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Adaptogenen

Adaptogenen zijn kruiden en andere natuurlijke substanties die de niet-specifieke weerstand tegen acute en chronische stress verhogen. Adaptogenen werken prestatieverhogend, zowel op mentaal als fysiek niveau. Bovendien hebben ze invloed op ziekte- en verouderingsprocessen door hun invloed op (chronische) stress.

 Stressor en stressrespons
Stress is de lichamelijke reactie op stressoren; stressoren kunnen emotioneel of mentaal van aard zijn (verdriet, piekeren, studiebelasting), een fysieke oorsprong hebben (sport, ziekten, zwaar lichamelijk werk) of omgevingsfactoren betreffen (temperatuur, lawaai, toxines, infecties, straling). Wat de aard van de stressor ook is, het lichaam reageert met een niet-specifieke, acute stressrespons, die voor het eerst is beschreven door Hans Selye [1]. Deze universele vecht- of vluchtreactie wordt gekenmerkt door toename van hartslag, bloeddruk en ademhaling, aanmaak van stresshormonen (catecholamines, cortisol), afname van de spijsverteringsactiviteit en eetlust, en angst, agressie en/of opwinding. In principe is deze acute stressrespons een zelflimiterend proces en komt het lichaam door terugkoppelingsmechanismen in het normale fysiologische evenwicht (homeostase) terug.

Chronische stress
Chronische stress (door hevige en/of herhaaldelijke stress) is een toestand waarin het lichaam niet meer in staat is het normale evenwicht te hervinden en in een negatieve spiraal belandt. Dit kan zich uiten in een grotere stressgevoeligheid (sneller en heviger reageren op een stressor) en allerlei psychische en lichamelijke klachten (moeheid, zwakte, uitputting, minder weerstand, hypoglycemie, stemmingswisselingen, neerslachtigheid, slapeloosheid, spierpijn, spijsverteringsklachten, concentratie- en geheugenproblemen, minder zin in seks, gewichtstoename).
Chronische stress speelt een rol bij het ontstaan en voortduren van allerlei (chronische) ziekten. We kunnen hierbij denken aan metabool syndroom, maagzweer, depressie, angststoornis, hypothyroïdie, onvruchtbaarheid, obesitas, menopauzale klachten, allergieën, autoimmuunziekten, hoge bloeddruk, chronisch vermoeidheidssyndroom, fibromyalgie, hart- en vaatziekten, dementie, sarcopenie (leeftijdsgerelateerde afname van spiermassa en spierkracht), osteoporose, colitis en kanker. Bovendien versnelt chronische stress het (normale)verouderingsproces.

Regulatie stressrespons
Het proces waarmee het lichaam zich verdedigt en aanpast aan stressoren, is heel complex. Het neuro-immuno-endocriene systeem dat centraal staat in de energie- en stressregulatie is de hypothalamus-hypofyse-bijnieras (de HPA-as), de wisselwerking tussen hypothalamus, hypofyse en bijnieren). De HPA-as is vooral belangrijk bij herhaalde blootstelling aan stressoren en is primair verantwoordelijk voor het proces van adaptatie aan veranderende omstandigheden. De endocrinoloog Selye onderscheidt verschillende stadia in de stressrespons (ook wel algemeen adaptatiesyndroom genoemd):

1. De alarmfase, gekenmerkt door activering van het sympatische zenuwstelsel en de bijnieren, het sympatho-adrenale systeem (stijgingadrenalinespiegel);
2. De weerstands- of adaptatiefase, gekenmerkt door activering van de HPA-as (stijging cortisolspiegel). Hierbij treden op termijn mogelijk bijnierhypertrofie, maagdarmzweren, atrofie van lymfeklieren en thymus en andere stoornissen op;
3. De uitputtingsfase (daling cortisol, bijnieruitputting, degeneratie), die uiteindelijk kan leiden tot de dood. Chronische stress betekent per saldo overbelasting en ontregeling van de HPA-as met stijging van de (basale) cortisolspiegel, toegenomen ontstekingsactiviteit en oxidatieve stress, afgenomen weerstand en een katabole toestand in het lichaam.

Adaptogenen zijn kruiden en andere natuurlijke substanties die de niet-specifieke weerstand tegen acute en chronische stress verhogen. Adaptogenen werken prestatieverhogend, zowel op mentaal als fysiek niveau. Bovendien hebben ze invloed op ziekte- en verouderingsprocessen door hun invloed op (chronische) stress. Adaptogenen zijn om diereden zeer breed inzetbaar.

