Kris Carr


5 Adaptogen Herbs to Reduce Stress

Hiya Gorgeous,

Stress sucks the joy out of life.

It drains our inner peace, health and relationships. And if we don’t take steps to reduce it, stress has a snowball effect—leading to more issues in our precious tissues. It messes with our energy, mood, ability to think clearly and can even raise blood sugar and blood pressure. Basically, we’ve gotta stress less and thrive more—and we need a holistic approach to achieving this goal long term.

But, it’s so easy to neglect self-care and let our stress levels get out of control. I’m guilty, too!

At one point, I pushed myself so far that I ended up with full-blown adrenal fatigue. Basically, adrenal fatigue occurs when you’re under intense or prolonged stress and your adrenal glands become less efficient at making hormones and neurotransmitters—leaving you extremely worn out. So of course, I felt exhausted, frazzled and foggy. I got on the road to recovery by working with my integrative doctor to find supplements that fit my needs and re-dedicating myself to the self-care practices I’ve shared with you time and time again.

Today, I want to further explore some of those stress-relieving supplements.

Mother nature has given us a powerful family of herbs that help your body adapt to stress. They’re called adaptogens and they do many things, including helping to prevent the damaging effects stress has on your adrenal glands. Happy glands mean avoiding adrenal fatigue (yay!).

The power of adaptogens really clicked for me when I read this description by Dr. Frank Lipman: “Adaptogens work a bit like a thermostat. When the thermostat senses that the room temperature is too high, it brings it down and when the temperature is too low, it brings it up. Adaptogens can calm you down and boost your energy at the same time without overstimulating. By supporting adrenal function, they can help counteract the adverse effects of stress and normalize body imbalances. They help cells eliminate toxic byproducts of the metabolic process, access more energy and utilize oxygen more efficiently.” Thanks, Frank!

There are so many ways adaptogens can support your well-being, but they don’t work the same for everyone.

So, I highly suggest working with your integrative doctor or a clinical herbalist (find one here) to figure out which adaptogens are right (and safe) for you.

Of course, we can’t cover every single adaptogen in this blog, so I’ve listed five of my favorites below for reducing stress. Ready? Take a deep breath and read on for the details…


5 Adaptogens to Help You Relieve Stress and Improve Your Well-Being

Panax Ginseng

Panax Ginseng and its compounds called ginsenosides have been used for over 2,000 years in Asian countries. “Panax” comes from the word “panacea”, meaning a cure for all diseases, longevity and physical strength. The ginsenosides support the adrenal glands in a way that can improve cognitive performance and mood, decrease depression, lower blood sugar in people with diabetes and even improve erectile dysfunction. Although, you should skip ginseng if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding or if you have an autoimmune disease, as it increases immune system activity.

Rhodiola rosea

Rhodiola is indigenous to cold, mountainous regions and has been used by individuals for thousands of years to adapt to the stress of cold temperatures and high altitudes. It works at the cellular level by increasing the oxygen-carrying capacity of red blood cells. This means better mental performance, physical performance, energy and even moods (study). If you get the blessing from your doc to take this herb, try to find rhodiola that is Siberian-grown, which will likely have the highest concentration of rosavins—especially helpful for reducing stress. Because rhodiola can act as a blood thinner, beware if you’re on anti-clotting meds or are taking blood thinning supplements like vitamin E.


Ashwagandha supports adrenal function, which balances hormones and helps to reduce chronic stress and adrenal fatigue. Supplemental Ashwagandha has been shown to help decrease anxiety, stress and depression among people with generalized anxiety disorder (study) by improving cortisol levels. Since Ashwagandha is a powerful hormonal balancer, it shouldn’t be taken during pregnancy or by anyone with an autoimmune condition.

Holy Basil

Holy basil has been deemed the “herb for all reasons” because it helps support metabolic, physical, chemical and psychological stresses in the body (study). Its strong anti-inflammatory actions help the body and mind fight the inflammatory effects of stress, which are the underlying causes of most diseases and mental health issues. By extinguishing the flame, holy basil helps to reduce the negative effects of stress on organs, which can otherwise lead to high blood sugar, high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels. Its anti-inflammatory nature also helps to improve memory and cognition, leading to a decrease in anxiety and depression. To be on the safe side, holy basil is a blood thinner so extra caution is given to pregnant and breastfeeding women, as well as people taking anti-clotting meds because it can slow blood clotting.


Licorice (the root Glycyrrhiza glabra, not the red twirly candy!) is best known for its anti-inflammatory properties, which help the body manage digestive issues like heartburn, constipation, indigestion and nausea. But, it’s this herb’s ability to actually increase cortisol production that makes it a stress reliever. Licorice can balance out stress hormones and give your adrenals a break. So instead of your adrenals working overtime during periods of high stress, they can take a breather. You’re not only less strung out, but you’re less likely to experience adrenal fatigue—it’s a win-win! Because licorice root (specifically the compound glycyrrhizin) has the ability to increase cortisol production (above doses of 500 mg daily), it can also increase blood pressure. Pregnant women and folks with high blood pressure should look for deglycyrrhized licorice and definitely get the go-ahead from their integrative doctors first.

If stress, anxiety and exhaustion are issues in your life, I hope you’ll check out adaptogens to see if they’d be a good fit for you. But, please be smart about it. Herbs are powerful and not something to be taken lightly. Work with a professional so you can be sure that they help, not hinder your well-being.

