Adaptogens: Hormone balancing and health improving herbs

Adaptogens are unique kind of herbs which possess some remarkable abilities that can't be found in any other foods or herbs.

They can increase our resistance to physical, environmental, emotional and mental stress, without any side effects, when consumed in moderate amounts.

In other words, they help body regulate hormones, by improving function of endocrine glands which leads to hormonal balance or homeostatis.

Quite amazing, right.

While constant change is a fact of life, organism's ability to adapt to new situations is vital for its survival and well being. This also includes us, humans, while the most obvious example of this is stress.

Stress is unavoidable which makes our ability to cope with stress crucial in avoiding diseases, including heart disease and having a healthful, long and fulfilling life.

This is where adaptogenic herbs come.


Although mostly all of them have more or less beneficial effect on relieving stress, by regulating stress hormone producing glands and the limbic system, two of them are more effective then others.

Ashwagandha is the first one. I used it with great results. Ashwagandha acts on your master and the pituitary gland, by balancing their hormones such as TSH, CRH and ACTH.

Although it can be very useful in treating hyper and hypothyroidism, I will tell you about my expirience.

In one period of my life I was experiencing chronic stress and good confirmation of that where my very high ACTH and cortisol levels. At that time, I was just finding out about adaptogens. I also ordered some supplements via the internet, including Ashwagandha.

In a span of couple of months, my mood improved significantly, as my ACTH levels decreased a lot, thanks to Ashwagandha.

However, despite normal ACTH values, my cortisol levels didn't change that much. This is where the other one comes in, Rhodiola.

Rhodiola acts on the amygdala which regulates flight or fight response and thereby cortisol, adrenaline, ACTH and CRH.

Rhodiola empowers amygdala, whose resistance to stress increases which prevents unnecessary signals to hypothalamus thereby normalizing secretion of CRH. Normal levels of CRH won't raise or cause spikes in production of ACTH in the pituitary.

When CRH and ACTH are under control, so is cortisol. Therefore, less stress you experience, although outside factors remain the same.

These effects are attributed to the rosavins and salidrosides in Rhodiola as well as to withanolides in Ashwagandha.


Eleuthero, also known as Siberian ginseng isn't really a ginseng. However, it contains eleutherosides which are responsable for its benefits. Eleuthero primarily acts on your adrenal glands, by improving their efficiency and bringing them to a balanced state.

Some athletes, especially russians, are using adaptogenic herbs such as Eluthero, to improve their endurance and recovery between workouts.

Eleuthero can also boost immune system, lower the risk of cancer, help liver detoxify toxins, improve memory, learning ability as well as our resistance to stress.

Asian ginseng or Panax ginseng seems to primarily act on hypothalamus, ovaries and testes, through sex hormones, by increasing the secretion of gonadotropins.

Besides affecting sex hormone producing glands, panax ginseng also acts on the adrenal glands, immune system, brain as well as the liver and pancreas, by stabilizing blood sugar levels.

Some studies also point on its ability to prevent heart attack and reduce high cholesterol. On the other hand, asian ginseng can potentially increase blood pressure, when used on a daily basis.

American ginseng as well as its asian cousin, contains ginsenosides which are found only in real ginsengs such as these two. It shows similar effects and benefits as panax ginseng, due to its similar phytonutrient profile.

However, while asian ginseng seems to have stimulating effect, american ginseng seems to have relaxing effect on humans.

Also, both american and panax ginseng are able to increase natural production of growth hormone and testosterone, therefore improving general well-being and slowing down the aging process.

Suma or brazilian ginseng, is a relativly new addition to family of adaptogens. It contains germanium which can supposedly increase blood oxygen levels and improve our immune system.

However, germanium can be toxic, if consumed in higher amounts. Suma also contains amino acids, vitamins, other minerals besides germanium, few sterols as well as Beta-Ecdysterone which may help increase muscle mass.

Licorice is very unique, when compared to other adaptogenic herbs. Thanks to glycyrrhizic acid, it can help the body use stress hormones more efficiently, by inhibiting an enzyme responsable for "shuting down" cortisol.

This makes licorice useful in preventing and treating inflammation and auto-immune disorders. Licorice can also increase interferon which is an important part of the immune system.

Although, low doses of licorice can have beneficial effect, excessive consuption of glycyrrhizic acid can dangerously increase cortisol levels in the blood which can cause high blood pressure, arrhythmia and low potassium levels.

On the other hand, it may also lead to liver problems, weakened immune system, fatigue, headache and mood changes. Mood changes are attributed to herb's phytoestrogen content.

Astragalus is a well known herb and one of more established adaptogens with broad array of benefits. It is one of the best immune system boosters. It can increase the number and the activity of T-cells and natural killer cells.

