Located above the kidneys, the adrenal glands serve the important function of secreting your body's hormones. Adrenal glands also help regulate your body's response to stress by releasing a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol helps you respond in an emergency, but it is meant to be a short-term burst before returning to normal levels. Too much cortisol, infections, corticosteroids and stress can cause problems with the adrenal glands. Several herbs can help support healthy adrenal gland function.
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In and Out
The interior portion of the adrenal gland is the adrenal medulla, which regulates hormones such as adrenaline and acts on blood pressure and heart rate. The outside portion of the adrenal gland is called the adrenal cortex. It secretes hormones that regulate the use of carbohydrates, fats and proteins; male sex hormones; and hormones that maintain sodium and potassium balance. According to David Hoffman, author of "Medical Herbalism: The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine," similar herbs help both the cortex and medulla, though they might achieve results through different mechanisms.
Licorice is a common herbal treatment for adrenal support, according to Holistic Primary Care. It is classified as an adaptogen, which helps your body cope with stress. Adaptogens can also induce a normalizing effect on bodily processes. According to the book "Tired of Being Tired," licorice keeps cortisol accessible for longer, which can reduce the need for your adrenals to continue to release cortisol. Hoffman states that licorice is particularly beneficial for the adrenal cortex. A modest daily dose of 25 to 100 milligrams is sufficient for most people. Too much licorice can cause high blood pressure and affect potassium levels, so avoid it if you have hypertension.
Eleuthero, also called Siberian ginseng, is an adaptogenic herb with at least 4,000 years of established use. According to Hoffman, eleuthero works directly on the adrenal medulla. The herb can also enhance cognitive function and boost the immune system, both of which can be affected by poorly functioning adrenals. A typical dose of eleuthero is 2 to 3 grams daily for six weeks, followed by a one- to two-week rest period before resumption.
Ashwaganda -- an adaptogen that can improve adrenal function and mental energy -- is commonly used in Indian Ayurvedic medicine. Holistic Primary Care says ashwaganda is especially useful for addressing insomnia caused by stress and recommends taking 2 grams of the whole root twice daily, or as one dose at bedtime. In "The Immune System Recovery Plan," author Susan Blum suggests 500 milligrams daily as the standard dose of ashwaganda. Traditional Ayurvedic dosing may call for as much as 7 grams per day.