Addison’s disease is a rare but serious condition. Today, almost 140 million people currently manage it in their day to day life. While the disease can be complicated, there are ways to keep living a vibrant and full life.

Also called adrenal insufficiency, Addison’s disease is a condition where the adrenal glands produce too little cortisol and often too little aldosterone as well. The adrenal glands are located at the top of the kidneys and create a number of hormones that provide vital functions to the body.

Addison’s disease can strike at any age and across both sexes. Symptoms typically come on slowly and become obvious when the individual is placed under an amount of stress that the adrenals can’t cope with.

Symptoms of adrenal insufficiency include:

Particularly dangerous is an Addisonian crisis or acute adrenal failure. It can lead to shock and even death. It is the result of low blood pressure, high potassium, and low sodium.

Effective Natural Remedies for Addison’s Disease

Although the condition is serious and can significantly impact the sufferer’s life, those who have Addison’s disease can go on to have a high quality of life. In fact, President John F. Kennedy was diagnosed with Addison’s disease in the 1940s before going on to become President of the United States!

Treatment for Addison’s disease is a combination of drugs that need to be taken daily for a lifetime. However, many still suffer side effects of the disease. Plus, lifestyle factors, such as stress, affects how well the medication functions. For one to live as full of a life as possible with this ailment, optimal health is key.

Many medicinal herbs and mushrooms have been used for most of history to help counteract many of the unpleasant symptoms of the condition. Let’s dive deeper and see how these natural compounds can help bring balance.

Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha, which translates in Sanskrit to “the smell and strength of a horse,” has been used for over 4,000 years. Its name is derived from its smell and its ability to increase strength and stamina. It is a small shrub with yellow flowers native to both India and North Africa, and practitioners used both the roots and leaves for its health benefits

Many of the benefits of ashwagandha are due to their high concentration of withanolides

Many suffer daily from the effects of stress and anxiety. In fact, 75% of Americans reported feeling moderate to high stress in the past month. Those who deal with a chronic condition, like Addison’s disease, are more likely to face additional stressors than the average American. 

Not only does Addison’s disease make you more likely to experience stress, but the effects of stress can be particularly harmful to disease management. For example, stress makes medication less effective and is more likely to aggravate the condition.

Ashwagandha can help. With its anti-stress properties, it can help bring stress down into a manageable range.

In one placebo-controlled, 60-day study, participants who took ashwagandha reduced their stress levels by 69%. Another 6-week study found that participants reduced their anxiety by 88%. A third study on male fertility also discovered that it resulted in a decrease in stress too.

Another double-blind, placebo-controlled study looked at the effect of various doses on participants. The study found that higher dosages were associated with lower stress.

Another common issue faced with Addison’s disease is sleep disturbance. Ashwagandha has been shown to help individuals sleep. The 60-day study above also found that participants reported better sleep while taking the medication versus a placebo.

A study published in August 2020 also showed that ashwagandha helped participants improve their sleep. 72% of participants taking ashwagandha reported better sleep quality versus 29% in the placebo group. Another 2019 study also studied the sleep difference with ashwagandha versus a placebo. The study found an improvement in sleep onset, as well as reported sleep improvement by participants.

Decreased muscle strength is another common symptom of Addison’s disease, but ashwagandha might help. Ancient practitioners have long known that ashwagandha can help with strength, hence its name. 

Modern research has verified its ability to increase muscle strength in participants. One 8-week study found that ashwagandha may be useful for generalized weakness to improve muscular strength. 

In another randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, researchers sought to find the effect of ashwagandha on strength training. They found that participants who took the herb showed a significant increase in muscle mass and strength.

Siberian Eleuthero

A relative to ginseng, Eleuthero can be found in North-East China, Eastern Russia, Korea, and Japan. It is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to bring strength and reduce swelling.

A specific property in eleuthero, eleutherosides, activates the body’s AMPK. It speeds up the metabolism and breaks down fats in the body, which translates into more energy. Studies show that supplementing with eleuthero increases endurance and reduces fatigue.

Eleuthero also helps improve muscle strength. One study on mice that swim until exhaustion found that eleuthero helped improve their swim times, which means they had an increase in energy. Another study found that it increased endurance in patients with fatigue.

