The following are four adaptogen herbs I consider most important. You can take these adaptogens individually or in a combination formula (like my Be Well Adaptogens) but be sure to consult a doctor before you start taking them and pay attention to the cautions I've listed below.
For thousands of years, Asian Ginseng has been one of the most valued (and most expensive) medicinal plants in the world. It has been studied extensively for its ability to help the body withstand stress and is believed to influence metabolism within individual cells. Western herbalists say that it restores and strengthens the body’s immune response, promotes longevity, and enhances the growth of normal cells.
Recommended dose: 100 to 200 mg per day of a standardized extract — most standardized ginseng extracts supply approximately 4 to 7% ginsenosides. Or 1 to 2 grams per day of the dried, powdered root, usually taken in gelatin capsules.
Caution: Ginseng is generally safe at the recommended dose, but occasionally it may cause agitation, palpitations or insomnia. Consuming large amounts of caffeine with large amounts of ginseng may increase the risk of overstimulation and gastrointestinal upset. If you have high blood pressure, your blood pressure should be monitored when taking it. Ginseng is not recommended for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Eleuthero is used in traditional Chinese medicine for muscle spasms, joint pain, insomnia, and fatigue. In Germany, its use is approved for chronic fatigue syndrome, impaired concentration, and convalescing after illness. Western herbalists note that it improves memory, feelings of well-being and can lift mild depression.
Recommended dose: 2 to 3 grams per day of the dried root.
Caution: As with Asian Ginseng, Eleuthero is generally safe, but has occasionally been associated with agitation, palpitations or insomnia in patients with cardiovascular disorders. If you have high blood pressure, your blood pressure should be monitored when taking it. I generally don’t recommend it for pregnant or breastfeeding women, even though limited research shows no evidence of harmful effects on the fetus.
Ashwagandha has been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic medicine. Like Asian Ginseng, ashwagandha is used to help increase vitality, energy, endurance and stamina, promote longevity, and strengthen the immune system. Today, herbalists often recommend it for people with high blood pressure, insomnia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and impotence associated with anxiety or exhaustion. It's been shown to enhance endocrine function, especially in the thyroid and adrenals. Ayurvedic healers have long prescribed the herb to treat exhaustion brought on by both physical and mental strain.
Recommended dose: 3 to 6 grams per day of the dried root
Caution: Avoid if you're pregnant, taking sedatives, or have severe gastric irritation or ulcers. People who are sensitive to the nightshade group of plants (i.e. potatoes, eggplant, tomatoes and peppers) should be careful when taking Ashwagandha as well.
Rhodiola helps raise and lower the cortisol levels in your body as needed. What’s more, Rhodiola has demonstrated a remarkable ability to support cellular energy metabolism and positively affect brain function, depression, and heart health. In my experience, most patients who take rhodiola start feeling better within a few weeks to a month.
Recommended dose: 200 to 600 mg per day of a Rhodiola rosea extract standardized to contain 2 to 3% rosavins and 0.8 to 1% salidroside. Or 2 to 3 grams per day of the non-standardized root.
Caution: Avoid if you have manic depression or are bipolar. Rhodiola is not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women. Although it’s unusual, rhodiola can cause insomnia at high doses.