Best Adaptogens for Stress Relief and Balance | Botanic Tonics

Best Adaptogens for Stress Relief and Balance | Botanic Tonics

Reviewed by Jamal Bouie

Best Adaptogens for Stress Relief and Balance

Adaptogenic plants have been used traditionally in India, China, Korea, and Japan for thousands of years and are known to improve resistance to stress through a process that normalizes stress related hormones. There are many adaptogenic plants that grow naturally in the world including, but not limited to, Ginseng, Rhodiola, Ashwagandha, Cordyceps, and Kava, which have become widely available in supplements, capsules, tonics, and powders. With the variety of adaptogenic products on the market, it is important to understand how they work, how to use them safely, and what benefits they offer. 

What are Adaptogens?

The concept of adaptogens is now more than 60 years old and has been thoroughly reviewed in relation to physiology, pharmacology, toxicology, and potential uses in medicine.[3] Adaptogens have a very complex definition and the mechanism of action has proven to be difficult to determine using typical concepts of pharmacology. With that being said however, adaptogens have been defined as stress-response modifiers that increase an organism’s nonspecific resistance to stress by increasing its ability to adapt and survive.[3] But what exactly does that mean? 

As the body’s goal is to constantly reach a state of homeostasis, regulating fluctuations of hormones in response to external or internal factors can be difficult, especially in more extreme scenarios. Having this context can help to better understand the effects of adaptogens in helping the body regulate through molecular targets and signaling pathways. While the mechanism of action is not specific, it is understood that adaptogens work by protecting the body from stress through altering hormone release, specifically related to cortisol.[3] Consequently, adaptogens can have beneficial effects against chronic inflammation, cognitive impairment, metabolic disorders, cancer, and other aging related diseases that are typically caused by what would be more extreme bodily responses to stress.[3]

Are Adaptogens Safe to Use?

Adaptogens have been used safely over a wide variety of dosages, even with repeated use over several months. When consuming adaptogens, it is important to remember that dosages will vary depending on the type of plant you are consuming and the way you are consuming it – as either a capsule, powder, or extract. At normal doses, adaptogens are generally safe with minimal side-effects, however, depending on the adaptogen, side-effects could include changes in blood pressure, blood sugar, and immune response.[4] 

While most people will be able to use adaptogens for stress relief, speak to a medical professional if you:[4]

  • Have diabetes
  • Are pregnant
  • Are currently taking thyroid medication
  • Are currently taking antidepressants 
  • Have high blood pressure
  • Have any cardiovascular complications
  • Have any autoimmune disease

How Stress Manifests in the Body

Stress is “the nonspecific response to the body to any demand”, as defined by Hans Selye, the founder of stress theory.[1] In today’s world, about 40% of adults claim to experience high quantities of worries or stress, which in small doses is okay, but when stress becomes chronic, it can lead to the imbalance of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and elevated cortisol levels.[1] These imbalances can lead to further health complications like mental disorders, cognitive impairment, cardiovascular diseases, and reduced immune response which can dramatically affect your daily life. 

Identifying early signs of chronic stress and keeping a consistent gauge of the psychological and physical stressors that are playing an active role in your life can mean the difference between avoiding chronic stress and being fatigued by it. Increased stress levels can typically be identified by feelings of aches and pains, insomnia, sleepiness, changes in social behavior, low energy, fatigue, cloudy thinking, inability to focus, changes in appetite, and emotional withdrawal.[2] If any of these symptoms start to affect you, it might be time to make specific dietary changes, lifestyle changes, or try adding adaptogen supplements to your routine to alleviate stress and decrease cortisol levels. For more on natural remedies for adrenal fatigue, read our guide.

Which Adaptogens are Beneficial for Relieving Occasional Stress and Anxiety?

With the wide variety of adaptogenic plants in the market it is easy to be overwhelmed by the many options and potential benefits of each one. When looking specifically for occasional stress relief, there are a few common adaptogens that are more likely to get the job done. 


Kava kava is an adaptogen that has been used for thousands of years as a ceremonial drink in the Pacific Islands. Kava is known for its kavalactones which are effective in providing a calming and relaxed feeling.[5] Its calming effect has also been linked to reduction of occasional stress and occasional anxiety.[6] If you are thinking about adding kava into your routine, it is important to be aware of potential effects that prolonged consumption can have on your liver as well as the potential interactions with other prescription medications.[6] Do not use kava if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.[6]


Rhodiola rosea, or golden root, has been used for centuries for its ability to improve physical strength and endurance, decrease the cortisol response to stress, improve fatigue and mental fog, and regulate mood instability.[4] Along with its adaptogenic characteristics, rhodiola has also been known for its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and cancer minimizing properties as well. Rhodiola can be consumed as a tea with a proper serving size of 1 tsp rhodiola root seeped in water, but there are many products on the market that also include rhodiola as an extract or powder. When consuming rhodiola products, always be careful of the designated serving size and potential interactions with antidepressant medications.[4]


