Adaptogen-ing to Stress – Top Four Herbs for Stress Management
Stress – we all have it, but for some, it’s a persistent issue that can wreak havoc on multiple (and many) body systems. One system that often feels the brunt of the burden is the digestive tract.
With proper stress management being a key to healing the gut before detox, we turned to our Aisle 7 database for a closer look at adaptogenic herbs, a botanical category often associated with increasing the body’s resistance to stress and normalizing physiological function, and which ones best support better well-being.
Belonging to the pepper family, ashwagandha is found in India and Africa, with the root of the plant being used for medicinal purposes. Animal studies have suggested that ashwagandha may be helpful for reducing the effects of stress,1,2,3 including chronic psychological stress.4 In a double-blind study of people experiencing chronic stress, supplementation with 300 mg per day of a concentrated ashwagandha extract for 60 days significantly decreased perceived stress, compared with a placebo.5
Eleuthero belongs to the Araliaceae family and is a distant relative of Asian ginseng. Animal research has reported anti-stress effects of Eleutherococcus senticosus (also known as Siberian ginseng),13 and Russian research describes human studies showing similar effects in humans.14,15 A double-blind study of healthy elderly people reported that those who took 60 drops per day of an eleuthero liquid extract (concentration not specified) scored higher in some quality-of-life measures after four weeks, compared with a group taking placebo.
Asian ginseng is a member of the Araliaceae family, commonly grown on mountain slopes. Some studies have suggested that Asian ginseng can enhance feelings of well-being in elderly people with age-associated memory impairment,6 nurses working night shifts,7 or people with diabetes.8 In a double-blind trial, people taking a daily combination of a multivitamin-mineral supplement (MVM) with 40 mg of ginseng extract (standardized for 4% ginsenosides) for 12 weeks reported greater improvements in quality of life measured with a questionnaire compared with a group taking only MVM.9
While there are upwards of 50 species of rhodiloa, it is the fragrant root of the species Rhodiola rosea that is used medicinally. In a double-blind study, 100 mg per day of standardized rhodiola extract was given to medical students during a stressful exam period. Those taking the extract reported a better sense of general well-being and performed better on tests of mental and psychomotor performance.10 Another double-blind study of military cadets performing a 24-hour duty showed that 370 to 555 mg of rhodiola extract per day significantly reduced mental fatigue, as measured by several performance tasks.11 Another double-blind trial confirmed the effectiveness of rhodiola for the treatment of stress-related fatigue.12
While these herbs help support the body’s ability to handle stress, it is important to include other stress relieving strategies into any protocol, including adequate sleep, exercise and proper diet as well as mind-body medicine.
For more information on stress and the herbs mentioned here, please visit our Aisle 7 database, located in the clinical resources section of our practitioner resource center (must be logged in to your Emerson Ecologics account to access).
- Bhattacharya S, Goel R, Kaur R, Ghosal S. Anti-stress activity of sitoindosides VII and VIII, new acylsterylglucosides from Withania somnifera. Phytother Res 1987;1:32-39.
- Grandhi A, Mujumdar AM, Patwardhan B. A comparative pharmacological investigation of Ashwagandha and Ginseng. J Ethnopharmacol 1994;44:131-5.
- Dhuley JN. Effect of ashwagandha on lipid peroxidation in stress-induced animals. J Ethnopharmacol1998;60:173-8.
- Bhattacharya SK, Muruganandam AV. Adaptogenic activity of Withania somnifera: an experimental study using a rat model of chronic stress. Pharmacol Biochem Behav 2003;75:547-55.
- Sotaniemi EA, Haapakoski E, Rautio A. Ginseng therapy in non-insulin-dependent diabetic patients. Diabetes Care 1995;18:1373-5.
- Caso Mardsco A, Vargas Ruiz R, Salas Villagomez A, Begona Infante C. Double-blind study of a multivitamin complex supplemented with ginseng extract. Drugs Exp Clin Res 1996;22:323-9.
- Spasov AA, Wikman GK, Mandrikov VB, et al. A double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study of the stimulating and adaptogenic effect of Rhodiola rosea SHR-5 extract on the fatigue of students caused by stress during an examination period with a repeated low-dose regimen. Phytomedicine 2000;7:85-9.
- Shevtsov VA, Zholus BI, Shervarly VI, et al. A randomized trial of two different doses of a SHR-5 Rhodiola rosea extract versus placebo and control of capacity for mental work. Phytomedicine 2003;10:95-105.
- Olsson EMG, von Scheele B, Panossian AG. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group study of the standardized extract shr-5 of the roots of Rhodiola rosea in the treatment of subjects with stress-related fatigue. Planta Med 2009;75:105-12.
- Deyama T, Nishibe S, Nakazawa Y. Constituents and pharmacological effects of Eucommia and Siberian ginseng. Acta Pharmacol Sin 2001;22:1057-70 [review].
- Brekhman II, Dardymov IV. New substances of plant origin which increase nonspecific resistance. Annu Rev Pharmacol 1969;9:419-30 [review].