Adaptogens are plant derived compounds that normalize endocrine function and promote adaptation to environmental stress. Adaptogenic herbs modulate stress responses, enhancing energy production and sleep quality and improving immune function. Eleuthero Root (Eleutherococcus), Holy Basil (Ocimum), and Rhodiola (Rhodiola) have been used for the treatment of stress, fatigue, sleep disturbances, elevated cortisol levels, adrenal deficiency, low DHEAS and alterations in DHEAS/cortisol ratio, chronic infection, impaired memory, and exercise intolerance. Adaptogens have been used as single agents or in combination with other plant-derived products such as Panax quinquefolius, Withania somnifera, Glycyrrhiza spp, Schisandra chinensis, and Gynostemma pentaphyllum. Other herbs that have shown efficacy as adjuncts to adaptogens include Scutellaria lateriflora, Matricaria recutita, Tilia spp, Hypericum perforatum and Melissa officinalis, which are known for their calming effect on the nervous system. Eleuthero root and rhodiola have been associated with anxiety and insomnia, although these effects have not been validated in clinical studies. Adverse effects of Eleutherococcussuch as increased blood pressure in hypertensive patients and heart palpitations have occurred as a result of inappropriate dosing. Overall, adaptogenic herbs are safe and no known drug interactions exist with the exception of a few cases of accidental misidentification of the herb, and their broad range of beneficial effects supports their development as valuable agents for the treatment of a variety of conditions.
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