On the other hand, it can also slow down the aging process and revitalize entire body, by stimulating the production of stem cells in the bone marrow.

Astragalus may increase growth hormone, while balancing hormonal system. It works by improving communication between the hormones and hormone-regulating chemicals. The herb has also shown useful in treating and preventing diabetes, cancer as well as heart disease.

Reishi is one of the most famous medicinal mushrooms. It can improve and modulate immune system which makes it useful in preventing and even treating several forms of cancer, besides viral and bacterial diseases.

Although, reishi affects several hormones, it seems to have the most profound effect on sex hormones, cortisol and insulin, by lowering blood sugar levels.

It prevents aromatization of testosterone into estrogen and conversion of testosterone into dihydrotestosterone which is more potent androgen.

Reishi mushroom can also protect the liver and speed up its regeneration process, inhibit platelet aggregation, reduce cholesterol and blood pressure which makes it very helpful in treating heart disease.

Schisandra is one of the most useful adaptogens which has the most profound effect on the liver, brain, immune system as well as on the endurance and cardiovascular system, thanks to lignands and schisandrins.

Lignands can help protect and regenerate the liver, by increasing glutathione. Glutathione is powerful antioxidant which is vital for healthy immune system response, detoxification as well as for synthesis and repair of DNA.

On the other hand, schizandrols are able to increase the effect of stimulants on our central nervous system. With or without stimulants, they can improve concentration, mood as well as protect the brain cells and neurons, from toxins and oxidative damage caused by stress, depression and anxiety.

Jiaogulan or Gynostemma is not very well known as other adaptogenic herbs but it possesses some unique characteristics. It can improve heart function and blood flow. It can also boost immune system, by increasing the number of powerful cellular antioxidants, natural killer cells and macrophages.

Thanks to gypenosides, jiaogulan can reduce blood pressure and glucose, improve lipid profiles, prevent tumor, increase longevity, establish homeostasis and as all adaptogens, improve our resistance to stress.

Gypenosides are very similar to ginsenosides, found in american and asian ginseng. However, they seem to exhibit stronger effect.

Maca or Peruvian Gingseng has the ability to balance several hormones, increase progesterone and DHEA levels. Progesterone is vital hormone for men and especially women's health.

It can prevent breast and prostate cancer, relieve menopause symptoms and erectile dysfunction since progesterone regulates estrogen in women and dihydrotestosterone (DHT) in men.

Maca seems to work, by regulating hypothalamus, pituary, adrenal and sex glands through hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis.

However, unlike other adaptogens, it contains glucosinolates which are also found in broccoli, brussels sprouts and cabbage that are known to cause goiter. To avoid this, don't use Maca every day and make sure that you are getting enough iodine, through your diet.

Angelica Sinensis or Dong Quai is also known as a female ginseng. It can balance estrogen and progesterone which makes it very useful in treating female problems, including menopause. The herb is even more effective when used in combination with chasteberry, also known as vitex agnus cactus or simply vitex.

While vitex also balances estrogen and progesterone, it tends to work in favour of progesterone, while angelica favours estrogen.

Pregnant women, nursing mothers as well as men and women with hormonal cancers, should stay away from angelica, due to its ability to increase estrogen.

As well as few other adaptogens, it can also increase the production of stem cells in the bone marrow and white blood cells in the lymph, thanks to polysaccharides.

Angelica can also improve blood circulation, purify the blood, strengthen the heart, inhibit platelet aggregation, by controlling blood clotting mechanisms.


If you are under a lot of stress, just take Rhodiola and Ashwagandha which will help you tremendeously. They worked for me, big time.

On the other hand, if you feel tired all the time due to lack of energy or you have weak immune system and frequent infections, then you can consider taking a blend of adaptogenic herbs.

Although I took Rhodiola and Ashwagandha individually, now I take ORAC-Energy Greens to get my dose of adaptogens. It contains most adaptogens, along with vegetables, berries and other heart healthy superfoods.

It helps me recover faster as well as keep my body and cardiovascular system in top condition. Now it comes with organic cocoa powder with chocolate taste.


These are highly effective herbs which help the body achieve the state of homeostatis. They do this, by regulating hormone producing glands such as hypothalamus, pituitary, adrenals, thyroid, testes, ovaries, pancreas as well as other glands and some hormone-producing organs such as the liver, kidneys, heart and thymus.

However, adaptogens go much further. By doing all of this, they can improve our general well-being, strength, immune system, blood sugar levels, endurance, cardiovascular system function and our resistance to stress thereby making us a better version of ourselves.

A better, faster, more powerful, smarter and healthier human being. Who wouldn't want that?!

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