One eight-week study had participants bike until exhaustion before and after supplementing with eleuthero. Researchers found that it enhanced endurance capacity. Eleuthero works as an adaptogen, which means that it helps the body respond better in times of stress. That means that it can either raise or lower the body’s stress response depending on what the body needs.

One study showed that eleuthero has nerve-protective properties that could help improve stress levels and mood. Another study found that it raised and lowered stress hormones as needed.

The adrenals are responsible for heart rate. As a result, those who have Addison’s disease often suffer from low blood pressure. Eleuthero can help to improve heart rate. One study found that the herb had positive impacts on cardiovascular health. It helped improve blood flow in participants.

Rhodiola Rosea

A flowering herb that grows at high altitudes in both Europe and Asia, rhodiola rosea also goes by golden root and king’s crown. It has been used by practitioners for years in cold, mountain regions such as Russia and Scandinavia to treat everything from anxiety and depression to fatigue and headaches.

It turns out that science shows they were on to something. Researchers have found that rhodiola offers a number of benefits, especially to those with Addison’s disease.

Researchers have found that rhodiola can improve exercise performance by helping to reduce fatigue. In one study, those who supplemented with rhodiola were able to exercise longer than those who took the placebo. Another study found that those who took rhodiola right before a race were significantly faster than those who took the placebo. In another study, participants reported less fatigue and exertion while exercising.

Although it’s unlikely that these effects are from increased muscle strength, they do seem to help reduce overall fatigue.

In addition, an 8-week study with 100 participants with chronic fatigue experienced significant improvement in their symptoms and quality of life. Another study found that rhodiola had a positive effect on fatigue levels after four weeks.

Not only does it improve physical fatigue, but it helps fight off mental fatigue as well. 

One study on night-shift physicians found that those who took rhodiola reduced their mental fatigue and improved their performance at work by 20%. Another study on cadets during night duty improved their mental work with rhodiola compared to the placebo. A third study on students found that those who supplemented with rhodiola experienced reduced mental fatigue and increased motivation.

Depression is ubiquitous around the world. In America, an estimated 17.3 million adults suffer from it every year. It’s also a common symptom of Addison’s disease. However, rhodiola can provide some help to lessen symptoms of depression.

Researchers believe that rhodiola has antidepressant properties to help balance neurotransmitters in the brain.

One study compared rhodiola against the common antidepressant Zoloft. Rhodiola reduced symptoms of depression with fewer side effects than medication. Another study on participants with mild or moderate depression found that it significantly improved symptoms over the placebo.

Rhodiola also works as an adaptogen to help the body respond to stress. Not only can it help in times of acute stress, but it can also improve the symptoms of the typical chronic stress of everyday life.

In one study of stress-related burnout, rhodiola improved symptoms of both stress and depression. Another study on people with life and work-related stress found that it helped improve fatigue, exhaustion, and anxiety in just three days.

Schisandra

Schisandra earned the nicknamed “the five-flavored berry” because of the complex taste of its berries: bitter, pungent, sour, sweet, and salty. It has been used in both Asia and Russia for thousands of years because of its health properties

Schisandra specifically works to support the adrenal glands, which is vital for helping improve the symptoms of Addison’s disease. A review of studies from Sweden found that it encouraged the adrenal gland’s optimal performance. This results in increased heart rate, muscle strength, blood pressure, and blood sugar.

These improvements mean an increase in energy, stamina, and enhanced mental performance.

Although it hasn’t been studied extensively in humans yet, initial studies on schisandra also point to it as a mood-boosting supplement. A 2016 study on mice found that it produced antidepressant-like activity. Another study on mice also found that it had antidepressant-like activity by lowering the stress response.

While some of our stress is self-induced, most of us experience stress outside of our control.

During these times, schisandra can provide vital help. Although there still needs more research, the initial studies show that it might help the body’s stress response. One study on mice found that their stress levels remained low, even after being put in increasingly stressful situations.

Cordyceps

Cordyceps grows wild in the Himalayan foothills of Tibet and Bhutan. It had such a reputation and was so highly regarded in Traditional Chinese Medicine that it was reserved solely for the emperor’s family in China.

Thankfully, it is more widely available today, and research has found its many benefits.

Cordyceps help protects the heart. In fact, it’s an approved treatment for arrhythmia in China, which is typical for those who have Addison’s disease. One study found that cordyceps helped significantly reduce heart injury in rats. Another study found that these benefits might be due to a property, adenosine, that is exceptionally high in cordyceps.

