Adaptogens: What They Are & How They Help Us
Adaptogens! The term is tossed about a lot these days. Many large companies use this term in advertising their products. It’s important to know what an adaptogen actually is so you can make informed decisions on the products you choose to use on your body, especially if it’s important that you choose all natural products with intention.
Knowledge of adaptogens dates back thousands of years to ancient India and China. They have been used for fighting stress, preventing and reducing illness, maintaining balance and strengthening the body. We all deal with stress in some form every day and our bodies have to work and strive to adapt to these stressors to keep balanced and healthy. Some say that adaptogen herbs are too good to be true. The wide range of health benefits they offer covers almost every area of the body. History shows us that these herbs have been used for thousands of years for a reason.
What do we really know about true adaptogens? There is a specific set of herbs that qualify as “true” adaptogens, by the functional definition. There are other herbs that have “adaptogenic” properties and but not “true” adaptogens.
In 1968 Israel I. Brekhman, Phd and Dr. I.V. Dardymov formally gave adaptogens a functional definition, as follows:
- An adaptogen is nontoxic to the recipient
- 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
- An adaptogen has a normalizing influence on physiology, irrespective of the direction of change from physiological norms caused by the stressor
Let’s take a little closer look at the functional description.
We know that “nontoxic” means not harmful. That one is pretty easily understood.
But what is a “nonspecific response”? A nonspecific response in an organism, which includes us, implies the power of resistance or adaptation - the building of “adaptive energy” to keep the body balanced when affected by multiple stressor or harmful influences. They stimulate, activate or promote a response in multiple nonspecific ways, including building a reserve of adaptive energy.
To have a “normalizing influence” implies that adaptogens produce changes in the body because they stimulate and balance different systems in our bodies. They are capable of either toning down the hyper (over active) functioning systems or strengthening the hypo (sluggish or under active) functioning systems which creates a normalizing effect.
So while nothing is too good to be true, adaptogens certainly come close. They are one of the most amazing substances we are graced to have on this earth.
The featured image is Ashwaganda. It is one of the premiere adaptogen herbs used in Ayurveda today. CherMark Botanicals infuses the root of this herb in Jojoba and sells it as a stand alone body oil and as a carrier oil for blending with essential oils. We also use it in the formulation of some of our products.