Adaptogens, plants for harmony

Throughout the centuries, people have always been in search of health, vitality, a better and even an eternal life. Plants have always played an important role in that search. And even though we have not yet found eternal life, that search has provided humans with a lot of knowledge about the health value of plants.


The tonic plants with the longest and strongest reputation are undoubtedly the ginseng varieties. These Panax species, from Panacée, good for everything, were already used in China during the Ming dynasty 5000 years ago. The vitalizing effect has been further substantiated in recent years with endless scientific research. Ginseng can have both a calming and a stimulating effect. However, it is not a sedative like diazepam (Valium) nor a stimulant like coffee or amphetamines.


We have come to call these harmonizing plants adaptogens. This term was first used by Prof. Breckman and are described as follows: they are plants with (1) a non-specific, general effect, (2) they have a normalizing influence on the body, which means that they lower blood pressure in the case of high blood pressure and increase it in the case of low blood pressure and (3) they have few or no side effects, provided they are not used for too long and not in too high doses.
Ginseng mainly ensures that you can handle more, both physically and mentally. Physically, this translates into better endurance and faster recovery from heavy exertion. In a study, the pumping action of the heart and oxygen transport to the muscles in 100 athletes appeared to improve significantly in ginseng users. (Liverpool Physical Education Unit).
Not only physical but also mental and emotional resilience to stressful situations is improved by ginseng use. Concentration tests at Uppsala University showed that the number of errors among ginseng users was significantly smaller.
Now don’t everyone start eating ginseng straight away. Putting things into perspective is much more important for your mental health than any miracle cure. In addition, the use of ginseng is subject to a number of conditions: (1) The quality must be good. It is therefore better to use standardized preparations instead of commercial elixirs containing all kinds of things. (2) The use must be used for a longer period of time, duration may differ from person to person (average 6 weeks). (3) The result of course depends on the physical and mental condition of the user.

Siberian ginseng

Other adaptogens studied include Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus). Although the ingredients of this Taiga root are quite different from Panax ginseng, tests with rats also show an resistance-enhancing effect. The plant stimulates the production of proteins in the pancreas, liver and adrenal cortex, which probably provides an anabolic effect.

Indian ginseng

A third adaptogen is Withania somnifera or, yes, Indian ginseng, a plant also called women’s ginseng. Ashawaganda is the Indian name for Withania and means that which has the scent of a horse because it gives the vitality and sexual energy of a beast. The traditional preparation is a decoction in milk with honey, black pepper and basmati rice. So it is more likely to be used as food. This dish is said to be constructive and rejuvenating according to Ajurveda, the Indian health theory.

Even more adaptogens

  • Rhodiola rosea – Rose root
  • Astragalus membranaceus – Astragalus
  • Codonopsis pilosula – Dangshen
  • Lepidium meyenii – Maca


Info photo

It is mainly roots of plants that are used as adaptogens. The root depicted is not Ginseng but Withania somnifera, an Indian plant that is also easy to grow in our climate.

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