[Editor's Note: The following has be excerpted from a longer article, which appears in full online this month at www.townsendletter.com.]
The Importance of Adaptogens
Modern Western medicine has developed multiple approaches to coping with stress, including pharmaceutical drugs, exercise, and relaxation techniques like meditation. While these methods can provide some benefits, results are mixed and often unsatisfactory. In Russia, after years of investigation, scientists have developed a unique and effective herbal approach to stress reduction and the prevention of stress-related symptoms--adaptogens. Adaptogens are defined as any agent that increases the nonspecific resistance of an organism to stress and other environmental influences. Research on adaptogens includes more than 5,000 clinical studies, spanning over four decades, and involving over a half-million people. They have been used by Russian Olympic athletes, cosmonauts, and the military. (179)
In conjunction with creating and living a healthy life, adaptogens can be taken on a daily basis to prevent disease and to act as an important enhancer of vitality, balance, and stress management. By enhancing responsiveness to stress and reinforcing equilibrium, adaptogens promote the greatest potential for wellness and longevity. Adaptogens assist the body by their ability to normalize homeostasis, optimize metabolism, revitalize exhausted organ systems, and improve resistance to a variety of adverse factors without side effects. Adaptogens enhance cellular energy processes, restore mitochondrial function and repair, and build "adaptive energy reserve." Mitochondrial dysfunction has been identified as one of the principle causes of age-related bioenergetic decline and a multitude of diseases. (181)
Utilizing a combination of these unique plants for broad-spectrum health promotion offers a new approach to complementary medicine and to the elevation of well-being. A complete adaptogenic formula may include an amalgamation of several supportive herbs. It is essential, however, that the formulas employed be created from the most potent plants, using the most effective methods. Qualitative standards of cultivation and preparation are therefore essential.
Russia has established original standards for high quality in herbal medicine. These standards have since been adopted internationally. In Russia, thousands of clinical herbal studies have been performed, and herbal remedies are strictly regulated by the Ministry of Health (Department of Pharmacology), which is equivalent to the FDA. These standards are ensured at every step, from the selection of raw materials to the unique processing method. Each product is assayed for active compounds and undergoes stringent quality procedures by the manufacturing facility as well as testing conducted by the State Analytical Laboratory.
Many adaptogenic herbal products on the market are promoted by claims based on Soviet scientific research. Such claims, however, can only be applied to adaptogens of actual Russian origin or to formulas crafted in Russia, according to genuine Russian standards and methods. Other currently available commercial sources of adaptogens actually have limited or no biologically active substances. These include the heavily promoted Eleutherococcus (formally known as Siberian Ginseng), as well as Schisandra and the recently popular herb Rhodiola. The reasons for such poor quality are due to the cultivation of incorrect or inferior species...