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Adaptogens or adaptogenic substances are used in herbal medicine for the purported stabilization of physiological processes and promotion of homeostasis.[1][2]

Dried Rhodiola rosea root, cited as adaptogen.[3]

Concept and non-acceptance[edit]

The term "adaptogen" refers to non-toxic plants or their extracts purported to diminish stress and support overall wellbeing when consumed.[4] However, the definition of an adaptogen is vague and without adequate scientific evidence, making it impossible to determine what exactly makes a substance an adaptogen.[4]

The concept of an adaptogenic effect is not accepted in pharmacological or clinical settings, and is not approved for marketing in the European Union or United States.[4][5] From 2020 to 2023, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued numerous warning letters to manufacturers of dietary supplements making illegal, unapproved health claims for products marketed to contain an adaptogen.[5] As an example in 2020, the FDA issued a warning letter to a manufacturer of mushroom supplements purported to contain adaptogens having diverse antidisease effects, stating that such products "are not generally recognized as safe and effective for the above referenced uses and, therefore, these products are "new drugs" under section 201(p) of the FD&C Act [21 U.S.C. 321(p)]. New drugs may not be legally introduced or delivered for introduction into interstate commerce without prior approval from the FDA."[6]


The term "adaptogens" was coined in 1947 by Soviet toxicologist Nikolai Lazarev to describe substances that may increase resistance to stress.[7][8] The term "adaptogenesis" was later applied in the Soviet Union to describe remedies thought to increase the resistance of organisms to biological stress.[1] Most of the studies conducted on adaptogens were performed in the Soviet Union, Korea, and China before the 1980s.[citation needed] As of 2020, the term was not accepted in pharmacological, physiological, or mainstream clinical practices in the European Union.[8]


Compounds studied for putative adaptogenic properties are often derived from the following plants:[7]


  1. ^ a b Brekhman II, Dardymov IV (1969). "New Substances of Plant Origin which Increase Nonspecific Resistance". Annual Review of Pharmacology. 9: 419–430. doi:10.1146/ PMID 4892434.
  2. ^ "Adaptogen". 2012.
  3. ^ Tinsley GM, Jagim AR, Potter GDM, Garner D, Galpin AJ (August 2023). "Rhodiola rosea as an adaptogen to enhance exercise performance: a review of the literature". British Journal of Nutrition. 131 (3): 461–473. doi:10.1017/S0007114523001988. PMC 10784128. PMID 37641937. S2CID 261338292.
  4. ^ a b c Siwek M, Woroń J, Wrzosek A, Gupało J, Chrobak AA (2023). "Harder, better, faster, stronger? Retrospective chart review of adverse events of interactions between adaptogens and antidepressant drugs". Frontiers in Pharmacology. 14: 1271776. doi:10.3389/fphar.2023.1271776. PMC 10565488. PMID 37829299.
  5. ^ a b "Warning letters (search term: adaptogen)". US Food and Drug Administration. 3 November 2023. Retrieved 5 November 2023.
  6. ^ Ronald M. Pace (8 December 2020). "FDA warning letter to Mushroom Revival, Inc". Division of Human and Animal Food Operations East, US Food and Drug Administration. Retrieved 5 November 2023.
  7. ^ a b Panossian A, Wikman G (2010). "Effects of Adaptogens on the Central Nervous System and the Molecular Mechanisms Associated with Their Stress—Protective Activity". Pharmaceuticals. 3 (1): 188–224. doi:10.3390/ph3010188. PMC 3991026. PMID 27713248.
  8. ^ a b "Reflection Paper on the Adaptogenic Concept" (PDF). European Medicines Agency, Committee on Herbal Medicinal Products. 8 May 2008. Retrieved 26 October 2020.