Have you heard people talking about ‘adaptogens’?  You might have read that you can use adaptogenic herbs for hormone balance, but aren’t quite sure what they are, or how they work.

This article explains how adaptogenic herbs work, the benefits of using them, the possible side effects, and the 7 best adaptogenic herbs for hormone balance so you can

  • lose weight
  • manage hunger
  • lower your blood sugar
  • reduce stress
  • sleep better
  • create better focus and most importantly…
  • feel calm!

What are adaptogenic herbs?

Adaptogens are also called the Tonics of the 21st century.

The concept of adaptogens is the very foundation of traditional medicine of countries in the East, such as China (TCM) and India (Ayurveda). In Western herbalism, intensive studies have only been done in the 1980’s to investigate their benefits.

There has been a lot of research into these herbs to find out how they help the body with stress, but you can also use adaptogenic herbs for hormone balance, more generally.

That’s because many illnesses can develop due to a person’s inability to deal with external pressures can result in internal repercussions – namely, disease and chronic illness.

Adaptogens derives from the word: Adapt!

If you don’t adapt to given circumstances, then the body collapses from overstress.

In a world that is ever more fast and stressful, it is understandable why you might come across the term adaptogens more frequently.

Adaptogenic herbs for hormone balance – lowering stress

You can use adaptogenic herbs for hormone balance but particularly to lower cortisol levels.

Cortisol is one of the stress hormones that your body produces in response to chronic stress.

It is produced to stimulate your fight or flight system in times of stress.

But as we are exposed to so many stressors in modern life, most people tend to have higher than normal levels of cortisol, for a longer period in the day than is normal – and they are difficult to control.

adaptogenic herbs for hormone balance - stress

The downsides of that are that cortisol is:

  • an ‘aging hormone’ – responsible for making you age faster.
  • a major contributor to weight gain
  • a major cause of upsets to your digestive system
  • partly responsible for issues with the thyroid and adrenal glands.

Adaptogens balance hormones, particularly stress hormones, so you can avoid these negative outcomes and create a healthy, high-performing body.

That is why adaptogens form an integral part of the Downsize Me program.

We know that cortisol leads to difficulty losing weight!

To reduce long term elevated cortisol levels, a qualified practitioner can introduce adaptogenic herbs.

Dr. Brenda Powell. Co-medical director of the centre for Integrative Lifestyle Medicine at The Cleveland Wellness institute says:

Adaptogens are meant to bring us back to the middle.


The plants do this by interacting with the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis.


Adaptogens may tweak hormone production and physiological responses to stress to ensure that your body – from your mind to your immune systems to your energy levels – functions as it should” unquote.

Benefit of adaptogenic herbs

There are more specific benefits of adaptogenic herbs. They:

  • improve the bodies adaptability
  • reduce our response to stressors
  • balance the body’s hormone system
  • balance the thyroid
  • improve longevity
  • prevent effects of free radicals (molecules that cause aging).

Further, they help us focus and concentrate, as well as support of normal immune system functioning.

Cortisol is an ageing hormone, so if we keep that under control and balanced we are doing something for anti-ageing.

This is one of the reasons our clients find it so easy to change their eating and habits!

You can use adaptogenic herbs for hormone balance because they are useful for a range of hormonal imbalances – they settle anxiety, reduce hunger, lower blood sugar, strengthen your ability to focus and concentrate and basically stay very calm during the process of losing weight.

Which are the most effective Adaptogenic herbs according to research?

There are at least 11 adaptogenic herbs. Seven of them are more famous. They include:

  • All the Ginsengs
    • Panax Ginseng (American Ginseng) Panax Quinquefolium
    • Panax Ginseng (Asian Ginseng)
    • Indian Ginseng (Ashwagandha) – Withania somnifera. Thyroid balancer, libido boosting.
    • They are a sedative, not stimulant. For persons that are hyper and finding it impossible to relax and slow down, soothing.
  • Eleuthero – Siberian ginseng reducing Triglycides, LDL cholesterol. Performance and focus enhancer.

All the Ginsengs support physical endurance, are energy boosters – the name Ashwagandha means “like a horse”. They give stamina.

  • Astragalus Root (Chinese medicine)

Cardiotonic, hypotensive, cardiac problems, liver and kidney disease.

  • Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea) for better sleep and memory.

One of the adaptogens used to support the formulation used to support the Downsize Me program.

Also called Golden Root, it dissolves excess cortisol in the blood.

This potent adaptogen is popular amongst Sherpas!

It is used by Military personnel, even Russian cosmonauts!

It encourages normal cortisol levels and balances hormones.

It is an anti-anxiety herb that calms the spirit and restores normal patterns of sleeping and eating.

  • Holy Basil

This is a well-known herb of Ayurvedic medicine, also called Tulsi. It is the active ingredient found in clove oil. It’s good for treating acne, managing blood sugar and anti-aging.

  • Licorice root (Glycyrrhiz glabra) helps with metabolic function.
  • Cordycep mushroom
  • Reishi mushroom (Ganoderma Lucidum)

This is an extreme anti-inflammatory to support immune system. It fights viruses, infections, helps in resolving digestive issues and leaky gut.

  • Shatavari

This is a hormonal harmonizer.

Other adaptogenic herbs include:

  • Milk Thistle (contained in HepaPlus ™ supplement that complements the Downsize Me program)
  • Rosemary
  • Aloe Vera
  • Schisandra (Chinese) – detox liver, improve cognition. It is considered a balancing herb. The berries help to detox the liver.
  • Maca – an aphrodisiac
  • Moringa Oleifeira – used for respiratory conditions, asthma, diabetes, blood sugar, heart disease.
  • Gotu Kola: used for improved blood flow. Powerful antioxidant. Improves cognition.
  • Codonopsis root – Danag Shen in Chinese medicine. For adrenal exhaustion
  • Goji Berry – Lycium barbarum
  • Jiaogulan – Chinese immortality herb
  • He shou wu – Chinese blackhair – lower cholesterols, boosts immunity
  • Bacopa – brahmi (Amla) – an Ayurvedic herb to improve cognition.


When to take adaptogenic herbs

Adaptogenic herbs can be useful in these situations:

  • Times of stress
  • Exposure to stressors such as high altitude, intensive training, environmental pollution etc.
  • Chronic illness, debility, convalescence.
  • Chemotherapy and radiation therapy
  • To increase mental and physical performance
  • During a weight loss program.


Downsize Me includes specific adaptogens for these reasons:

  • Milk thistle

When you change your eating habits, your liver has to work overtime.

As you start to metabolise fat, all the toxins that sit in the fat have to be processed and removed – that is the liver’s job.

Milk thistle supports that whole process to help avoid the build up of toxins which cause further health complications.

  • Rhodiola rosea

This is helpful for controlling cortisol levels and balancing other associated hormones.

It also assists with healthy sleep (important for weight loss) and focused thinking.

 adaptogenic herbs for hormone balance - Rhodiola rosa

Adverse effects of adaptogenic herbs

It is important that you do not self-administer adaptogenic herbs.

Always work with a qualified practitioner who can assess and prescribe a suitable formulation.

That’s important because some adaptogens are contra indicated in certain conditions and may react with certain prescribed medicines.

For example:

  • Adaptogens might increase bleeding (Astragalus, Rhodiola, Eleuthero). People taking anti- clotting medications that increase bleeding risks or are about to undergo surgery
  • Diabetes medication may not work with some adaptogens.
  • Panax ginseng is stimulating, suited for older people, but can increase anxiety and/or blood pressure in some individuals.
  • Siberian Ginseng is similar to Panax, to a lesser degree.
  • Panax ginseng and Siberian ginseng and Astragalus are contraindicated in acute infections but can be used with other herbs at the onset as prevention.

Do you have question about adaptogens? Post them in the comments below and I’ll be happy to help.



David Hoffmann – Herbal Prescriptions after 50

David Hoffmann – Holistic Herbal

Matthew Wood – the book of herbal wisdom

Rudolf Fritz Weiss – Weiss’s Herbal Medicine



Pia Lehmann

Pia Lehmann

Homeopath; Naturopath

Pia is a qualified Homeopath and Naturopath who helps women to balance their body, mind and emotions.

Want some help getting your body, mind and emotions back in balance?

Book a confidential enquiry with Pia.

Book a confidential enquiry with Pia