How do you know which herbs you need for your adrenal health?

We know that the adrenal glands are the foundation of hormonal health. They are subject to every stressors in the body and often times the stress causes them to become weak and tired. When they become fatigued it effects every hormone and system in the body.

Herbs are one of the best ways to support your adrenal glands but they can be very individual so how do you know which one will support you the best now. Here are 5 questions which will guide you in choosing the right herbs for you and even making your own specific herbal tincture to nourish your body.

Phases of Adrenal Fatigue

First lets review the classic phases of adrenal fatigue. They are determined by your cortisol and DHEA level. If you have tested your adrenals and know where you are at then it can help you determine what your body needs.

Phase 1 normal adrenal response both cortisol and DHEA rise and then go back to normal

Phase 2 high cortisol low DHEA that do not return to normal

Phase 3 low cortisol and low DHEA that stay low

Phase 4 cardiac arrest and death

Testing can also help confirm that you are dealing with adrenal fatigue not something else. I Like using the saliva hormone test Adrenal Stress Index.  I don’t like to only use symptoms to determine what is going on with the adrenals but a classic question you can ask yourself is how am I sleeping? If you can’t fall asleep but are tired this is possibly stage 2 adrenal fatigue. If you fall asleep but wake up in the middle of the night and can’t fall back asleep then it may be stage 3 adrenal fatigue. Remember though the only way to know for sure is to test. See my blog 9 ways to test your Adrenal Glands

Which Type of Herbs does the body need?

There are 5 categories of herbs that I learned about from Dr. Angela Hywood an Australian Naturopathic Doctor that specializes in fertility. You may not need each category but will probably need more than one of these categories. In general, I recommend one or two herbs from each of the categories that you need. It works best to get these herbs as tinctures.

Categories of herbs for Adrenal Support:

1. Restorative

2. Adaptogen

3. Tonic whole body

4. Nervine tonic

5. Immune Facilitator

Most of these are adaptogen in nature which means they help stabilize the adrenal glands. They have a normalizing property that repair and bring back to normal. They do not stimulate or suppress but bring to balance.

 To determine which herbs are needed I ask 5 questions.

  1. Does the cell need regenerated or restored?

If you have been dealing with adrenal issues for a long time or just feel extremely depleted then your adrenal glands probably need restored. These herbs have actually been shown to nourish cellular area and rebuild the adrenal cortex. They have a positive effect on RNA and DNA which is perfect for fertility. Restorative Herbs are Licorice and Rehmannia.

  • Rehmannia is good at anytime especially if there is excess cortisol and is the go to for stage 2 adrenal fatigue.
  • Licorice is specifically good for stage 3 adrenal fatigue where there is low cortisol. It extends the half life of cortisol meaning is allows cortisol to work longer in the body. It is contraindicated (medical jargon for not recommended) if there is high blood pressure. Both of these are ideal for insomnia because they support blood sugar levels.

    2.What is the most suitable adaptogen for this person?

Adaptogens support the adrenals to do what they need to do so either produce more or less of each hormone. They work with the body to support it. Five Adaptogens to choose from are: Eleuthero, Ashwaganda, Rhodiola, Korean Gensing, and Tribulus. I almost always recommend an adaptogen or 2 and pair it with an adrenal tonic if you are really exhausted.

  • Eleuthero is good for someone who is just exhausted. It has a revitalizing effect and is powerful at healing the immune system.
  • Ashwaganda Is great for type A personality/ leader personality and those that are weird yet tiered. It is specifically good for stage 2 adrenal fatigue because it can powerfully decrease elevated cortisol. It can also raise cortisol because that is what adaptogens do.
  • Rhodiola is specifically good for someone who has mental or emotional stress and exhaustion. If someone has gone through emotional trauma it is the perfect adaptogen.
  • Korean ginseng is a great all around adaptogen and is also a tonic so you get two in one.
  • Tribulus is the adaptogen that is specifically needed with low DHEA. It will bring DHEA back up but it will take awhile as DHEA is the slowest responding hormone. It can take up to year to normalize.

  1. Do you need a whole body tonic?

Tonics address mitochondria fatigue (those little engines that create energy in each cell). It is the go to for fiber myalgia or for anyone that has body ache. Tonics increase or release adaptation energy. So they work really well with adaptogenic herbs to give them the energy to do their work. Korean Ginseng pairs really well with rhodiola as a adaptogen tonic pair. Astragalus is a great tonic that also supports the immune system.

  1. Do you need to support your nervous system?

Nervines calm and provide nourishment to our nervous systems.  If you are suffering from anxiety, depression, or insomnia, it is important to take a nervine tonic. The classic nervine herb is St. Johns Wort which feed the cells of the nervous system. Nevarton is a great complex nervine complex from Standard Process that I recommend.

  1. How is the immune system?

Do you have recurrent infections including candida. Is there any sign of parasite, bacteria, fungal or viral infection. This would include Epstein Barr Virus? If this is true then you need to be on 2 ml of echinacea every day. This improves natural killer cells in the body. Allergies are also an immune system comprise and indicate adrenal fatigue issue. This include environmental, food, or seasonal allergies. So if you have allergies support your adrenals and take echinacea!

Be Persistent

Restoring adrenals takes time so plan to be on adrenal support for at least 6 months but more likely longer. What is nice is most people feel better after a week or so of supporting the adrenal glands.  Not all of these are safe in pregnancy so if you want to get pregnant they can be great to help your body get to where it can conceive but when you find out you are pregnant just stop them unless you know they are safe. Read my blog: Supporting the Adrenal Glands in Pregnancy 

Healthy adrenals are the gateway to feeling energized, emotionally stable and keeping the rest of your endocrine system happy.  Plus setting yourself up to be able to get pregnant because your hormones are balanced. Knowing which ones you need will enable you to powerfully support your own health.

If you want help balancing your hormones or create a fertility plan I would love to work with you. If these seems overwhelming to you but you still want to support your adrenals with an adaptogen then you can start with Gaia Herbs HPA Axis Daytime Support and for better sleep and adrenal support Gaia Herbs Sleep Cycle. You can take both or either one for basic adaptogenic adrenal support.  Look forward to a difference in your energy, sleep, and sense of well being. Here is to Healthy Hormones with adaptogen herbs!


1. Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner Course. If you are interested in becoming a Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner click here
2. Top 10 Womens Complaints: PMS  Lecture by Angela Hywood N.D (Australia) Tonic Australia 73/8-14 Fullerton Street Woollahra NSW 2025
3. Standard Process Clinical Reference Guide 2012

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