Scientific research has confirmed that ‘adaptogen” herbs such as Rhodiola Rosea, Schisandra Berry and Siberian Ginseng to possess anti-fatigue and stress-protective effects.
Skeptics of alternative medicine often claim that there are no evidence-based herbal remedies, but this isn’t exactly true.
The use of adaptogenic herbs has significantly increased over the past decade, as individuals search for natural methods to increase energy, prevent fatigue and to reduce the effects of stress.
Adaptogenic herbs such as Panax Ginseng, Ashwagandha root, medicinal mushrooms such as Reishi and Cordyceps, Licorice root, Jiaogulan, Maca, Suma root, Holy Basil(Tulsi) and many others, have a long history of medicinal use and play an important role in many traditional medicine systems such as Ayurveda and TCM(traditional Chinese medicine).
Adaptogens are traditionally recommended to increase energy, strength, libido and overall vitality. Western herbalists often prescribe adaptogenic herbs for supporting the adrenal glands, balancing the hpa-axis and endocrine/stress hormones such as cortisol.
The study review article below confirms many of the historical claims of traditional herbal medicine when it comes to adaptogens and provides an explanation as to the mechanisms of action for these herbs.
It appears adaptogens exert an anti-fatigue effect, whilst regulating the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and stress response.
Adaptogens can also shield the body from the many negative physiological consequences that can arise as a result of chronic stress.
Evidence-based efficacy of adaptogens in fatigue, and molecular mechanisms related to their stress-protective activity.
A study review article published in 2009 assessed the level of scientific evidence presented by clinical trials of adaptogens in fatigue, and to provide a rationale at the molecular level for verified effects.
Strong scientific evidence is available for Rhodiola rosea SHR-5 extract, which improved attention, cognitive function and mental performance in fatigue and in chronic fatigue syndrome.
Good scientific evidence has been documented in trails in which Schisandra chinensis and Eleutherococcus senticosus increased endurance and mental performance in patients with mild fatigue and weakness.
Based on their efficacy in clinical studies, adaptogens can be defined as a pharmacological group of herbal preparations that increase tolerance to mental exhaustion and enhance attention and mental endurance in situations of decreased performance.
The beneficial stress-protective effect of adaptogens is related to regulation of homeostasis via several mechanisms of action associated with the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and the control of key mediators of stress response such as molecular chaperons (e.g. Hsp70), stress-activated c-Jun N-terminal protein kinase (JNK1), Forkhead Box O transcription factor DAF-16, cortisol and nitric oxide (NO).
The key point of action of phytoadaptogens appears to be their up-regulating and stress-mimetic effects on the “stress-sensor” protein Hsp70, which plays an important role in cell survival and apoptosis. Hsp70 inhibits the expression of NO synthase II gene and interacts with glucocorticoid receptors directly and via the JNK pathway, thus affecting the levels of circulating cortisol and NO.
Prevention of stress-induced increase in NO, and the associated decrease in ATP production, results in increased performance and endurance. Adaptogen-induced up-regulation of Hsp70 triggers stress-induced JNK-1 and DAF-16-mediated pathways regulating the resistance to stress and resulting in enhanced mental and physical performance and, possibly, increased longevity.
 Evidence-based efficacy of adaptogens in fatigue, and molecular mechanisms related to their stress-protective activity.
The information in this article has not been evaluated by the FDA and should not be used to diagnose, cure or treat any disease, implied or otherwise.