Sometimes referred to as Indian Ginseng because of its adaptogenic properties, Ashwagandha has been used traditionally in Indian culture for centuries. With the Sanskrit translation “sweat of a horse”, the smell of its roots have been likened to the smell of a wet horse. Despite getting its namesake from a horse though, its popularity has come from its natural calming effect. For those who feel fatigued during the day but have a hard time sleeping at night, Ashwagandha can be helpful in finding a sense of calm later in the day, which can roll into better sleep throughout the night.[4] Ashwagandha can be consumed as a tea with 1 tsp of powdered root seeped into hot water, or it can also be consumed as a capsule or extract in which case the dosage is specific to the product.[4]


Despite now being grown in lab settings, cordyceps is a fungal parasite that was originally found on caterpillars in the high mountains of China. It is primarily known for its immune-boosting properties, however, it can also be beneficial for improving quality of life and cellular immunity.[4] By providing an additional layer of immune defense, cordyceps can be effective in reducing the body’s hormonal response to physical stressors like the cold or flu or even more extreme conditions like cancer. A daily dose of 3mg of fermented cordyceps or the equivalent depending on the type of dietary supplement you choose to consume could have a great impact on your immune system and stress response.[4]

How to Use Adaptogens to Lower Stress

Adaptogens target multiple receptors including, but not limited to, corticosteroid, mineralocorticoid, progestin, estrogen, and serotonin and are therefore effective in supporting the body’s ability to cope with stress.[3] With the numerous adaptogenic herbs on the market, these functional plants are easy to add to any routine. These herbal supplements typically come in capsules or powders that can be mixed into tea, soup, smoothies, or other foods.

Recommended Doses and Routines for Stress Relief

While adaptogens are easy to add to your routine, there are a few things to keep in mind as you try new supplements for the first time. With each product and different type of adaptogen, the correct dosage will be slightly different due to the concentration of the active ingredients and the differing effects of each plant. Always check the packaging for the correct dosage and maximum daily amount, and be sure to stick to those recommendations. 

If you currently take any other prescription medications, it is best to work with your healthcare professional before adding any adaptogens to your routine as there can be certain interactions. If adaptogens are not advised by your healthcare professional, there is a chance that you can work together to find a safe herbal supplement and dosage.[7] Along with adaptogens, there are many other steps you can take to lower stress through diet, lifestyle changes, and sleep routines. 

Beyond Adaptogens: Practical Steps to Lower Stress

A healthy diet is key to providing your body with nutrients that support a healthy immune system and provide the energy needed to cope with stress. Certain foods like polyunsaturated fats such as omega-3 and vegetables may also help to regulate cortisol levels.[8] Certain aspects of lifestyle can also come with the benefits of lowering stress. Prioritizing regular exercise can help to lower stress hormones and blood pressure – especially aerobic exercise, which increases the flow of oxygen to cells and decreases tension in muscles, including the heart. 

Depending on what your day to day routine looks like, incorporating daily meditation, deep breathing exercises, or mental health counseling can also have an extremely positive impact on stress levels. Improving work-life balance, creating time for yourself to enjoy a hobby, or engaging more with certain social groups that improve your mood are a few other things you can try during times of stress.[8] Lastly, having a consistent sleep routine is essential to regulating stress levels – aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night and incorporate a 30 minute slow down period prior to sleeping that can improve quality of sleep each night.[8]

Experience Relief from Occasional Stress with Botanic Tonics

While many factors are at play when considering stress management, it is important to focus on eating a healthy diet, maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, getting regular exercise, and finding a sense of calm through meditation, deep breathing, or participating in a hobby. For extra support, adaptogens can be a great addition to your routine as well! With their ability to regulate hormones, adaptogens help your body to better cope with stress. Whether you are looking to improve your overall resistance to stress, improve focus during meditation, or handle certain moments of heightened stress, adaptogens are here to help. For an easy supplement, try feel free kava tonics which are made with kava and other adaptogenic plants designed to improve mood, enhance energy and focus, and deliver a sense of calm that can help to mitigate occasional stress.* 

Ready to take on those stressful moments with a bit more support? Try Botanic Tonics feel free tonics.


  1. The effect of adaptogenic plants on stress: A systematic review and meta-analysis Science Direct 2023 
  2. Chronic Stress Yale Medicine 
  3. Understanding adaptogenic activity: specificity o the pharmacological action of adaptogens and other phytochemicals The New York Acadamy of Sciences 2017 
  4. Adaptogens Whole Health Library 
  5. Adaptogens and Nootropics: The Future of Mood Food Fortification Glanbia Nutritionals 2023
  6. Herbal treatment for anxiety: Is it effective? 
  7. What are adaptogens and should you be taking them? UCLA Health 2022
  8. The nutrition source: Stress and Health Harvard School of Public Health

About The Author

Jamal Bouie Botanic Tonic

Jamal Bouie

Jamal Bouie is an accomplished professional with a Bachelor’s Degree in Chemistry from Lemoyne-Owen College in Memphis. Currently, he is pursuing his PhD in Biomedicine at Salus University. Jamal has worked in several industries; he began his career in pharmaceutical manufacturing and transitioned to the cannabis industry, where he specialized in analytical testing and manufacturing, playing a vital role in ensuring product safety and compliance. Now, Jamal has turned his attention to the dietary supplement field, combining his scientific acumen with his passion for health and wellness.

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