Adaptogen – What is That?

mixed herbsIf you are into herbs for health, you will have surely come across the word ‘adaptogen’ and asked yourself “What is that?”.  I’ve explained it often enough to friends and family but today I realized that although I use the word often enough on this blog, its a good topic for another post.

I’ll start with a little history:

In 1947 Dr. Lazarev, a Russian scientist first introduced the term ‘adaptogen’. However, it was Dr. I.I. Brekhman, another Russian scientist and holistic medical doctor and his colleague I.V. Dardymov who established the definition of the term in 1958.

Although adaptogenic herbs were well known for thousands of years in the Tibetan, Chinese, Indian, Korean, Japanese and European true traditional healing systems, it wasn’t until the work of these Russian scientists that the scientific standpoint was confirmed.

For a herb to be classified as an adaptogen, it must fulfill several quantifiers:

  1. It must be safe and cause no to minimal disorders in the normal body functions.
  2. It must support the body’s systemic resilience to any kind of stressor.
  3. It has a normalizing action irrespective of the direction of the pathological state (such as lowering excessive hormones or increasing them).

In other words, it must ‘do no harm’ and act as a strengthening, supportive equalizer/regulator.  A stressor is anything that stresses the body be that emotional (work, relationship or ‘flight or fight’ stress) or physical (stress induced illnesses).

Further, there are three categories of adaptogenic ‘regulators’:

  1. Global regulators – have a global impact on the body, promoting ‘healthy aging’ (ie. Siberian ginseng, Holy Basil).
  2. Cellular and immune system regulators – immune support and aid in preventing degenerative diseases on a cellular level (ie. turmeric, ginger, reservatrol).
  3. Specific regulators – target specific areas such as circulation (ie ginko biloba), connective tissue (ie gotu kola) mental alertness (royal jelly).

There are many more herbs that are adaptogenic such as the American and Asian ginsengs or astragalus, to name but a handful. And is turmeric an adaptogenic herb?  Yes, and in my opinion it probably is the best, broad based adaptogenic herb there is.

And now that you know what an adaptogen is, you will sleep much better tonight!

You are welcome. 😉

A few excellent resources for deeper information:


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