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Panax quinquefolius or ginseng is often claimed to have adaptogenic effects.

Adaptogens or adaptogenic substances[1] are used in herbal medicine for the claimed stabilization of physiological processes and promotion of homeostasis.[2] The European Medicines Agency refutes the concept that adaptogens actually exist or work as claimed, and therefore the term "adaptogen" cannot be used for marketing in the EU.[3]


The concept of adaptogens was originally created in 1947 to describe a substance that may increase resistance to stress.[3] The term "adaptogenesis" was later applied in the former Soviet Union to describe remedies thought to increase the resistance of organisms to biological stress.[2] Most of the studies conducted on adaptogens were performed in the Soviet Union, Korea, and China before the 1980s, and have been dismissed for various methodological flaws and false concepts.[3] The term is currently not accepted in pharmacological, physiological, or mainstream clinical practices in the European Union.[3]


In addition to the ban on using the term adaptogen for marketing in the EU,[3] the US Food and Drug Administration has sent numerous warning letters to dietary supplement companies marketing "adaptogenic" products for illegal advertising and false health claims, including one attempting to exploit consumers during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic.[4]


  1. ^ "Adaptogen". 2012.
  2. ^ a b Brekhman, I. I.; Dardymov, I. V. (1969). "New Substances of Plant Origin which Increase Nonspecific Resistance". Annual Review of Pharmacology. 9: 419–430. doi:10.1146/ PMID 4892434.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Reflection Paper on the Adaptogenic Concept" (PDF). European Medicines Agency, Committee on Herbal Medicinal Products. 8 May 2008. Retrieved 26 October 2020.
  4. ^ Serena Viswanathan (18 November 2020). "Warning letter to Red Moon Herbs, MARCS-CMS 607640". Inspections, Compliance, Enforcement, and Criminal Investigations, US Food and Drug Administration. Retrieved 24 February 2021.