The ability of certain plants to produce amazing, mind and body health effects has been known to herbalist’s for thousands of years. And, even among these healing plants certain varieties were valued even more highly. In Asia, they called these extraordinary herbs “kingly” or “elite” as they were the most effective in increasing both physical and mental capacity. These plants were known to reduce fatigue, improve resistance to diseases, and extend lifespan. People learned that consuming these plants was helpful during times of challenges. In China, they were used by warriors right before battle. In Siberia, these same plants were used by hunters before long, dangerous journeys. The Tibetan monks were able to survive without food and warm clothes, living high in the mountains for many days just by consuming these plants.
As their legend grew the use of these plants spread to Korea, Japan, Russia and eventually Europe, and even those these plants were safely consumed and provided consistent results for centuries, from a scientific point of view, their effectiveness was not confirmed until the 1970’s.
It was at that time that a Russian physician and scientist Dr. Israel Brekhman and his mentor Prof. Nicolai Lazarv, were charged by Soviet leaders to find substances that could improve workers productivity and provide a competitive advantage to Soviet athletes in international competitions.
Their research led them to these amazing herbs that they named “Adaptogens.”
The reason for naming these herbs “Adaptogens” resulted from their effectiveness in helping the human body to “adapt” or to “adjust” to strains and changes of daily living.
Brekhman and Lazarev were aware that some of the adaptogens they were studying had actually survived Ice Ages. They surmised that if these miraculous plants could survive an Ice Age, that they must “possess qualities that could help our bodies adapt to the stresses of modern life.”
What they learned as they studied these herbs was that they had managed to survive harsh environments for centuries due to their unique composition of biologically active substances.
One of the first herbs that Brakeman studied was eleuthero or siberian ginseng. What Brekhman discovered was very influential. Just two years after publishing the results of his study, eleuthero extract was approved by the Pharmacological Committee of the USSR Ministry of Health for clinical use.
Funded by the Soviet Union, Brekhman and Lazarev were able to employ an army of researchers and conduct more than 3,000 clinical trial and experiments on adaptogens.
In order to qualify as an adaptogen, Dr. Brekhman and his followers used the following parameters:
(1) plants which are entirely safe;
(2) plants which increase the body’s nonspecific resistance; that is, they provide valuable support to the human body in coping with the pressures placed on a wide range of its functions by both the internal and external environments; and,
(3) plants which normalize the functions of the bodily systems.
Of the 4,000 plants that the research team studied, only 12 were identified as adaptogens! The four main adaptogens that the Brekhman and Lazarev research team studied were, in addition to eleuthero: rhodiola, rhaponticum, and schisandra.
Eventually with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the financing for Brekhman’s research on adaptogens went away, and most likely delayed the Western world’s understanding and acceptance of these powerful plants.
In the United States the use of adaptogens, while growing, is still surprisingly low compared to other parts of the world.
The World Health Organization estimates that 80% of people worldwide rely on herbal medicines for some aspect of their primary healthcare and research validating herbal medicine has been done in Germany, Japan, China, Taiwan, and Russia. However, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is responsible for licensing all new drugs (or any substances for which medicinal properties are claimed) for use in the United States, does not recognize or accept findings from other countries.
Even though substantial research is being done abroad, U.S, drug companies and laboratories have not found a way to financially benefit by investing money or resources into botanical research. The result is that herbal medicine does not have the same place of importance or level of acceptance as it does in other countries. For example, in Germany, roughly 600 to 700 plant-based medicines are available and are prescribed by approximately 70% of German physicians.
If you are living in the U.S., there is good news, however. There are more than 22,000 adaptogen related studies listed on PubMed that anyone can access via the internet and more and more nutritional supplement companies are including adaptogens in their formulas. And the future looks even brighter. There are more than 750,000 plants on earth, and relatively speaking, just a handful of these healing herbs have been studied scientifically. New studies are being conducted every year as a new generation of researchers follow in the footsteps of there Russian predecessors.
So, perhaps a little recognition for Israel Brekham and his team is long overdue. AdaptoGenie says “thanks” and in time, maybe you will too.