Where did my energy go? Don’t make this mistake with adaptogenic herbs!

September 9, 2016

HypothyroidWriter.com adaptogenic herbs post Sarah Lentz
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Beware adaptogenic herbs when you don’t know what effect they’re likely to have on your hormones!

For example, if you’re estrogen dominant, it’s probably not a good idea to take an herbal supplement that acts like estrogen in your body or that makes your body produce more estrogen.

I have suspected estrogen dominance, based on what I’ve learned of it, but I hadn’t done any research on adaptogenic herbs that could increase the amount of estrogen in the body.

So, what did I do? I bought an “adrenal support” supplement with licorice root and Eleuthero root, as well as Siberian Rhodiola, Shisandra berry, Cordyceps mushroom extract, and Asian Ginseng root, among other lesser known ingredients.

First, my period started A WEEK EARLY and was unusually heavy (NOT okay). That first day was the worst I’ve had in a long time.

Then, my energy levels plummeted. I was wondering why I had zero sense of humor and felt all swollen and foggy in the head. I just felt sick all over, though I didn’t have a fever.

Only when my husband asked if I was interested in watching some comedy shows on TV did I realize I had as little interest in comedy as I did when I was pregnant.

I also felt more sensitive than usual — to everything. I was having a hard time editing my book and felt overwhelmed, unproductive, worn out, and depressed. I wanted more than anything to just lie down and sleep. 

Last night — after taking that supplement for less than a week and feeling useless and foggy-headed for the past three days — it occurred to me that maybe the “adrenal support” herbal supplement was to blame.


It turns out, some herbal ‘adrenal support’ supplements can actually make hypothyroidism worse.Click To Tweet

I’m still trying to pinpoint which herbal ingredient — or ingredients — could have brought back the worst of my hypothyroid symptoms. Because according to what I’ve read so far, the most popular ingredients listed on the bottle are supposed to support healthy thyroid function.

Which makes me wonder whether the problem is just me and my own particular thyroid and hormone issues, rather than the supplement. But I can’t be the only one who would be affected this way.

I didn’t take it this morning. I put it up in the cupboard above the coffee maker, telling myself, “We’ll see what happens now.”

Earlier this week, I subscribed to a monthly delivery of Dr. Alan Christianson’s “Daily Reset pack” — which is an adrenal reset bundle of supplements that DOES NOT include adaptogenic herbs — probably because Dr. C knows that some of those herbs can do to others what they’ve done to me, based on what hormones are currently dominant.

So, I’m looking forward to this thyroid-friendly and whole-body-supportive supplement pack and hoping it helps me regain the energy I’ve lost over the past few days — from just one herbal supplement that was SUPPOSED TO support my adrenals and help me boost my energy levels. 

Is it the supplement — or is it just me? Have other people experienced the same side effects?

This isn’t the first time my body has overreacted to something new (my medical history is full of reactions that gave rise to comments like, “Wow, you are sensitive, aren’t you?”), but… I had hoped this supplement would help me have MORE energy — not way less.

I should have done more research on those herbs and their effects on hormones — and I should have gotten my own hormone levels tested — before buying the supplement.

I was won over by the glowing reviews of customers who probably were not estrogen dominant when they started taking the supplement.Click To Tweet

So, I’ve learned not to buy herbal supplements when I don’t know what they’ll do to my current hormone balance (or lack thereof).

Maybe you already know this and are chomping at the bit to tell me what you know of adaptogenic herbs and the effect of each on particular hormones. If so, I encourage you — strongly — to obey that impulse and share what you know!

In that case, maybe it would help if I posted the ingredients of the adaptogenic herbal supplement I was taking:

  1. Rhaponticum carthamoides root extract — 100 mg (I have no idea what this is)
  2. Siberian Rhodiola root extract — 80 mg
  3. Cordyceps Mushroom fruiting body extract — 60 mg
  4. Proprietary Extract Blend — 700 mg — which included the following in undisclosed amounts:
  • Schisandra berry
  • Prickly Ash bark
  • Asian Ginseng root
  • Licorice root
  • Eleuthero root extract

Other ingredients include vegetable glycerin, water, and capsule (vegetable cellulose).

I’m still researching what each of these ingredients can do, and it’s slow-going because some of the information I’ve found conflicts with what I’ve found on other websites, which doesn’t help.

So, for now, I’m avoiding herbal supplements until I have a better grasp of what they can do to me. I’m still figuring out what nutritional approaches and supplements work best for me. 

I am still grateful that my body and mind work as well as they do, and I’m optimistic that I’ll regain the energy and vitality that I’ve lost this week. They’re not lost forever.

Thank you for taking the time to read this, and please share your thoughts below. I look forward to reading them!

*Update: My Adrenal Support pack from Dr. Christianson arrived on Monday, and I’ve been taking it every day since. On Monday, I came home from my first shift back at work having trouble even walking straight. 

On Day 5, I’m feeling much better and have managed to still have energy for writing after my shift. 

It’s a tiring job, and I joke with my co-workers that it’s my workout for the day. I’m still wondering why the school district decided to cut staff back to 5, when every day all five of us are hoping no one’s sick, because when we’re down to 4 people, …it’s about twice as stressful and exhausting.

Once I’m earning enough with my writing, I’ll probably give the school district a month’s notice — for the sake of the wonderful women I work with. They deserve better than to be left with a staff of four people. A month should be long enough for the school district to find a replacement. Two weeks probably wouldn’t be enough to find someone and train her. 

And, yes, I still have qualms about leaving. I don’t like the idea of leaving my co-workers. As stressful as the job can be, it’s important work, and the ladies I work with are amazing. 

The job consumes 2.5 hours of prime writing time and quite a bit of energy. I’d rather put that energy into my writing, but I’ll have to put some of it into getting some exercise every day, too, since I won’t have my daily paid workout, anymore.

Still, …I won’t be working out for 2.5 hours. Half an hour, tops. And then writing.

Blissful, solitary writing.

I’m still working out whether I can do both — the lunch lady job and my writing business (at least while the kids are in school) — or not. It’s not a given that I can’t do both, but much will depend on how the next few months go with my writing and with my job.

Update: Here are some affordable over-the-counter health hacks that haven’t sapped my energy and that might help you, too! Vitamin Shoppe makes it easy to both save money on these items and to arrange for monthly delivery (which includes a discount and free shipping).

If you know of other health hacks that help boost your energy levels, please share in the comments! Thank you for taking the time to read this, and — as always — I look forward to reading something from you, too. 


Not all herbal remedies (including those supposed to boost energy levels) are good for you. If you're estrogen-dominant, for example, some adaptogenic herbs will do more than good. Here's what I learned -- the hard way.

By Sarah Lentz

Writing and designing book covers are two of Sarah Lentz's favorite things. She lives in Minnesota with her husband, their four kids, and two messy but adorable guinea pigs.

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