Medicinal plants with adaptogenic properties
Adaptive function of the body
Human interaction with the external natural and relational environment can lead to the development of various sources of tension or stress in the body. Everyday life can predispose the human being to confront various potentially disturbing factors. To this end, the human biological system has certain levers and regulatory mechanisms that make dynamic adaptation possible.
Modern human life also includes many sources of adaptive stress, such as unhealthy eating, frequent travel, stress at work, pollution of the natural environment, the biological impact of modern technology, all of which result in constant adaptive effort on the part of the body.
The need for constant adaptation
The multitude of potentially disruptive factors can affect the proper functioning of the body, causing fatigue, overwork, nervousness, exhaustion, insomnia, anxiety, depression and even the appearance and manifestation of various diseases.
To counteract these adverse effects, the age-old tradition of Ayurveda recommends the constant use of herbs, fruits, flowers, roots or mushrooms which are generically described as ingredients with regenerative effects (rasayana).
Given that the regenerative process involves the most efficient adaptation of the human body to the variation of external factors, some of these natural ingredients have relatively recently been attributed the property of being adaptogenic remedies.
Ingredients with an adaptogenic effect can balance the body, facilitating functional adaptation to the possible action of stress-generating factors, which may be internal or external, physical, chemical or biological. The adaptogenic action can be compared to the regulatory action of a thermostat which regulates the body's response to potentially disruptive factors. The specific effects of some adaptogenic natural ingredients may be surprising in that they may bring into action, on a case-by-case basis, complementary regulatory mechanisms, such as tonic action or stimulant action, raising or lowering physiological parameters as needed, on a case-by-case basis.
In order to generate the regulatory effect, natural ingredients with adaptogenic effect need to be used constantly and rhythmically for longer periods of time. Herbs with an adaptogenic effect are recommended to be used as a rule in food or to supplement the current diet.
Recent history of the term adaptogen
The term "adaptogen" was coined in 1947 by the Russian scientist Nicolai Lazarev, who classified substances and medicinal plants that can contribute to the natural resistance of the human body. Substances with an adaptogenic effect were originally defined as substances that increase the state of non-specific resistance to stress, a physiological disturbance related to various disorders of the neuroendocrine immune system.
According to Russian researcher Nicolai Lazarev, an adaptogen is a substance capable of inducing in a human body a non-specific state of increased resistance, allowing the body to counteract stress signals and adapt successfully to certain exceptional efforts.
Definition of adaptogenic action
Currently, the term adaptogen is reserved only for medicinal plants and natural ingredients. Such herbs confer increased resistance to stress, provide increased power of concentration of attention, contribute to greater physical performance and confer resistance in cases of fatigue or stress. An adaptogen ingredient is a natural ingredient that also has nourishing, nutritive, balancing, non-specific and non-toxic properties.
Natural ingredients with adaptogenic effect improve general well-being, vital energy levels, normalize blood sugar and cholesterol, ensure protein synthesis, modulate stress response, ensure proper functioning of organs and ensure hormonal balance.
Adaptogenic ingredients are used in phytotherapy to stabilise physiological processes and promote homeostasis.
The European authorities in the field are currently working to synthesise the information resulting from numerous studies and research carried out over more than seven decades on the existence and effectiveness of natural ingredients with an adaptogenic effect.
In combination with a balanced diet, adequate exercise and healthy sleep, the adaptogenic ingredients act in a regenerative way on the whole human body. There is no age at which adaptogenic ingredients should be allowed or at which they should be prohibited.
Examples of adaptogenic herbs
The main natural regenerative remedies (rasayana) in the age-old Ayurvedic tradition include herbs with adaptogenic effects. Here are some representative examples.
The fruits of haritaki (Therminalia chebula) improve digestion and intestinal transit, have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant action and are an important regenerative ingredient.
The fruits of amalaki (Phyllanthus emblica) improve memory, digestion and immunity, have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiviral and normocolesterolemic action.
Root of turmeric (Curcuma longa) has a normalizing action on blood sugar and cholesterol, has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects and facilitates memory improvement.
Root of ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) reduces anxiety, fatigue and insomnia, has neuroprotective and regenerative properties and promotes immunity.
Aerial part of the plant brahmi (Bacopa monnieri) enhances memory, improves learning processes and visual information processing, reduces anxiety, nervousness and insomnia.