What Are They?
By Lynn Grieger, RDN, CDCES, CPT, CHWC
- Panossian, A. (2017), Understanding adaptogenic activity: specificity of the pharmacological action of adaptogens and other phytochemicals. Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sci., 1401: 49-64
- Chicago Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. All About Adaptogens. Brenda Wallace, MS, RDN. https://eatrightchicago.org/all-about-adaptogens/ published 1-18-2019; accessed 8-25-21.
- Cohen MM. Tulsi - Ocimum sanctum: a herb for all reasons. J Ayurveda Integr Med. 2014;5(4):251-259.
- Today’s Dietitian. Botannicals/Herbs: Adaptogens. Vicki Shanta Retelny, RDN. August/September 2020 issue. https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/AS20p14.shtml
- Michigan State University. Center for Research on Ingredient Safety. Trending: Adaptogen Ingredients. Elisabeth Anderson, Jinpeng Li. https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/adaptogen-ingredient published 3-1-21; accessed 8-29-21
- Salve J, Pate S, Debnath K, Langade D. Adaptogenic and Anxiolytic Effects of Ashwagandha Root Extract in Healthy Adults: A Double-blind, Randomized, Placebo-controlled Clinical Study. Cureus. 2019;11(12):e6466. Published 2019 Dec 25. doi:10.7759/cureus.6466
- Cohen MM. Tulsi - Ocimum sanctum: A herb for all reasons. J Ayurveda Integr Med. 2014;5(4):251-259. doi:10.4103/0975-9476.146554
- Enyeart JA, Liu H, Enyeart JJ. Curcumin inhibits ACTH- and angiotensin II-stimulated cortisol secretion and Ca(v)3.2 current. J Nat Prod. 2009;72(8):1533-1537.
- NIH. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Medicine. Asian Ginseng. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/asian-ginseng Updated August 2020, accessed 8-29-21.
Stephanie Ronco has been editing for Food and Health Communications since 2011. She graduated from Colorado College magna cum laude with distinction in Comparative Literature. She was elected a member of Phi Beta Kappa in 2008.