Ever since my journey from cancer back to health started, I knew that I needed lots of support from many sources.
One of them of it was the sage advice of my naturopath, the other was the whole array of adaptogens to help me get through the day and months and years.
I knew instinctively, and this aligned with my naturopath’s approach, that I would reach out to nature when seeking increased energy, de-stressing, and combatting fatigue.
Aside from medicinal mushrooms, which are nature’s gift to mankind when it comes to longevity and fighting off disease including cancer, I turned to Ashwagandha and Rhodiola.
These two adaptogenic herbs are perfect, especially at times of increased stress, occasional insomnia, and slacking energy levels.
- Who Needs Help with Stress and Anxiety?
- Can Herbs Help?
- What Are Adaptogenic Herbs?
- Are Adaptogens Like Ashwagandha and Rhodiola for You?
- When Will You See The Effects?
- How Does Ashwagandha Help With Stress?
- How To Take Ashwagandha?
- When To Take Ashwagandha?
- Where To Get Ashwagandha?
- What Is Rhodiola And How Does It Help With Stress?
- How To Take Rhodiola?
- Can You Take Ashwagandha And Rhodiola Together?
- Where To Get Rhodiola?
- A Few Stress-Relieving Recipes with Ashwagandha and Rhodiola
- Caution For People With Serious Medical Conditions
Who Needs Help with Stress and Anxiety?
Of course, you do not need to have stared into the abyss during a mortal cancer battle to become anxious and stressed.
It’s probably safe to say that modern life itself provided enough stress to cause many of us anxiety. Add to it financial woes, relationship problems, break-ups or dealing with the aftermath of a difficult relationship, and it becomes clear that help from adaptogens might be welcome by many.
Can Herbs Help?
Both Ashwagandha and Rhodiola are prized by researchers as herbal solutions to coping with stress, even though they do it in a slightly different way.
Since there seems to be some confusion about which one is “better” to take, in this post I’ll describe their uses and benefits and provide a few recipes to incorporate into your daily routine.
I take them both or alternate between them. Either way, I swear by them, and I hope they can prove helpful to you as well.
What Are Adaptogenic Herbs?
Adaptogens are substances that help the body “adapt” to or resist physical, biological or chemical stressors.
Some adaptogens are specifically great for stress reduction, others for raising energy, still others for boosting your immunity and warding off viral and bacterial infections.
Adaptogens are plant extracts that allow an organism to counteract adverse physical, chemical, and biological stressors by generating nonspecific resistance.IFT Journal
I wrote earlier about medicinal mushrooms which are amazing adaptogens when it comes to immunity-boosting and disease prevention. Now let’s tackle stress and fatigue.
As we know prolonged exposure to stress with constantly increased levels of stress hormones can be a silent killer.
I remember well how when I was seeking complementary modalities when dealing with cancer, my naturopathic doctor literally prescribed stress relief as medicine. Part of this prescription was meditation and breathwork, and the other part was adaptogenic herbs.
Probably the two best herbs for stress relief though are adaptogens called Ashwagandha and Rhodiola. Both work well to combat stress and energize you. There are some crucial differences between the two though.
Rhodiola gives more energy acutely, whereas ashwagandha gives more energy chronically by helping you get a better night’s sleep.The Unwinder
I’ve been using both and have seen consistently good results from the regimen with Rhodiola taken in the morning and Ashwagandha both in the morning and at night.
The dosing and timing will depend of course on individual needs and desired effects though.
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Are Adaptogens Like Ashwagandha and Rhodiola for You?
It’s probably safe to say that in our modern age, the majority of us are exposed to one or another stressor. And since adaptogenic herbs are non-toxic to us, I would say that most of us can benefit from them.
In order for adaptogens to work though, it is important to take a more holistic approach. There is no silver bullet for anything, including constant stress.
Using herbs as an aid in addition to other modalities such as moderate exercise, meditation, yoga, stretching, wholesome nutrition, improving your sleep hygiene, reducing sugar intake, promoting a healthy microbiome can do wonders to bring us calm and peace.
When Will You See The Effects?
Adaptogens are powerful plant medicines whose job is to bring the body back into balance so it is not a quick fix. In fact, they are pretty slow-acting and you may not notice their effects for a few weeks after you start taking them.
It also has been suggested to design a schedule where there is a bit of a “rest period” for the body to uptake the medicine better when one returns to it.
For example, if you take the herb for six days, give it one day’s rest. If you take it for six weeks, give it a week off. Six months on, one month off.
How Does Ashwagandha Help With Stress?
