6 Best Adaptogenic Herbs That Lower Cortisol Levels


Adaptogenic herbs like Korean red ginseng should be a staple in any stress-busting regimen as they lower cortisol levels to give you relief from stress.

To look and feel younger, to be healthy and reduce adrenal fatigue, it’s important to get your cortisol levels balanced. Korean red ginseng, ashwagandha, and holy basil are among the best adaptogenic herbs that lower cortisol levels.

The adrenal glands in the human body produce cortisol, a steroid hormone that is important for regularized organic functions. A correct balance of cortisol in the body controls blood pressure and reduces inflammation. Cortisol increases the body’s metabolism of glucose, and is required for the fight or flight response which is the body’s natural response to perceived threats.

After the threat or the stressful situation passes, cortisol levels are supposed to return to normal. But the high-stress through which people undergo these days, cortisol levels tend to remain elevated all the time. Too much of circulating cortisol can lead to several health problems. Overproduction of cortisol burns out your adrenal glands leading to adrenal fatigue, which opens up a whole host of other problems.

Elevated cortisol levels negatively impact the immune system. It leads to poor short-term memory, constipation, weight gain, especially in the midriff, osteoporosis, loss of muscle tone, and a reduction in the production of DHEA, growth hormone, estrogen, and testosterone. High cortisol levels contribute to diabetes, increases the risk of heart disease, and drains energy levels.

The Power of Adaptogens

There are several methods to combat stress: meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, and so on. Try to include such strategies to reduce your stress levels while supplementing with adaptogens. Adaptogens are among the best natural remedies for combating stress.

Adaptogens are a unique class of herbs that help you to respond to stress by recharging your adrenal glands and decreasing cellular sensitivity to stress. Panax Ginseng is a powerful adaptogen that has potent health benefits. Adaptogens were first defined in 1947 by Dr. Nikolai Vasilyevich as ”agents which help an organism to counteract any adverse effects of a physical, chemical, or biological stressor by generating nonspecific resistance.”

Here are the 6 best adaptogenic herbs that lower cortisol levels:
1. Ginseng

Ginseng is one of the best-known adaptogens that aid the human body in adapting to stress. It is called the king of adaptogenic herbs. Ginseng helps to boost mental function, lower blood pressure, and stabilize blood sugar levels. This powerful root has both antioxidant effects and antidepressant effects.

Ginseng is widely studied as a herbal remedy for a variety of ailments. South Korea alone publishes more than a hundred research papers on properties of ginseng, annually.
Of the different ginseng varieties, true ginseng, namely Panax or Korean red ginseng is considered the most potent. “Panax” which means “panacea” or “cure-all,” and ginseng is one plant that seems to truly live up to its name.

Studies have proven that the ginsenosides, the main bioactive component in ginseng, improve mood, sleep, energy, sexual function, immunity, and cognitive performance. Ginseng lowers the levels of corticosterone which in turn improves mental clarity and memory. In the long run, lowered cortisol levels reduce the risk of age-related mental disorders. Ginsenosides block the free radical attack and ensure normal blood circulation in the brain areas to drive away stress and depression. Red Panax ginseng extract also aids in reducing inflammation.

For maximum effectiveness, you need to start a ginseng diet. Korean red ginseng is available in raw and dried forms. Make yourself a cup of ginseng tea in the morning as it is a great stimulator. It’s not only a mental energy provider but also a physical strength booster. Best ginseng can be taken in the form of tea, power, tonic, capsules, and also as a part of a recipe.

2. Holy Basil

Holy basil, also known as tulsi, is a popular herb in Indian Ayurvedic treatments. It is called the “elixir of anti-ageing.” Tulsi literally means “the incomparable one and is one of the most revered plants in India.

This powerful herb has antioxidant compounds that help scavenge free radicals which cause oxidative damage in the human body. Tulsi improves mood by stabilizing cortisol levels. It has immune boosting properties, helps fight fatigue and stress while aiding the regulation of blood glucose and blood pressure levels. Studies have found that holy basil reduces stress hormone levels, especially corticosterone.

It is most easy to consume holy basil in supplement form. Another option is to buy holy basil tea packets and brew tea from it. If you can get the seeds, this is one herb that grows easily in temperate climates. But it’s widely used in making many medicinal preparations. Italian basil or sweet basil can’t be substituted for holy basil.

3. Ashwagandha

Often referred to as Indian ginseng, Ashwagandha is a popular ingredient in Ayurvedic medicines as it not only regulates the immune system but also eases anxiety by lowering cortisol levels. Its adaptogenic properties are effective in stress management.

Scientifically called Withania Somnifera, this medicinal plant is believed to prevent heart disease and promote longevity. A study by the Department of Neuropsychiatry and Geriatric Psychiatry, Asha Hospital, India recorded that “a high-concentration full-spectrum Ashwagandha root extract safely and effectively improves an individual’s resistance towards stress and thereby improves self-assessed quality of life.”

Have a stress-busting drink with one to six grams of ashwagandha powder mixed with warm milk and honey, every morning. Ashwagandha is also available in capsule form at many health stores.

4. Astragalus Root

The roots of Astragalus, which belongs to the legume family, is used in Chinese medicine to boosts immunity and reduce stress. It is believed to provide stress relief by reducing the ability of stress hormones to bind to their receptors. It is also said to encourage the body’s production of anti-stress compounds required to repair and prevent stress-related damage.

The active ingredients in Astragalus Root are its saponins, flavonoids, and polysaccharides. All these compounds are known for their health-promoting benefits, including anti-inflammatory powers, antimicrobial and antioxidative properties.

Astragalus root can be purchased as a liquid extract or in capsule form.

5. Rhodiola

Rhodiola is a popular adaptogenic herb reported to be used by elite athletes, Russian cosmonauts and military personnel to improve their endurance, concentration, and strength. The adaptogenic powers of Rhodiola were a guarded state secret till the Cold War ended.

It is also called the Arctic root making it obvious that it is found mostly in cold regions of the world. Rhodiola is used both in traditional Chinese and Scandinavian medicine as it has the ability to ward off fatigue and exhaustion due to stress. It is also believed to increase physical stamina thus preventing people from getting stressed out easily. Rhodiola is said to be used by the Vikings to preserve their physical robustness.

Salidroside, a phytochemical in Rhodiola helps relieve anxiety and combat ageing. Regular intake of Rhodiola is said to increase levels of stress-resistant proteins and suppress the production of cortisol. It also has beneficial antioxidants that improve immune function.

6. Mushrooms

Nutrition-rich mushrooms like Cordyceps, shiitake, maitake, and reishi are fun guses with abundant antioxidant properties. They have been found to have adaptogenic and immune-enhancing properties.

Curiously, cordyceps is really a fungus that grows on a particular type of caterpillars in China’s mountainous regions. So they are also called Caterpillar fungus or Caterpillar mushrooms. Thankfully, they can be easily grown in the lab to be made into supplements. Cordyceps are taken as a stimulant and an adaptogen, to reduce fatigue and stress, and to increase energy and stamina.


Getting adequate rest, staying active, eating nutritious foods, writing down what you’re grateful for and maintaining a social connection with positive people are some actions that help deal and overcome stress.

Chronic stress resulting from elevated cortisol levels affect every physiological and psychological system in the human body. Adaptogens like Korean red ginseng, holy basil, etc are among nature’s best remedies to balance and restore the body. These adaptogenic herbs not only improve your mental and physical performance, but they also increase your capacity to deal with stress.


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