De Russische wetenschapper Nicolai Lazarev beschreef rond 1950 voor het eerst aptogenen. Het zijn kruiden of andere natuurlijke supplementen (zoals medicinale paddenstoelen), die invloed uitoefenen op de HHB-as (hypothalamus-hypofyse-bijnieras) en het sympatho-adrenale systeem, waardoor het vermogen verbeterd om met stress om te gaan [2,3]. Adaptogenen worden vaak gebruikt om de vitaliteit te verhogen, meer energie te krijgen en gezond te blijven. Ze zorgen dat het lichaam adequaat reageert op stress en zich goed kan herstellen, mede door organen (hart, hersenen, bijnieren, lever, etc.) te beschermen tegen de
schadelijke effecten van stress, regeneratie te bevorderen en organen te vitaliseren en activeren (anabool effect). Omdat adaptogenen ondersteuning geven bij fysieke en mentale stress, Zijn ze bij uitstek geschikt voor mensen die zich opgebrand, uitgeblust en uitgeput voelen. In tegenstelling tot middelen die het centrale zenuwstelsel stimuleren, zoals amfetamines, cocaïne, nicotine en cafeïne, geven adaptogenen energie zonder dat het tot uitputting leidt.

Kenmerken adaptogeen
Een adaptogeen is een substantie met de volgende eigenschappen [2-4]:
1. Het verhoogt de niet-specifieke (algemene) lichamelijke weerstand tegen stressoren van uiteenlopende aard.
2. Het brengt het lichaam beter in balans, onafhankelijk van de onderliggende lichamelijke toestand; het helpt door ondersteuning van orgaanfuncties en -systemen bij het behoud of herstel van de homeostase.
3. Het is onschadelijk, heeft geen bijwerkingen en heeft geen verstorende invloed op de normale fysiologische functies. Met adaptogenen kan een gezond lichaam beter presteren (groter fysiek uithoudingsvermogen en stressbestendigheid, toegenomen productiviteit, betere weerstand tegen infecties, meer energie), kan een ouder lichaam beter regenereren en lichaamsfuncties op peil houden (anti-verouderingseffect, meer vitaliteit, beter aanpassingsvermogen) en kan een ziek lichaam zijn zelfhelend vermogen beter aanspreken (bloeddrukverlaging, betere respons op kankertherapie, gezonder immuunsysteem, betere bloedsuikerregulatie, afgenomen ontstekingsactiviteit en pijn, betere stemming, beter herstel na operatie)

Actieve bestanddelen 

Adaptogenen kunnen op basis van hun actieve bestanddelen globaal worden onderverdeeld in drie groepen [2]: 
1. Adaptogenen met fenolen, zoals fenylpropanoïden, fenylethaanderivaten en lignanen. Deze (aromatische) verbindingen lijken op catecholamines, hebben vermoedelijk effect op het sympatho-adrenale systeem en hebben derhalve al invloed op vroege stadia van de stressrespons (Eleutherococcus senticosus, Rhodiola rosea, Schizandra chinensis). 

2. Adaptogenen met tetracyclische triterpenen, die structurele overeenkomst vertonen met corticosteroïden en het stress-systeem dempen om overprikkeling door stressoren tegen te gaan (Bryonia alba, Ashwagandha, Panax ginseng, Eleutherococcus senticosus). 

3. Adaptogenen met oxylipinen, onverzadigde trihydroxy- of epoxyvetzuren die lijken op leukotriënen en lipoxines. Deze verbindingen beïnvloeden het immuunsysteem (Bryonia alba, Glycyrrhiza glabra). 

Wetenschappelijk onderzoek 
Een groot deel van het wetenschappelijk onderzoek naar de eigenschappen en werking van adaptogenen, inclusief klinisch onderzoek, is gepubliceerd in Oost-Europese en Aziatische talen. Rond 1984 waren er al zo’n 1500 (voornamelijk farmacologische en klinische) studies gepubliceerd in Rusland over de werking van (extracten van) Eleutherococcus, Rhodiola en Schizandra [13]. In het Westen is naar verhouding weinig bekend over hoe adaptogenen precies werken en hoe goed ze werken. Hier komt gaandeweg verandering in [2,3,13,14]. Goed onderzochte en veelgebruikte adaptogenen in Rusland zijn Eleutherococcus senticosus (Siberische ginseng), Rhodiola rosea, Schizandra chinensis en Bryonia alba. 

Eleutherococcus is vermoedelijk het meest geteste adaptogeen ter wereld. De vier kruiden, waarmee vanaf 1960 farmacologische en klinische (placebogecontroleerde) studies zijn gedaan, zijn geaccepteerd binnen de Russische medische praktijk en worden als zelfmedicatie gebruikt bij stress, vermoeidheid en uitputting en om in werk en sport tot betere prestaties te komen. Sporters gebruiken adaptogenen (waaronder ook Ashwagandha, Panax ginseng en zoethout) ook om blessures te voorkomen en te behandelen [2,4]. Vaak worden combinaties van adaptogenen gebruikt. Zo is Amerikaanse ginseng (200 mg) met Ginkgo biloba (50 mg) gecombineerd om kinderen met ADHD te behandelen [15]. Beide kruiden werden gekozen omdat ze aandacht, concentratie, geheugen en leren verbeteren, goed zijn voor de hersenstofwisseling en de stemming verbeteren. In de pilot-studie namen de kinderen het combinatiepreparaat vier weken lang in op een nuchtere maag. De symptomen van ADHD waren dermate verminderd (minder gedragsproblemen, betere concentratie, sneller leren) dat verder onderzoek zinvol is. 

