The 6 Best Adaptogens For Weight Loss

Adaptogenic herbs are becoming quite popular, and many people are looking at adaptogens for weight loss. Adaptogens are a class of herbs used in herbal medicine that support stress balance …

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Written by: Siobhan Mendicino
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Medical Review by: Daniel Powers, MS
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Adaptogenic herbs are becoming quite popular, and many people are looking at adaptogens for weight loss.

Adaptogens are a class of herbs used in herbal medicine that support stress balance in the body through the regulation of biological processes.

Adaptogenic herbs are known to balance the body’s stress response by regulating the HPA axis and the secretion of hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. 

They are non-toxic to the body and attenuate symptoms of chronic stress by supporting the body’s resilience and adaptation to stressors.

adaptogens for fat loss

How Adaptogens Impact Weight Loss:

Adaptogens have the potential to assist with weight loss by increasing energy, balancing hormones, and stabilizing the stress response. 

Examples include: 

  • Normalizing glucose metabolism (sugar doesn’t get stored as fat) 
  • Increasing energy (encourage movement/exercise) 
  • Improving resistance to stress (reduce anxiety + depression)
  • Increasing testosterone levels (which increases metabolism) 
  • Controlling appetite and encouraging weight loss

These are just a few examples of how one can use adaptogens for weight loss.

Best Adaptogens for Weight Loss:

Energizing or stimulating adaptogens can intuitively be helpful for weight loss, but some calming/relaxing adaptogens have also demonstrated promising mechanisms that may support the reduction of weight. 

Below is a list of the best adaptogens for weight loss.

1. Asian Ginseng

Asian ginseng is an adaptogen that has been most commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years. It is said to have “warming” or “yang” energy, which is associated with the element fire. This herb is said to have a stimulating effect on the body.  

In a review on ginseng and obesity, researchers mentioned that ginseng contains ginsenosides, an active herbal phytochemical, that may help to control appetite. Further, research has shown that ginseng may have the ability to reduce blood glucose levels by encouraging muscles to utilize energy.  

In a study with obese middle-aged women, ginseng extract and ginsenosides were shown to have a weight loss effect. Researchers think this effect is due to ginseng’s ability to cause a bacteria shift in the gut. 

Results of a study involving obese mice found that Korean white ginseng extract has an anti-obesity effect possibly due to the delay of fat absorption by the intestines.

Summary:

Research suggests that Asian ginseng may support weight loss by reducing blood glucose levels, encouraging energy utilization, and by shifting the bacteria profile within the gut.

2. Holy Basil 

Ocimum sanctum, or holy basil, is an adaptogen commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine. It has thousands of years of therapeutic use and is often used to mitigate stress.

In an 8-week study, Ocimum sanctum was able to reduce body weight, triglyceride levels, and BMI in thirty overweight or obese subjects. Researchers mentioned this was due to the downregulation of fat cell formation. In this study, the participants were given a 250mg capsule twice a day. 

A comparison trial found that tulsi (holy basil) was able to improve blood glucose levels in patients with type 2 diabetes. In this study, the participants were split into two groups.  One group was given 300mg of tulsi in addition to an antidiabetic drug, and the other group was given only the antidiabetic drug. The tulsi-drug group showed a 5% decrease in blood sugar levels in comparison to the drug group.  

In other trials involving diabetic patients, tulsi decreased glucose levels, reduced diabetic symptoms, and improved overall blood lipid profiles.

Summary:

Clinical research shows that holy basil has the potential to support weight loss by reducing blood glucose levels, lowering triglyceride levels, and regulating fat cell formation.

3. Ashwagandha

The highly-prized adaptogen, ashwagandha, has been known to provide stress support in a number of different ways. The root is the active part used in herbal medicine. 

Results of a 2016 study showed that, along with the reduction of psychological and physiological stress markers, ashwagandha root extract was able to improve eating behaviors and reduce food cravings in the study participants. 

A study reported that supplementation of Withania somnifera (ashwagandha) increased muscle strength and mass in 57 young male subjects. All subjects were involved in weight training, which supports weight loss. The study further revealed that ashwagandha significantly increased testosterone levels which is helpful for increasing energy and motivation and improving mitochondrial function. 

A recent study showed similar results of increased testosterone levels after ashwagandha supplementation. After an 8-week period of administration, salivary levels of testosterone increased by 15%.

Summary:

Studies show that ashwagandha may help to support weight loss by increasing testosterone production.

4. Rhodiola

Rhodiola, sometimes called “arctic root” or “golden root” is an adaptogen often used for both physical and mental performance. It has been used as a tonic and has been known to increase the body’s ability to adapt to stress. It’s thought to be a helpful adaptogen for weight loss.

In a study using two different Rhodiola rosea extracts, the conclusion was drawn that rhodiola prevented the formation of fat cells (antiadipogenic effects), as well as encouraged the usage of fat that had been stored by the body. 

Another lab-based study dubbed a bioactive phenolic compound in rhodiola responsible for its antiadipogenic (weight loss) effects. Researchers mentioned this was due to rhodiola’s ability to inhibit enzyme activity and disrupt energy generation that leads to the formation of fat cells.  

A study conducted last year presented evidence that rhodiola mimics exercise for those with muscle dysfunction and could be used as a long-term exercise substitute. This may be due to rhodiola’s ability to enhance mitochondrial function.

Summary:

Laboratory research indicates that rhodiola may be helpful for fat loss due to its ability to inhibit fat cell formation. Further clinical research is needed to verify these findings.

5. Shilajit

Found in Himalayan mountain rocks, shilajit is a brownish-black, mineral-rich exudate that provides adaptogenic effects on the body. It is best known for being used in Ayurvedic medicine. 

A 2015 study claims that purified shilajit increased testosterone levels in healthy volunteers between the ages of 45 to 55. This was due to the biologically active component di-benzo-alpha-pyrone. It should be noted that increased testosterone production has been linked to weight loss, especially for males.

A review article reported that PrimaVie®, a purified, organic form of shilajit was able to increase testosterone levels in healthy men. Higher levels of testosterone have been shown to improve muscle strength and exercise performance. Another study in this review noted that shilajit also worked to increase energy availability in mice.

Summary:

Shilajit has been shown to increase testosterone in men, which is beneficial for weight loss and energy expenditure.

6. Cordyceps

The last adaptogen for weight loss is the cordyceps mushroom. Also found high in the Himalayas, this mushroom has been revered for its abilities to regulate the stress response as well as potentially increase endurance. 

A clinical trial involving 28 individuals showed Cordyceps militaris’ ability to improve maximal oxygen consumption which could support higher levels of exercise. The study went on for a period of three weeks, and researchers mentioned that there could be a greater benefit if supplementation lasted long-term.    

In an animal study involving Cordyceps militaris extract (CE) and obese mice, there was a reduction in body weight and the size of fat cells decreased. Another animal study claimed that an active constituent in Cordyceps militaris, cordycepin, was also able to reduce body weight.

Summary:

Lab-based studies have shown that cordyceps can work to increase energy and reduce bodyfat. Although these studies are promising, human clinical trials are needed to corroborate these findings.

Conclusion:

Adaptogens may have the ability to prevent weight gain, mimic exercise, increase energy expenditure, as well as influence hormone production (i.e. testosterone).

The above-mentioned adaptogens for weight loss are a great natural way to support the body.

It’s worth looking into adaptogens for fat loss if you are needing support in this area. As always, make sure to consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet or adding a new supplement.

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About Siobhan Mendicino

Siobhan is a herbal researcher and writer. She has a bachelor of science in communications as well as having completed a post-baccalaureate certificate in herbal studies.

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