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The Evolution of Adaptogens

Adaptogens, while just now gaining recognition in present-day society, have a rich history deeply embedded in ancient healing practices. Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda, dating back to around 3000 BCE, were among the first to harness the power of these remarkable substances. Despite their millennia-old usage and knowledge, the term ‘Adaptogen’ only entered our vocabulary in the late 1940s.

 

The earliest Ayurvedic texts hinted at the potency of adaptogens, but it was in the renowned Charaka-Samhita that they were truly celebrated as invaluable medicines. This marked a significant milestone, paving the way for adaptogens to be extensively documented in medical literature.

 

The Western world’s introduction to adaptogens occurred in 1947 when Soviet scientist Dr. Nikolai Lazarev coined the term while investigating the body’s resilience to stress. He was on a quest to discover substances capable of transforming ordinary soldiers into powerful warriors. His pursuit focused on herbs that could enhance soldiers’ endurance, elevate battlefield performance, improve resilience against toxins, and support their adaptation to various stressors. Derived from the Latin ‘adaptare,’ meaning ‘to adjust,’ adaptogens refer to substances that enhance the body’s ability to combat stress. Dr. Lazarev’s studies initially lay in chemical substances, but it was his colleague, Israel I. Brekhman, who redirected his focus toward plant-based remedies.

 

Inspired by the Nanai hunters’ use of Schisandra berries to combat thirst, hunger, and exhaustion, Lazarev and Brekhman explored the realm of herbal medicine. Their pioneering research began with Panax ginseng but later transitioned to eleuthero (Siberian ginseng) for its affordability and ease of cultivation. By 1962, eleuthero had earned recognition as the ‘prototype adaptogen’ by the Soviet Ministry of Health.

 

Their discoveries echoed the age-old wisdom of Chinese and Ayurvedic practitioners, who had long understood certain plants’ innate ability to thrive in stressful environments. This revelation revolutionized medicine in the Soviet Union, prompting extensive research and clinical trials on adaptogenic herbs. Backed by government support, these studies were seen as pivotal, offering a competitive edge in sports, military, and medical domains.

 

The culmination of over a thousand clinical trials spearheaded by Lazarev and Brekhman popularized eleuthero across the USSR. From athletes gearing up for the ’70s and ’80s Olympics to astronauts preparing for space exploration, adaptogens became integral to enhancing performance and resilience. Out of the 4000 plants scrutinized during these trials, only a select dozen were identified as true adaptogens, including Echinopanax, Schisandra, and Rhodiola.

 

This legacy underscores the enduring impact of ancient wisdom merged with modern scientific inquiry, illuminating the path toward holistic well-being and resilience in an ever-evolving world

 

At Harmony Craft Beverages, we’re excited to harness the power of adaptogens to create innovative products. If you’re interested in joining us on this journey, reach out to our team.

Next week we will explore what adaptogens are, stay tuned and we hope you enjoyed learning about adaptogens. Remember, research on adaptogens is ongoing, and as new developments arise, our insights and educational materials will evolve too.