The concept of adaptogens was first proposed by the Soviet scientist N.V.Lazarev (1947), referring to a substance that claims to increase “nonspecific” resistance to adverse effects on the body and stress. They activate innate defenses, increase resistance to stress, restore the body damaged under stress, provide the energy needed to fight fatigue and reduce the decline of the neuroendocrine immune system associated with aging.

What’s Adaptogens?

The key to how adaptogens work is that they build up the body’s natural resistance to stressors, which may have physical, chemical, biological and psychological effects. Similar to stress vaccines, adaptogens activate the body’s defense system and metabolic rate, reversing the negative effects of stress on the body and restoring balance and health. The pharmacodynamics characteristics of adapted protoplasm are as follows:

  • Adaptogens are virtually non-toxic to receptors and do not cause any side effects or adverse effects.
  • The pharmacological properties of adaptogens are often non-specific, and their function is to increase the body’s resistance to a wide range of harmful biological, chemical and physical factors.
  • Adaptogens are often a modifier that produces routine rather than intense effects.
  • The herb adaptogen regulates the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and the sympathetic nervous system, controlling people’s fight or flight response.

How Do Adaptogens Work For Human?

In modern times, adaptogens have been used to relieve stress-induced fatigue, mental and behavioral disorders, and age-related diseases. Thus, adaptogens are most likely to be effective in preventing and treating stress-induced and adult-onset chronic fatigue diseases, memory disorders, depression, anxiety, sleep disorders, diabetes, heart disease and hypertension, chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, colds and flu, infections, skin diseases, liver diseases, and cancer. This is because they activate innate defenses, increase resistance to stress, adapt organisms to stress, increase recovery from stress-induced damage, provide the energy needed to fight fatigue and reduce the decline of the neuroendocrine immune system associated with aging.

In addition, adaptogens are thought to rebuild the body’s strength after stress or fatigue. Clinical trials of adaptogens have reported effective use in people exposed to high physical and neurological loads (i.e., athletes). Muscle activity and nerve loading have been reported to cause stress responses, or stress responses, which have been reduced by the use of adaptogens.

Which herbs are classified as adaptogenic herbs?

There are many benefits to taking the top adaptogenic herbs, which include Ashwagandha, Panax ginseng, Rhodiola, Maca root, Holy basil, Schisandra fruit, Eleuthero and Cordyceps. The benefits of the herb include boosting immunity, reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression, promoting overall health and helping you thrive during times of stress and adversity.


Ashwagandha is also known as Withania Somnifera, is considered the king of Ayurvedic herbs. It has many uses and is often used for sexual enhancement and stress relief. Its anxiolytic properties help people combat symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression. It has gained acceptance and widespread use for its ability to increase resistance to fatigue and stress, as well as other physical and psychological factors that can make the body tired.

In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial published in the Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine in 2012, researchers recruited 64 volunteers with chronic stress symptoms and randomly assigned them to 300 milligrams of Panax ginseng a day or the same amount of placebo. The experiment lasted for 60 days. Researchers assessed stress, anxiety and depression at the start of the study and during the study. The results showed a 44 percent reduction in perceived stress in the experimental group and a 5.5 percent reduction in the control group. Follow-up questionnaires showed significant improvements in physical stress, anxiety & insomnia, social difficulties and major depressive symptoms. There was a 76% reduction in physical stress, 69% in anxiety and insomnia, 68% in social disorders and 79% in major depression. The control group saw reductions of 5%, 11%, 3% and 10%, respectively. In addition, serum cortisol levels were significantly lower in the experimental group by 27 percent compared to an 8 percent drop in the placebo group.

Panax Ginseng

Ginseng root

If you suffer from chronic fatigue or are under stress, it may be time to turn to adaptogenic herbs for relief. As one of the most potent adaptogens, Panax ginseng is used in many traditional Chinese medicines. It is also a popular immune booster and performance enhancer. The herb has been used by traditional systems of health for thousands of years and has many benefits, they can improve your general wellbeing and energy level by preventing energy crashes. However, the herb has been over-marketed as a libido enhancer, which is not true.

This means that in some ways it has a similar effect to Ashwagandha. The main active ingredients of ginseng are ginsenosides, among which Rg1, Rc, Rd, Rb1 and Rb2 are the most important active ingredients. In vitro studies have shown that Rg1 and Rb1 protect cells from oxidative stress and prevent mitochondrial dysfunction before they are exposed to a pesticide called rotenone. But it should be noted that ginsenosides can only prevent damage, and cannot reverse the damage already caused by pesticides. Therefore, ginseng should only be used as a preventive supplement rather than a therapeutic agent.

