Complete List of Adaptogens: Primary & Secondary Adaptogens

An adaptogen is a natural herb that helps the body fight stress, supports normal metabolic function, and restores systemic equilibrium. In this article, we’ve compiled an exhaustive list of adaptogens …

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Written by: Daniel Powers, MS
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An adaptogen is a natural herb that helps the body fight stress, supports normal metabolic function, and restores systemic equilibrium.

In this article, we’ve compiled an exhaustive list of adaptogens based on the scientific definition of adaptogens.

Not all adaptogens are created equal, in fact, there are many different categories of adaptogens. Some are good for sleep and relaxation, others are energizing and mentally stimulating.

complete list of adaptogens

How Adaptogens Work:

There are many adaptogens and each adaptogen has a specific physiological function in which they work.

In general, adaptogens work by helping the body to adapt to external stress and normalize bodily function.

Extensive research has been done on adaptogens showing adaptogens’ capability in supportive (hepatic, adrenal, renal, and cardiovascular) functions as well as general health-supporting effects.

You can learn more about the specifics of how adaptogens work here.

Primary vs. Secondary Adaptogens:

Primary adaptogens are the main herbs that you think of when you think of the word “adaptogen”.

This includes popular herbs like Ashwagandha, Ginseng, Rhodiola, etc…

In general, primary adaptogens have been proven through a long history of traditional use as well as rigorous scientific study.

Primary adaptogens also meet the primary criteria of being an adaptogen, which include:

  1. They Produce a Nonspecific Defense Response to Stress
  2. They Have a Normalizing Influence on the Body
  3. They are Non-Toxic
  4. They Help Re-Regulate Endocrine, Nervous System, Immune, Digestive, and Cardiovascular Function

Secondary adaptogens are herbs that either fulfill only 2-3 of these guidelines or are herbs that have not been studied enough to be moved into the “primary adaptogen” camp.

Read on to see our full adaptogen list.

List of Primary Adaptogens:

Adaptogen:Botanical Name:Part Used:
American GinsengPanax quinquefoliusRoot
AshwagandhaWithania somniferaRoot
Asian GinsengPanax ginsengRoot
CistancheCistanche deserticolaStem
CordycepsCordyceps militarisMushroom
CynomoriumCynomorium coccineumStem
EleutheroEleutherococcus senticosusRoot/Stem Bark
Holy BasilOcimum tenuiflorumWhole Herb
MorindaMorinda citrifoliaRoot
ReishiGanoderma lucidumMushroom
RhaponticumRhaponticum carthamoidesRoot
RhodiolaRhodiola roseaRoot
SchisandraSchisandra chinensisBerries
ShatavariAsparagus racemosusRoot
ShilajitNoneProcessed Exudate

List of Secondary Adaptogens:

Adaptogen:Botanical Name:Part Used:
CodonopsisCodonopsis pilosulaRoot
GuduchiTinospora cordifoliaRoot, Stem
Devil’s ClubOplopanax horridusRoot, Bark
Horny Goat WeedEpimedium grandiflorumLeaf
JiaogulanGynostemma pentaphyllumWhole Herb
LicoriceGlycyrrhiza glabraWhole Herb
MacaLepidium meyeniiRoot
Manchurian AraliaAralia mandschuricaBark
Prince sengPseudostellaria heterophyllaRoot
TurmericCurcuma longaRoot/Rhizome
White BryonyBryonia albaRoot

Notes on Different Adaptogens:

Among adaptogens, there is much variety. Some grow in extreme heat while some grow in extreme cold.

Some adaptogenic plants grow at sea level, others only grow on mountain tops.

This diversity is part of the reason why adaptogens are adaptable to many different people.

The plants themselves tend to be very resilient, and it’s said that they pass on that resilience to the people that consume them.


Adaptogens show great potential in reducing adaptational damage by functioning as protective agents for human cells and are generally nontoxic when consumed at recommended doses.

We hope this list of adaptogens has been helpful.

Do you have any plants that you’d consider adding to our adaptogen list?

Gerontakos, S. E., Casteleijn, D., Shikov, A. N., & Wardle, J. (2020). A Critical Review to Identify the Domains Used to Measure the Effect and Outcome of Adaptogenic Herbal Medicines. The Yale journal of biology and medicine, 93(2), 327–346.

Liao, L. Y., He, Y. F., Li, L., Meng, H., Dong, Y. M., Yi, F., & Xiao, P. G. (2018). A preliminary review of studies on adaptogens: comparison of their bioactivity in TCM with that of ginseng-like herbs used worldwide. Chinese medicine, 13, 57.

Panossian A. (2017). Understanding adaptogenic activity: specificity of the pharmacological action of adaptogens and other phytochemicals. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1401(1), 49–64.

Panossian, A., & Wikman, G. (2009). Evidence-based efficacy of adaptogens in fatigue, and molecular mechanisms related to their stress-protective activity. Current clinical pharmacology, 4(3), 198–219.

Winston, David. (2019). Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief. Inner Traditions/Bear & Company.

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About Daniel Powers, MS

Daniel has a master's degree in herbal science from the Maryland University of Integrative Health. He has a passion for herbal medicine and how it can be used to support everyday health & wellness.

3 thoughts on “Complete List of Adaptogens: Primary & Secondary Adaptogens”

    • Hi David,

      Off the top of my mind, I couldn’t think of an adaptogen that’s targeted for prostate health. I did a little digging and found this paper, which looks at adaptogens and various diseases. Various adaptogens were tied in with aiding in prostate health.

      When it comes to prostate health, I primarily think of herbs like Stinging Nettle seed and Saw Palmetto (for BPH).



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