ADAPTOGENS FAQ 2018-09-09 07:25


What Are Adaptogens? 

The term “adaptogen” comes from Dr. Nikolai Lazarev, a Russian scientist) who first coined in 1947, but Isreal Brekham, PhD and Dr. I. V. Darymovhe created the formal definition in 1968. The formal definitely includes the following criteria:

1. An adaptogen is nontoxic to the recipient. 

2. An adaptogen produces a nonspecific response in the body—an increase in the power of resistance against multiple stressors including physical, chemical, or biological agents.

3. An adaptogen has a normalizing influence on physiology, irrespective of the direction of change from physiological norms caused by the stressor. 

In other words, adaptogens must:
Be safe
Work by reducing your body's stress response
Support overall health by helping the body achieve balance known as homeostasis
If you take apart the word, you can get a hint as to what adaptogens are.
Adapt, of course, means to change to what is going on.

Adaptogens are substances that help the body be more “normal”, or “balanced” in many arenas.
While working with the above-mentioned practitioner, I worked with 3 adaptogens, but I've recently been getting better acquainted with more of them and I am finding them to be fascinating.

Stressed Out Plants for Stressed Out People
Interestingly, adaptogens are mostly plants that have adapted to growing in very stressful conditions, which is what makes them so powerful.  They give their strength and adaptability to us.
For example, maca grows in a harsh climate and at a high altitude, whereas rhodiola flourishes in harsh and mountainous climates of Asia.

So, these plants have innate abilities to adapt to stress that they in turn transfer to us to help us to deal with our harsh conditions in a healthier manner.

Which brings us to a good point about sourcing adaptogens. As with essential oils, I think that it is important to source adaptogens grown in indigenous locations (where they grow naturally), and to source them organically and sustainably grown when possible.
If you source adaptogens outside of their indigenous location, then you might not be getting the same ingrown quality that you would get otherwise.

What Adaptogens Do:
Now that you know more about the answer to the question, “What are adaptogens?”, let's talk about how adaptogens work.

David Hoffmann, in the Herbal Handbook, clarifies how adaptogens work

“….an adaptogen enables [the body] to avoid reaching a point of collapse or over-stress because it can adapt ‘around’ the problem.… The core of their action appears to be in helping the body deal with stress… Adaptogens seem to increase the threshold of resistance to damage via the support of adrenal gland and possibly pituitary gland function. By stretching the meaning of the word it can come to mean what in the past was called a tonic. This is especially when an herb can have a normalizing effect; that is, contradictory actions depending on the body’s needs. This restorative quality is a common and unique feature of herbal medicines.…”

But there is a biological function of how this happens.  Here is the technical information: (source)
The beneficial stress-protective effect of adaptogens is related to regulation of homeostasis via several mechanisms of action associated with the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and the control of key mediators of stress response such as molecular chaperons (e.g. Hsp70), stress-activated c-Jun N-terminal protein kinase (JNK1), Forkhead Box O transcription factor DAF-16, cortisol and nitric oxide (NO).

The key point of action of phytoadaptogens appears to be their up-regulating and stress-mimetic effects on the “stress-sensor” protein Hsp70, which plays an important role in cell survival and apoptosis. Hsp70 inhibits the expression of NO synthase II gene and interacts with glucocorticoid receptors directly and via the JNK pathway, thus affecting the levels of circulating cortisol and NO. Prevention of stress-induced increase in NO, and the associated decrease in ATP production, results in increased performance and endurance. Adaptogen-induced up-regulation of Hsp70 triggers stress-induced JNK-1 and DAF-16-mediated pathways regulating the resistance to stress and resulting in enhanced mental and physical performance and, possibly, increased longevity.This is very complicated, but what it basically means, is this:

Adaptogens protect us against stress and help us achieve balance by several means that are associated with the HPA Axis and by acting on mediators of stress response, including cortisol and nitric oxide (NO).

Adaptogens greatly improve your body's ability to adapt to stress, whether it's a hectic schedule, heat or cold, noise, high altitudes or any number of other stressors. This elite class of herbs impart strength, energy, stamina, endurance, and they improve mental clarity. In many parts of the non-Western world adaptogens are used extensively in high-risk, fast-reflex occupations, from athletes to miners to deep sea divers. 

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