Adaptogens — What Are They, and Who Do They Adapt?

Adaptogens — What Are They, and Who Do They Adapt?

In recent years, adaptogens have become a pretty common topic. Almost all plants and supplements where they've been spotted are attributed with almost magical properties, as if they can cure everything from fatigue and stress to dandruff and termite invasions. So, it's time to understand what adaptogens really are and what they can actually do.


What are adaptogens and what kind of stress do they help with?

To simplify scientific terms, adaptogens are substances that increase the body's resistance to stress factors.

But don't rush to conquer Mount Everest in your socks or rescue kittens. 'Increasing resistance' and 'providing invulnerability' are fundamentally different concepts. This is the main reason for the fanaticism of supplement enthusiasts and the skepticism of evidence-based medicine adherents – elevating the properties of adaptogens to the absolute. There are no superpowers, just nature's assistance to humans.

Stress, in the classical sense, is not only emotional tension but also physical. There are so many of these factors that it feels like a never-ending list. Most of them may seem trivial, but both the body and the mind react to everything. If you've ever felt 'everything is fine, but I feel bad,' welcome aboard the background stress ship.


Stress Types


Noise, cold, heat, pressure changes


Fear, uncertainty, conflicts


High information flow, scrolling through social media, news


Cigarettes, alcohol, environmental factors, household chemicals, junk food, radiation, toxins


Injuries, infections, muscular overloads


Proven Properties of Adaptogens

Adaptogens might not turn you into the superhero that Gotham needs, but they can certainly help you become the "best version of yourself." Here's what you can expect from taking an adaptogen course:

Increased physical endurance. Adaptogens can extend the duration of physical exertion, although not necessarily the speed or strength. They also enhance coordination and speed up recovery.
Improved cognitive performance. Short-term and long-term memory, attention, and learning abilities are enhanced. If you're a student, starting a 3-month course of adaptogens in September-October and March-April can help you perform at your peak during exams.
Reduction in anxiety development. Adaptogens influence the secretion of the adrenal cortex and thyroid gland, making you more resilient to stressors and improving your sleep.
Enhanced regeneration processes. They stimulate the synthesis of DNA, RNA, proteins, membrane phospholipids, and intensify glycolysis and lipid oxidation, thereby enriching the brain, heart, liver, and skeletal muscles with macro-energetic phosphates.


In addition to these effects, adaptogens are often credited with extending lifespan, treating cancer, stabilizing hormonal and blood sugar levels, and more. However, these are very indirect effects. Prolonging life with adaptogens is possible by reducing overall wear and tear on the body due to stress, while hormonal balance is maintained by preventing cortisol (the stress hormone) and insulin from going haywire due to emotional overeating.

Adaptogens are not meant to treat diseases; they simply strengthen your body so that it can cope with illnesses on its own. If you have existing medical conditions, it's always advisable to consult a doctor.

In fact, there are several more positive properties one could mention, but this article has already exceeded its planned length :)

Types of Adaptogens by Origin: Plant-Based, Animal-Based, Synthetic

The majority of adaptogens are of plant origin. In my opinion, it's always advisable to opt for them, and here's why.

Any supplements of animal origin:

  1. More commonly trigger allergies. Take, for instance, vitamin A: retinol (found in animal products and in the pharmaceutical product Aevit) accumulates in the body and can lead to serious toxic effects, while plant-based β-carotene has not been implicated in such offenses.
  2. Are almost always metabolites of plant food. An abstract, child-friendly example for understanding this: a fish consumes iodine-rich algae, digests them, and becomes a source of iodine itself.
  3. Vitamins are often mistakenly grouped into the ranks of adaptogens. Yes, they share some similar properties (boosting the immune system, increasing energy), but from a classification perspective, this is inaccurate. Therefore, here's a small table with examples to illustrate.

Plant-Based Adaptogens


Eleuthero, ginseng, lemon balm, aralia, rhodiola, leuzea, chaga, ashwagandha, cordyceps, gotu kola, maca, reishi

Animal-Based Adaptogens

Maral pant, shark liver oil, bee products (pollen, royal jelly, propolis)

Synthetic Adaptogens

Melatonin, dibazol, enerion, limontar, oxyethylammonium methylphenoxyacetate, citrulline malate


In general, when it comes to adaptogens, plant-based options tend to be a more favorable choice due to fewer associated concerns and the fact that they align more closely with the concept of adaptogens.

 Adaptogens — What Are They, and Who Do They Adapt?

And as in any matter of creation, in the choice of adaptogens, people can be divided into two main camps: those who believe "I'd rather take herbs than chemicals" and those who consider herbs as "grandma's tales" and opt for pharmaceutical drugs. Both camps are right and wrong in their own way.

On one hand, everything is chemistry. People, herbs, medicines, knitted socks with Amanita muscaria – they are all composed of cells and chemical elements. Pharmaceutical "chemistry" is simply purified from impurities and packaged into a convenient form for application.

On the other hand, a large part of pharmaceutical adaptogens, as well as medicines, are essentially herbs and microorganisms just in boxes. Even synthetic drugs are analogous to plant substances, meaning the molecule is exactly the same as in the "herb", it's just created not in the field but in a laboratory.

The main problem is that pharmaceutical adaptogens are often in the form of alcohol tinctures, which is unacceptable for many. And if they are in the form of tablets, they contain a large amount of inert substances due to the low quantity of active substance in the dosage.


Plant-Based Adaptogens

Pharmaceutical Adaptogens 

Natural ingredients Purified from unnecessary substances
Alcohol-free Convenient to use
A variety of combinations Limited selection
Question of raw material sustainability Contain a percentage of dietary supplements (BADS) rather than medicinal substances.


Usually, those who disdain dietary supplements (BADS) and consider them ineffective are the ones who visit pharmacies. But increasingly, it's these products that are displayed on the shelves of pharmacies, not pharmaceutical drugs. Therefore, the sales location of these coveted adaptogens doesn't necessarily indicate their reliability.


How to take adaptogens correctly:

Sometimes people get disappointed when taking natural supplements, thinking that just one bottle or even a couple of capsules will lead to a noticeable effect. Here lies the strength of natural supplements: they are gentle. Adaptogens have a cumulative effect, so it's necessary to complete a 3-month course. Your well-being will gradually improve day by day, but it might be subtle. However, if you compare how you feel on the first and 45th day of taking them, the difference will be noticeable.

Adaptogens are available without a prescription, but they shouldn't be taken haphazardly. If you've chosen a product independently, follow the dosage and the administration schedule recommended by the manufacturer.

Additionally, it's essential to remember that adaptogens are helpers, not a panacea. If you live in the crater of a volcano or work undercover in a gang, even a truckload of ginseng won't save you. You need a complete lifestyle change.

  1. Try to minimize stressors in your life. For instance, stop reading the news, try to find a new job, and avoid negative people.
  2. Engage in sports. Physical activity effectively reduces cortisol levels and promotes overall well-being. Even though it may seem that the world becomes even more unlikable after going to the gym, it's temporary, believe me.
  3. Get to bed no later than 11:00 PM, or at least stay off the internet. Pick up a book, and falling asleep will be much easier.
  4. Find a relaxation practice. Yoga, meditation, or even sorting buckwheat — any enjoyable process that doesn't require deep mental involvement.

Take care of your body and mind. You'll be surprised by the sweet rewards of this care.

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