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Judging by the sheer number of new Starbucks and Gregg’s bakeries that are popping up all over the place you would agree that clearly caffeine and sugar is what many people are using to fight back stress and fatigue (of course there are other reasons too).  Sugar and caffeine do offer a quick lift, but the crash is never late to follow – so it’s back to Starbucks to start the cycle again, turning your day into a rollercoaster ride of highs and lows. Luckily, there are healthier ways to get through the day – and one of my personal favourites is with “adaptogens,” which are special herbs that help our body adapt to stress and resist fatigue. Here’s my adaptogens in a nutshell guide:


Adaptogens are an exceptional group of herbal ingredients which can be used to improve the health of your adrenal system, which is in charge of managing the body’s hormonal response to stress. They aid to strengthen the body’s response to stress and enhance its ability to cope with anxiety and fight fatigue – slowly and gently, without shocks or crashes. They’re called adaptogens because of their special ability to “adapt” their function according to the body’s specific needs. Though the effects may initially be subtle and take time to materialise, they’re real and undisputable.

Unlike modern medications adaptogens have been used in Chinese and Indian Ayurvedic medicine for centuries, as energy boosters and resilience in the face of stress and anxiety.  Recently, several studies have found supporting evidence to what those of us in the wholistic wellness field already knew – that adaptogens offer positive benefits —and unlike conventional medications they are safe for extended use.


Adaptogens work quite similarly to a thermostat. When the thermostat senses that the temperature is too high it brings it down; when the temperature is too low it brings it up. Adaptogens can calm you down and boost your energy at the same time without over stimulating. They can normalise physiological imbalances. By supporting adrenal function, they offset the adverse effects of stress.  They enable the body’s cells to access more energy; help cells eliminate toxic by-products of the metabolic process and help the body use oxygen more efficiently. In short, adaptogens are nature’s wonder.


When it comes to selecting which adaptogens to use, I prefer a combination of adaptogenic herb formulas and the adaptogens I regard as most important include Asian Ginseng, Eleuthero, Ashwagandha and Rhodiola Rosea. Depending on personal needs and physical condition – consult your doctor before taking any herbs and see cautions below – you can take these adaptogens individually or in a combination formula such as these. When buying a formula, look for one that has at least 3 of the above adaptogens and make sure it has some Rhodiola in it. Don’t forget to consult your healthcare professional first to get the all clear before you start.


Asian Ginseng

For thousands of years, Asian Ginseng has been one of the most valued as well as expensive medicinal plants in the world. It’s believed to affect the body by influencing metabolism within individual cells, and it has been studied extensively for its capability to aid the body endure stress and anxiety. Western herbalists say that it restores and strengthens the immune response, promotes longevity, and enhances the growth of normal cells. Research indicates that it promotes a sense of well-being and may protect against certain types of cancer.

Dose: 100-200 mg per day of a standardised extract. Most standardised ginseng extracts supply approximately 4-7% ginsenosides. Or 1-2 grams per day of the dried, powdered root, usually taken in gelatine capsules.

Warning: At the recommended dose, ginseng is generally considered to be harmless. Occasionally it may cause agitation, palpitations or insomnia. Consuming large amounts of caffeine with large amounts of ginseng may increase the risk of over-stimulation and gastrointestinal trouble. If you have high blood pressure, your blood pressure should be monitored when taking it.  Ginseng is not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women.



It 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 recovering after illness. Western herbalists note that it improves memory, feelings of well-being and can lift mild depression.

Dose: 2-3 grams per day of the dried root.

Warning: As with Asian ginseng, Eleuthero is generally safe. But occasionally it has been associated with agitation, palpitations or insomnia in patients with cardiovascular disorders. If you suffer from hypertension, your blood pressure should be monitored when taking it. It is generally not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women, even though limited research hasn’t turned up evidence of harmful effects in the foetus.



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, promotes longevity, and strengthens the immune system.  It is often recommend for people suffering from hypertension, insomnia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and impotence associated with anxiety or exhaustion. It enhances the functionality of the endocrine system, especially the thyroid and adrenals. Ayurvedic healers have long prescribed the herb to treat exhaustion brought on by both physical and mental pressure.  You can find my suggested product here

Dose: 3–6 grams per day of the dried root

Warning: Avoid during pregnancy or if you are taking sedatives or if you have severe gastric irritation or ulcers. Additionally, people who are sensitive to the nightshade group of plants should be cautious.


Rhodiola Rosea

This adaptogen acts like a hormone thermostat, especially as it pertains to cortisol, one of the main stress hormones. It is thought that cortisol, which is secreted in sync with our circadian rhythms is usually, if not always, out of whack when we are stressed out and exhausted. This means the cortisol level is either too high when it should be low or not high enough when we require more. Getting the cortisol back in rhythm when it is compromised is crucial and Rhodiola literally helps balance the cortisol levels in the body, raising or lowering it as needed. In addition, Rhodiola has shown a remarkable ability to support cellular energy metabolism. It has positive effect on brain function, depression, and heart health. Most individuals who take Rhodiola start feeling its effects within a few weeks to a month.

Dose: 200 to 600 mg per day of a Rhodiola Rosea extract standardised to contain 2-3% rosavins and 0.8-1% salidroside. Or 2-3 grams per day of the non-standardised root.

Warning: Avoid if you suffer from manic depression or are bipolar. Rhodiola is not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women. Rarely, high dosage of Rhodiola can cause insomnia.


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