Adaptogenen en veroudering
Hoewel adaptogenen strikt genomen geen ´geneesmiddelen´ zijn, kunnen ze worden opgenomen in vrijwel ieder behandelprotocol. Zij helpen het genezingsproces te bevorderen na ziekte, operatie of trauma. Adaptogenen gaan de negatieve gevolgen van stress tegen en helpen ons een vitaal en energiek leven te leiden. Ze zijn een aanwinst in de veeleisende maatschappij van vandaag.

Mijn artikels op internet over adaptogenen.

Referenties
1. McEwen B. The end of stress as we know It. Joseph Henry Press 2002. ISBN-0309091217
2. Panossian AG. Adaptogens, tonic herbs for fatigue and stress. Alternative & ComplementaryTherapies 2003;9(6):327-331
3. Abascal K, Yarnell E. Increasing vitality with adaptogens: multifaceted herbs for treating physical and mental stress. Alternative & Complementary Therapies 2003;9(2):54-60
4. Meletis CD, Barker J. Optimizing wellness for physical performance. Alternative & Complementary Therapies. 2003;9(1):5-10
5. Tharakan B, Manyam BV. Botanical therapies in chronic fatigue. Phytother Res 2006;20:91-95
6. Rai D, Bhatia G, Palit G et al. Adaptogenic effect of Bacopa monniera (Brahmi). Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2003;75(4):823-30
7. Lopez-Fando A, Gomez-Serranillos MP, Iglesias I et al. Lepidium peruvianum chacon restores homeostasis impaired by restraint stress. Phytother Res. 2004;18(6):471-4
8. Zhu JS, Halpern GM, Jones K. The scientific rediscovery of an ancient Chinese herbal medicine: Cordyceps sinensis: part I. J Altern Complement Med. 1998;4(3):289-303
9. Zhu JS, Halpern GM, Jones K. The scientific rediscovery of a precious ancient Chinese herbal regimen: Cordyceps sinensis: part II. J Altern Complement Med. 1998;4(4):429-57
10. Vogler BK, Pittler MH, Ernst E. The efficacy of ginseng. A systematic review of randomised clinical trials. Eur J Clin Pharmacol 1999;55(8):567-575
11. Brown RP, Gerbarg PL, Ramazanov Z. Rhodiola rosea: A Phytomedicinal Overview. HerbalGram. 2002;56:40-52
12. Le Gal M, Cathebras P, Sruby K. Pharmaton capsules in the treatment of functional fatigue: a double-blind study versus placebo evaluated by a new methodology. Phytother Res 1996;10:49-53
13. Panossian A, Wikman G, Wagner H. Plant adaptogens III.* Earlier and more recent aspects and concepts on their mode of action. Phytomedicine 1999;6(4):287-300
14. Panossian A, Wagner H. Stimulating effect of adaptogens: an overview with particular reference to their efficacy following single dose administration. Phytother Res. 2005;19(10):819-38
15. Lyon MR, Cline JC, Totosy de Zepetnek J et al. Effect of the herbal extract combination Panax quinquefolium and Ginkgo biloba on attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder: a pilot study. J Psychiatry Neurosci. 2001;26(3):221-8
16. Hartz AJ, Bentler S, Noyes R et al. Randomized controlled trial of Siberian ginseng for chronic fatigue. Psychol Med. 2004;34(1):51-61
17. Singh A, Naidu PS, Gupta S et al. Effect of natural and synthetic antioxidants in a mouse model of chronic fatigue syndrome. J Med Food. 2002;5(4):211-20


Harmony Remedies: An Overview of Adaptogens David Winston, AHG, 2004

The idea of using tonic remedies to restore balance and health in a person is an ancient idea. The word and concept of an “adaptogen” is a relatively new way of describing a type of remedy commonly found in traditional Chinese (Qi tonic), African (Manyasi), Tibetan, Ayurvedic (Rasayana), and Cherokee medicine. The actual word adaptogen was first used by a Soviet scientist, Dr. Nikolai Lazarev, who under grants from the military, was researching substances which produced a “state of nonspecific resistance (SNIR)11”. The idea was to find ways to enhance the productivity and performance of soldiers, athletes, and workers without using dangerous stimulants. Much of the early research into adaptogens was done by Dr. I.I. Brekhman who, in the late 1950’s, studied Panax ginseng. Looking for a less expensive and more available substitute, he changed his focus to a native
Russian shrub, Eleutherococcus senticosis. His first monograph of this now popular herb (Siberian Ginseng, Eleuthero) was published in 1960. In 1969 Brekhman and Dardymov defined the general pharmacological properties of adaptogenic substances. These include15:

a.) The substance is relatively non-toxic to the recipient.
b.) An adaptogen has “non-specific” activity and acts by increasing resistance of the organismto a broad spectrum of adverse biological, chemical, and physical factors.
c.) These substances tend to help regulate or normalize organ and system function within the organism.

