Adaptogenic plants under the microscope: everything you need to know about this hype

Adaptogene planten onder de loep

Stress is hard to get away from in our hectic society. The same goes for the accompanying lack of energy and the persistent fatigue. Adaptogenic plants offer a good solution for this, and that right out of nature. Although these plants have been used for centuries, today they can count on more and more interest. For example, they are being added to more and more supplements. How can this hype be explained?

Adaptogens are known to increase your resistance to all kinds of stress situations. In other words, they make it easier for you to adapt to difficult, exceptional circumstances. This applies on a mental level, think of work pressure or setbacks, but also on a physical level, for example during heavy exertion or long working days.

Adaptogenic plants ensure that, in addition to more energy, you also experience a lot more vitality. On a mental and physical level, your stamina increases, which enables you to perform better. Afterwards you will also recover faster and better.

Adapt function

Russian pharmacologist Nicolai Lazarev used the term for the first time after the Second World War in the wake of his search for natural substances that could reduce fatigue and improve performance in soldiers. Adaptogen comes from the Latin word adaptare, which means to adapt. It is a reference to their ability to adjust their function according to the deficiencies in your body. Moreover, they do so without disrupting normal physiological processes in the body. So they are regulating, not stimulating substances. The latter are less suitable for longer use because they exhaust the body.

Adaptogens act concretely on your brain and hormonal system (consisting of your adrenal gland, gonads and thyroid gland). For example, the body axis hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal glands can become over-stimulated during stress. The over-stimulation of the brain then reaches the pituitary via the adrenal glands and causes an increased production of the stress hormone cortisol. Adoptogens act on this. They attenuate the over-stimulation of the brain and thus also the production of cortisol. At the same time they slow down the breakdown of important neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine and (nor)adrenaline.

Effect on mental and physical complaints

As already mentioned, adaptogenic effects are both mental and physical. Mental complaints that they can remedy include anxiety, irritability or nervousness. They can also reduce dejected or depressed feelings. They are also useful on a cognitive level, such as reduced concentration, memory problems or lower alertness. They can also be used in case of energy loss, persistent fatigue and sleep problems.

Purely on a physical level they can be useful when you notice that you have less and less stamina, your performance in general deteriorates or you have to recover longer and longer from prolonged or heavy efforts. Certain adaptogenic plants can also offer a solution in the event of fertility problems or reduced libido.

Well-known adaptogenic plants

Frequently used adapotgene plants include rhodiola, ashwaganda or maca. Interestingly, all these plants originally grew in fairly extreme conditions. By the way, each continent had its own adaptogenic plant. Rhodiola comes from the Russian tundra, ashwaganda is also called Indian ginseng and maca grew in the mountains of South America. Meanwhile, cultivated varieties can be found all over the world.

The exact effect of the plants on your body and mental well-being depends on the quality of the preparations. Therefore, always make sure that a supplement contains standardized extracts. This way you can be sure that it contains sufficiently high concentrations of the active ingredients of the adaptogen.

Rhodiola rosea or rose root

This adaptogen from icy Siberia restores your energy and promotes your mental and physical ability to adapt to short-term moments of stress. You feel less nervous and tense. Rhodiola rosea also captures fatigue and lethargy and stimulates your endurance so that you can perform well at work, while exercising... In addition to playing a role in energy metabolism, it also has a beneficial effect on your cognitive functions, nervous system, circulation and digestion.

Rosavine and salidroside are the substances that are mainly responsible for the effect. A standardized extra contains at least 2% rosavine and 1% salidroside.

Ashwaganda (withania somnifera) or Indian ginseng

Ashwaganda has a calming effect in the first place. It helps you regain balance in stressful periods and takes away anxious or depressive feelings. It is at the same time invigorating. It gives you energy, it stimulates your memory and ability to concentrate and it helps you sleep better. Because it also activates your antibodies, ashwaganda strengthens your resistance. In addition, this adaptogen regulates the balance in the thyroid gland and contributes to the normal function of the heart and blood vessels.

The root contains withanolids, a certain type of flavonoids. For an optimal effect, it is best to choose a standardized root extract containing 5% withanolids.

Maca (lepidium peruvianum chacon) or Peruvian ginseng

This adaptogenic tuberous plant from the Andes, like the substances above, relieves stress and tension, provides extra energy and improves physical and mental strength. At the same time it has a regulating effect on the hormonal system. Maca increases the effect of testosterone and estrogen on the various target organs. For example, it can remedy reduced fertility or a decreased libido. It can also be taken with menopausal complaints, as with PMS or irregular menstrual periods.

Standardized extracts contain the active substances macademides and macaenes. 

Want to try it yourself?

Convinced of the natural energy boost that adaptogenic plants can offer you? Then, depending on your needs, you can choose a supplement based on the above adaptogens or one of the many other adaptogens. Different supplements, such as Moodrise, contain a mix of different adaptogens and also add other useful vitamins or minerals.

In case of doubt or questions, for example about the combination of a supplement with other medication, always consult your doctor or pharmacist first.


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