adaptogenic herbs

Adaptogenic Herbs: What You Should Know About Its Benefits

“Adaptogen coffee”, “adaptogen smoothie”, “adaptogen tea”… in recent months, the term adaptogen has flourished en masse on blogs, social networks and magazines and across the Atlantic, the concept has become the new major trend in the health sphere. But what does this obscure notion mean and what benefits does it conceal for the body? has looked into the question of adaptogens and explains everything about this phenomenon.

What are adaptogenic herbs?

If they are called “adaptogenic”, it is because these plants grow in unfavourable environments and have managed to adapt to live. Thus, by consuming them, they can in turn provide us with this adaptive capacity when we are confronted with a stressful environment. Each plant has its own benefits. Studies have also shown that they can help us to strengthen our immune system (reishi, cordyceps, maca), to recover from severe fatigue (reishi, ashwagandha), to activate the libido (cordyceps, maca) or to promote concentration (lion’s mane). Some adaptogens, such as basil, are already used in the French pharmacopoeia, but some plants from elsewhere – most types of fungi still foreign to our land – have unique properties.

How do adaptogenic herbs work?

For Dr Nikolai Nazarev, a Soviet doctor and scientist, the first to speak of “adaptogenic” plants, plants must have three characteristics to bear this name.

The first is the capacity of the plant to adapt its action to the functions of our organism. Adaptogens act particularly on the endocrine system, to regulate hormone levels, especially cortisol, the stress hormone. A high level of cortisol can also lead to weight gain, which is why it is important to limit sources of stress if you want to return to a healthy diet. The action of the plant will not be the same in all individuals, for example, the same adaptogenic plant can rebalance the activity of the thyroid in case of hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism. This is often referred to as the intelligence of the plant.

Secondly, the plant must have the capacity to help the body to overcome many types of stress such as biological stress (hair loss, disturbed menstruation), chemical stress (metabolic reactions such as stomach acidity problems), physical stress (backache, migraines) and psychological stress (depression, anxiety).

Does it really work?

In order to regain a bit of serenity and well-being on a daily basis, adaptogenic plants seem to be our allies in the battle. However, is this really a gift from Mother Nature or just a new healthy trend in vogue? One thing is certain: the effectiveness of adaptogenic plants has indeed been proven. Research carried out in Russia on Ginseng, Rhodiola and Schisandra, for example, shows that the adaptogenic properties of these plants have a real effect on the human organism. These studies were published in 1969 in the international scientific journal Annual Review of Pharmacology. Numerous scientific publications followed in the 1980s and 1990s attesting to the action of these plants. The real question in this debate is rather to know how to sort out between plants that are truly adaptogenic and those that have such virtues without any scientific basis.

What are the best adaptogenic herbs? Our favorites:


Drop in attention, drop in concentration, memory problems: ginseng is said to improve “brain activity with a positive effect on memory”. Ginseng thus helps to improve cognitive performance, according to a study published in 2005 in the Journal of Psychopharmacology. There are many ginseng-based preparations. It’s best to avoid buying over the Internet on non-secure sites, and prefer to buy them in pharmacies.


What is adaptogenic herbs maca? Maca is a plant native to Peru. Peruvians have enjoyed its benefits for centuries. Maca has traditionally been used to address fertility problems. But its effects are more numerous:

  • Increases sexual desire and fertility. The plant could also increase the quantity and quality of sperm.
  • Relieves menopausal symptoms: During the menopause, there is a decrease in oestrogenic hormones. This leads to a number of unpleasant symptoms including hot flashes, sleep disturbances, an increased risk of atherosclerosis, osteoporosis and other inconveniences.
  • Maca could relieve these symptoms and improve mood, reduce anxiety and depression symptoms during this menopausal period.
  • Improve physical performance: especially during endurance events

The Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha (or Indian ginseng) is often referred to as the king of Ayurvedic herbs. Thanks to its anxiolytic effects, this medicinal plant is mainly used for relaxation and stress reduction. Studies show that the root reduces cortisol levels and relieves stress and anxiety. It is also used to combat insomnia and drive away fatigue and symptoms of depression. It is also attributed with anti-cancer properties because it helps to induce apoptosis (the programmed death of cancer cells). Ashwagandha extract is available in powder and capsule form. The recommended daily dose is 300 to 500 milligrams with meals.

Rhodiola rosea

Rhodiola rosea is a plant native to the Arctic regions: Alaska, Lapland, Scandinavia, Russia (Siberia), Sweden; and the Alpine areas (Alps, Pyrenees at an altitude of 2000m). In Siberia, the Rhodiola rosea root is traditionally used to increase physical resistance, work capacity and for altitude-related ailments. In addition, this plant was used by Russian sportsmen and women for its benefits on physical resistance. Rhodiola rosea acts both on energy metabolism and on stress hormones. It thus helps to reduce fatigue and temporary stress and helps in case of tension.

  • activates the synthesis of ATP in the mitochondria.
  • cortisol and norepinephrine regulation
  • and increases serotonin and dopamine levels through inhibition of monoamine oxidase.

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