Several theories have been suggested to explain the effects of adaptogenic substances. One theory
proposed by Dardymov and Kirkorian9 argues that adaptogens function primarily due to their
antioxidant and free radical scavenging effects. While their theory is partially accurate, it is inadequate
to explain the full effects of these medicinals7.
More recent research postulates that adaptogens work primarily by affecting the Hypothalamic/
Pituitary/Adrenal (HPA) axis and the Sympathoadrenal System (SAS)9. Thus, adaptogens modulate
our response to stress (physical, environmental, or emotional) and help regulate the interconnected
endocrine, immune, and nervous systems. This re-regulation of a disordered or highly stressed system
is achieved by metabolic regulators such as cytokines, catecholamines, glucocorticoids, cortisol,
serotonin, nitric oxide (NO), cholecystokinin, corticotrophin-releasing factor (CRF), and sex
hormones. This broad array of biochemical activators helps explain why adaptogens also have antiinflammatory, antioxidant, anxiolytic, antidepressant, nervine, and amphoteric effects as well. So
while most or all adaptogens are antioxidants, having antioxidant properties (Green Tea, Rosemary,
Cranberry) is not enough to make a substance an adaptogen. This is true of many amphoteric herbs as
well. An amphoteric is a substance that normalizes function of an organ or a system within the body. I
think of amphoterics as “food for an organ”. Examples include Hawthorn for the cardiovascular
system, Fresh Milky Oat for the nervous system, or Helonias for the female reproductive system. All
of these herbs are amphoteric, but none of them qualify as adaptogens. Brekhman and Dardymov’s list
of physiological actions of adaptogens states that adaptogens help modulate system function and
maintain homeostasis. So all adaptogens act as broad spectrum amphoterics to living organisms, but
they rarely have a pronounced effect on only one specific organ or system.

1. Well-known adaptogens:

Chinese or Korean Ginseng root (Panax ginseng)
Red Ginseng root– Sweet, slightly bitter, warm-hot, moist
White Ginseng root– Sweet, bitter, warm, moist
Western Classification: Adaptogen, antioxidant, antiinflammatory, antiasthmatic, cardiotonic, CNS
stimulant (mild), immune amphoteric.
Ginseng, especially Red Ginseng, is the most stimulating of the adaptogens. Traditionally it is used in
Chinese medicine for older men with deficient kidney yang (impotence, fatigue, BPH, low back pain)
or for patients with vanquished qi (CFIDS, CHF). It is a useful part of a protocol for deficient
depression, exhaustion, Addison’s Disease (with Licorice), deficient insomnia, diabetes, cachexia,
immune deficiency allergic asthma (use with Schisandra and Licorice), erectile dysfunction, and it
helps prevent or treat leucopenia in patients receiving chemotherapy or radiation for cancer. Recent
human studies using Asian Ginseng showed it reduced symptoms of COPD5, improved survival times
in patients with gastric cancer, and reduced incidence of metastases14. Overuse of Ginseng in yang
(excess) people can cause insomnia, anxiety, increased blood pressure, and irritability.

American Ginseng root (Panax quinquefolius) – Bitter, slightly sweet, warm, moist
Western Classification: Adaptogen, antioxidant, antiinflammatory, bitter tonic, immune amphoteric.
American Ginseng is less stimulating/heating than Panax ginseng; making it more appropriate for
regular use by younger people of both sexes. It is still of a warming (nourishing) nature and is
appropriate for fatigue, recovery from pneumonia or bronchitis (especially with a dry cough), CFIDS,
asthma, chronic stress with depression or anxiety, and autoimmune diseases of the lungs or GI tract. I
find it of great benefit for jet lag, metabolic syndrome, adrenal deficiency, immune depletion, sexual
neurasthenia, and deficient insomnia. It is much less likely to over stimulate people than is Asian
Ginseng and it is better for yin deficiency conditions (dryness)17.

Eleuthero root (Eleutherococcus senticosis) - Sweet, slightly bitter, neutral
Western Classification: Adaptogen, anticholesteremic, antioxidant, antiinflammatory (mild), immune
potentiator, nervine.
Eleuthero (formerly Siberian Ginseng) is less tonifying than the true Ginsengs (Panax spp.). It is
neutral energetically and so is appropriate for daily use. It is indicated for the “average” American
who is overstressed, undernourished but overfed, doesn’t get enough sleep or exercise, has dark circles
under his or her eyes, a quivering tongue, and contracting/dilating pupils. This description of HPA
axis depletion without overt pathology is precisely where Eleuthero is useful. Taken regularly it
enhances immune function, reduces cortisol levels and inflammatory response, and it promotes
improved cognitive and physical performance. In human studies Eleuthero has been successfully used
to treat bone marrow suppression caused by chemotherapy or radiation, angina, hypercholesterolemia,
and neurasthenia with headache, insomnia, and poor appetite3,6.

