Adrenal fatigue is coming to the forefront as a common health problem in our high-stress, fast-paced culture.
Right now, adrenal fatigue is technically not a medical diagnosis, but it is a very real health issue that many people face.
Symptoms include fatigue, difficulty falling asleep or waking up, sugar or salt cravings, brain fog, digestive problems, depression, and unexplained weight fluctuations.
If you think you might have adrenal fatigue, here's more about what it is, what causes it, and natural treatment with herbs.
What Is Adrenal Fatigue?
Our adrenals are glands that sit right over top of our kidneys.
They produce and help to regulate many different types of hormones, including one of the big stress hormones: cortisol. (1)
Cortisol is a very important hormone for emergency situations. It helps our body shift into the "fight-or-flight" mode that may be needed for survival.
After the threat is over, the body calms itself back down and hormone levels return to normal.
However, when stress becomes chronic, the body thinks it's constantly in an emergency situation.
The adrenal glands continue to prepare us for "fight-or-flight" and are not allowed to rest.
Since this can only be kept up for so long, adrenal fatigue will eventually set it.
This is what leads to the major symptoms of tiredness, brain fog, and trouble sleeping.
(Adrenal fatigue should not be confused with more severe conditions, like Addison's disease where the adrenal glands don't produce enough of essential hormones.)
Natural Treatment for Adrenal Fatigue
While there are many herbs and healthy foods that can help you recover from adrenal fatigue, treatment really starts with removing the stressors that are causing it.
Adrenal fatigue comes from chronic stress. As long as the stress is unchanged, the best remedies will only do so much.
Things like strenuous exercise, working long hours, and constant emotional stress all contribute to adrenal fatigue.
However, there are many natural ways to recover, including using herbs.
Here are the best herbs for adrenal fatigue, plus other natural treatments to consider.
Adaptogenic herbs are some of the most helpful when it comes to adrenal fatigue.
Adaptogens help the body to cope with stress and can especially lessen fatigue.
Licorice root is an adaptogenic herb that can help to support and nourish the adrenal glands.
Herbalist Rosemary Gladstar recommends licorice tea or tincture as a support for the whole endocrine system and a "specific remedy for adrenal exhaustion." (Gladstar. Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner's Guide, pg. 163)
Licorice root is often most effective when taken with other herbs for adrenal fatigue, like in this Adrenal Love Tea blend.
Ashwagandha is another adaptogenic herb that's growing in popularity.
This herb is often used in Ayurvedic medicine to both calm and rejuvenate the nervous system and to increase energy. (2)
As well as a treatment for adrenal fatigue, ashwagandha can also help prevent it and reduce stress by lowering cortisol levels naturally. (3)
Rhodiola rosea (also known as golden root) is an adaptogen that can reduce cortisol, increase energy, and help your body deal with stress better.
This highly beneficial herb can also help with depression, which may be a symptom of adrenal fatigue. (4)
Eleuthero is a lesser known adaptogenic herb, but it's been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years.
Like other adaptogens, eleuthero helps the body to cope better with stress.
It can also boost the immune system, increase energy, and relieve fatigue. (5)
Nettle leaf is not considered an adaptogenic herb, but it can be extremely helpful for treatment of adrenal fatigue.
Nettle is packed full of vitamins and nutrients including vitamins A, C, and K, magnesium, iron, calcium, and potassium.
This makes nettle an incredibly nourishing herb for the whole body and, more specifically, a tonic for the adrenals. (6)
Maca root comes from the Andes Mountain region and is both an adaptogen and a superfood vegetable.
It is packed with nutrients and can be especially helpful for adrenal fatigue because of its hormone-balancing effects.
The powdered root has a pleasant, nutty taste and is easy to add into smoothies or even foods like oatmeal to start healing your adrenals.
Unlike sweet basil, holy basil (also known as tulsi) is an adaptogen that supports adrenal health.
Commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine, holy basil helps the body and mind to balance themselves.
Rosemary Gladstar recommends it to be used daily to restore vitality and renew energy. (Gladstar, pg. 58)
Schisandra is a popular adaptogenic herb used in traditional Chinese medicine.
The berries of the plant are used medicinally to help the body cope with stress and to increase overall vitality.
Schisandra is one of the few adaptogens to have been studied for its anti-fatigue and anti-stress properties and was found to have antidepressant effects as well. (9)
Other Natural Treatment for Adrenal Fatigue
All of these herbs can be extremely helpful and effective for healing adrenal fatigue, but there are other things you can do, too.
Diet is an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to adrenal fatigue.
Your body needs to be nourished with the right nutrients in order to heal.
Getting a good source of protein, eating a variety of vegetables (especially green ones), and avoiding lots of sugar and processed food can help a lot.
Certain vitamins and minerals can help you recover more quickly.
Magnesium, vitamin C, and vitamins B-5, B-6, and B-12 are all suggested supplements for healing from adrenal fatigue. (10)
Managing stress in your life is critical to treating adrenal fatigue.
While it's not possible to get rid of every single stressor, look for things you can change.
Meditation, deep breathing, yoga, getting enough sleep, and gentle exercise can all be healing for your adrenals.
Using Herbs for Adrenal Fatigue
One of the most important things to know about using herbs for adrenal fatigue is that it takes time for herbal treatment to work.
Adaptogens and other herbs will work slowly with your body to help it heal and recover over time.
Adaptogen herbs are often more beneficial when combined than when taken separately.
Using an adaptogenic herbal tea blend can have a greater effect on adrenal fatigue than just using a single herb.
As always, you should consult your doctor or a natural health practitioner before starting a new herbal regimen, especially if you have another health condition.
It's also a good idea to go to your doctor if you are experiencing symptoms of adrenal fatigue to make sure it's not a more serious condition.
Adaptogenic herbs are generally safe, but they can still have side effects or interact with certain medications. Not all are recommended for use during pregnancy.
Start Recovering from Adrenal Fatigue
Natural recovery from adrenal fatigue is very possible, and herbs can play a large role in treatment.
Using an herbal blend to support your adrenals, managing stress, supplementing if needed, and eating a healthy diet are all key parts of recovery.
Taking these steps can get you back to feeling like yourself!