This question has been answered only recently, although adaptogens have been used for thousand years in Chinese culture to cure diseases and improve health. Their incredible properties, indeed, have become popular in the rest of the world on the second half of the 20th century, arousing many researchers’ curiosity and studies.
In 1968, Israel I. Breckhman, PhD, and Dr. I. V. Dardymov formally gave adaptogens a functional definition as follows:
That said, an adaptogen could be considered a tonic as far as increase adaptive energy and alleviate conditions of weakness within the body.
Although Chinese herbalism and Ayurveda, the science of life, has used adaptogens for thousands of years, a Russian scientist named Nikolai Lazarev, who coined the term “adaptogen” in 1947, achieved the original scientific discoveries. The pharmacologist A.V. Lazarev originally created the concept to describe novel effects of dibazol 12-benzyl benzimidazol, an arterial dilator developed in France. This concept was later (in the former Soviet Union) applied to describe remedies that increase the resistance of organisms to stress in experimental and clinical studies.
According to the original definition, adaptogens are non-specific remedies that increase resistance to a broad spectrum of harmful factors of different physical, chemical and biological natures.
This definition has been updated and today adaptogens are conceptualized as “a new class of natural metabolic regulators, which increase the ability of an organism to adapt to environmental factors and to avoid damage from such factors”* (Panossian A., Wikman G., Wagner H. Plant adaptogens. III. Earlier and more recent aspects and concepts on their mode of action. Phytomedicine 1999;6:287–30010)
The beauty of adaptogens is that they have a multi-layered effect, which enhances all areas of health. They are believed to bring a variety of benefits to human health, like preventing cardiovascular problems, diabetes, increase immune functions or an enhanced positive mood.