Adrenal fatigue is a relatively new term; it is used to describe the symptoms that occur when your adrenal glands are ‘burnt out’. Unless there is an underlying cause, there is no reason why you can’t use Chinese herbs for adrenal fatigue.  

What is Adrenal Fatigue?

Your adrenal glands are a pair of  walnut-sized endocrine glands that sit at the top of each kidney; they may sound small but actually play a very important role in your body.

Your adrenal glands are responsible for secreting various hormones, including cortisol, sex hormones, and adrenaline, into your blood.

Adrenal fatigue typically develops after prolonged periods of stress but can also occur after serious infections, like the flu. A poor diet and chronic inflammation can also be contributing factors.

The main symptoms of adrenal fatigue include:

  • chronic tiredness without a cause
  • difficulty concentrating
  • sleep disorders
  • cravings
  • weight gain
  • feeling run down

Using Chinese Adaptogenic Herbs

Using Chinese herbs for adrenal fatigue is a safe and effective way to improve symptoms.

You are more likely to find success with natural adrenal support during the early stages of     adrenal fatigue when the adrenal glands are still functioning.

When the adrenal glands are completely burnt out, taking herbs may lead to unwanted side effects.

Chinese Herbs for Adrenal Fatigue

Photo Credit: dnlspnk, Oriental Clinic 23

In the book, Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief , Maimes and Winston (2007)  perfectly describe what an adaptogen is.

Adaptogens are remarkable natural substances that help the body adapt to stress, support normal metabolic functions, and help restore balance. They increase the body’s resistance to physical, biological, emotional, and environmental stressors and provide a defense response to acute or chronic stress.

Considering that adrenal fatigue often occurs as a result of ongoing stress, taking adaptogenic herbs can you give the resilience you need to cope with what you are dealing with.

Using adaptogenic herbs for adrenal fatigue gives your body the support and strength it needs to survive. Maimes and Winston also go on to say that adaptogenic herbs:

are unique from other substances in their ability to restore the balance of endocrine hormones, modulate the immune system, and allow the body to maintain optimal homeostasis.

The herbs maintain optimum bodily functions as well as balance endocrine hormones.

This is quite significant as the adrenal glands secrete endocrine hormones, which often become unbalanced as a result of adrenal fatigue, therefore, taking adaptogenic herbs should help to restore hormone levels.

Adaptogenic Chinese herbs for adrenal fatigue that have proven effective

Licorice Root

Licorice is often associated with confectionery but can also be used medicinally.

Licorice root has many powerful properties, including anti-inflammatory, anti-arthritic, mild estrogenic, and it even has laxative effects.

Licorice root helps to balance hormones secreted by the adrenal glands while improving the function of cortisol. 

It can be really a effective herb for recovering from adrenal fatigue. For further reading, here are two useful articles I found during my research that go into depth about licorice root and adrenal fatigue.

Warning: licorice root tea should not be taken if you have high blood pressure or heart problems!


Although there has not been much research to determine whether or not ginseng used on its own is effective medicinally, it is highly valued herb in Chinese medicine.

As well as supporting the body during stress, ginseng is said to increase cognitive function and improve physical endurance. Ginseng is best taken in the early stages of fatigue.

If taken when adrenal glands are completely burnt out, it could lead to side effects. Avoid taking if you have insomnia.


Schizandra is a berry but due to its distinct exotic flavor – it’s Chinese name translates into five-flavored berry as it tastes bitter, pungent, sweet, sour and salty – it tends to be used only medicinally.

Schizandra has many therapeutic uses and according to Wikipedia, in traditional Chinese medicine, the berry is considered one of 50 fundamental herbs.

It’s not surprising. As well as being an adaptogen, schizandra is used for stabilizing blood pressure and blood sugar levels, supporting the immune system after surgery, insomnia, PMS and more.

Rhodiola Rosea

Rhodiola Rosea is an herbal remedy that is used in traditional Chinese medicine to counter travel sickness. In traditional Russian medicine, Rhodiola was used to counter stress.

Rhodiola Rosea as a herb is very similar to ginseng in that it’s seemingly good for brain fog and stress. There is limited research on the herb’s effectiveness, but there are some suggestions that it can be helpful.

Like ginseng, Rhodiola Rosea is a recognized stimulant. You would probably benefit more from using Rhodiola Rosea during the early stages of adrenal fatigue. If used during the later stages, it can work for a while but then will cause you to crash.

Ginkgo Biloba

Ginkgo Biloba has been part of traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years, in which they used it for treating respiratory disorders and digestive conditions.

In recent years, Ginkgo Biloba has been introduced into Western alternative medicine as a natural remedy for improving circulation and cognitive function.

Some studies suggest Ginkgo may even be a potential treatment for neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s and dementia.

In relation to adrenal fatigue, Wilson (2001), in his book  Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome,  Ginkgo is a potent

antioxidant that helps to calm free-radical production and thereby protect the adrenals from the imbalance of inputs to the hypothalamus that the free-radical damage would create.


Astragalus is a  herb that was traditionally used alongside other herbs to support and strengthen the immune system.

As well as being an antioxidant that can proctor against cell damage, astragalus also contains anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, meaning it also offers protection against certain conditions.

As an adaptogen, astragalus can reduce stress and protect you from your environment while giving you a boost of energy and stamina to help you power on.

Rehmannia Root

Rehmannia Root also referred to as Chinese Foxglove, was is used in Chinese medicine as a tonic for the kidney, adrenal glands, heart, and liver.

Rehmannia Root has a similar effect to Licorice Root in treating adrenal fatigue. It  improves immune function and supports general well-being.

As an herbal remedy, Rehmannia Root is also used to treat fever, diabetes, anemia, osteoporosis and allergies.

Additionally, as an anti-inflammatory herb, it is often used for patients with autoimmune diseases including lupus, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis.

Final Thoughts…

Treating adrenal fatigue usually involves making changes to your lifestyle, including eating the right foods and focusing on stress reduction.

Using Chinese herbs for adrenal fatigue, especially adaptogenic herbs, can potentially offer you the extra support your body needs during a stressful period.

Just remember that most of these adaptogenic herbs work better during the early stages of the condition, so be sure to take care when using them.


Maimes, S. and Winston, D.  (2007)  Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief. Rochester, Vermont: Healing Arts Press. Wilson, James.  (2001) Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome. Petaluma, CA: Smart Publications.