What’s an adaptogen?

Adaptogens were discovered by Israel I. Brekhman, M.D., a renowned Russian research pharmacologist and physiologist. According to Dr. Brekhman, in order to be considered an adaptogen, the herb has 3 distinctive characteristics:

1) It must be nontoxic: this means that it must cause minimal side effects on physical or mental health.

2) It produces a nonspecific response in the body: this means that it increases the power of resistance against multiple stressors that includes physical, chemical, and biological agents, in multiple nonspecific ways. It builds up a reserve of adaptive energy, in which this reserve is then used when an actual stress arises.

3) It has a normalizing effect on physiology: this means that they can either tone down or strengthen the activity of multiple systems, helping to restore the balance to the immune, nervous, and endocrine systems, and allowing the body to maintain optimal homeostasis. They can benefit the liver, cardiovascular system, kidneys, and pancreas too. An example would be if a person with high blood pressure takes jiaogulan, their blood pressure would drop. However, it their blood pressure is below normal, then it would raise.


Jiaogulan and its adaptogen effect

Dr. Brekhman discovered that the active compounds in most adaptogens were a particular class of chemical compounds called triterpenoid saponins. They had very low toxicity and little addictive potential. Some were identified as having adaptogenic properties, and others were found to have anti-inflammatory, adrenal gland strengthening, and immune system modulating effects.

Jiaogulan is considered a premier adaptogen, and referred to as similar to ginseng, but better. Both plants have energizing effects on the body; however, while ginseng is poorly tolerated and can cause insomnia, nervousness, and abnormally rapid heart rates, jiaogulan has an opposite effect because it is a superior adaptogen. Jiaogulan contains 174 saponins, or ginsenosides, the same chemical which is the active ingredient in ginseng (28 saponins). While some of the saponins are similar to those found in ginseng, gynostemma has nearly six times as many of them, making it potentially a much more powerful herb. Jiaogulan has a powerful anti-aging effect and possibly provides the widest spectrum of health benefits of any plant known, which is why jiaogulan is often referred as the “king of adaptogens’.


Adaptogens for Life – The Science Behind the Discovery of Adaptogens
Brekhman, I. I.; Dardymov, I. V. (1969). “New Substances of Plant Origin which Increase Nonspecific Resistance”. Annual Review of Pharmacology. 9: 419–430.
Jiaogulan and its Adaptogen Effect

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