Taking too much of Panax ginseng can have undesirable side effects, particularly if you have high blood pressure. It may also reduce your immune system activity. In addition, taking too much of this herb along with certain medications may increase the risk of side effects. While it may have fewer side effects than caffeine, it might increase your heart rate and blood pressure, it might also reduce the effectiveness of some blood-thinning drugs, such as furosemide. However, this is not known for certain.


Rhodiola Rosea

Rhodiola rosea is a common herb in Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine. Early studies have shown that rhodiola root extract boosts the activity of the neurotransmitters norepinephrine, dopamine and serotonin, which could be useful for consumers who need to improve memory, calm mood and focus. The main physiological active components in Rhodiola include Rosavin and Salidroside. Rosea, like Panax ginseng, also regulates cortisol levels through the HPA axis.

In a double-blind crossover study published in the Botanical Journal in 2000, 56 healthy young doctors were randomly assigned to receive a daily dose of Rhodiola or an equivalent dose of placebo for six weeks. The researchers measured their overall level of mental fatigue using a variety of parameters, including complex brain perception and cognitive functions such as associative thinking, short-term memory, computational ability, attention concentration, and auditory perception speed. The tests were conducted before and after the night shift and showed significant improvements in both periods.

Maca Root

Maca root

Maca is considered to be one of the best adaptogenic herbs. It has been used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years. It has a variety of benefits, including promoting healthy hormone levels and increasing libido. This herb is also believed to have positive effects on memory, learning, and reducing the risk of prostate cancer. In addition to being a great adaptogen, maca extract contains several nutrients, including copper, potassium, iron, and anthocyanins, which have shown to protect the body against certain chronic diseases.

Originating in South America, maca was once a food source for the Incans. Today, the root is available as a tincture, powder, and even a pill. It is incredibly high in amino acids, carbohydrates, lignans, phytosterols, and alkaloids. Maca is an excellent adaptogen that helps restore balance to our hormones and systems. People often choose maca root for its ability to counter hot flashes and mood swings.

When taken orally, Maca root is very effective in treating mild cases of erectile dysfunction. It also promotes the balance of hormones and helps men and women achieve fertility. Maca root supplements may also help to improve memory and learning. Its high antioxidant content has made it safe for women and even pregnant women. However, you should consult your healthcare practitioner before taking maca root supplements. There are numerous other adaptogenic herbs, including ginseng, which is often recommended to treat menopause and erectile dysfunction.

Holy Basil

For thousands of years, people have used holy basil to help calm nerves and encourage positivity. Basil, a plant that grows in tropical Asia, is a member of the mint family and a relative of sweet basil, which is commonly used in cooking. Basil is known for its ability to regulate cortisol in the body and is an ideal adrenal fatigue plant that promotes restful sleep while ensuring proper hormone secretion. Its immune-boosting, anti-viral, and antioxidant properties make it one of the world’s oldest and most treasured herbs. Its benefits are similar to those of turmeric, ginkgo, and lavender. It is a versatile plant that can be used in tea, tincture, or supplement form.

Another of the herb’s positive effects is on the brain, where it helps maintain normal cortisol levels, a hormone that is associated with cognitive disorders and hyperactivity. Holy basil is also rich in a compound known as cineole, which crosses the blood-brain barrier and interacts with brain cells associated with memory. It is currently being used in treatments for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Other benefits of holy basil include its anticonvulsant, antioxidative, and hypoglycemic effects. Furthermore, it has been found to reduce the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease in a transgenic Drosophila model. Therefore, holy basil is a valuable addition to any herbal medicine regimen. These benefits are just some of the reasons that holy basil is considered one of the top adaptogenic herbs.

Schisandra Fruit

Schisandra fruit is a berry native to northern China and parts of Russia. Studies have shown that schisandra fruit extract is a powerful tonic that can be used to reduce fatigue, improve physical activity and promote endurance. The berry also fights stress by reducing levels of stress hormones in the blood, and in human studies, schisandra and its extracts have successfully improved athletic performance in long-distance runners, skiers and gymnasts.

In an animal study published in the journal Scientific Reports, researchers assessed the effects of an extract of schisandra chinensis on mice with mild stress-induced depression and cognitive impairment. The researchers assessed the mice’s anhedonia, or inability to perceive pleasure, by measuring their sugar intake — which was significantly reduced in mice under stress. The results showed that the rats in the schisandra group had increased sucrose intake and preference compared with the control group, suggesting that schisandra has antidepressant effects.

In summary, adaptogens are neither intended to eliminate the symptoms of an existing disease nor are they specific. When used in a developed disease, adaptogens are thought to have a non-specific effect, in which case they are mainly thought to prevent the complications of the disease and enhance the overall state of the organism. But you should always consult a doctor before taking any herbal supplements, and remember that adaptogenic herbs are not safe for pregnant or breastfeeding women.

Ye Tao