Wu Wei Zi berries/seeds (Schisandra chinensis, S. splenathera) – Sour, pungent, warm, dry
Western Classification: Adaptogen, antioxidant, antiinflammatory, astringent, antiasthmatic,
hepatoprotective, immune amphoteric.
Schisandra berries mildly stimulate CNS activity and can be used with Prince Seng for neurasthenia
and exhaustion. It is very useful as part of a protocol for hepatitis B&C (use with Milk Thistle and
Turmeric), asthma (with Licorice), and for nervous system disorders including Parkinson’s disease,
Meniere’s syndrome, deficient depression, and adult ADHD. Wu Wei Zi is used in Fu Zheng therapy
to support immune function and prevent side effects caused by cancer chemotherapy.

Wu Wei Zi berries/seeds 
Traditionally, this herb is used to astringe a leaky jing gate (urinary incontinence, leucorrhea, diarrhea,
and spermatorrhea) and to reduce excessive sweating.

Dang Shen root (Codonopsis pilosula) – Sweet, warm, moist
Western Classification: Adaptogen, gastroprotective, hypoglycemic agent, immune potentiator, nervine
Codonopsis, also known as “poor man’s ginseng” is used in TCM as a mild substitute for Panax. It
is a spleen qi tonic and is used for poor appetite, gastric irritation, and/or ulcers, fatigue, and weak
limbs. It is also a lung qi tonic and can be used for shortness of breath with a dry cough and frequent
respiratory tract infections (use with Prince Seng). Dang Shen is commonly used to strengthen the
immune system (cancer, HIV, mononucleosis) and is frequently used in Fu Zheng therapies to prevent
side effects from chemotherapy or radiation. It increases hemoglobin levels and the number of red
blood cells as well19.

Licorice rhizome (Glycyrrhiza glabra, G. uralensis) – Sweet, slightly bitter, warm, moist
Western Classification: Adaptogen, antihistamine, antiinflammatory, antidiuretic, antioxidant,
antitussive, antiviral, demulcent, hepatoprotective, immune amphoteric, gastroprotective.
Gan Cao (Licorice) is a versatile and commonly used herb in TCM, Unani-Tibb and European
herbal traditions. It is an immune amphoteric and can be useful for autoimmune disorders (Lupus,
Scleroderma, Crohn’s disease, R.A.) as well as immune deficiency conditions (cancer, HIV, CFIDS). It
strengthens adrenal function and can be used with Panax ginseng for Addison’s disease. It is also
useful for allergies, ulcers, elevated cortisol levels, PCOS (with Serenoa and Paeonia), and spasmodic
coughs. Excess doses of Licorice can have a hyperaldosterogenic effect (increased retention of sodium
and excretion of potassium). Women are more sensitive to this effect than men and patients with
hypertension should avoid using this herb on a continual basis.

Ashwagandha root (Withania somnifera) – Bitter, sweet, warm, dry
Western Classification: Adaptogen, antiinflammatory, antioxidant, antispasmodic, astringent, immune
amphoteric, sedative (mild).
This herb is one of the Rasayana (rejuvenative) herbs of Ayurveda. It is one of the few calming
adaptogens and has traditionally been used for anxiety, bad dreams, mild OCD, insomnia, and nervous
exhaustion. It acts as an antispasmodic & antiinflammatory and is very useful for fibromyalgia (with
Kava and Scullcap), restless leg syndrome, mild Tourette’s syndrome, and osteo-arthritis. It is an
immune amphoteric useful for hyper- and hypo-immune conditions. I find it especially useful for
autoimmune conditions affecting the muscles and joints such as rheumatoid arthritis, Ankylosing
Spondylitis, polymyositis, and polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR). It enhances male fertility (sperm count
and sperm motility) and, due to its iron content, it benefits iron-deficient anemia. Ashwagandha also
stimulates thyroid function. Studies in mice showed significant increases of serum T3(18%) and
T4(111%) after 20 days of use8.

Cordyceps fungus (Cordyceps sinensis) – Sweet, slightly acrid, warm, moist
Western Classification: Adaptogen, antiasthmatic, antileukemic, antioxidant, hepatoprotective,
immune potentiator, nephroprotective, sedative (mild).
The caterpillar fungus (winter insect, summer plant) is one of the more unusual adaptogens. While
the parasitized larvae are still available, most Cordyceps is now grown on soybeans. It is used in TCM
for deficient kidney yin and yang caused by chronic disease or extremely rigorous labor/athletic
training. It improves libido and sperm count, relieves fatigue, anemia, chronic coughs, and bone
marrow (erythroid) suppression due to radiation therapy.

Cordyceps fungus 
Cordyceps also has active antitumor and antileukemic activity (use with Panax notoginseng), it
enhances circulation and cardiac output, as well as lung capacity. Cordyceps combined with Nettle
Seed and Unprocessed Rehmannia is very useful for treating degenerative kidney disease. In human
studies Cordyceps has shown significant benefit for male sexual dysfunction, hyperlipidemia, low
platelet counts, allergic rhinitis, tinnitus, and chronic tracheitis3.

