Functional Nutrition Blog

Focusing on gut health and Functional nutrition

Adaptogens for Stress

May 12, 2020 | Nutrition


Used to improve sleep, reduce anxiety, improve memory, and reduce inflammation.  It is an immune booster and can be helpful in the treatment of arthritis and fertility challenges.  Has also been found to improve thyroid function.  If you have HYPO-thyroidism or Hashimotos it can help with this.  NOT appropriate if you have HYPER-thyroidism

Consider if:

  • Tired and wired
  • Struggle to fall asleep
  • Chronically achy joints or arthritis
  • Memory struggles or brain fog
  • Nervous and anxious
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, or chronic muscle tension
  • Low TSH or low thyroid hormones


  • 3-6 g/day in capsules at max
  • 500-1000 mg 2/day in capsules 
  • 1-4 mL 20-80 drops of a tincture in water /day


  • Ashwagandha is in the nightshade family, although it does not necessarily have the same effects, it is worth being cautious and consider trying another option if you have any concerns with nightshade plants or solanine
  • Not for use in pregnancy.  Avoid with sedatives or pain medications.

Holy Basil (“Tulsi”)

“The Vitalizer”
“The Vitalizer”

While related to the common Italian cooking herb, Holy Basil is not the same and cannot be substituted. Ayurvedic medicine calls this herd “Tulsi” which means “incomparable one”.  

This plant is used to improve energy, relieve fatigue, contains antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and helps lower blood glucose, triglycerides, and cholesterol.  Holy basil
Consider if:

  • Need/want a gentle tonic for mind, mood, and immunity
  • Struggle with depression, anxiety, or low mood
  • Sleeping problems
  • Would like help shifting to a new mindset/making healthy lifestyle choices
  • Struggling with mental clarity
  • Chronic inflammation
  • High blood pressure, cholesterol, or triglycerides
  • Has been used to protect the liver, nicotine withdrawal.  Related to basil that we cook with but this is not a substitute. 


  • 2-3 ml (40-60 drops) in water of tincture 3x/day


“The hormonal harmonizer. Queen of Women’s Adaptogens”
“The hormonal harmonizer.
Queen of Women’s Adaptogens”

This herb is a nourishing, calming, and hormonally balancing one for women.  It can be used for irritability and other PMS symptoms as well as those emotional symptoms experienced during menopause.  It can also be used as a fertility tonic, sleep problems, and perimenopause.  Suggested benefits from research also include immunity boosting benefits, antioxidant activity, improved insulin secretion, reduction in gastric acidity, and prevention of stress ulcers.

Consider if:

  • Need rejuvenation, balance, and calm
  • Hormonal imbalances including PMS, fertility, or menopausal problems


  • 2-4 ml (40-80 drops) in water 2-3/day


  • Avoid if you have a history of estrogen-receptor positive cancer.


“Calming the spirit and invigorating the mind”
“Calming the spirit and invigorating the mind”

Rhodiola is used for focus, mental and physical stamina, to improve sleep, reduces stress, burnout and irritability, immune support, for decreasing colds and infections, and reducing inflammation. It can also be used for chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia.  This herb can be especially valuable if you have a lot of cognitive work to do and thinking/high demand on brain function (particularly if this causes you anxiety or stress).

Consider if:   

  • Stressed and anxious
  • Need better focus and concentration
  • Regularly experience stress-related headaches
  • Seem to catch every cold that goes around
  • Always tired
  • Usually feel overwhelmed and jangled


  • 200-400 mg in capsules
  • 2-3 ml (40-60 drops) of tincture in water 2-3x/day
  • Use products standardized to 2-3% rosavin and .8-1% salidroside


  •  Avoid if you have bipolar depression with manic behavior or those who get very agitated.


“The performance and focuser booster”
“The performance and focuser booster”

Eleuthero falls on the more stimulating end of the adaptogen spectrum.  It can lead to or aggravate insomnia in SOME but not always.  Many find it helpful to use this herb before noon to help offset the potential for sleep disruption.  That being said, Eleuthero COULD also help with sleep, especially sleep disruptions from vivid dreaming.  

One of the most well-researched, this adaptogen is used to increase mental alertness/performance, enhance concentration, increase energy and stamina, reduce stress, fatigue, and dream-disrupted sleep/insomnia.  It is also used to enhance immunity and improve detoxification.  Additionally, Eleuthero is anabolic – indicating that it helps build muscle and prevent breakdown with aging.

Consider if:

  • No energy to exercise even though I know I should
  • Can’t seem to focus on tasks or concentrate on anything
  • Get sick too often
  • Feel stressed and tired


  • 2-3 g of dried root in capsule/day
  • 2-4 mL of tincture in water 2-3x/day


  • This is not for you if you have high blood pressure or for those who have insomnia

Always check with your medical provider, especially if you are on other medications, to let them know you are interested in using an adaptogen and ask if there is any reason you shouldn’t be.

This information is a review of Dr. Aviva Romm’s. For more information and for her recommended products visit:

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