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9 Foods & Herbs That Help Your Body Adapt To Stress

9 Foods & Herbs That Help Your Body Adapt To Stress

Stress is an unavoidable part of life. We all experience it from time to time. All forms of stress – emotional, nutritional, environmental, physical – stimulate the production of cortisol, known as the stress hormone. Cortisol can be very damaging to our bodies in the long term. 

We can provide a constant counterbalance to stress by eating certain foods or by using adaptogens, which are a special class of herbs that help your body respond to stress. I support myself with many different adaptogens when my body needs to recover from stress.

Good versions of the herbs and adaptogens can be found in capsule or powder form or as extracts. Always take them according to package directions and use reputable companies that care about quality! Don’t go for cheap – go for effective!

Here are some adaptogens you can try:


This adaptogen often gets passed over as a snooze-worthy herbal tea you drink before bed. But it is so much more than that! Studies have shown chamomile has a positive impact on your body’s blood vessels and muscles helping them relax. Plus, it positively fights anxiety and depression.  Don’t just think of it as a bedtime tea – think of it as a powerful anxiety and stress fighter!


In studies, ginseng has significant anti-stress properties. In fact, it is approved for use for the treatment of stress-induced disorders. Ginseng tea is a wonderful way to give your body support and have a moment of self-care.


Where to start with raw nuts and seeds? Many of them come with cool stress-fighting compounds in them! The key is to be getting them raw and organic and then soak them before eating so all the nutrients are unlocked and the anti-nutrients are removed.


  • Almonds give your body antioxidants including phenols, flavonoids, & phenolic acids that combat stress and are anti-aging.
  • Out of all the nuts and seeds, sunflower seeds give your body some of the highest levels of phytosterols, which support your heart health and immune system, both of which are taxed when you experience stress.
  • Brazil nuts are an excellent source of organic selenium, a powerful antioxidant-boosting mineral that may be beneficial for the prevention of cancer and serve as a stress fighter.
  • Pecans contain more than 19 vitamins and minerals, and studies show that can help lower LDL cholesterol and promote healthy arteries. You’ll also give your body anti-inflammatory magnesium, heart-healthy oleic acid, phenolic antioxidants, and immune-boosting manganese when you grab a handful.
  • Baru nuts (or as I call them, Barúkas!) are the mother of antioxidant-rich nuts. I did a double-take when I first saw the lab numbers! Barúkas have THE MOST antioxidants than any other nut on the planet, second to pecans (17,940) and Walnuts (13,541) respectively. Relative to something traditionally considered antioxidant blueberries (4,669), this is huge! They also have good fats and protein to keep your body nourished to combat stress.



One damaging effect of stress is that it exhausts your adrenal glands because they are constantly pumping out adrenaline and cortisol to respond to stress. It can result in something you may have heard of: adrenal fatigue. When you add licorice root extract to your self-care routine, it can support your adrenal gland to promote a healthy level of cortisol in your body.


Passionflower is an incredible calming herb that provides stress reduction without making you drowsy. It can also help combat insomnia that might be triggered by long-term stress and high anxiety where your brain and body cannot relax. Studies also show that because it helps lower anxiety, passionflower can assist your body in dealing with conditions triggered by stress such as hypertension, asthma, and poor digestion.


Schizandra (also spelled Schisandra) always makes me start humming because just saying the name sounds like a song, but it also helps support your adrenal glands and helps shut off the overproduction of “stress hormones” such as cortisol. This powerful adaptogen, one of my favorites to consume as a tea, also has metabolic, brain-boosting and endurance support for performance athletes. I often recommend this tea to athletes I meet with.


Haven’t heard of this one? You’re not alone. This staple in Chinese medicine gets its name from its shape that is similar to a medieval helmet. One keynote: there are two types: American skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora) and Chinese skullcap (Scutellaria baicalensis) and they each do different things in your body. It’s a great tonic to help treat anxiety and calm nerves.


St. John’s Wort is a little more well-known for its ability to treat depression and anxiety. It also includes compounds like hypericin, pseudohypericin, and various xanthones that can elevate dopamine and serotonin levels in your brain.


Valerian root can increase the amount of a chemical called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in your brain. GABA helps regulate nerve cells and calm anxiety. Additionally, the valerenic acid and valerenol contained in valerian root extract help fight anxiety in your body and actually suppresses it, according to research in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

One of the most powerful approaches you can take to nutrition is to actively respond to the season and experiences life throws at you with foods proven to support what you are experiencing, in this case, stress and anxiety. Food can be the greatest form of medicine and healing that you can provide your body! Stay curious and ask questions about how foods and choices like adding in adaptogens make you feel. You’ll find your winning ways for stress recovery as well.


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