Restore Balance Using Ayurvedic Adaptogens

Today’s world is anything but stress-free. Even if you are doing everything ‘right’ to protect your health you may still be affected by the stresses of life. Whether it be financial, your job, spouse, the kids, or you name it, stress can lead burnout, fatigue, or a weakened immune system.

Adaptogenic herbs help keep proper balance, conserve energy, and increase the ability to cope with stress or ‘adapt’ to stress. They can work on the physical, mental, and emotional states of the body. Historically these herbs have been used to:

  • Restore vitality
  • Balance hormones
  • Increase feelings of energy
  • Improve mental and physical performance
  • Enhance the body’s response to stress
  • Increase antioxidant activity

There are several notable adaptogenic herbs that grow in India and are used widely in ayurvedic medicine. This article will review three of them: amla, shatavari, and ashwagandha.

Amla EmbelicaAmla (Phyllanthus emblica)

Amla is one of the most widely used ayurvedic herbs. This plant grows to a medium sized tree and bears fruit that look similar to gooseberries; because of this similarity it is often called “Indian Gooseberry.” It is the fruit of the tree that is used for medicinal properties.

Amla is a rich source of antioxidants and vitamin C. One fruit, which is only an inch in diameter, has the same vitamin C content as two oranges, thus providing powerful immune support. It has been used for its many medicinal properties including: anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-cancer, anti-diabetes, protecting the liver, wound healing, and respiratory wellness.

Overall, alma is one of the most important adaptogenic herbs in ayurveda. There is a saying in India, “If you eat amla, your wisdom will increase as you age.” Typical dose is a 50:1 extract 300mg to 1500mg a day. Amla is considered a food and no toxicity has been noted.

Shatavari_RootShatavari (Asparagus racemosus)

Shatavari is a popular ayurvedic medicinal herb. This herb has been renowned for centuries in India for its therapeutic value in treating female conditions such as decreased libido, infertility, threatened miscarriage, and menopausal symptoms. The word shatavari translates into “she who possesses 100 husbands” because of its reputation of balancing female hormones and increasing a women’s vitality.

Shatavari grows in the low jungles throughout India. This plant has a spreading root system and climbs to about two meters high. There are hundreds of tuberous roots, and these are the parts of the plant used for medicinal purposes. Typical doses can range from 1000mg to 3000mg a day. Shatavari has been described as safe for long term use, even in pregnancy and lactation.

WhitaniaAshwagandha (Withania somnifera)

Ashwagandha is an energizing medicinal herb, and ayurvedic medicine doctors have been using it for centuries as a tonic to increase vitality and longevity with great success. Ashwagandha is used to calm the mind, relieve nervous exhaustion, build sexual energy, and promote healthy sleep. Current research has shown this herb to help with diabetes, stimulate the thyroid, boost the immune system, and increase libido.

Ashwagandha has a long and tuberous root, which is the part of the shrub that is used for medicinal purposes. The Indian name, ashwagandha, which translates to “horse’s smell,” was given because of the root’s strong odor. A typical dose is 300-500mg of standardized extract a day. It is generally safe when used in recommended doses. However, it does have a mildly depressant effect and should not be used in pregnancy or when using other suppressants.


Adaptogens are what they are because they do not have an affinity for just one system of the body, but for the whole body. They provide the vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals the body needs to adapt to our ever-challenging environment. To find out more about what herbs would be best for you, please see a licensed naturopathic doctor in your area.


Sodhi MD, ND, Virender. Ayurvedic Herbs: The Comprehensive Resource for Ayurvedic Healing Solutions. Bothel, WA: Book Network, 2014. Print.

Pizzorno ND, Joseph, and Michael Murray ND. Textbook of Natural Medicine. 4th ed. Elsevier, 2013. Print.

Written by Haylee Nye, NCNM Naturopathic Medicine program; edited by Dr Elise Schroeder