The Power of Adaptogens: Why you should be taking them today

To become resilient, we need to adapt to stress. I’ve mentioned this before.

The quicker and better able we are to adapt the better our general stress resistance or resilience will be.

When our adaptive capacity is overwhelmed, we will need time to recover, replenish and rebuild. Prolonged stressors can result in chronic stress which can in turn cause breakdown and overtraining syndrome. 

This is where adaptogens come into the picture.

It’s only recently when you mention adaptogens that a few more people understand what you are referring to.

What are adaptogens then?

In short you; 

  • Feel good when you take them
  • Get decreased cortisol response
  • Find it easier to focus and learn new things
  • Get stronger – especially with ashwaganda
  • Get immune-boosting effects from the mushroom adaptive family

 Adaptogens are plants that confer their adaptive properties into the host.

Just one adaptogen can target 400+ genes all at once, this is sometimes called the ‘shotgun effect’ and it’s why some people struggle to understand the mechanisms – the reason it’s hard to put these in a box is they can work on many pathways all at once.

They have a normalising action. If your blood pressure’s too high it’ll probably come down a bit, too low it’ll probably come up a bit. Returning the body to homeostasis;

It still surprises me that folks have not heard about adaptogens. 

I was first exposed to adaptogens in the ’70s. My dad is an acupuncturist so these would be generally used in normal daily support in Chinese medicine. 

Later I studied under Henk Kraaijenhof, then the master of adaptogen research himself Panossian. you can see a picture of me and Panossian having a nice pint after delivering an all-day seminar on Adaptogens together. 


Yes, they are safe for humans to use. One of the classifications is : (a) An adaptogen should be innocuous (not harmful or offensive) and cause minimal disorders in the physiological functions of an organism; 

They have to be safe and non-toxic to be classed as an adaptogen.  

For me, they are helpful plants that aid us in fighting and coping with increased stress. 

Generally, these plants grow in unusual circumstances, possess unique qualities and confer their hardiness into the host. When you eat them they make you stronger… Sometimes literally…

I use them in coffee in the morning, as part of a performance pack before training, and for deeper sleep and adrenal restoration for certain parts of my yearly cycle too.

This nice list outlines some of the effects and benefits:

  • Adaptogens are medicinal substances causing the “state of nonspecifically increased resistance” of the organism.
  • Only those preparations that meet the following requirements may be included in the group of adaptogens: (a) An adaptogen should be innocuous and cause minimal disorders in the physiological functions of an organism; (b) The action of an adaptogen should be nonspecific, i.e., it should increase resistance to adverse influences of a wide range of factors of physical, chemical and biological nature, (c) An adaptogen may possess normalizing action irrespective of the direction of the foregoing pathologic changes.
  • The adaptogens are nontoxic compounds with polyvalent mechanisms of action and pharmacological effects related to adaptability and survival
  • Adaptogens are substances, which elicit in an organism a state of nonspecifically raised resistance, allowing them to counteract stressor signals and to adapt to exceptional strain.
  • Adaptogens are metabolic regulators, which increase the ability of an organism to adapt to environmental factors and to avoid damage from such factors.11
  • Plant adaptogens are agents, which reduce damaging effects of various stressors due to reduction of the reactivity of host defense system. They adapt organism to stress and have curative effect in stress-induced disorders.
  • Adaptogenic substances have the capacity to normalize body functions and strengthen systems compromised by stress. They have a protective effect on health against a wide variety of environmental assaults and emotional conditions.
  • Adaptogens comprise a pharmacotherapeutic group of herbal preparations used to: increase attention and endurance in fatigue and prevent/mitigate/reduce stress-induced impairments and disorders related to neuro-endocrine and immune systems.
  • Botanical adaptogens are plant extracts, or specific constituents of plant extracts, which function to increase survival in animals and humans by stimulating their adaptability to stress by inducing adaptive responses.
  • Adaptogens are stress-response modifiers that increase an organism's nonspecific resistance to stress by increasing its ability to adapt and survive.
  • Botanical adaptogens are metabolic regulators that increase survival by increasing adaptability in stress.
  • Adaptogens are natural compounds or plant extracts that increase adaptability and survival of living organisms to stress.
  • Adaptogen—any of various natural substances used in herbal medicine to normalize and regulate the systems of the body.


I have applied adaptogens with clients and athletes to devastating effect on the opposition…

You could call them, and me ;)  “the athlete's secret weapon” lol. Or just Lovell you Weapon…..

One word of caution, when using them, don’t let the coaches overtrain your athletes – their capacity will be enhanced but you still have to observe normal recovery protocols.

As I mentioned, later on, I studied under Henk Kraaijenhof learning some more of the delicate applications of adaptogens into elite sports – then in 2016 I had Panossian come over and lecture for my sports nutrition courses – he’s a modern-day legend with over 200+ peer-reviewed papers on adaptogen use. 

His work with the Swedish Herbal Institute is really worth checking out. One reason we’ve been slow to adapt to the use of these is most of the early research was done in China and Russia and hasn’t been translated. When Russian’s use these in factories, for example, all they are interested in is increased work capacity, decreased illness and general positive feedback. There’s no placebo, cross-over, or double-blinding – they just used high dosed herbs and made better profits from doing so.

These have been extensively tested in Eastern medicine, military, space programmes – we’re catching up now in the West with mushroom coffees and adaptogen based hot chocolates. You can expect an adaptogen explosion in the next few years over here.

Pretty soon they’ll be asking in Nero (coffee shop) wanna scoop of rhodiola with that? In fact one reason I made Amber Aminos adaptogenic hot chocolate is that you get the rich benefits of organic cocoa with organic adaptogens and other cofactors.