Written By Donnie Yance, MH, CN

Adaptogenic formulas are the foundation of botanical medicine. They offer an innovative approach to therapeutic intervention of chronic diseases and ageing, as they allow for the modulation of endogenous cellular defense mechanisms.

Beginning in the early 1960’s, extensive human and animal research on adaptogenic plant extracts has consistently shown that adaptogens enhance stress resistance by promoting vitality and enhancing physical and mental performance.

Their unique mode of beneficial actions includes the expansion of “homeodynamic space,” a basic concept of functional medicine, in which the body maintains biochemical individuality by constantly undergoing physiologic and metabolic processes. Adapting to stressors provides a wider dynamic range of stability. This is also referred to as the homeodynamic space.

Adaptogenic formulas strengthen and maintain expansiveness of the homeodynamic space, mitigating the negative impact of aging on this important aspect of health and healing. In this way, adaptogens offer protection against a wide variety of environmental assaults; including emotional and physical stressors.

One mode of action of adaptogens has been associated with the neuroendocrine-immune system and the system involved in regulation (activation and inhibition) of stimulus-response coupling, which are responsible for defense and adaptation of the organism to stressors.16-18 Although useful, this classic reductionist model is insufficient for explaining the mechanistic aspects of the physiological notion of “adaptability” and the adaptogenic activity of adaptogens.

To consider adaptogens in a broader sense, they are associated with stress hormones and key mediators of homeostasis. In this context, the mechanisms of action of adaptogens are specifically related to stress-protective activity and increased adaptability of the organism. Adaptogens exhibit multiple protective effects against chronic inflammation, atherosclerosis, neurodegenerative cognitive impairment, metabolic disorders, cancer and other aging-related diseases.

Current uses of adaptogens are mainly related to stress-induced fatigue and cognitive function, mental illness, and behavioral disorders. It is very unlikely that the pharmacological activity of any phytochemical is specific and associated with only one type of receptor; particularly adaptogenic compounds, which affect key mediators of the adaptive stress response at intracellular and extracellular levels of communication. Therefore, their prophylactic use by healthy subjects to ameliorate stress and prevent age-related diseases appears to be justified.19

Adaptogens act to normalize homeostasis, optimize metabolism, and improve resistance to a variety of adverse factors. All of Yance’s protocols are built on a foundation of adaptogenic formulations. Just as a building has a framework, so does a supportive protocol of botanical and nutritional remedies.

This is an adapted excerpt from: “Enhancing Cellular Defense Mechanisms with Adaptogens,” by Donnie Yance, MH, CN, on his blog. It is  part one of two posts. 

16. Panossian A, Wikman G, Wagner H, 1999. Plant Adaptogens Ш, Earlier and More RecentAspects and Concepts on Their Mode of Action. Phytomedicine: 6(4): 287-99
17. Panossian A, 2003. Adaptogens, Tonic Herbs for Fatigue and Stress. Alternative & Complementary Therapies, 9(6):327-31.
18. Panossian A, Wagner H, 2005. Stimulating effect of adaptogens: an overview with particular reference to their efficacy following single dose administration. Phytother Res, Oct. 19 (10): 819-38
19. Panossian A, Understanding adaptogenic activity: specificity of the pharmacological action of adaptogens and other phytochemicals, Ann N Y Acad Sci.2017 Jun 22. doi: 10.1111/nyas.13399.

Related research on supporting homeostasis with adaptogens:

Webinar: Botanical and Nutritional Formulas for Neurological Health

Adaptogenic and Anabolic Botanicals to Promote Allostasis

Ecdysterone-Rich Botanicals that Promote Anabolic Metabolism and Metabolic Homeostasis

Adaptogenic and Anabolic Botanicals Combined to Restore Metabolic Homeostasis and Support Recovery

Adaptogenic Botanicals that Modulate the Neuroendocrine Stress Response, Nourish Vitality; Enhance Resilience