Adaptogens Defined

Adaptogens Defined

With so many products on the internet claiming everything from increased energy to longer life, it’s perfectly reasonable to a have grown a little…skeptical.

Skepticism isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It keeps us out of trouble, sometimes.

Other times skepticism just stands in the way of learning something new.

In this case, go ahead and put on your thinking cap, bring your skepticism to the table, and dig into the science a little behind what an adaptogen really is.

…then decide if that’s something that makes sense, for you.

A Quick Discussion about Herbs…

Modern medicine has its roots in plants, and traditional medicine around the globe still treats many ailments with plants.

In the United States, some of the medical drugs derived from plants include:

  • Willow (bark and leaf) – aspirin, common pain killer since the late 1800’s
  • Rosy periwinkle – vincristine and vinblastine, cancer-treating medicines
  • Pacific yew tree – taxol, cancer medicine
  • Foxglove – digoxin, used for cardiac arrhythmia

This is just a short list, as there are many more.

Research into herbal medicine and naturally-derived cures for many ailments is being conducted around the globe.

Herbs are just plants, but they pack a great deal of punch. In addition to those harvested for medicinal properties, herbs are used for flavor, to repel pests, or for their scents, such as for perfumes and lotions.

“Adaptogen” Defined

So here’s the commonly held definition of an adaptogen:

  • “(in herbal medicine) a natural substance considered to help the body adapt to stress and to exert a normalizing effect upon bodily processes. A well-known example is ginseng.”

The Russians named it in the mid-1900’s, from the word adaptatsiya, which means what you probably think it means: adaptation.

That didn’t mean that the plant changes and adapts, instead that it can help one’s body adapt to changes or stress in the environment or in the body.

To break it down a little further, into its etymology, the word is adapt (ad- + apt) + o + gen.

  • adapt – from the Latin adaptāre which means to fit or adjust.
  • ad- – a prefix used on Latin loan words meaning “toward” but also a tendency toward something.
  • apt – from the Latin aptus, which meant fastened or fitting.
  • o – in this case, “o” was just used to join to word parts together (like “speedometer,” where the “o” joins “speed” and “meter”).
  • -gen – used in compound words to mean “that which produces” (like “hydrogen,” which essentially means “producing water,” which is what happens when 2 hydrogens get together with an oxygen).

With the word broken down into its root pieces like that, you can see why those Russian scientists thought that the word adaptogen would communicate to people the concept that these plants are kind of special–they help the body adapt toward a more optimum state.

Now about Those Adaptogens…

So if adaptogens are super plants/powerful herbs which help a body adapt toward a better and more normal state. What would that state be?

Would a better “normal” include:

  • Better, more consistent energy,
  • More alertness,
  • More rapid muscle growth and recovery,
  • More rapid immune (health) recovery,
  • And a more balanced endocrine (hormone) system?

Well, that’s precisely what adaptogens are thought to do.

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