If you suffer from feeling “wired and tired,” chronic fatigue, low motivation, and other symptoms, you may suspect that you have Adrenal Fatigue. However, I’m going to throw a curveball at you. It is extremely unlikely that your adrenals are failing, and that what might be actually happening is that these symptoms may be due to a myriad of other issues that are more likely to be contributing to your symptoms, and can (but not necessarily) impact your adrenal glands.
I am excited to share with you, tools for identifying the root cause of low cortisol and I’ll also share with you my top 4 favorite herbs for the adrenal glands. We will also discuss my top two favorite tests to identify the health of your Hypothalamic Pituitary Adrenal (HPA) Axis and get you started on feeling like yourself again.
Let’s get started!
What are the Adrenal Glands?
Your adrenal glands live on the top of your kidneys, and are famous for their role in the stress response. But your adrenals are important for so much more than helping you rise and survive in light of stress. They also are involved in many other processes that impact your well-being head to toe. For example, did you know your adrenals help to regulate your blood pressure and blood sugar? Your adrenals are also involved in converting (mostly) inactive T4 thyroid into active T3 thyroid. It’s these functions and more that are essential in having optimal health and well-being.
Trouble arises, however, when the adrenal gland hormones are not at their proper levels and symptoms arise.
For purposes of this article, we are going to focus on one key area of your body as it relates to adrenal function: The Hypothalamic Pituitary Adrenal (HPA) axis. After reading this article, check out some of our other blogs on the adrenals. There is a ton of great information on our website at www.DrNicoleCain.com 🙂
What is the HPA Axis?
There is a pathway in your body called the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. This axis is responsible for regulating your adrenal function.
In brief, this is how the axis works: Your hypothalamus is located in the brain, and it releases corticotropin releasing hormone (CRH) which triggers your pituitary gland to release adrenocorticotropin releasing hormone (ACTH) to the adrenals, which in response produce glucocorticoids, primarily, cortisol.
Once produced, cortisol travels throughout your entire body, regulating a multitude of necessary functions and helping you adapt to stress and maintain balance, or homeostasis.
If your test results show low cortisol, root-cause testing will help you identify the cause, and empower your clinical team in designing treatments that get results.
If there is a problem with this axis, then we may see issues arise in adrenal gland performance.
How Can I Test the Health of my Adrenal Glands?
Adrenal Stress Index Test: This test gives information about several hormones released by your adrenal glands to give a fuller picture of adrenal gland health and stimulation from the HPA Axis.
Salivary Cortisol Test: This test is most useful if you struggle with spikes and dips in your energy levels throughout the day as there are cortisol multiple samples taken and your results will be plotted on a graph.
How can I Improve my Adrenal Gland Health?
Adaptogenic herbs are incredibly useful in improving the HPA Axis and can also improve adrenal health. Here are my top 4 favorite herbs for adrenal and HPA Axis health:
- Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea): Rhodiola not only aids in stress and fatigue management, but also helps in mental performance and has antidepressant qualities (Greer, 2011). This herb helps reduce the overproduction of the stress hormone, cortisol, in stressful situations in order to relieve that wired-and-tired feeling. (“The Best Adaptogens,” 2018).
- Eleuthero (Eleutherococcus): The main uses for eleuthero are for cognitive support, immune function, alertness, and aids in the stress response (Greer, 2011). Eleuthero is amazing if you suffer from the effects of chronic stress, including: anxiety, restlessness, fatigue, agitation, feeling “out of bandwidth,” brain fog, and depression. This herb can also help with different kinds of fatigues such as mental, physical, and stress-induced fatigue. (Panossian & Wikman, 2010).
- Ashwagandha (withania somnifera): Ashwagandha is one of my favorite herbs. It reigns from ancient Indian Ayurvedic medicine, and has been used for “stress-induced sleep problems” and combating stress for centuries (Greer, 2011). This herb has demonstrated an amazing ability to calm the mind – especially in cases of anxiety – reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure, increase the activity of immune cells as well as increase adrenal and thyroid function (“The Best Adaptogens,” 2018).
- Licorice (glycyrrhiza): Licorice has been used in traditional medicine to increase, modify, and manage the body’s level of cortisol (Hansen, 2017). Under periods of chronic stress, exposure to long-term high levels of cortisol can take its toll on the body. Licorice protects the mind and body from the effects of stress, and it also optimizes your body’s ability to metabolize and use available cortisol appropriately. Other benefits of licorice include: decreased inflammation, immune boosting, decreased asthma and coughing, and many other things (Hansen, 2017 & Greer 2011).
Adaptogenic herbs, like the ones listed above, are incredibly safe and effective when prescribed based on your unique symptoms. For best results, contact a trusted Naturopathic Physician, and get on the road to true health. You can feel like yourself again. Let’s start today. To work with me, start by filling out a new client application!
Asprey, D. (n.d.). “You Might Have Adrenal Fatigue, Here’s How to Treat it Naturally.” Retrieved from
Greer, M. (2011). “Herbal Options for Managing Adrenal Fatigue.” Retrieved from
Hansen, F. (2017). “How to use Licorice Root for Adrenal Fatigue.” Retrieved from
Panossian, A., & Wikman, G. (2010). Effects of Adaptogens on the Central Nervous System and the
Molecular Mechanisms Associated with Their Stress-Protective Activity. Pharmaceuticals (Basel, Switzerland), 3(1), 188-224. doi:10.3390/ph3010188
Dr. Nicole Cain is an advocate for empowering people around the world to help themselves via her educational video e-courses, books, and exclusive free Facebook group. You can receive the tools you need to find the root cause of your symptoms and feel healthy again.