Your turn: Is stress running the show in your life? If, so how? And if you’ve tried adaptogens, how have they helped you?

Peace and herbs,

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  1. Kelley says:

    Question: How do I add these to my diet? I have a few of these in powder form…I know I can add to smoothies, but sometimes I am not having a smoothie. Can you give me some practical ideas of how to get these in to a daily routine? OR does it even need to be daily, or just when stress is high?

    • Kris Carr says:

      Hi Kelley,

      These adaptogens can be found in the form of supplements, herbal elixirs, powders for smoothies and teas, and even “shots.” First, clear the dosage with your integrative doc or health care practitioner. Each herb is taken for different durations and at different dosages. Then, check your local health food store to see if they carry the herb. Although adaptogens can be especially helpful in times of stress, some folks argue that they’re useful anytime since our bodies are always undergoing some kind of stress.

      xo, Kris

  2. Kat says:

    Your info is always so thorough and well rounded, research and noted with links to resources. I always appreciate looking up additional information. It’s one reason why I come back to you time and again. Xo

  3. Nancy says:

    Beware, holy basil is a natural blood thinner. For anyone who takes blood thinning meds or has clotting issues stay away from it. I learned the hard way after having uncontrollable nosebleeds traced to drinking holy basil tea once a day.

    • Ann says:

      I had the same kind of problems taking Rhodiola rosea which is also a blood thinner. I kept getting burst blood vessels in my eyes.

    • Kris Carr says:

      Hi Nancy & Ann, Thanks for pointing this out! I’ve added warnings under both herbs (and the others as well) as extra cautions in case people don’t work with their integrative docs before jumping in. Hope that helps. xo, kc

  4. Amy says:

    Kris, you are a sweet, wonderful, entertaining and valuable source of life changing information. If I would apply your knowledge nuggets every day, I’d be in a lot better shape! I’m going to start listening to the Tiny Kris on my shoulder more in 2017! Thanks for all you do!

  5. Ann says:

    Need help putting it all together
    Would a functional MD help?
    Do you know where I can find one, please ?

  6. Amy Heflin says:

    Hi Kris, I just wanted to say how much I love you! You are such an inspiration to me! I watched one of your videos of you reading one of your love notes and was immediately hooked! I ordered a box for myself and then decided to order about 10 more to give to all my best girlfriends for a Christmas gift! I loved the look on their face as they opened these beautiful cards and read their first one! My friends were so excited and inspired that they are now ordering the love notes and passing them on to their girlfriends!!! Thank you!!!!!

  7. Monte says:

    Awesome to read this as i just bought nearly all 5 listed in a pill supplement from HUM nutrition for combating my stress. Not promoting the company, just stating its a easy way to get most all in one pill.

  8. Megan says:

    Are all these herbs safe while nursing?

    • Kris Carr says:

      Hi Megan, Most herbs should be avoided during pregnancy and lactation, as is the case with these 5 as well. But, check with your integrative doc or OB for stress-relieving alternatives. xo, kc

  9. martin davy says:

    its like a shopping list come to asemple point in one compound

  10. Angea says:

    I’ve had the most experience (and success) with Ashwaganda and Holy Basil. I’ve tried HB in pill and tea form but prefer the pill. With Ashwagana, I most prefer it in a pill as part of other adaptogens. When I tried it alone as a pill supplement, I experienced some stomach upset? Should Ash be taken with food perhaps?

  11. Chantal says:

    Hi, I’m wondering about contradictions for these supplements… should we be sure to only consume 1 of the above 5? Or is incorporating more than one into our daily routine okay? TIA

  12. Mandy says:

    I swear by Ashwagandha – I can definitely feel the difference it makes in my day to day.

  13. I’ve always taken licorice liquid for the adrenals but I didn’t realize holy basil helped too! I will have to add it! Basil works for everything!

  14. Alla Goldman says:

    Hi Kriss! I absolutely love your information and unbelievable fighting spirit. You are an inspiration to all who doubt what’s possible!!!
    Great info. I’ve used all the herbs at some point and they are very helpful if used correctly and not for long periods of time.
    I do have to make a comment: Kelly McGonigal did an awesome TED talk about stress. The bottom line is: stress is not always bad for us. It’s our PERCEPTION of how stress will affect us that creates a problem and subsequent health issues. And she has studies to prove it
    Keep up great work! We need more people like you ❤?❤

  15. Cynthia Otiso says:

    Hello Kris & C.S. Team. Thanks so much for sharing your story, your solutions, recipes, and so much more! I’m a mom with a 21-year old daughter who suffers (!) from endometriosis. Just wondering if you’ve heard of other women with endo and whether the diet and lifestyle changes you’ve shared have helped them reduce symptoms. It’s a horrible, debilitating disease and we’re desperately hoping to avoid surgery.

  16. Trudy says:

    Yes! Such a great article. I have a few clients right now who are really stressed and I’ve mentioned adaptogens to them. Another one that I love to recommend is chaga. It’s great in some brewed tea along with some raw cacao powder. Since the cacao powder is also high in magnesium it gives stress the one two punch 🙂

  17. kelly morgan says:

    I love this – great idea to use natural herbs reduce stress. Love love love this

  18. Cathy Terrell says:

    We use grass fed organic whey…what do you think would be the best vegan protein powder to exchange with that tastes good?

  19. Jenny says:

    I’ve been using licorice to help me deal with my stress and I have proven it to be effective and I am enjoying it so far. I will be happy to try some of the other adaptogens on your list too. Thanks for sharing.

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