Health Topics

Adrenal Disorders and Adrenal Fatigue

adrenal kidney diagram

Health Description

Each person has two adrenal glands, one on the top of each kidney.  These small glands secrete a number of hormones that are critical to our well-being.  Adrenaline affects blood pressure, heart rate, and sweating; mineralocorticoids affect blood pressure plus the levels of salts and potassium in the body.  Other hormones control how fats, proteins, and carbohydrates are used plus male sex functions.  Cortisol is also produced by the adrenal glands and has a number of important functions including helping the body deal with stress.

Adrenal disorders include diseases or conditions where there is adrenal insufficiency and also over production.  Adrenal insufficiency is the term used in allopathic (traditional western) medicine to describe conditions wherein the adrenal glands do not produce sufficient hormones.  Addison’s disease and congenital adrenal hyperplasia are diseases that may lead to adrenal insufficiency.  Other disorders can lead to an excess of hormones.  Cushing’s syndrome is one such disorder.  There are also other rare disorders including a form of cancer that fall in this category.  Beyond this tumor, nearby infections, and trauma can affect hormone production.

Adrenal fatigue (hypoadrenia) is a term used in alternative medicine for a syndrome or a group of symptoms that are the result of the adrenal glands functioning below their normal and needed levels.  (Traditional, allopathic, medicine has not yet officially accepted adrenal fatigue as a disease or syndrome.)  The paramount symptom is fatigue or a persistent tiredness that does not seem to be relieved by rest.  Other symptoms may include aches, sleep difficulties, digestive disorders, or a general feeling of not being well.

The common belief is that adrenal fatigue is the result of the adrenal glands not being able to keep up with the stress load of the individual.  This can be physical, emotional, or physiological and can be accumulative if there are multiple and prolonged conditions in one’s life.  The chronic stress may make it impossible for the adrenal glands to maintain proper homeostasis.  Since the adrenal hormones control so many functions of the body (energy levels, heart functions, immune response, sex drive, etc.) a multiplicity of symptoms can result as the body tries to balance itself and restore homeostasis.

Suggested Protocols

Please note: The information provided below is a compilation of suggestions made by those that have used essential oils and has NOT been scientifically verified with clinical tests nor reviewed by medical experts. It is anecdotal information and should be treated as such. For serious medical concerns please seek professional medical attention.

Essential Oils to Use:
Clove, Coriander, Cypress, Geranium, Rosemary, Ylang Ylang

Also consider: Basil, Lavender

Immediate relief:
Apply the following topically over the kidney area (lower back on each side of the spine):

  • Blend 1 – 2 drops Clove with 1 drop Rosemary diluted with carrier oil such as coconut oil.
  • Or also consider Coriander, Cypress, or Geranium
  • Drive in the oils by applying a warm compress and allow it to warm the area for a period of time.

Long term help:

  • Massage oils diluted on back once a week, twice a month at the least, and more often if needed.
  • Drink lots of water, it is excellent to add 1 – 2 drops of Lemon essential oil to each glass for further cleansing

Reducing Chronic Stress:
Chronic stress produces two negative effects on hormonal balance.  Progesterone is converted to cortisol and adrenaline inhibits the proper interaction of progesterone within cells.  Both of these lead to estrogen dominance and the resulting symptoms.

Stress reducing oils and blends presented were:

  • Citrus oils, Ylang Ylang, Roman Chamomile, Frankincense, Lavender, Conifer oils
  • Further some people have suggested using Sandalwood and also a combination of oils which are said to be very powerful for stress reduction. This combination blend of oils is made of Bergamot, Roman Chamomile, and Frankincense. When mixed together they give a very pleasing aroma.  Using 1 drop of each mixed together people often apply this to the bottoms of their feet, the back of their neck, their temples and/or inhale the aroma.  Some people have found this reduces stress immediately.
  • Finally, a must for those dealing with hormonal balance may use diluted oils as a massage.  This should be done on a consistent and regular basis once a week, twice a month at the least, and more often if needed.

Science & Research

Nutrients and Botanicals for Treatment of Stress: Adrenal Fatigue, Neurotransmitter Imbalance, Anxiety, and Restless Sleep

Kathleen A. Head, ND, and Gregory S. Kelly, ND.  From: Alternative Medicine Review Volume 14, Number 2 2009

Included in this study details are items of particular interest to users: Probiotic Defense Formula,  fish oil, German Chamomile, Melissa, and a number of vitamins.


Stress is a factor in many illnesses – from headaches to heart disease, and immune deficiencies to digestive problems. A substantial contributor to stress-induced decline in health appears to be an increased production of stress hormones and subsequent decreased immune function. Non-pharmaceutical approaches have much to offer such patients. This article focuses on the use of nutrients and botanicals to support the adrenals, balance neurotransmitters, treat acute anxiety, and support restful sleep. (Altern Med Rev 2009;14(2):114-140)


Stress is an unavoidable fact of everyday life and is associated with significant morbidity and even mortality. In addition to generalized anxiety and sleep disorders, it can result in significant physiological problems, including cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, and immunological.

In addition to lifestyle considerations – good diet, exercise, meditation, etc. – a number of nutrients and botanicals can provide support for stress-related conditions. Such support requires a five-pronged approach: (1) support for the adrenals with adaptogenic botanicals, (2) use of nutrients to normalize cortisol levels, (3) prescription of anxiolytic herbs to handle sleep disorders and the symptoms of acute anxiety, (4) balance neurotransmitters with amino acid precursors, and (5) provide necessary nutrient cofactors.

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