Adaptogenic Herbs: Differences in Mechanisms of Action

Adaptogenic herbs are plants that resist detrimental changes to physiological systems and have a normalising effect on these systems. There are a number of adaptogenic herbs that have been identified and these may have different mechanisms of action. For example, Eleutherococcus senticosus (Siberian ginseng) has been shown to affect the activity of the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis and to act as an enzyme inhibitor. Panax ginseng has been shown to act on the central nervous system (CNS), to affect the HPA axis, to affect mitochondrial function, and to function as an antioxidant. Rhodiola rosea displays CNS, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory functions. Withania somnifera may affect the HPA axis, the CNS, and may also function as an antioxidant. Schisandra chinensis may mainly work through its antioxidant effect. Therefore adaptogenic herbs may have synergistic effects when taken together due to the way that the herbs are able to target slightly different physiological and biochemical systems. 

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Wilson, L. 2007. Review of adaptogenic mechanisms: Eleutherococcus senticosus, Panax ginseng, Rhodiola rosea, Schisandra chinensis and Withania somnifera. Australian Journal of Medical Herbalism. 19(3): 126

About Robert Barrington

Robert Barrington is a writer, nutritionist, lecturer and philosopher.
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