Adaptogens List: If You’re New To Herbal Medicine, Here’s What We Recommend

Plants hold a wealth of medicinal potential, and ignoring this truth is silly. With so many adaptogens to choose from, we understand why you might be confused. We set out to clear up the confusion by making an adaptogens list for beginners.

If you’re just hearing about herbal medicine for the first time, get ready to take notes. There’s a lot to cover, but luckily, we’ve organized the information with you in mind.

Before we begin, a word of caution: misinformation about adaptogens is a thing. And it’s not just you who is’s everyone.

According to an expert herbalist, industry leaders in herbal medicine, community members, and researchers are all equally confused about adaptogens.[1] Agreeing on common terms for classifying adaptogens seems to be the biggest issue.

In the 1960s, Dr. Israel Brekhman became a global authority on all things adaptogens. He devoted 45 years of his life to researching and presenting his findings on tonic herbs such as eleuthero and Asian ginseng.[2]

Eventually earning the nickname the “Father of Adaptogens,” Dr. Brekhman recognized any plant substance as an adaptogen so long as it met these four criteria[3]:

  1. The herb helps the body cope with stress.
  2. It’s non-toxic and causes no negative side effects (with correct dosing).
  3. Both single and prolonged use of the herb produces stimulating effects.
  4. Consuming the herb normalizes the body’s functioning.

While these points were outlined sixty years ago, they serve as a solid foundation for those of us new to adaptogens.

Subsequent research has since refined Dr. Brekhman’s criteria to describe the regulatory effect of adaptogens on the nervous system, immune function, and flight and fight response.[4]

In this article, we feature herbs and mushrooms in this adaptogens list based on Dr. Brekhman’s findings. We also recognize supplementary research from scientists examining the effect of herbs on the brain and body. You can expect to finish this article and feel more confident about selecting between different adaptogens for your health needs. We’ll also throw in a personal tip for better sleep (the Sovereignty way) towards the end of the article.

What herbs are adaptogens?

This list is designed to help you learn plant names, benefits, and fun facts about adaptogens. We put them in alphabetical order to try and omit the possibility of favoritism, BUT we do have our favorites, so we’d be lying if we didn’t state the truth. While there are dozens of adaptogens from all over the world, we included the most popular to get you started.


You can read through each description at your own leisure. Whether you’re looking for a specific adaptogen or eager to learn about them all, here is Sovereignty’s recommended adaptogens list (for beginner’s):

  • Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)

: Curbs cortisol levels for stress relief, a possible treatment for arthritis, Alzheimer’s, cancer, and heart diseases[5]

Fun fact
: This adaptogen is popular in alternative medicine like Ayurveda.

  • Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus)*

: a possible treatment for asthma, seasonal allergies, heart conditions, kidney disease, and chronic fatigue[6]

Fun fact: Astragalus is in the same plant family as beans, peas, lentils, and chickpeas. *One of Sovereignty’s favorites.

  • Bacopa monnieri (aka brahmi)

: Helps maintain healthy blood pressure, reduces inflammation, improves memory, may help treat ADHD[7]

Fun fact: This herb is also used in the Indian practice of Ayurveda.

  • Cordyceps mushroom (aka caterpillar fungus)*

: May increase athletic performance and reduce sugar cravings, used as an anti-aging topical[8]

Fun fact: Although it grows on the larva of insects, cordyceps has a sweet taste.[9]

  • Eleuthero (aka Siberian ginseng)

: may help symptoms of menopause[10] and osteoporosis[11]

Fun fact: Botanists encourage people to refer to Siberian ginseng as eleuthero to distinguish it from Asian ginseng. It’s a name game but it still matters!

  • Ginseng American & Asian

: Reduces inflammation, lowers stress, improves memory, may help erectile dysfunction[12]

Fun fact: There are many different species of ginseng. We grouped them together for the sake of space, but each species has its own unique chemical structure and as a result, its own perceived benefits.[13]

  • Holy basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum & tulsi)

: enhances metabolism, lowers stress, contains essential nutrients like calcium, zinc, iron, plus vitamin A and C[14]

Fun fact: Different parts of the Holy basil plant treat different conditions. For example, its flowers may treat bronchitis and its seeds may treat malaria.[15]

  • Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra & G. uralensis)

: may help treat respiratory infections, cavities, and heartburn[16]

Fun fact: This adaptogen is believed to help energy circulation (chi) in Traditional Chinese Medicine.

  • Reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum)

: stress relief, anticancer properties, immune system booster

Fun fact: Some people call reishi the elixir of immortality.[17]

  • Rhaponticum (aka maral root & Russian leuzea) 

: antioxidant, good for building muscle resilience and stronger libido[18]

Fun fact: The benefits of maral root are comparable to Asian ginseng.

  • Rhodiola (aka golden root)

: alleviates fatigue, used as a treatment for depression and mood disorders[19]

Fun fact: Rhodiola worked better than a placebo in a study with 56 physicians working the night shift. The adaptogen helped with their mental fatigue and task performance (good enough for doctors, good enough for us).[20]

  • Schisandra berries (aka five-flavor fruit)*

: neuroprotectant, a possible treatment for liver inflammation, menopause symptoms, and depression[21]

Fun fact: Schisandra berries taste sweet, salty, bitter, pungent, and sour. That’s why they're nicknamed the five-flavor fruit.

*One of Sovereignty's Favorites

  • Shilajit (aka Mumijo)

: helps with stress management, immune support, athletic performance, and sexual reproduction[22]

Fun fact: This powder comes from black rocks in the Himalayas.

If you're hooked on Adaptogens just like us, you have to check out Dillon Wilensky's blog The Adaptogens! An entire website devoted to everything you need to know about adaptogenic herbs and their benefits! You can subscribe to his page and get notifications every time he makes a new post. Click here to access his page: The Adaptogens


How do you choose the right adaptogen?

To take some of the pressure off, you can start by thinking about your health needs. Are you an athlete? If you want to recover quicker, go for shilajit or Cordyceps. Are you going through menopause? Try schisandra or eleuthero.

It may take some trial and error to find the best adaptogens for YOU, but have fun, experiment, and keep your doctor in the loop, especially if you’re taking adaptogens with prescriptions (safety first).

P.S. We didn’t forget to tell you about our tip for better sleep. It has to do with licorice root and insomnia—we call it Dream. It’s for insomniacs, restless sleepers, and grumpy morning people.

This formula helps you sleep deeper and wake up easier. Adaptogens are good for a lot of things, and sleep is definitely one of them, trust us, we know.

We hope you enjoyed this adaptogens list!