Although more research needs to be conducted on humans, the initial science is promising.

Inflammation is a healthy response in the body. It helps facilitate healing in the body and is essential. However, chronic inflammation that is common in modern life is determinantal to health and wellbeing.

Sometimes Addison’s disease is caused by inflammation, called secondary adrenal insufficiency, and people with the condition are more vulnerable to the effects of chronic inflammation.

Cordyceps can help provide a needed anti-inflammatory boost to the body.

One study on mice found that those supplemented with cordyceps had significantly less inflammation. In another study, researchers found that it can help as an anti-inflammatory supplement or drug.

Although more human studies need to be done, the initial research points to cordyceps as a potent anti-inflammatory agent.

Gynostemma

Gynostemma, which is also commonly referred to as Jiaogulan, has the nickname “herb of immortality” because of its impressive health benefits.  Although gynostemma and ginseng are unrelated plants, they offer many of the same benefits because of their very high concentration of ginsenosides compare to other plants.

Gynostemma can provide much-needed stress relief. In a study on mice, researchers found that it helped inhibit stress-induced anxiety. Another study on mice found that it helped lower stress-induced anxiety disorders. In a clinical trial, gynostemma lowered anxiety from chronic psychological stress.

Gynostemma also helps improve cardiovascular health to optimal range. That means it doesn’t over-widen arteries and bring down blood pressure below the optimal range, which makes it ideal for people who have Addison’s disease.

However, research does show that it helps improve energy levels in cells and help the body regain muscle strength after exercise.

Astragalus

An herb of Traditional Chinese Medicine, astragalus has historically been used to treat a wide variety of conditions from the common cold to heart disease. Today, researchers have found many benefits to supplementing with astragalus.

Astragalus has been shown in some research to help improve energy levels. One study on participants with chronic fatigue noticed an improvement in their symptoms when they took an herbal supplement that included astragalus. Another study also found that it helped reduce fatigue in participants. A study on cancer patients found that it helped alleviate extreme tiredness.

Although kidney health does not always suffer from Addison’s disease, those who have the condition are more vulnerable to kidney failure. Kidney health should be a top concern for those who have the condition. 

Astragalus may be able to support kidney health. One study found that it improves markers of kidney function, such as protein in the urine. It helps improve blood flow, which is believed to help the kidneys.

Nausea and vomiting are also significant issues for many with Addison’s disease that astragalus might be able to help. Multiple studies have shown that it can help those struggling with vomiting and nausea.

One clinical study found it reduced nausea by 36% and vomiting by 50%. Another study also found it reduced nausea and vomiting in those undergoing chemotherapy.

Licorice Root

Licorice root, which is native to Europe and Asia and classified as a weed, has been used by health practitioners for thousands of years. Even early Egyptians used licorice root in a team for its health benefits. From there, it was imported to China to become an important herb in Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Today, it is still used for a variety of conditions. Although not recommended for severe cases of Addison’s disease, it can be helpful for those with mild or moderate cases.

Most notably, licorice root is used to ease stomach discomfort. One study found that it had two compounds in particular, glabridin and glabrene, that helped relieve upset stomach and nausea. Another study on adults with indigestion found that licorice root helped improve symptoms.

Research has shown that those with Addison’s disease are more prone to suffer from respiratory infections. Licorice root can help protect the respiratory tract with its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. Studies show that it can protect against strep throat and sore throat.

Although more research needs to be done, the science is promising.

Tips for Living with Addison’s Disease

Although Addison’s disease does require life-long treatment, it is manageable. Here are some ways you can live your life to the fullest with Addison’s:

      • Take your medication every day. Don’t skip doses.
      • Eat a well-balanced diet with enough salt.
      • Avoid stress.
      • Enjoy moderate exercise, but not too much to overtax yourself.
      • Always carry an emergency pack with medicine. Always be prepared for an Addisonian crisis.
      • Avoid too much potassium, which is in foods like bananas, salt substitutes, and oranges.
      • Always wear a medical alert bracelet.
      • See your health provider regularly.

By paying attention to your lifestyle, stress levels, and medication, you can still have vibrant health and a normal life.

Living to the Fullest with Addison’s Disease

Along with medication and lifestyle changes, herbs and mushrooms can provide the perfect boost to allow you to have a happy and vibrant life with Addison’s disease. If you have any questions we’re always here for you!

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