Recent History of Adaptogens
The term “adaptogen” was coined in the 1940s by Russian scientist Nicolai Lazerev who was tasked with studying compounds to increase performance of Russian athletes and military personnel. He began studying traditionally used herbs such as ginseng, and found that their effects had profound impact on the human body without causing unwanted side effects that chemicals had. He used the term ‘adapt’ because he found that these herbs helped the body to adapt to stressful situations and build a reserve that would help the body be better prepared for future stressors.
Today, we are exposed to stress in many areas:
Biological- exposure to bacteria, fungi, virus
Chemical- toxins, pesticides, xenoestrogens, perfumes
Environmental- noise pollution, electromagnetic waves (cell phones), allergens,
Nutritional- mineral depleted soil, refined and processed foods,
Physical- injuries, strenuous activity, HTN, drug and alcohol use, sleep deprivation,
Psychological- social media, grief, loss, fear, responsibility
So how can adaptogens help?
“Adaptogens are remarkable natural substances that help the body adapt to stress, support normal metabolic functions, and help to restore balance. They increase the body’s resistance to physical, biological, emotional and environmental stressors and provide a defense responses to acute or chronic stress. They are unique from other substances in their ability to restore the balance of endocrine hormones, modulate the immune system, and allow the body to maintain optimal homeostasis”
ADAPTOGENS by David Winston & Stephen Maimes
To be considered an adaptogen, an herb must:
be completely non-toxic
produce a non-specific response that increases resistance to a broad spectrum of stressors
have a normalizing effect on the body, regardless of the direction of change caused by the stressor (meaning they act like a thermostat, increasing temperature when its cold and decreasing it when it’s hot.)