One of the best adaptogens and possibly the best researched is Ashwagandha. It’s been used for millennia by Ayurvedic practitioners to manage stress, to help with chronic fatigue, and sleep disturbances.
With the use of ashwagandha, stress doesn’t impact the nervous system with such intensity, and the “hyper” signs of stress and agitation will naturally resolve over time.Banayan Botanicals
Some of the benefits of this adaptogenic herb are:
- Lowering stress hormones (cortisol and adrenaline)
- Improving sleep
- Boosting immunity
- Helping with adrenal fatigue
- Improving libido and sexual function
More recently, the herb has been studied also for its anti-cancer properties and there is lots of promising research pointing to Ashwagandha’s anti-tumor compounds.
Ashwagandha possesses wide variety of therapeutic uses in each and every system of human body. The plant has also been widely studied for its various pharmacological activities like antioxidant, anxiolytic, adaptogen, memory enhancing, antiparkinsonian, anti-inflammatory, antitumor propertiesJournal of clinical and pre-clinical research
Ashwagandha is not only an adaptogen (combatting the stressors) but it’s also a tonic, meaning it can not only strengthen the nervous system but it can also be very calming it at the same time.
In clinical studies, it has been proven to help alleviate stress by reducing the levels of the stress hormone cortisol and a “stress-activated c-Jun N-terminal protein kinase”.
In a small study with 58 participants, those who took 250 or 600 mg of ashwagandha extract for 8 weeks had significantly reduced perceived stress and levels of the stress hormone cortisol compared with those who took a placebo.Healthline
Moreover, supplementing with Ashwagandha may help you get a better night of sleep, something I have been struggling with a lot since menopause and cancer-related PTSD.
How To Take Ashwagandha?
Like many other herbs, Ashwagandha can be found in multiple forms.
The maximum benefits of Ashwagandha can be found in the herb’s roots. These roots are dried, cut, and sifted for tea or powdered to be used in capsules or mixed in with milk or other beverage.
Ashwagandha is traditionally taken with ghee and honey (equal parts), which act as anupans (a medium for carrying herbs deeper into the tissues) for overall nourishment and rejuvenation.Banayan Herbs
Ashwagandha churna (ashwagandha powder) is quite bitter so when in this form, it needs to be “hidden” or balanced by a sweetener to remain palatable. Hence the honey in the traditional use.
I add a 1/4–1/2 teaspoon of Ashwagandha to my morning coffee alongside powdered mushrooms. With a splash of plant-based milk, it tastes delicious.
The powder’s bitterness can also be counterbalanced by a sweet fruit in a smoothie (bananas or mangoes) or by dates in a raw bar. See the recipes below.
If I’m taking it to help with sleep in the evening, when I do not want to load up on extra calories or caffeine, my go-to are capsules or an extract.
The general recommendation is to take about 1/4–1/2 teaspoon once or twice daily.
When To Take Ashwagandha?
Because of i’s dual effect as a stress reducer and calming tonic, Ashwagandha is definitely a great herb to take in the evening. This is what I choose to do, either as a capsule or as a tincture.
However, the herb will not make you drowsy or unable to function during the day, so it is also perfectly fine to take it throughout the day, either in your coffee or a smoothie.
The specific dosage and timing will depend on your needs and desired effects. Please consult the herbalist you’re working with or the instructions on the bottle of the capsules or the extract you’ll be getting.
Where To Get Ashwagandha?
The popularity of this revered herbal remedy has skyrocketed in recent years and it seems like everybody is trying to sell it these days.
When buying Ashwagandha please make sure that it is a real thing and not a dupe. Look for reputable sources, with a clear description of where the herb is sourced from and how is it prepared.
I don’t believe that it has to come only from India. There are many legit sources that source it from elsewhere as the herb can grow elsewhere.
Personally, I don’t believe in the novelties such as gummies or candy with herbs in there as the concentration of the healing substance is likely way too small.
Organic Ashwagandha Root Extract
What Is Rhodiola And How Does It Help With Stress?
Rhodiola is another one of the super herbs that can be of tremendous help when it comes to stress, anxiety, and fatigue.
This herb grows in very cold, subarctic regions of Europe, Asia, and North America and has been used medicinally in Russia and Scandinavia for centuries.
Traditionally, it was thought to increase endurance and performance, as well as to treat fatigue, weakness, and other symptoms.
More recently, Rhodiola became wider known also outside these traditional cultures.
With wider use came more scientific studies of the herb. Especially Rhodiola’s energizing and fatigue-combatting properties are well researched.
