Understanding of adaptogenic activity

Adaptogens are stress-response modifiers that increase an organism’s nonspecific resistance to stress by increasing its ability to adapt and survive(1). Molecular targets, signalling pathways, and networks common to adaptogens have been identified. They are associated with stress hormones and key mediators of the regulation of homeostasis. Consequently, adaptogens exhibit polyvalent beneficial effects against chronic inflammation, atherosclerosis, neurodegenerative cognitive impairment, metabolic disorders, cancer, and other aging-related diseases. Their prophylactic use by healthy subjects to ameliorate stress and prevent age-related diseases appears to be justified. It is very unlikely that the pharmacological activity of any phytochemical is specific and associated only with one type of receptor, particularly adaptogenic compounds, which affect key mediators of the adaptive stress response at intracellular and extracellular levels of communication.A characteristic feature of adaptogens is that they act as eustressors (i.e., “good stressors”) and as mild stress mimetics or “stress vaccines” that induce stress-protective responses.(1,2,3)As shown in experimental models using ginsenosides(5)and Rhodiolaextract.(3,4)These experiments clearly show a vaccination-like effect ofthe adaptogen with reference to protecting against subsequent stress.(1)These experiments clearly show a vaccination-like effect of the adaptogen with reference to protecting against subsequent stress.1,3)Mild (survivable) stress induces a resistance or “immunity” to subsequent, more severe stress exposure.(2,3)However, this stress-induced resistance carries no memory function, and repeated exposure to the adaptogen is required to maintain the plastic adaptive state. Another comparison could be made with repetitive physical exercise, which increases endurance and performance.(6)A state of nonspecific resistance (SNSR) could be achieved either by the gradual “training” of an organism to withstand the effects of the stress orby adaptogens that mimic the stress. The repeated administration of adaptogens and the consequent adaptogenic or stress-protective response arise in a manner analogous to repeated physical exercise that leads to prolonged SNSR and increased endurance and stamina.(6,7)



(1)Panossian, A., G. Wikman & H. Wagner. 1999. Plant adaptogens. III. Earlier and more recent aspects and concepts on their mode of action. Phytomedicine 6:287–300.(2)Panossian, A., E. Gabrielian & H. Wagner. 1999. On the mechanism of action of plant adaptogens with particular reference to Cucurbitacin R diglucoside. Phytomedicine 6 :147–155.(3)Wiegant, F.A.C., G. Limandjaja, S.A.H. de Poot,et al. 2008.Plant adaptogens activate cellular adaptive mechanisms by causing mild damage. InAdaptation Biology and Medicine:Health Potentials.Vol.5.L.Lukyanova,N.Takeda&P.K.Singal, Eds.: 319–332. New Delhi: Narosa Publishers.(4)58. Wiegant, F.A., S. Surinova, E. Ytsma,et al. 2009. Plant adap-togens increase lifespan and stress resistance in C. elegans. Biogerontology10:27–42.(5)60. Filaretov, A.A., T.S. Bogdanova, T.T. Podvigina,et al. 1988.Role of pituitary–adrenocortical system in body adaptation abilities.Exp. Clin. Endocrinol.92:129–136.(6)61. Viru, A.A. 1981.Hormonal Mechanisms of Adaptation andTraining. Leningrad: Nauka, 1–154.(7)62. Hovhannisyan, A.S., M. Nylander, A.G. Panossian,et al.2015. Efficacy of adaptogenic supplements on adapting to stress: a randomized, controlled trial.J. Athl. Enhancement4:4.