FREE Intro Class

About this Class

Herbal Adaptogens

The adrenals are special organs suited to the response to stress - which is called "adaptation." 

The discoverer of the functions of the adrenals, was Hans Selye, who selected the names stress and adaptation, observed that there were two different responses to stress, the anti-inflammatory and the pro-inflammatory, or the “general” and the “specific.” The latter responds to stress with an exact and specific reaction in distinct molecular, immune, thermoregulatory, nervous, and endocrine functions firing up, amounting to a specific local reaction. Selye called this the “local adaptation syndrome.” The anti-inflammatory pole, associated with cortisol, not only suppresses the immune system but causes a systemic (“general”) reaction that tones down the local responses. 

Basically, for the past thousands of years, we have been working on the specific or “local” response with herbs and other therapeutic tools. Russian scientists, developing Selye’s ideas, introduced the idea of strengthening ‘adaptogens,’ or remedies that operate on the other pole of adrenocortical action: suppression of the inflammatory response. 

These ‘adaptogens’ strengthen the ‘reading’ of the blood by the hypothalami-pituitary, the signaling to the adrenals, or thyroid, with the resulting improvement in response to stress. They include Siberian ginseng (eleuthero), Chinese and American ginseng, spikenard (Aralia), ashwagandha, schizandra, rhodiola, and other now very popular herbs. 

Adaptogens have specific pharmacology, which also will be cited.

Herbs, Hormones, Holistic
Medicine, & Neuroendocrine System

with Matthew Wood, MS and Phyllis D. Light, MA

Herbalism Teachers  with 75 Years of Joint Experience 
as Consulting Herbalists & Herbal Authors

About this Series

Higher animal life is regulated by the nerves and hormones, which together can be classified as the neuroendocrine system. They particularly regulate the grand functions of life on the animal and human level, sending and receiving signals from the great organs and systems, integrating them into a functional whole while maintaining their separate operations. 

The central nervous system (brain, spine, conscious activity) operates fairly independently, but the autonomic nervous system (unconscious functions of the body) is deeply integrated with the endocrine, so this series includes a class on the autonomic nervous system (ANS). The hypothalamus operates as the ‘Grand Poobah’ of the neuroendocrine system, receiving feedback through the blood and sending out directives via hormones and neurotransmitters. 

The endocrine acts in a cascade, signaling from the hypothalamus to the pituitary and from there to the thyroid, adrenals, and gonads. The thyroid controls temperature and metabolic rate (with a few other functions), while the adrenals serve as the organs for dealing with stress). The ‘stress cascade’ therefore involves the hypothalao-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA); there is an analogous HTA (thyroid) axis, which also has to respond to stress. The remedies that regulate these glands are called ‘adaptogens’ because they help the organism adapt to stress.

         This series of classes, therefore, includes: 

  1. *Herbs and the Autonomic Nervous System
  2. Hypothalamus, Pituitary, and Pineal-Functions and Herbs
  3. Herbs and the Adrenal Medulla and Adrenal Cortex
  4. Herbal Adaptogens (this class)

The curriculum for this series also includes previously completed classes both of which students can already access.

These are not included in any purchase options on this page.

 Most classes are two (2) hours each, sometimes longer. The classes with * are particularly good for beginners. 

"One can certainly practice herbalism without a knowledge of hormones and the neuroendocrine system, but the practitioner who masters this material can consider themselves sophisticated."
- Matthew Wood

Students will learn about: 

