3 Herbal Supplements for Stress Relief

supplements for stress relief
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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 herbal supplements are not as vigorously regulated as pharmaceuticals, so consumers should rely only on reputable sources that have been third-party tested.

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. Studies have shown that ashwagandha offers significant adaptogenic benefits and stress-fighting effects. One study found that Ashwagandha root extract effectively increased resistance to stress and improved quality of life.

Ginseng. Panax ginseng (also known as Korean, Asian, or Chinese ginseng) is often praised for its anti-stress properties. Research suggests that ginseng may help stabilize the nervous system response and improve cognition for people who are exposed to high levels of stress. There is also some research in humans reporting anti-depressant-like ingredients and mechanisms in panax ginseng.

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, or in other parts of your life) and 2) finding and using ways to minimize the effects of those triggers.

You may also want to consider seeking stress relief through mind-body practices such as yoga, meditation, mindfulness practice, 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.

Remember, just because something is "natural" does not necessarily mean that you shouldn't exercise caution when taking it—supplement use may cause drug interactions with other medications you might be taking. 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.

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  1. 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):105-112.

  2. Lopresti AL, Smith SJ, Malvi H, Kodgule R. An investigation into the stress-relieving and pharmacological actions of an ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) extract: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled studyMedicine (Baltimore). 2019;98(37):e17186. doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000017186

  3. Chandrasekhar K, Kapoor J, Anishetty S. A prospective, randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study of safety and efficacy of a high-concentration full-spectrum extract of ashwagandha root in reducing stress and anxiety in adultsIndian J Psychol Med. 2012;34(3):255‐262. doi:10.4103/0253-7176.106022

  4. Baek JH, Heo JY, Fava M, et al. Effect of Korean Red Ginseng in individuals exposed to high stress levels: a 6-week, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. J Ginseng Res. 2019;43(3):402-407. doi:10.1016/j.jgr.2018.03.001

  5. Jin Y, Cui R, Zhao L, Fan J, Li B. Mechanisms of Panax ginseng action as an antidepressant. Cell Prolif. 2019;52(6):e12696. doi:10.1111/cpr.12696

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