Authors: Prof. Dr. med. Peter Altmeyer, Prof. Dr. med. Martina Bacharach-Buhles

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Last updated on: 02.02.2023

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Lazarev 1947

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In naturopathy and so-called alternative medicine, the term adaptogen(s) stands for a new group of substances of "natural origin" that are capable of increasing the body's defences and thus increasing resistance to stress and strain.

According to a generally accepted definition of the Committee on Herbal Medicinal Products (CHMP) of the European Medicines Agency EMA, adaptogens 2 are intended to improve the resistance of the organism against a wide range of adverse biological, chemical and physical factors. In contrast to tonics and stimulants, an increased working capacity through adaptogens should not decrease again after discontinuation. Furthermore, adaptogens should be well tolerated and free of side effects.

Only a few phytotherapeutics worldwide meet the criteria of the EMA:

General information
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The following load moments and influencing factors can cause a reduction in the resistance of the organism:

  • Environmental factors (external) such as cold, heat, noise, biological and chemical pollutants
  • Recurrent infections (recurrent or chronic rhinosinusitis, recurrent or chronic bronchitis, recurrent infections of the male and female reproductive organs), especially in children
  • Stressful psychological factors (internal) such as anxiety, depression (stress in a broader sense).
  • High physical stress e.g. due to sporting competitions and training
  • An adaptogen achieves a normalizing biological effect, regardless of the type and extent of the previous pathological influence.

Biochemically, adaptogens belong to very different substance groups. These include: flavonoids, lignans, polyphenols, terpenes with the subgroups triterpenes and saponins, polysaccharides.

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It is noticeable that the phytotherapeutics used as "adaptogens" contain different active ingredients. The adaptogenic effect can therefore not be traced back to a uniform group of active substances or a uniform principle of action.

In a broader sense, the following phytotherapeutics are also considered adaptogens:

  • pokeweed (Phytolaca americana - contained in Tonsipret®)
  • Stainer tube (Baptisia tinctoria - contained in Esberitox®)
  • Sun hat(Echinacea purpureae radix, Echinacea pallida- contained in Echinacea Ratiopharm® Tbl., Esberitox®, Lymphozil pro® Tbl.)
  • Tree of Life
  • Mistletoe preparations (Lektinol® injection solution)
  • Rye pollen (Cernilton®)
  • Thyme herb
  • Horseradish root
  • Tropaeoli maji herba (nasturtium)
  • Camomile flowers
  • Elderflower
  • Lovage