In the 1940s, a group of Russian scientists led by Dr. Nikolay Lazarev discovered that certain plants directly helped modulate the body’s stress response. These special plants, which Lazarev coined “adaptogens,” improved the body’s resistance and adaptation to the adverse effects caused by physical and mental stressors. Later, the Russian scientist Israel Brekham led a massive initiative to analyze and research these plants and hopefully, discover more adaptogens that could be used to naturally boost the performance of Olympic athletes.
To be considered an adaptogen, a substance (a plant, in most cases) must meet the following 3 criteria formalized by Lazarev and Brekham.
- Produces a nonspecific (whole body) response that increases
resistance against the adverse effects of physical and mental stress
(inflammation, anxiety, disease, fatigue, etc.)
- Has a normalizing effect, maintaining homeostasis (balance)
across the systems in the body
- Is nontoxic, with no side effects that cause harm to the body
Below is a list of all known adaptogens, and the effects they are most known for, based on corresponding scientific research.
The following plants are purported to be adaptogens as well, but needs more scientific research to conclusively define them as such.
- Jiaogulan (Gynostemma pentaphyllum)
- Fo-Ti / He Shou Wou
- Dong quai / “Female ginseng”
- Milk Thistle
- Suma / “Brazilian ginseng”