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Adaptogens and Nervines for Resilience in Body and Mind

calm focus joy sleep Dec 20, 2018

 By Tim Culbert, MD

Adaptogens and nervines can support resilience in body and mind. These substances are generally well-tolerated and can help your system adapt more skillfully when faced with stress. 

What are Adaptogens?

Adaptogens are typically plant-derived substances that work to balance your body and mind. You may also hear them called “adaptogenic herbs.” These substances can help your body adapt to physical, chemical, environmental, and emotional stress; and can also exert a normalizing effect on bodily processes.

Adaptogens Can Help

  • Increase blood flow in the central nervous system.
  • Increase the release of helpful brain chemicals such as nerve growth factor and BDNF.
  • Modulate brain waves.
  • Support neuroplasticity.
  • Boost the production of neurotransmitters.
  • Prevent cell damage.
  • Eliminate toxins.
  • Balance the stress response of the adrenal system.
  • Quiet the mind and body.

Common Adaptogens

  • Ginseng.
    • American ginseng (panax quinquefolius) can help support strength, stamina, and mental alertness while reducing adrenal gland fatigue.
    • Eleuthero Root (often called Siberian Ginseng) is known for its ability to improve mental clarity and support stamina during emotional situations.
  • Rhodiola. Can help bolster the immune system and enhance mood and energy.
  • Ashwagandha. Can promote vigor and strength. It can also help ease the effects of stress by enhancing GABA receptor activity and serotonin in the brain. It also helps to regenerate axons, dendrites, and synapses in the central nervous system. 
  • Schisandra. Chinese folklore suggests this berry calms the heart and quiets the spirit. It can also promote concentration and endurance.
  • Bacopa. This ayurvedic herb can support memory and also reduce anxiety. It appears to work, in part, by modulating serotonin.

What are Nervines?

Nervines have been described as herbals/botanicals that soothe nervous excitement. 

Gentle Nervines Can Help

  • Keep the nervous system from getting too revved up.
  • Encourage a person to have a wind down in the evening.
  • Provide more restful sleep.

Common Nervines

  • Chamomille. Commonly sipped as a tea to help sleep, it can also help relieve mild daytime stress.
  • Passionflower. This plant can help reduce nervous restlessness and can support restful sleep.
  • Valerian. Can support relaxation by calming/quieting the mind and assisting with sleep. 
  • Hops. Known by beer drinkers, hops can help promote a more relaxed state and even calm a nervous stomach. 
  • Lavender. This calming herb is often found in aromatherapy preparations and is known for its gentle calming action. It can also be ingested in a tea or tincture.

How to Use Adaptogens and Nervines

The most common way to include these substances is by way of tea or tablet/capsule. You can also find powders and tinctures. Follow the recommendations of your doctor for types and amounts. Dr. Emmons and I use a few of these types of products in our practices:

Mood Support

Adapt | adaptogenic herbs 


Stress and Anxiousness Support

Stress Support | adaptogenic herbs + nutrients

Calm Days | herbal stress support

Sleep Support

Calm Nights | herbal sleep support


Serene Sleep | comprehensive sleep formula

*This information is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It is important to meet with your doctor before beginning any supplement or herb.


Optimizing your brain to support mental health isn't as complex as some experts want you to believe. When you understand the basic functions of your brain, then you can more confidently, effectively, and lovingly care for it. Learn more.>>>


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