This article aims to expand on four popular adaptogens with amazing health benefits and nootropic properties.
Ashwagandha and Holy Basil are the two more relaxing tonics while Ginseng and Rhodiola also have stimulating properties.
There are also a few nice combinations between them, but it’s best to understand each first.
Ashwagandha, or Withania Somnifera, has been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic medicine to treat various ailments like asthma, dementia, eye sores or diarrhea. Some people refer to it as “Indian Ginseng”.
Nowadays, it’s being used as an adaptogen, a tonic and a nootropic. Ashwagandha helps the mind and the body better deal with stressful situations. It has a relaxing effect and it also boosts concentration and lowers fatigue.
Ashwagandha has effects which can be compared to GABA, the main inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain, making it quite similar in some aspects to popular benzodiazepine prescription drugs like Alprazolam (Xanax).
Ashwagandha decreases cortisol levels, which partly accounts for the anti-anxiety effect. It also lowers blood sugar levels and improves lipid profiles.
Ashwagandha aids in nerve regeneration and it inhibits the production of acetylcholinesterase, an enzyme responsible for breaking down acetylcholine. Increased levels of acetylcholine boosts memory and concentration, making Ashwagandha great for both learning and productivity.
Ashwagandha can also be stacked with other stimulating nootropics such as Modafinil because of its ability to “take the edge off”.
Rhodiola Rosea, also called Roseroot or Golden Root, is an adaptogenic herb that grows in the Arctic regions of Europe and Asia.
Rhodiola is an adaptogen with stimulant and nootropic properties long used in Scandinavia and Russia to help face the difficulties of cold weather and high altitudes.
Rhodiola decreases mental and physical fatigue, which can help one study and work for long hours, whether it’s night or day.
Its nootropic effects may or may not be a consequence of the reduction in fatigue.
Another possible explanation for the cognitive enhancement experienced on Rhodiola is its influence on serotonin and dopamine, which account for the elevated mood one feels when taking Rhodiola Rosea.
Nevertheless, studies have shown that Rhodiola increases attention to detail, making it more effective for study than other herbs on this list.
Rhodiola also protects the brain against oxidative stress and aids the production and repair of new neurons.
Rhodiola Rosea also activates the synthesis and resynthesis of Adenosine triphosphate (ATP), an essential brain energy nutrient.
It’s also quite effective at treating mild to moderate symptoms of depression, insomnia or other disorders that may cause anxiety or disturbed sleep.
Panax Ginseng, also known as Korean, Asian or true Ginseng is a herb that’s been in use for thousands of years and it’s one of the most researched natural nootropics in the world.
Panax Ginseng is a potent tonic with noticeable physical and cognitive effects. A 2005 study conducted in Northumbria University concluded that “Panax Ginseng can improve performance and subjective feelings of mental fatigue during sustained mental activity.”
It’s also quite safe to use due to its minimal side-effects. Its nootropic effects are very obvious, especially in terms of memory recall, focus and mental clarity.
Ginseng’s effects are generated by the many types of ginsenosides present. The protopanaxatriol ginsenosides which are found in high concentrations in Panax Ginseng account mostly for the stimulating effects that are much more noticeable in Panax Ginseng than in other strains of Ginseng.
Studies have shown that Ginseng also has anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective and anti-anxiety properties. It’s also a natural weight-loss aid because it suppresses appetite. Panax Ginseng has also been found to boost libido in men and menopausal women. It’s also effective at treating mild to moderate cases of erectile dysfunction.
Holy Basil is another popular adaptogen used in Ayurvedic medicine. It’s known for its antioxidant, immunity-boosting and anxiety-relieving properties.
Holy Basil is also an effective anti-inflammatory by blocking the pathways of enzymes such as lipoxygenase and cyclooxygenase.
Given the fast-paced world in which we live in, it’s easy to fall prey to stress and let it build up.
The nootropic effects of Holy Basil are generated by its ability to help one combat day to day stress.
A study confirmed Holy Basil to be an effective anti-oxidant. Rosmarinic acid is the main anti-oxidant element found in Holy Basil.
Another study has even shown it to possess some anti-acne properties.
Some people on Reddit have reported it to be quite effective at managing anxiety and overthinking.
Both Ashwagandha and Holy Basil are herbs that have been long used in Ayurvedic practices.
What sets Holy Basil apart from most adaptogens is its effective anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties.
Both Ashwagandha and Holy Basil reduce cortisol, boost memory, help the body recover from fatigue and improve the ability to focus.
Combining Ashwagandha and Holy Basil yields more prominent anti-anxiety effects.
Ashwagandha features more prominent nootropic effects while Holy Basil is an all-round healthy choice that can be taken regularly without any side-effects after consumption.
To avoid tolerance build-up and liver strain, it’s best that you take periodic breaks when taking Ashwagandha.
Be careful not to take Ashwagandha or Holy Basil if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding or suffering from hypoglycemia.
Both Ashwagandha and Rhodiola are very effective at managing stress, diminishing fatigue and boosting cognition.
Rhodiola Rosea is slightly more stimulating due to its influence on serotonin and dopamine production.
Ashwagandha can be used to treat a wide range of ailments, and Rhodiola Rosea is one of the few herbs that match Ashwagandha in terms of its complex medical use.
Opinions are split and some people respond better to Ashwagandha, while others seem to not feel anything from it except a mellow and slightly tired state of mind.
Ashwagandha combined with Rhodiola can cancel each other out, as one is sedating while the other produces mild stimulation.
When taking Rhodiola and Ashwagandha together in a day, people seem to prefer taking Ashwagandha at night times for the relaxation it provides and Rhodiola in the morning to feel more awake and, as some users have reported, “creative or uninhibited creatively”.
Panax Ginseng and Rhodiola Rosea are effective adaptogens that also provide stimulation and increased mental and physical endurance.
Rhodiola Rosea and Panax Ginseng both offer cardiovascular health benefits.
Ginseng decreases cholesterol levels and Rhodiola increases the production of monoamines that help regulate blood pressure.
Some users choose to combine Panax Ginseng and Rhodiola Rosea for its noticeable stimulating effects that somehow combine synergistically.
All four herbs can be a great addition to your daily diet.
Holy Basil and Ashwagandha are very effective at relieving anxiety and decreasing oxidative stress. The two combined provide relaxing effects and are best taken in the night for improved sleep.
Rhodiola and Ginseng are adaptogens with noticeable stimulating properties. The two are very effective at decreasing fatigue and alleviating symptoms of depression. Both increase cognition and can be used as nootropics, either separately or stacked. Users have reported being overstimulated when taking Rhodiola and Ginseng, so be careful with your doses.
Not everyone responds the same because we each have our own unique brain chemistry and each of these supplements have different mechanisms of action. It’s up to you to determine which one helps you achieve the desired benefits.