According to the latest Stress in America poll, Americans are reporting a significant increase in stress levels, with 31% of respondents saying their stress has increased in the past year alone.
While reasons for stress vary, most people agree that managing stress is important to them. Certain herbs classified as adaptogens are known to increase the body’s ability to adapt to physical and emotional stressors.
Here are three common adaptogenic herbs that can help you prevent and fight the damaging effects caused by everyday stress.
Also known as: Tulsi, Ocimum sanctum
Holy basil has been used traditionally in Ayurvedic medicine to treat a variety of ailments, including respiratory problems and headaches. As an adaptogen, this herbal remedy possesses a natural substance that shields the body from different types of stress.
In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study published in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, researchers found that holy basil was 39% more effective in the management of stress-related symptoms when compared to the placebo group.
Holy basil can be enjoyed as a tea, but it is also available in tea form, capsules and liquid extracts. Dosages used in clinical studies varied widely, from 300 – 2,000 milligrams daily. For best results, consult your healthcare provider for dosage recommendations specific to you.
Also known as: Ciwujia, Eleutherococcus senticosus
Siberian ginseng has been used for centuries in traditional medicine practices to ward off symptoms of colds and flus. The root of this plant has also been known to increase energy levels and vitality due to the content of compounds called eleutherosides, which are believed to stimulate the immune system therefore reducing fatigue—a well-known symptom of stress.
An Italian study published in the Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics found that the study subjects reported an improvement in both mental health and social functioning after four weeks of treatment with Siberian ginseng.
Some people find the effects of Siberian ginseng may lessen when used long term. If this is the case, discontinuing use for a while and restarting may be beneficial.
Siberian ginseng is available in capsules, extracts, powders and other forms. There is no recommended dose of this herb, so talking to a medical or naturopathic doctor about dosing is advised.
Also known as: Indian Winter Cherry, Withania somnifera
Perhaps one of the most well-known adaptogenic herbs, ashwagandha is known as a rejuvenating herb in Ayurvedic medicine. The powerful herb has demonstrated its abilities to reduce stress and anxiety in a number of clinical trials.
Results from a study on subjects with a history of chronic stress published in the Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine found that ashwagandha root extract (given at a dose of 300 milligrams twice a day) was effective at improving stress. Responses to questionnaires given at both at the beginning and end of the trial indicated that subjects who had taken ashwagandha perceived their quality of life to be improved.
Ashwagandha is available in a variety of forms and dosages. Ask your doctor about the best form and dosage for you.
Karen Morse, MPH, is a freelance health and nutrition writer. In her free time, she enjoys Pilates, exploring nearby hiking trails and cooking up fresh, seasonal eats in the kitchen. Her work has appeared in Clean Eating, Weight Watchers, YouBeauty.com and others.