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Panax quinquefolius or ginseng is often claimed to have adaptogenic effects. Panax quinquefolius.jpg
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 stated in a 2008 reflection paper that while numerous research studies over more than five decades have attempted to prove the existence and effectiveness of adaptogens, the research has been deficient in its methodologies and does not support the conclusion that adaptogens actually exist and 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] 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 partially dismissed for various methodological flaws. [3] The term is currently not accepted in pharmacological, physiological, or mainstream clinical practices in the European Union as it requires further studies and more data. [3] In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration issued a warning in 2013 to a Washington-based company for illegal advertising and false health claims concerning use of the word "adaptogen" for one of its products. [4] [5]

In summary, the concept of "adaptogen," while a popular marketing term, is not widely accepted by the scientific community, and currently-available studies are insufficient to demonstrate the effectiveness of such substances in helping to relieve stress. [6] [7]

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  1. "Adaptogen". 2012.
  2. 1 2 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. 1 2 3 4 "Reflection Paper on the Adaptogenic Concept" (PDF). European Medicines Agency, Committee on Herbal Medicinal Products. 8 May 2008. Retrieved 26 October 2020.
  4. Breen, Charles M (16 May 2013). "Warning letter: Matrix Health Products". Inspections, Compliance, Enforcement, and Criminal Investigations, US Food and Drug Administration. Retrieved 9 April 2018.
  5. Rahto, James. "Warning Letter to Kaiser Farms". Casewatch. Center for Inquiry. Retrieved 22 October 2020.
  6. Wischhover, Cheryl. "Adaptogens, the mysterious herbs that supposedly alleviate your stress, explained". Vox. Voxmedia. Retrieved 26 October 2020.
  7. Moyer, Melinda Wenner. "Read This Before Spending Money on Adaptogens for Stress Relief (or Anything Else)". Self. Condé Nast. Retrieved 26 October 2020.