Adaptogen plants: a help for psychophysical homeostasis

Adaptogen plants: a help for psychophysical homeostasis

The cold weather and reduced daylight typical of winter are external stress factors that act on our bodies. Internal imbalances such as disorders in diet and sleeping, anxiety and fatigue can also play a similar role. Such conditions can disrupt the self-regulation capacity of our body, which naturally tends to a state of stability.

When homeostasis is challenged by imbalances of various origins, our bodies put in place a series of defensive and reparative mechanisms that produce biological, hormonal, neurovegetative and immune modifications.

However, this reaction requires additional energy, and our resilience capacity may not always be sufficient to adequately respond to all stressors. If this happens, it’s easy to fall into a state of physical and mental fatigue.

When this warning light is on, an aid can come from nature thanks to adaptogenic plants, that can counteract stress factors, facilitating adaptation, improving performance and bringing the body back to a state of psychophysical balance.

Adaptogenic plants: nature’s answer to psychophysical imbalances


The concept of adaptogenic plants (from the Latin “adaptare,” meaning to adapt) was coined in the post-World War II years by Russian pharmacologist Nicolai Lazarev, based on previous studies, particularly on schisandra (Schisandra chinensis Baill.), or Wu We Zi (“berry of the 5 flavors”). The plant had a long traditional use among hunters in Siberia and Northern China as a natural stimulant, capable of reducing fatigue and hunger. However, a similar idea had long existed in both Chinese medicine (the so-called “qi” tonics) and Ayurveda (the “rasayana” remedies).

Based on the study published in the Annual Review of Pharmacology by Brekhman and Dardymov in 1969 and subsequent studies, adaptogenic plants and their extracts are defined today as those that allow the human body to adapt with a non-specific response to stress factors of any nature through a multitarget effect on the neuroendocrine and immune system, triggering a normalizing action.

This definition is indebted to holistic medicine, which considers the patient primarily as a person, composed of body, mind and soul. Within this perimeter, the scientific community is trying to identify the key molecular mechanisms common among more than 70 plants with evident adaptogenic action.

Another characteristic of adaptogenic plants is their safety of use, witnessed by their thousand-year-old use. In this regard, Ginseng, Ashwagandha and Maca deserve a prominent position, three plants from three different areas of the planet, but with similar uses recognized by traditional medicine since ancient times.



Ginseng is probably the oldest known adaptogenic plant. Used for about 7000 years, it is mentioned among the noblest plants with stimulating properties in the Shennong Bencao Jing, a sort of Chinese pharmacopeia written over two thousand years ago. If ginseng in Chinese means “man’s plant” for its anthropomorphic appearance, the term Panax, which identifies the genus of 11 plant species belonging to the Araliaceae family, comes from ancient Greek, similar in meaning to the Latin term “panacea”, meaning “all-healing.”

Numerous studies have shown that the adaptogenic effect of Ginseng root mainly depends on ginsenosides, some triterpene saponins with a corticosteroid action. To learn more about the mechanism of action of Ginseng, you can also read our article on botanicals with adaptogenic properties: scientific evidence. If you want to discover how Ginseng root extract differs from leaf extract, download our brochure.



Ashwagandha or Withania somnifera L. Dunal. (WS) is a small shrub belonging to the Solanaceae (the same family as tomatoes or potatoes), typical of the arid regions of the Indian subcontinent; it is also known as “Indian ginseng”, for the extremely important role the plant has always played in Indian medicine (Ayurveda), analogous to that of Panax ginseng in Chinese medicine: a “rasayana” remedy prescribed in cases of convalescence, debilitation, in geriatric patients and to improve mental performances, particularly memory.

The adaptogenic effect of Ashwagandha is attributed to withanolides, some steroid lactones that perform a powerful antioxidant action at the neuronal tissue level.




Maca (Lepidium meyenii Walp.), a plant of the Brassicaceae family also colloquially known as Andean ginseng or Peruvian ginseng, is traditionally considered a medicinal plant with adaptogenic functions that also improves fertility, as observed since the 17th century by some European explorers.

Maca is a plant very rich in nutritional elements, regarded as a staple food in the diet of the Andean populations; it also contains some molecules, the macamides, which are considered responsible for its activity.

According to a recent systematic review (Cherie Bower-Cargill, Niousha Yarandi, 2022) conducted on a total of 57 studies (14 clinical and 43 preclinical), this plant has been effective in treating a variety of conditions not limited to sexual dysfunctions and menopausal symptoms.

Discover all Made in EPO extracts in the dedicated section of our website.

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