  • The endocrine cascade (hypothalamus, pituitary, thyroid, adrenal cortex, gonads). Some herbs we’ll discuss are Queen Anne’s Lace, Blue Cohosh, Vitex and Pulsatilla, hormonal diffusives (cloud medicines). 
  • The feedback loop including stress hormones, insulin, the pancreas, heart, and digestive tract. (The pineal is not directly in the endocrine feedback loop but manages its own feedback through melatonin receptors.)
  • The autonomic nervous system, with its subdivisions, the sympathetic and parasympathetic, the major regulatory system for the digestive tract and other functions on automatic pilot in the body. Lobelia, Skullcap, Black Hoarhound, Nigella.  
  • The HPA axis (hypothalmus-pituitary-adrenals), the essential information necessary to understand the operation of Adaptogens. Eleuthero, American Ginseng, Ashwagandha, Schizandra, Rhodiola, Astragalus, Crossvine, Red Ginseng, Bacopa, Gotu Kola.
  • Hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, and thyroid nodules are easy to remedy successfully with herbs, according to the experience of the teachers. No student should be without this knowledge. Lemon Balm, Lycopus, Motherwort, Poplar Bark, Black Walnut, Iris, Ashwagandha, Poke (covered in prior Thyroid and Iodine classes links above - not part of these 4 classes).
  • The difference between and interactions of the adrenal medulla and adrenal cortex.
  • What mineralocorticoids and glucocorticoids are and how they determine general health themes throughout the body. This pertains to blood pressure and blood sugar issues.
  • What 'adrenal exhaustion' is and how to remedy it. 
  • The necessity to become proficient in understanding the workings of the interaction between the endocrine and the nervous system, providing a background understanding necessary to become an expert at helping female and male reproductive and other related issues. 

This series gives the student a complete overview of the endocrine system and the autonomic nervous system with which it interacts continuously; simplified for the practitioner yet detailed enough to provide a foundation in the understanding of these difficult subjects.


  • Support Materials

    217 pages of manuscripts (not downloadable) from Matthew are available to view and downloadable handout from Phyllis.

  • 1 year access to materials and Q&A during and after class

    1 year to view and review content, ask questions and discuss with fellow students and teachers.

  • 2.5 hours of teaching

    2.5 hours of in-depth teaching with Matthew Wood and Phyllis D. Light


    1. Welcome Message

    1. About Non-Downloadable Documents

    2. Endocrine Intro by Matthew Wood (130 pages, not downloadable)

    3. Adrenal Medulla and Adrenal Cortex by Matthew Wood (51 pages, not downloadable)

    4. Hypothalamus and Pituitary by Matthew Wood (36 pages, not downloadable)

    5. Adaptogens by Phylls D. Light, MA, RH

    6. Schizandra by Matthew Wood, MS (8 pages, not downloadable)

    1. Class 4: Herbal Adaptogens - Video and Additional Resources

    2. Class 4: Herbal Adaptogens - Audio

    1. Test and Certificates

    2. Herbal Adaptogens Test

    1. Please share your thoughts

About this course

  • $48.00
  • 12 lessons
  • 2.5 hours of video content



Documents are not downloadable. Please note that Matthew often adds manuscripts of upcoming books and is allowing students early access to these works-in-progress; therefore, they are available as 'view-only' documents and are not downloadable.

Single class purchase

1-year access to this class.

Neuroendocrine System Bundle

Save 10% compared to purchasing the 4 classes in this series separately!

Discounts are automatically applied. No coupon code needed.

The Library Bundle

Access to this class and many more.
(Full list can be found on The Library page.)

Start at any time! Complete the lessons at your own pace.

Certificates designed and signed by Matthew Wood are available for purchase to those who successfully complete all tests with a passing grade of 70% or better. More details regarding herbal course certificates are here.

Tests are multiple-choice, and multiple attempts are permitted.

If you are tracking hours, see the list of all classes/courses with corresponding accreditation hours.

Free Starter Materials

Herbs and: Iodine, Thyroid, Endocrine, & Reproductive Systems & Fertility

Free intro content includes: The document, "Patterns of Hormonal and Reproductive Imbalance" and video that covers many female issues with detailed symptoms and useful herbs.
with Matthew Wood MS., Phyllis D. Light MS., and Lise Wolff, RH (AHG) MSc.
herbs, iodine and female reproductive issues
5 star rating

No more doubts when using adaptogens

Annalisa Nardi

Great class! There is so much information about adaptogens out there, sometimes it is difficult to choose the right one. This class helps to sort it through...

Read More

Great class! There is so much information about adaptogens out there, sometimes it is difficult to choose the right one. This class helps to sort it through, clarifies concepts and usages, adds a lot of practical experience and case histories. In other words, I now feel so much more confident when it comes to using adaptogens. Thank you. Very precious class.

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