2. New Adaptogens

Holy Basil herb (Ocimum sanctum) – Pungent, sweet, warm, neutral
Western Classification: Adaptogen, antibacterial, anticholesteremic, antidepressant, antioxidant,
antiviral, carminative, expectorant, immune amphoteric.
Tulsi, or Holy Basil, has a long tradition of use in Ayurvedic, Siddha, and the Unani-Tibb systems
of medicine. It is considered a Rasayana or rejuvenative medicine and is traditionally used to improve
memory, to treat coughs, colds, indigestion, asthma (with Black Pepper), and fatigue. More recent
research has shown it reduces excess immune response in allergic asthma and allergies while
enhancing normal immune function. In addition, in animal studies, it increases endurance, inhibits
ulcer formation, and protects against gamma radiation. In a human trial, Tulsi showed benefits in
NIDDM, reducing fasting blood glucose (17.6%) and postprandial blood glucose (7.3%)12.

Rhodiola root (Rhodiola rosea, R. crenulata) – Sweet, slightly bitter, cool, neutral
Western Classification: Adaptogen, antiinflammatory, antioxidant, antidepressant, cardioprotective,
immune potentiator, nervine.
Known as Rose Root, Golden Root, or Arctic Root, Rhodiola has a long history of use in
Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, and Russia as a rejuvenative tonic. Rhodiola has been an official
medicine in the Soviet Union (now Russia) since 1969, as a mild CNS stimulant, memory enhancer,
cardiotonic, and immune tonic2. In human studies, this root has been shown to be effective for treating
mild depression, neurasthenia, nervous palpitations, impaired cognitive function4, ADD, CFIDS,
erectile dysfunction, amenorrhea, and infertility in women. Due to its cooling nature, Rhodiola is very
useful for patients with excess constitutions with hypertension, liver fire rising headaches, and yang
insomnia. Traditionally, Rhodiola is used in Tibetan medicine for nourishing the lungs, to increase
blood circulation, and for fatigue, altitude sickness, and weakness.

Amla fruit (Emblica officinalis) – Sour, sweet, cool, dry
Western Classification: Adaptogen, antioxidant, anticholesteremic, antiinflammatory, astringent,
radioprotective, thyroxin inhibitor, diuretic, hepatoprotective (mild), nutritive.
Amla, or Amalaki, is a Rasayana or rejuvenative remedy used in Ayurvedic medicine. A 1999
animal study by N.N. Rege concluded that Amla was not only a useful antioxidant and
antiinflammatory, but had adaptogenic activity as well. The extract was shown to protect against
biological, physical, and chemical stressors12. Amla is used clinically for connective tissue disorders
(Scleroderma, R.A., Lupus, Ankylosing Spondylitis), to build blood (anemia – use with
Ashwagandha), and strengthen bones, capillaries, and the eyes. It also inhibits atherosclerosis,
carcinogenesis, and may help slow the degeneration caused by Alzheimer’s disease.

Bryonia root (Bryonia alba) – Bitter, cold, dry
Western Classification: Adaptogen, antiinflammatory, analgesic/antibacterial, antioxidant, cardiotonic,
immune amphoteric.
Usually thought of as a highly toxic plant, Bryonia root has been found to be both an adaptogen and
non-toxic if gathered in the spring or autumn.

Bryonia root 
The summer gathered roots have a very different chemistry and are, as commonly thought, quite toxic.
Bryonia (commercially known as Lostak) is available as a tonic remedy in Russia and Eastern Europe.
It is used to prevent radiation-induced cell damage, side effects from chemotherapy, treat CFIDS, and
it improves physical endurance and work capacity10.

Aralia manshurica, A. elata, A. schmidtii roots – Pungent, warm, moist
Western Classification: Adaptogen, antioxidant, CNS stimulant (mild), expectorant, hypoglycemic
agent, nephroprotective.
These three Aralia spp. (Araliaceae) are native to Siberia and Manchuria, and are used in Russia as
mild adaptogenic tonics. Aralia elata is the most researched of the three, and in animal studies it
protected mice against radiation damage16. Readers should be aware that not all Aralia spp. have
adaptogenic activity (Ex: A. racemosa, A. spinosa).

Jiaogulan herb (Gynostemma pentaphylla) – Sweet, slightly bitter, neutral
Western Classification: Adaptogen, antioxidant, expectorant, hypocholesteremic, hepatoprotective,
immune potentiator, nervine.
This member of the Curcubitaceae family has a long history of use in Southern China & Taiwan as
a folk remedy for fatigue, weakness, asthma, hepatitis, migraines, and cancer. Due to its low cost and
safety, it has become much more widely used as a “Ginseng” substitute and adaptogen throughout
Southeast Asia. Interestingly, some of the active constituents, gypenosides, are chemically identical to
ginsenosides found in the unrelated Panax species. Clinically, Jiaogulan is useful for hypertension,
congestive heart failure, liver disease, elevated blood lipids, and to strengthen the immune system and
inhibit cancer1.

