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6 Stress Reducing Herbs That Manage Cortisol

Updated on July 12, 2016

Cortisol is secreted from the adrenal glands and has a few key roles in the body. Specifically, cortisol's role is proper glucose metabolism, blood pressure regulation, insulin release, immunity, and inflammation response. Cortisol is highest in the morning, and tapers off at night. It's been labeled as the "stress hormone" due to it's high concentrations during stressful situations, however high intensity lifestyles have largely contributed to this classification. Unfortunately, in our high stress culture, the body's stress response is activated so frequently and for long periods of time that the body never has an opportunity to return to normal, resulting with chronic stress. The high concentrations of cortisol resulting in chronic stress has many side effects, such as

  • Impaired cognitive performance
  • Suppressed Thyroid activity
  • Hyperglycemia
  • Decreased bone density
  • Decreased muscle tissue
  • Lowered immunity
  • Increased abdominal fat

There are various relaxation techniques and consciously being aware of the stress and telling the subconscious to relax is effective to reduce chronic stress. There are even nutritional herbs and supplements that you can start incorporating to aid in a more balanced, controlled, and clear mindset. Using these nutrients may help cope with stressful situations, increase metabolism, perform better at work, and maintain a more positive outlook on life and love.

Adaptogens for Stress Reduction

Adaptogens are a unique source of healing plants that help balance and restore the body. These nutrients have been used for hundreds of years in portions of China, and East Asia for their Ayurvedic (wellness) capabilities. Adaptogens do not necessarily target anything, but are released in response to stressors to bring the body to homeostasis. Some of the strongest adaptogens are ginseng, ashwaganda, licorice root, holy basil, mushrooms and rhodiolia.

Ginseng could be one of the most well known adaptogens for wellbeing. Ginseng has been used for centuries to increase focus, energy, libido, and intensifying the mind body connection. The most well known is Asian Ginseng (known as Panex Ginseng), but other bulbs such as American, and Russian ginseng exist. Panax Ginseng has the strongest anti-stressors

Holy Basil, in India, means "elixer" or "anti-aging", and can help boost immunity and fight fatigue. Holy Basil has also been shown to play a role in blood pressure regulation, and blood sugar stability.

Ashwaganda, known as "Indian Ginseng" can help regulate the immune system, and control anxiety. This herb has been used for literally thousands of years (2,500 to be exact) to naturally keep cortisol within normal range.

Licorice Root has been used for energy and endurance, but more importantly, it has been shown to protect the brain from the damaging effects of cortisol. To note, licorice root can increase blood pressure in some individuals. Communicate to your physician if you start using licorice root and avoid altogether if you are on prescription blood pressure medication.

Rhodiolia, the most potent adaptogen, and my favorite stress and cortisol reducer. Rhodiolia is in many proprietary blends of dietary supplements, specifically those classified as "fat burners" or "appetite suppressants" Rhodiolia is prevalent in many sports nutrition proprietary blends, especially natural testosterone products, that have flooded the market over the years. Rhodiola inhibits the production of cortisol and increases levels of stress induced proteins.

Mushrooms (Cordyceps) are the exception to the rule, as they are not technically an adaptogen, but exhibit the properties of one, and are very powerful antioxidants. Most of us already know that free radicals are damaging to all the body's tissue at a cellular level, and healthy mushrooms "flush" these radicals out of the body.

In addition to these nutrients, eat well, exercise regularly, keep a journal of all that you are grateful for, and take time each day to learn something new. Maintaining and developing social connections with people (even digital relationships) are a great way to manage stress induced cortisol. In my previous hubs, "3 Supplements That All Women Should Be Taking TODAY" and "Tweak Your Lifestyle to Increase Testosterone", I mentioned the power of probiotics and touched on the role that they play in managing stress in men and women. If you cannot find a good probiotic that suites your needs, incorporate Greek yogurt into your diet. The mind body connection is a powerful and fragile phenomenon. In addition to good supplementation and slight lifestyle changes, consciously opting to be "less stressed" and "more positive" will keep you balanced in mind, body, and spirit.

Matt earned his BS in Exercise Physiology & has 10 years of experience in the health and dietary supplement industry. A dedicated, professional wellness coach, Matt is passionate about making healthy product and lifestyle recommendations
Matt earned his BS in Exercise Physiology & has 10 years of experience in the health and dietary supplement industry. A dedicated, professional wellness coach, Matt is passionate about making healthy product and lifestyle recommendations

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