3 Herbal Supplements for Stress Relief

supplements for stress relief
Paul Bradbury/OJO Images/Getty Images

You're probably aware that taking supplements for stress doesn't actually treat the problem — and that, as with many if not most medical conditions, there is no cure for stress. But when it comes to helping your body defend against the harmful effects of stress, some herbal supplements offer promise. They contain herbs that are believed to act as adaptogens — natural substances that may help your body "adapt" to stress as well as function more normally.

So, if your efforts to make lifestyle changes and use relaxation techniques aren't doing enough to reduce your stress, you may want to ask your doctor about taking herbal supplements for stress relief.

Keep in mind, however, that taking herbal supplements for this purpose has not been thoroughly studied in clinical trials. This means that, so far, these supplements have not been proven to work. 

Adaptogens as Supplements for Stress

Here's a look at several herbs often found in supplements for stress management:

Rhodiola. An herb long used in traditional medicine in Russia and some European countries, Rhodiola may help fight fatigue among people with chronic (long-term) stress. For instance, in a small study published in 2009, researchers found that regular intake of Rhodiola reduced fatigue and enhanced mental performance in people struggling with stress-induced burnout. The study results showed that the 30 participants taking Rhodiola supplements for 28 days had a greater improvement in concentration than those who took a placebo pill (a pill that does not contain the substance being studied) for the same amount of time.

Ashwagandha. In Ayurveda (the traditional medicine of India), this herb has long been recommended for its supposedly refreshing and energizing effects. Although a number of animal-based studies have shown that ashwagandha offers significant adaptogenic benefits, there is no scientific evidence yet for its stress-fighting effects, if any, in humans.

Ginseng. Panax ginseng (also known as Korean, Asian, or Chinese ginseng) is often praised for its anti-stress properties. However, very few studies have explored its adaptogenic effects in humans. In a 2003 study on rats, researchers found that regular intake of Korean (Panax) ginseng appeared to protect against some of the harmful effects of chronic stress.

More Ways to Manage Stress Naturally

As you've seen, although taking an herbal supplement may help you manage stress, it may or may not work for you. What does work, and what's best to focus on to help relieve your stress, are 1) identifying your top stress "triggers" (things that "stress you out" at home, at work, and/or in other parts of your life) and 2) finding and using ways to minimize their effects.

You may also want to consider seeking stress relief through mind-body practices such as yoga, meditation, tai chi, guided imagery, and biofeedback.

Why Stress Is a Risk Factor for Some Serious Health Problems

Stress is a proven risk factor for many serious illnesses, including depression and heart disease, and it may contribute to other health problems such as insomnia and high blood pressure. For these reasons and more, it's important to work with your doctor to manage long-term stress.

If you're considering taking a supplement for stress — or any other health problem — make sure to consult your doctor before you start using it. Keep in mind, too, that the effects of long-term use of supplements for stress management are unknown.

Was this page helpful?

Article Sources

Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  • Bhattacharya SK, Muruganandam AV. "Adaptogenic activity of Withania somnifera: an experimental study using a rat model of chronic stress." Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2003 75(3):547-55.
  • Head KA, Kelly GS. "Nutrients and botanicals for treatment of stress: adrenal fatigue, neurotransmitter imbalance, anxiety, and restless sleep." Altern Med Rev. 2009 14(2):114-40.
  • Mishra LC, Singh BB, Dagenais S. "Scientific basis for the therapeutic use of Withania somnifera (ashwagandha): a review." Altern Med Rev. 2000 5(4):334-46.
  • Olsson EM, von Schéele B, Panossian AG. "A randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group study of the standardised extract shr-5 of the roots of Rhodiola rosea in the treatment of subjects with stress-related fatigue." Planta Med. 2009 75(2):105-12.
  • Rai D, Bhatia G, Sen T, Palit G. "Anti-stress effects of Ginkgo biloba and Panax ginseng: a comparative study." J Pharmacol Sci. 2003 93(4):458-64.