3. Little-Known Adaptogens

Oplopanax elatus /Echinopanax elatus bark– Korean Araliaceae
This herb has been reported to have adaptogenic and antioxidant qualities in Russian literature.

Trichopus zeylanicus seed
Is used by the Kani tribe of India for energy, to increase stamina, and to promote immunity and
vitality. It has been shown in animal studies to increase adrenal corticosterone levels, act as a
hepatoprotective agent, and an aphrodisiac13.

Hoppea dichotoma root
An Ayurvedic plant traditionally used as a nerve tonic. It has been reported in the literature to have
adaptogenic properties.

Rhaponticum carthamoides root/Leuzea carthamoides
A Russian herb used as a CNS stimulant and as a restorative agent to the nervous system. Animal
studies have shown immunostimulant, antitumor, and cognitive enhancing effects.

Shalajit-bitumenous pitch – Bitter, slightly pungent, warm
An Ayurvedic mineral remedy used to enhance immune function and tonify the heart, liver, and
kidneys. It is hepatoprotective, antiinflammatory, antihistamine, and gastroprotective. It is used
clinically to treat diabetes, hepatitis, constipation, digestive disorders, cancer, degenerative kidney
disease (use with Cordyceps), and anemia.

4. Possible Adaptogens

Mimosa flowers or stem bark (Albizzia julibrissin) – Sweet, neutral
Western Classification: Mild adaptogen (?), antidepressant, antioxidant, anxiolytic, nervine.
Japanese researchers have suggested Albizzia has adaptogenic effects. There is little data to support
this statement, but the flowers and bark of this small, shrubby tree are superb mood-elevators and I use
it with Hawthorn and Rose petals to treat “broken hearts”. In TCM the bark (and flowers) are used for
emotional problems caused by liver qi stagnation – short temper, depression, irritability, impaired
memory, and PMS/menopausal mood swings3.

Saw Palmetto berries (Serenoa repens) – Acrid, sweet, warm, moist
Western Classification: Mild adaptogen (?), antiinflammatory, diuretic, expectorant, immune
potentiator, nutritive.
Saw Palmetto is thought of as a “prostate herb”, but in reality it is much more. When it was
introduced into Western medical practice in 1877 it was used for cachexia, neurasthenia, anorexia, and
general depletion. From a TCM standpoint, it is a tonic to the kidney yin, lung, and spleen. These
qualities are consistent with most, if not all, Chinese adaptogenic remedies. I use it in practice for
asthenic, deficient patients who are underweight, have difficulty breathing, and have dry hair and
skin17.

Eucommia bark (Eucommia ulmoides) – Sweet, slightly pungent, warm, neutral
Western Classification: Mild adaptogen (?), antiinflammatory, antioxidant, antispasmodic, diuretic,
gastroprotective, hypotensive.
Japanese research suggests Du Zhong, Eucommia bark or leaves, have adaptogenic effects.
Traditionally, it is used for hypertension, deficient kidney yang (low back pain, impotence),
strengthening bones, ligaments, and muscles, and preventing miscarriage. Recent data indicates this
herb promotes collagen synthesis, protects against gastric ulcers, and relieves stress and hypertension.
It also lowers LDL & VLDL cholesterol levels and increases phagocyte activity3,19.

Suma bark (Pfaffia paniculata) – Acrid, sweet, neutral
Western Classification: Mild adaptogen (?), antitumor, anticholesteremic, immune potentiator.
Incorrectly called “Brazilian Ginseng”, Pfaffia is reported to have a long history of ethnobotanical
use. Modern phytochemical studies were initiated in Japan in the 1980’s and among the constituents
identified is Ecdysone. This substance is a type of biologically active phytosterol that mimics insect
hormones and is of great interest to researchers. Clinically, Suma has been used to regulate hormones
(Diabetes, BPH, menopausal symptoms), enhance immunity, and inhibit tumor growth.

Reishi fungus (Ganoderma lucidum) – Bitter, warm, neutral
Western Classification: Mild adaptogen (?), anticholesteremic, antiinflammatory, antioxidant,
cardiotonic, immune amphoteric, nervine.
Known in TCM as Ling Zhi, the mushroom of immortality, there is no question that this herb is a
powerful tonic remedy. Whether it affects the HPA axis and SAS are yet to be determined. It is an
important immune amphoteric useful for hypo-(HIV, cancer, CFIDS) or hyper-(allergy, autoimmune
disease) immune disorders. It acts as a calming nervine, mildly lowers blood pressure, relieves angina
pain, and protects the liver against chemical or viral insult. It is an important part of most Fu Zheng
formulas, used in China to enhance chemotherapy and reduce side effects of cancer treatment. In
clinical studies Ganoderma has been effective for treating asthma, hyperlipidemia, leucopenia, anxiety,
and angina3.

Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus) – Sweet, bitter, warm, moist
Western Classification: Mild adaptogen (?), antispasmodic, antitussive, gastroprotective,
aphrodisiac(?), demulcent, diuretic, immune potentiator.
This Indian species of Asparagus is used as a Rasayana remedy in Ayurveda. It has long been used
as a tonic remedy, especially for women, promoting fertility and reducing menopausal symptoms. It is
also used for dry coughs, to heal or prevent gastric ulcers, as a nutritive tonic for cachexia, and as a
soothing diuretic. Recent research indicates Shatavari enhances immune function, increases
corticosteroid production, and promotes cell regeneration12.

Prince Seng root (Pseudostellaria heterophylla) – Sweet, slightly bitter, warm, moist
Western Classification: Mild adaptogen (?), demulcent, immune potentiator, pectoral.
Known in TCM as Tai Zi Shen (or Hai Er Shen), Prince Seng is often referred to as “Ginseng of the
Lungs”. It is a very important lung yin tonic for dry coughs, emphysema, lung damage, or hot/dry lung
conditions. It mildly stimulates the immune system and has been used to treat malaise, neurasthenia,
CFS (use with Schisandra), IBS, and asthma. It is a useful remedy for deficient, sensitive paients who
need tonics, but get easily over stimulated by stronger adaptogens3.

Huang Qi (Astragalus membranaceus) - Sweet, warm, moist
Western Classification: Mild adaptogen (?), antidiaphoretic, antioxidant, antitumor, hepatoprotective,
immune potentiator.
Astragalus is a major tonic remedy in TCM. It is traditionally used for organ prolapse (spleen qi
tonic), to strengthen the Wei qi, modulate sweating, and promote the draining of abscesses. It is a
potent immunostimulant and antitumor agent that has been shown to increase survival time in patients
with adenocarcinoma, non-small cell lung cancer, and breast cancer (use with Ligustrum fruit). It is
also very useful for immune deficiency conditions such as HIV, CFIDS, and TB and in human studies
it helped to prevent colds and influenza. It is a lung qi tonic – for dry coughs, frequent upper
respiratory tract infections, asthma, as well as a cardiotonic (CHF, angina), and it protects the kidneys
against nephrotoxic medications. The combination of Huang Qi and Shan Yao (Dioscorea opposita) is
used in China for type II diabetes with qi and yin deficiency3.

Bibliography
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2Brown, R.P., Gerarg, P., Ramazanov, Z., Rhodiola rosea, A Phytomedical Overview, Herbalgram 56:40-52, 2002
3Chen, J.K., Chen, T.T., Chinese Medical Herbology and Pharmacology, Art of Medicine Press, City of Industry, CA, 2004
4Dorbinyan, V., Kteyan, A., et al, Rhodiola rosea in Stress-Induced Fatigue-A Double-Blind Cross- Over Study of a Standardized Extract SHR-5 With a Repeated Low-Dose Regimen on the Mental Performance of Healthy Physicians During Night Duty. Phytomedicine: 7(5):365-372, 2000
5Gross, D., Shenkman, Z., et al, Ginseng Improves Pulmonary Functions and Exercise Capacity in Patients With COPD, Monaldi Arch Chest Dis, 57 (5-6), 242-246, 2002
6Halstead, B. & Hood, L., Eleutherococcus senticosis – Siberian Ginseng, OHAI, 1984
7Klein, R., Kindscher, K., Botanical Medicines With Stress Adaptogen Properties in the Ethnobotanical
8Panda, S., Kar, A., Changes In Thyroid Hormone Concentrations After Administration of Ashwagandha Root Extract To Adult Male Mice, Jrl. Pharm. Pharmacol, 1998, 50:1065-1068
9Panossian, A., Adaptogens, Tonic Herbs for Fatigue and Stress, Alternative & Complementary Therapies, 9(6):327-331, 2003
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12Rege, N.N., Thatte, U.M., Dahanukar, S.A., Adaptogenic Properties of Six Rasayana Herbs Used in Ayurvedic Medicine, Phytotherapy Research: 13(4):275-91, 1999
13Singh, B., Gupta, D.K., Chandan, B.K., Adaptogenic Activity of a Glyco-Peptido-Lipid Fraction From The Alcoholic Extract Trichopus zeylanicus, Gaertn., Phytomedicine: 8(4):283-291, 2001
14Suh, S.O., Kroh, M., et al, Effects of Red Ginseng Upon Postoperative Immunity and Survival in Patients With Stage III Gastric Cancer, Am. Jrl. Chin. Med., 30(4):483:494, 2002
15Wagner, H., Immunostimulants and Adaptogens From Plants, pp. 1-18, In Arnason, J., et al, Phytochemistry of Medicinal Plants, Plenum Press, NY, 1995
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17Winston, D., Native American, Chinese, and Ayurvedic Materia Medica, HTSBM, 2004
18Yance, D., Adaptogens: New Conceptions and Uses, Personal Insights, and Recent Advances, Centre  for Natural Healing, 2000
19You-Ping Zhu, Chinese Materia Medica, Chemistry, Pharmacology, and Applications, Harwood, Amsterdam, 1998

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