In one study, participants with “life stress symptoms” were administered 200mg of Rhodiola twice daily for four weeks. The results were impressive:
Improvements were shown across all methods of assessment and reports of improved stress resilience and lowered fatigue was noted. The key takeaway from this study was that improvement was seen in just three days after taking rhodiola 200 mg twice daily.Utilizing Adaptogens
This is how Rhodiola is a bit different from Ashwagandha.
Whereas ashwagandha helps us cope with stress by delaying the physical response, supplementing with Rhodiola can reduce the fatigue and “burnout” feelings associated with stress and anxiety.
How does Rhodiola do that? The adaptogen is made up of about 140 chemical compounds, including phenols and phenolic acids, which have not only anti-stress but also antioxidant and anti-carcinogenic effects.
Most of Rhodiola’s stress and fatigue-reducing properties come from specific constituents: salidroside (rhodioloside), rosavins, and p-tyrosol. Thanks to these, Rhodiola is being used to stimulate the nervous system, decrease depression, enhance work performance, and eliminate fatigue.
How To Take Rhodiola?
Rhodiola can be found in tea, tincture, and capsule form. Whichever form you chose to take, make sure to look for Rhodiola which is standardized to 2-3% rosavin and 0.8-1% salidroside to get the maximum benefit.
Most herbalists suggest taking it on empty stomach, at least 30 minutes before eating. If taking higher doses, you might want to stagger them throughout the day, for example before breakfast, before lunch, and before dinner.
It might be best to avoid it right before bedtime because Rhodiola does have that stimulating effect which might interfere with sleep.
Can You Take Ashwagandha And Rhodiola Together?
According to research, yes, but again, not right at bedtime.
From personal experience, I see that when taken together during the day, Ashwagandha and Rhodiola work synergistically to deliver a calming and yet energizing effect, which is very helpful to get me through the day.
Where To Get Rhodiola?
Just like with Ashwagandha, look for a trusted source for all your herbal needs.
Rhodiola can be a bit pricey as its supply is not keeping up with the demand. With growing popularity, the wild herb is getting harder to get by and farming of it is still limited.
When buying, stick with high-quality companies, where actual herbalists research and work on the formulas and who follow the FDA’s good manufacturing practices.
Rhodiola Root Capsules – $22.33
from: Starwest Botanicals Inc.
A Few Stress-Relieving Recipes with Ashwagandha and Rhodiola
Once you get your dried herbs, you can incorporate them into easy recipes like the few below.
Golden Milk for Better Sleep
- 1 &1/2 cup milk or non-dairy milk (almond or oat work great)
- 2 tsp organic turmeric powder
- 1 tsp ashwagandha
- Tiny pinch of black pepper (this helps with the absorption of turmeric)
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp cardamom
- 1-2 tsp raw honey or maple syrup or another sweetener of choice (optional)
Since ashwagandha is one of the best adaptogens for sleep out there, it makes sense to add it to this golden milk recipe.
Adaptogenic Coffee Or Latte
As already mentioned ashwagandha and Rhodiola both have an impact on energy levels. Rhodiola more immediately, and ashwagandha more gradually with continuous use.
An easy way to add the two herbs to your morning routine is by adding the powder to coffee. The taste of coffee can easily mask Ashwaghanda’s bitterness so for me, this is the only way I can tolerate the herb without added sweetener.
Just add 1/2 tsp of each powdered herb to your morning cup, mix it in, top with frothed milk (my preferred kind here is oat milk) and you’re ready to head out for the day.
Adaptogen and Antioxidant Raw Bars
These bars are easy to make and perfect for a before-bedtime snack.
- 1 cup Medijola dates
- ½ rolled oats
- ½ cup nut butter of choice (e.g. almond or cashew)
- 1 TBS coconut oil or ghee (melted but not hot)
- 3 TBS raw cocoa powder
- 1 TBS Ashwagandha powder
- ¼ tsp sea salt
- Optional additives: coconut flakes, bee pollen, goji berry pieces, sunflower seeds
Mash or blend the dates with the oil or ghee. Add the rest of the ingredients. Mix well. Form into a bar or cylinder shape. Wrap into parchment paper and freeze until set. Cut into smaller chunks. Keep in the fridge or freezer.
Caution For People With Serious Medical Conditions
Just a reminder that I am not a medical professional.
Generally, adaptogens are considered very safe but I would suggest that especially if you have a health condition, you should consider talking to your doctor before starting a new supplement, including adaptogens.
In particular, anybody who takes other medicines or chemo should discuss it with their medical team to ensure that there will not be any unwanted interaction.
Before you go, check this out.