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What is an adaptogen?

Ms. Ashley Koff, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics
Adaptogens are plants that grow, and have grown for numerous years, in some of the most challenging environments of the world -- I'm talking Siberia, not battling traffic on LA's 405 at 5pm…although the benefits of these plants include helping modify the effects of road rage -- but here I get ahead of myself. So plants toughing it out all over the world, "adapting" to the environmental challenges, and not just existing but flourishing for years. It harkens me back to the line in the popular song "if I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere…" And indeed, what healers for years have seen and more recently what researchers are validating is that these plants -- adaptogens -- act as agents that allow the body to overcome and come out stronger (i.e. adapt to) stressors (including physical, mental, and chemical).

These "I'm a Survivor" herbs today called Adaptogens have other names throughout history and different medical cultures including: rejuvenating herbs, qi tonics, rasayanas, or restoratives. The most recognized definition for adaptogens follows (Wikipedia):
  • 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.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.