Adaptogenic herbs help you adapt to stress or a changing environment. An adaptogen works by helping the body adapt to environmental and internal stress, usually by strengthening the immune system, glandular system and/or nervous system. It serves as a general tonic for all systems Adaptogens are stress adapting herbs that help the body cope with internal stresses such as anxiety and external stresses such as toxins in the environment.

Adaptogenic Herbs:

  • Ashwagandha (Withania Somnifera)
  • Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus)
  • Ginseng (Panax ginseng)
  • Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra)
  • Maca (Lepidium myeenii)
  • Nettle (Urtica dioica)
  • Oats (Avena sativa)
  • Reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum)
  • Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea)
  • Sarsaparilla (Smilax Ornata)
Dr. Robyn Klein writes that, three herbal properties: adaptogenic, alterative and tonic – have no equivalent in modern medicine, most likely because the underlying strategies of conventional medicine are different from those in herbal medicine. While modern medicine focuses on inhibition and suppression, herbal medicine emphasizes the body’s own natural processes. Adaptogenic herbs support the body’s capacity to adapt to stress. Alterative herbs promote the body’s normal secretory and eliminative processes. And tonic herbs are used to strengthen (tone) the body.
In this video, herbalist David Hoffmann discusses adaptogenic herbs, including ginseng, rhodiola, oats, reishi and shiitake.

“An adaptogen is a botanical that greatly improves your body’s ability to adapt to stress, whether it’s a hectic schedule, heat or cold, noise, high altitudes or any number of other stressors. This elite class of herbs impart strength, energy, stamina, endurance, and improve mental clarity.”

— Chris Kilham (Oprah & Friends)


  1. Mary Koithan, PhD, RN-C, CNS-BC, Associate Professor
  2. Kathryn Niemeyer, MSN, RN, FNP-BC, Doctoral student, T-32 predoctoral fellow
  3. Roberts AT, Jonge-Levitan L, Parker CC, Greenway FL. The effect of an herbal supplement containing black tea and caffeine on metabolic parameters in humans. Alternative Med Rev. 2005;10(4):321–325.
  4. Hoffmann D. Medical herbalism. Healing Arts Press; Rochester, VT: 2003. pp. 483–521.
  5. Ganora L. Herbal constituent. Herbalchem Press; Louisville, CO: 2009. p. 65.p. 102.
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