Which Adaptogens are Best for Daytime Use?

by Daniel Nuchovich, MD
(Jupiter, Fla)

Hi Val,

Maybe you can help me.....and indirectly help many of my patients. It's about adaptogens.

I read and read about them and I tried and still try different products and I can not find what I am looking for.

I need a combination of adaptogens that the professional man or woman or business owner or corporate employee can take in the morning AND...
1)it should shield (at least partially ) from daily stress,
2) enhance mentation and intellectual work and
3) give a sense of well being.
For daytime use.

Maca + ashwaganda + ginseng ?? Maca + Rhodiola ? Bacopa + Holy Basil ?
Is it eleuthero + maca + bacopa ?? others, many others ...

There are many possible combinations and quantities / proportions options, 50mg, 80 mg, 125mgs, etc.

I am sure that only someone much much knowledgeable and experienced can help me.
** PERHAPS YOU KNOW, among your distinguished clients, someone who might be kind enough to help me.
Suggestions ?

OF COURSE, you are not giving me any medical/professional advice nor suggesting/recommending/implying any kind of treatment.

Thank you, thank you,

Daniel Nuchovich, MD
Internal Medicine
Emergency Medicine
Anti-Aging Medicine
175 Toney Penna Drive # 101
Jupiter, FL 33458


Hi Dr. Nuchovich,

Thank you for your question. I applaud your interest in using herbs for stress and understand your frustration in finding the best herbs for your patients. I will do my best to answer your question and have asked fellow knowledgeable members to add their expertise in the comment section.

You are correct that there are many options and many possible combinations of stress herbs and quantities. In that statement is your answer, although not a simple or a one size fits all one, and probably not the answer you are hoping for. But this is also good news as the use of herbs can and should be personalized to each individual.

Before looking solely at herbs, I would be remiss if I didn’t say that herbs will not likely act as a magic bullet for stress by themselves. Nor is it best to rely solely on them instead of making behavioral changes and employing stress minimizing techniques. However helpful, I’m not a believer that adaptogens can fully compensate for habits that fuel “adrenaline rush addiction” throughout the day, such as waiting until the last minute to race to meetings and pushing deadlines. That can usually all be avoided.

In my own experience, forcing myself to stop and sit for a minute to focus on my breath and body in the present moment until I feel calm and centered does more to break my stress cycle than anything else - at least so far as I’m aware. In my opinion, such techniques should be “prescribed” along with herbs or supplements.

Adaptogenic Herbs for Stress

Three things to keep in mind:

  • In general, adaptogenic tonic herbs work differently than nervines, or calming herbs which may be mildly or strongly sedating and have a direct effect on stress. Some calming herbs are appropriate for daytime use and can be used alongside adaptogens.

  • Adaptogens often provide protection from the effects of stress by toning the HPA axis and balance cortisol levels along with other benefits provided by their individual constituents.This action is often responsible for their effect on mood and focus. It may take a few weeks of regular use to realize benefits. Some of them, like maca, are considered nourishing superfoods.

  • The response someone will experience from adaptogens and other herbs depends on how good a match they are to their constitution and symptoms and the quality and form of the herb. Whole herbs are not as drug-like as standardized herbs, and may differ in the responses they elicit based on their make-up.

One notable, and well-researched adaptogen you mentioned is rhodiola rosea, which I discuss in detail here. It provides protection from the effects of stress, a sense of well-being, and endurance for intellectual and physical work. As a cooling herb, rhodiola is especially good for people who get red-faced or “hot-headed”.

The other adaptogenic herbs you mentioned, with the exception of bacopa (see below), are discussed here.

Choosing the Best Stress Herbs

I cannot give you precise doses and herbs because everyone is different. It may take trial and error and time. But I can offer you some pointers, which will help.
  • Choose herbs based on your patient’s constitution, age, personality, health, and needs. For example: a female patient with hormone-related mood swings (stress!) may benefit from a daily dose of maca the week before and during her cycle.
  • a healthy young adult male who refrains from overindulging in alcohol may do well with eleuthero.
  • ashwagandha and/or rhodiola may be the perfect herbal allies for someone whose stress manifests as nervousness or anxiety.
  • an older man whose "get up and go got up and went", may get a new spring in his step from panax ginseng.

Nervine herbs can be used alongside adaptogenic herbs. They offer more immediate stress-reducing, targeted benefits. For example:
  • someone with a nervous stomach and digestive issues may benefit from a cup of chamomile tea after a meal.
  • if stage fright stresses your patient, a dose of kava kava before a presentation will quell that anxiety without comprising cognitive ability.
  • female patients especially might enjoy real lavender essential oil scented quick neck rub - ahh!

Also, consider magnesium supplementation. Magnesium is vital to hundreds of bodily processes and is chronically deficient in an estimated 70-80% of the adult population. Stress recovery requires magnesium, which is further depleted with each episode. Deficiency may cause insomnia, anxiety, sensitivity to stimuli, muscle and joint pain, hypertension, heart palpitations, chronic fatigue and more. A daily dose of 200-300 mg of ionic magnesium citrate or other highly absorbable form can go a long way in promoting calm and good health.

Note on Bacopa - Scientific evidence suggests that bacopa is “possibly effective” for learning and retaining new information. A 2013 placebo-controlled study found study participants who ingested an extract of bacopa (either 320 mg or 640 mg) exhibited improved cognition and mood, as well as lower levels of the stress hormone, cortisol.(1)

Thank you again for your interest. If we can be of any further help to you, please don't hesitate to ask.

Val Silver

(1) Source: Benson, Sarah, Luke A. Downey, Con Stough, Mark Wetherell, Andrea Zangara, and Andrew Scholey. "An Acute, Double‐Blind, Placebo‐Controlled Cross‐over Study of 320 mg and 640 mg Doses of Bacopa monnieri (CDRI 08) on Multitasking Stress Reactivity and Mood." Phytotherapy Research 28, no. 4 (2014): 551-559

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