“Adrenal fatigue” as a term was coined by James Wilson Ph.D. in 1988 in order to describe a group of signs and symptoms often presented together and often as a result of stress or illness. These signs and symptoms are generally agreed to be:
- Constant fatigue (especially in the morning)
- Feeling more energetic in the evening
- Body aches (muscle and joint pain)
- Sleep problems
- Depression and brain fog
- Fluctuating weight (weight gain or loss)
- Poor immune function
- Poor digestion
- Loss of body hair
There is some debate in the medical community about whether the condition is “real” in the sense that doctors haven’t been able to conclusively link symptoms with the expected physiology in all cases. However, it is very real for a large number of people, and hence it is clear something is going on here, and many people are suffering.
The leading cause of adrenal fatigue is thought to be the malfunctioning of the body’s stress hormone response. When you are under stress, it can wreak havoc with your hormones, physical and mental functions.
It is fair to say that humans are now living in a somewhat “unnatural” environment that doesn’t match what our evolutionary stress response was adapted for. The hormone cortisol is known as the “stress hormone”. It is the hormone released in the fight or flight response triggered by stress or fear.
Out on the savannah, if your cortisol levels hit a spike because you detect a threat then you are more likely to survive, even if your reaction to the fear and stress is over the top. Cautious people were more likely to survive than blissfully ignorant people. However, the remnants of this survival mechanism lead to some chronic issues in the modern world.
In modern times, the same hormones are released when you have an important meeting as were released when you spied a lion stalking through the long grass, however, out on the savannah your stress would subside once you reached safety. We now live in a world where we go from one meeting to the next, and often have constant pressure leading to constant stress.
It is thought that the adrenal gland essentially becomes tired from being overworked, and can no longer produce the hormones necessary for maintaining vitality. This can happen due to constant stress, or from prolonged stressful periods such as illness or the death of a loved one.
Being constantly under stress, the body will produce low levels of cortisol leading to poor immune functions, tiredness and all the other symptoms associated with adrenal fatigue.
Since this condition is not recognized by the mainstream medical community, there aren’t any treatments or drugs that are specifically designed or approved for it. However, many alternative remedies have been suggested to help recover from adrenal fatigue, and these include lifestyle and diet changes, as well as taking nutritional/herbal supplements.
Numerous vitamins and medicinal herbs have been used to help with adrenal fatigue symptoms. The following are five of the best and most effective herbal remedies you can take to regain the balance:
Ashwagandha, also known as winter cherry, has been reported to lower stress levels, reduce fatigue and improve cognition and concentration levels. Ashwagandha has been found to cause reduced levels of cortisol and other stress-related parameters.
This herb comes in the form of a root powder or extract, and it’s a common ingredient in dietary formulations used for stress and fatigue.
It should be noted that ashwagandha is not considered safe for pregnant or breastfeeding women. It has been linked to an increased chance of miscarriage.
2. Licorice Root
Most people know licorice as the polarizing treat that you either love or hate, but evidence has shown it may have some noteworthy health benefits. Licorice can support the function of the adrenal gland and promote healthy cortisol levels in the body.
Whether you go for the candy or supplement forms, licorice may be helpful in stressful times, however, it should be consumed moderately since too much of it can lead to side effects and health risks.
3. Rhodiola Rosea
Similar to ashwagandha, this herb is an adaptogen that helps the body adapt to stress by maintaining hormonal balances when the body is under stress or anxiety. In humans trials, it has been shown to reduce stress and fatigue and enhance mental performance.
4. Ginkgo Biloba
Ginkgo biloba has a long history of cultivation by humans and a long history of use in traditional medicine. People have reported a positive effect on their stress levels and cognitive performance, especially older people or those with certain mental disorders.
This herb is widely available in over-the-counter supplements designed for mental performance. It is available as leaf powder, although standardized extracts can be more effective. There is no evidence that ginkgo is helpful for healthy people.
5. Korean Ginseng
Korean or Panax ginseng is a highly valued herb with countless claims about its health benefits. Studies have shown that participants who took Korean ginseng scored higher in tests designed to detect mood, mental and physical performance.
Often touted as a natural energy and stamina booster, Korean/Panax ginseng can be found at most health stores in powder, capsule and tea forms. Good quality ginseng is quite expensive though.
All of the above are considerable natural remedies that have been suggested to have a positive effect on alleviating the symptoms of adrenal fatigue. Effective dosages and efficacy vary from one user to another, pending more conclusive clinical evidence.
Not all versions of these herbs will be the same, so remember to follow directions on the product label and seek the advice of your doctor if you experience any negative side effects.