ADAPTAGENS: The Miracle Stress Fighters for Adrenal Health

Most of us are pushing the envelope of life day and night. We are going to bed late and getting up early. We are attached to our smart phones and I Pads, running kids to every conceivable activity, working long hours, enduring family challenges, arguing with our spouses or bosses and eating less than optimal meals.

We think we can get away with all of this because, of course, we are “healthy,” but there are tiny glands that sit on top of our kidneys that would beg to differ. These glands are called the Adrenal glands and they are our body’s primary “shock absorbers.” They produce hormones like DHEA, norepinephrine and cortisol which all allow our bodies to respond to daily life stresses in a healthy way.

Cortisol is an essential hormone that allows us to tolerate periodic stress like an illness. When we are constantly “pushing the life envelope,” we experience chronic stress. This causes cortisol to remain too high for too long. Many detrimental effects happen. High cortisol levels result in kidney damage, elevated blood sugar levels, loss of bone density, muscle wasting, weight gain (especially around the abdomen), depression, immune system impairment and increased vulnerability to disease.

That’s the short list and it isn’t pretty. Unfortunately, many of my patients come to me with high cortisol levels and have been told by conventional medicine that there is nothing wrong with them.

Adrenals are rarely treated unless the patient presents with a major adrenal disease like Cushing’s or Addison’s Disease. There are scores of people who have neither, but instead have adrenal dysfunction.

The good news is that there are ways of preventing and treating adrenal dysfunction. These adrenal healers include whole food nutrition, nourishing rest, herbs, managing stress and finding more enjoyment in life.

Because adrenal health is so crucial for every person who carries a pulse, I am going to address each one of these adrenal healers in subsequent articles.  This paper will address adrenal herbs that specifically are called Adaptagens.

What are Adaptagens?

Adaptagens are herbs that have been harvested for thousands of years, but came to the forefront in the 1960’s when they were used extensively on Russian cosmonauts to aid them in withstanding the stress of space flight.

How do Adaptagens work?

These herbs work in non-specific ways to increase resistance to physical, emotional, chemical and biological stress without disturbing normal biological functions. They protect the adrenal glands and specifically keep cortisol at a normal level.

Although they create greater energy in the body, it is a different kind of energy than from caffeine or stimulants. Adaptagens work on the cellular level instead of just in the nervous system so the energy feels like it is coming from inside of you instead of from a substance.

What specific Adaptagens should I take?

There are 16 known Adaptagens that can be taken singularly or in a complex. When they are combined, they work synergistically with one another for an even greater effect. Most of these herbs have no side effects, but two raise blood pressure so it is important to work with a qualified practitioner when using them.

There are many adaptagen adrenal formulas on the market and after researching the manufacturing practices and the purity of the product, I chose Gaia Professional Solutions Adrenal Support for my patients. There are certainly other excellent formulas. Gaia is my foundation formula. I ascertain their specific needs and many times add a single herb for more effectiveness.

All the Adaptagens are not listed, but here are my favorites and their benefits:


Numerous soviet as well as American studies, including  a  2002 review in HerbalGram, the journal of the American Botanical Council, reported Rhodiola’s efficacy.

In addition, a study published in 2007 in the Nordic Journal of Psychiatry and a human trial at UCLA in 2008 showed a decrease in anxiety and depression.


  • Fights depression and anxiety
  • Speeds metabolism
  • Manages fatigue & increases energy
  • Increases mental stamina
  • Enhances learning, attention and memory
  • Acts as an anti-oxidant
  • Increases sexual energy


This is also known as Panax Ginseng and is the most potent of all the Ginsengs.


  • Improves mental performance
  • Exhibits antioxidant properties and strengthens immune system
  • Fights depression
  • Promotes a sense of well-being
  • Promote longevity


Holy basil, known as tulsi in its native India, is a revered herb in Ayurvedic (Indian) medicine. This is in the same family, but different from the Sweet Basil Americans use for cooking.


  • Fights fatigue
  • Decreases stress
  • Boosts immune system & fights colds, flus and asthma
  • Fights depression
  • Relieves anxiety
  • Regulates blood sugar (decreases blood sugar levels). May improve pancreatic beta cell function and thus enhance insulin secretion.
  • Regulates blood pressure

*Don’t use with Ginko bilopa because of increased risk of bleeding.


Referred to as Indian Ginseng and used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic medicine. Also called Withania.


  • Relieves anxiety
  • Increases sexual satisfaction
  • Lowers the stress hormone, cortisol
  • Increases vitality
  • Promotes longevity
  • Increases energy, endurance and stamina
  • Strengthens immune system and exhibits antioxidant properties
  • Protects central nervous system
  • Increases feelings of well being


Used for thousands of years in traditional Chinese medicine.


  • Improves memory and concentration
  • Fights depression
  • Increases feelings of well-being
  • Decreases fatigue

*Eleuthero is generally safe. Occasionally it has been associated with agitation, palpitations or insomnia in patients with cardiovascular disorders. If you have high blood pressure, your blood pressure should be monitored when taking it. Not recommend it for pregnant or breastfeeding women.



  • Increases energy and endurance
  • Strengthens immune system

*Make sure to monitor blood pressure, as licorice may increase blood pressure in susceptible individuals. 


**Disclaimer: Consult your healthcare practitioner before using any dietary supplement, especially if you are pregnant, nursing, allergic to iodine, use blood thinners, anticipate surgery, take medication on a regular basis or are otherwise under medical supervision. Small objects like pills can become inadvertently lodged in the throat.



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