By Dr. Deedra Rae Mason
Adaptogens are herbs or botanicals that therapeutically address the body’s stress response. Although ancient Eastern cultures utilized adaptogenic plants and herbs to promote health, the term adaptogen did not come about until the mid-20th century.
How do they work? What do they do?
When the body undergoes stress, it goes through three phases of reaction (A.K.A. General Adaptation Syndrome): alarm/arousal, resistance/adaptation and exhaustion.1
Studies show adaptogens help manage the negative effects of stress and may promote mental and physical performance.2
Common Adaptogens & Areas of Impact
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) – Used to help promote calmness, mood balance, mental focus and healthy adrenal function.3 This herb also supports regulation of stress-induced increases of dopamine and plasma corticosterone levels.4
Ginseng (Panax ginseng) – May enhance physical and mental performance, and increase energy and help manage the harmful effects of stress..5
Eleuthero/Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus) – Supports mental acuity, and helps stimulate the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis, allowing for more efficient regulation of the stress response and healthy levels of cortisol.5
Holy basil (Ocimum sanctum) – Promotes calmness and mental clarity, helps maintain blood sugar levels, and promotes normal plasma corticosterone levels.6, 7
Rhodiola rosea – Promotes relaxation, mental clarity, and helps maintain healthy levels of dopamine, epinephrine, norepinephrine and serotonin – all neurotransmitters and hormones that play a role in mood regulation.2
Schisandra (Schisandra chinensis) – Promotes general well-being and vitality, and may decrease stress-induced fatigue. Traditionally taken to promote mental function.8
Passionflower (Passiflora incarnate) – May have calming effects, possibly due to its flavonoids content.9 Historically used to promote calmness and as a natural aid for mood and stress.
Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) – Extracts of the root have shown to possess a sleep-inducing effect and improve sleep quality by boosting levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).10
- Panossian, A. and Wikman, G. Effects of Adaptogens on the Central Nervous System and the Molecular Mechanisms Associated with Their Stress—Protective Activity. Pharmaceuticals (Basel). Jan; 3(1): 188–224. 2010. doi: 10.3390/ph3010188
- Darbinyan, V. et al. Clinical trial of Rhodiola rosea L. extract SHR-5 in the treatment of mild to moderate depression. Nord J Psychiatry. 61(5):343-8. 2007
- Singh, N. et al. An Overview on Ashwagandha: A Rayasana (Rejuvenator) of Ayurveda. Afr J Tradit Complement Altern Med. 8(5 Suppl): 208–213. 2011
- Bhattacharya SK, et al. Anxiolytic-antidepressant activity of Withania somnifera glycowithanolides: an experimental study. Phytomedicine. 7(6):463-9.2000
- Gaffney, B. T., et al. Panax ginseng and Eleutherococcus senticosus may exaggerate an already existing biphasic response to stress via inhibition of enzymes which limit the binding of stress hormones to their receptors. Medical Hypotheses. 56(5):567-572, 2001.
- Singh, S. and Majumdar, D. Evaluation of the gastric antiulcer activity of fixed oil of Ocimum sanctum (Holy Basil). J Ethnopharmacol. 65(1):13-9.1999.
- Cohen, M. Tulsi – Ociumum sanctum: A herb for all reasons. J Ayurveda Integr Med, 5(4): 251-259. 2014.
- Jacuet, A. et al. Burnout: evaluation of the efficacy and tolerability of TARGET 1® for professional fatigue syndrome (burnout). J Int Med Res. 43(1):54-66. 2015
- Akhondzadeh, S., et al. Passionflower in the treatment of generalized anxiety: a pilot double-blind randomized controlled trial with oxezepam. J Clin Pharm Ther. 26(5):363-367, 2001.
- Hardy, M. Herbs of special interest to women. Journal of the American Pharmaceutical Association. 40(2): 234-242, 2000.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product(s) is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.