Matthew Capowski

Staff member
This thread is reserved for discussing adaptogens in a general way. Posts about specific herbs still go in the specific herbs by common name forums:


Israel I. Brekhman , PhD, and Dr. I. V. Dardymov created the following three-part definition of adaptogens in 1968:

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.

The term adaptogen was originally coined in 1947 by the pharmacologist N.V. Lazarev to describe the unexpected effect of dibazol (2-benzylbenzimidazol), an arterial dilator developed in France. Dibazol was found to increase the resistance of organisms to stress in experimental studies. Adaptogen derives from the Latin adaptare meaning to adjust or fit, and ‘gen’ from the Greek word genes meaning born of, or produced by. Incidentally, it is generally regarded as a barbarism to combine Greek and Latin roots in a single word. -- Source:

For understanding of the term Adaptogen consider the following articles:

Panossian A., Wikman, G., and Wagner, H. Plant adaptogens III. Earlier and more recent aspects and concepts on their mode of action. Phytomedicine. 1999. Vol.6 P. 287– 300. (PDF File)

Wikipedia also has a useful article on Adaptogens:


Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief by David Winston and Steven Maimes is a highly recommended book on the subject of Adaptogens:

The following definition of adaptogens is from the above book:

Adaptogens are remarkable natural substances that help the body adapt to stress, support normal metabolic functions and help restore balance. They increase the body's resistance to physical, biological, emotional and environmental stressors, and provide a defense response to acute or chronic stress. They are unique from other substances in their ability to restore the balance of endocrine hormones, modulate the immune system and allow the body to maintain optimal homeostasis.

Knowledge about adaptogens dates back thousands of years to ancient India and China, but serious scientific study did not begin until the late 1940s, when Soviet scientists explored the benefits of these substances in fighting stress, preventing and reducing illness, maintaining homeostasis and strengthening the body.

Very simply, adaptogens are nontoxic, produce a nonspecific defensive response to stress and have a normalizing influence on the body. As defined, adaptogens constitute a new class of natural, homeostatic metabolic regulator. -- David Winston and Steven Maimes

Also see the very interesting presentation by by Paul Bergner titled The Dark Side of Adaptogens

Paul Bergner's article is a must read and it's not attacking the use of any particular adaptogens but rather drawing into question the whole notion and common practices surrounding adaptogens. Paul contrasts the current use of adaptogens with the traditional systems of health and their different, more thoughtful and monitored application of adaptogens.