Today’s lifestyle, replete with the demands of home, work, family, finances and more, can fatigue your body’s primary stress-handling glands, the adrenal glands. These triangular-shaped glands sit on top of the kidneys and are located in the solar plexus region of your abdomen. They secrete hormones that help us cope with stress, but when the stresses become chronic, the adrenals can become depleted, causing adrenal fatigue.
Adrenal fatigue is a condition in which the regular outpouring of stress hormones in response to our fast-paced and hectic lives has caused the glands to wear down. It usually involves insufficient production of hormones, irregular secretion of hormones or secretion of hormones in inappropriate cycles, such as excessive cortisol production in the evening, rather than earlier in the day. Many people incorrectly use the term adrenal exhaustion to refer to adrenal fatigue, but adrenal exhaustion is actually a rare and life-threatening condition in which the adrenal glands are nearly non-functional.
Some of the stresses that can put a strain on our adrenal glands include: extreme sports (which may seem great at the time but over longer periods can wear down the adrenal glands), driving ourselves to excel at all costs, excessive working and chronic health problems. Adrenal fatigue can cause a whole host of physical ailments, such as fatigue, poor digestion, sleep disorders, reduced immune system functioning and elevated blood sugar levels.
Of course, stress management is necessary, but there are also some excellent herbs and nutrients that can give your adrenal glands a boost. Always consult a physician if you suspect adrenal fatigue and before beginning any supplements.
Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra) is one of the best herbs to restore the body’s adrenal glands and their communication with the brain. In an interview, a journalist once asked me if I was stranded on a desert island and could only take one herb with me, which one would I take? I immediately answered licorice root because it is such a powerful healer of the adrenal glands as well as an adaptogenic herb that can help the body adapt to all sorts of stresses, including: regulating the immune system, reducing inflammation and even having anticancer properties.
To make an anti-stress licorice tea, boil one heaping teaspoon of dried licorice root per cup of water. Allow to boil for 45 minutes, then strain and drink one cup two to three times daily. It is best to discontinue use after about two weeks. Because licorice is such a powerful natural medicine, it is important to treat it with respect. Avoid using licorice if you have high blood pressure or kidney failure, or take heart medication.
Vitamin C is one of the most important nutrients to the adrenal glands. It is needed to manufacture the hormones secreted by these glands in response to stress. The more stress you experience, the higher your vitamin C needs may be. A typical dose to assist with adrenal fatigue is 2000 mg or higher; however, a qualified health professional should be consulted when using higher doses.
Pantothenic acid is one of the B-complex vitamins that is essential for adrenal gland health. It is naturally present in high doses in the adrenal glands but can become depleted as hormones are manufactured in response to stress. A typical dose for adrenal fatigue is 1500 mg but should always accompany a B-complex vitamin since they work synergistically.
Commonly used by natural medicine practitioners to treat adrenal gland fatigue, Siberian ginseng, or Eleutherococcus senticosus, works primarily on the pituitary gland in the brain. This gland stimulates the adrenal glands to produce more adrenal hormones. In adrenal fatigue, communication between the pituitary gland and the adrenals may be impaired. A typical dose of Siberian ginseng for the treatment of adrenal fatigue is 100 to 200 mg daily.
Found in Yukon, Alaska, Siberia and northern China, rhodiola, or roseroot as its also known, is a beautiful flowering plant that is one of the most overlooked adrenal herbs available. Like Siberian ginseng, it is one of the few plants that is considered an adaptogen, which means that it helps the body adapt to stress by increasing resistance to fatigue. It boosts the adrenals, builds energy and improves mood. Boil the dried root pieces in water and simmer for 10 to 20 minutes. Drink daily for up to 3 weeks at a time to give your stress glands a boost. Herbalist Beverley Gray, author of The Boreal Herbal adds the cooled rhodiola tea to her morning smoothies for a boost.
A commonly used adaptogen found in Ayurvedic medicine in India, this root is particularly good for the adrenal glands. According to research in which study participants were given either ashwagandha root or a placebo, the ashwagandha root group had significant improvements in stress reduction and other markers linked to adrenal fatigue. Ashwagandha is available in tincture (alcohol extract), capsule, tea, and dried herb formats. Follow package directions for the product you choose.
Pine and Rosemary Essential Oils
The essential oils of these coniferous plants have been used for many years to help restore adrenal gland health. Research conducted by aromatherapy practitioner and lecturer, Shirley Price, in her book Aromatherapy for Health Professionals, found that both of these oils support the healing of the adrenal cortex—the outer portion of the adrenal glands that regulate fat and carbohydrate metabolism, as well as sodium balance in the body. To use Pine (Pinus sylvestris) and Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) essential oils, dilute a few drops of a high quality essential oil in a teaspoon of carrier oil like fractionated coconut oil or sweet almond oil and rub over the solar plexus region on a daily basis. Diffuse undiluted (neat) pine and/or rosemary essential oil in an aromatherapy diffuser on a daily basis for at least 20 minutes. Inhale the vapors daily.