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Panossian, Alexander G.; Efferth, Thomas; Shikov, Alexander N.; Pozharitskaya, Olga N.; Kuchta, Kenny; Mukherjee, Pulok K.; Banerjee, Subhadip; Heinrich, Michael; Wu, Wanying; Guo, De-an; Wagner, Hildebert (2020): Evolution of the adaptogenic concept from traditional use to medical systems: Pharmacology of stress- and aging-related diseases. In: Medicinal Research Reviews, Vol. 41, No. 1: pp. 630-703
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Adaptogens comprise a category of herbal medicinal and nutritional products promoting adaptability, resilience, and survival of living organisms in stress. The aim of this review was to summarize the growing knowledge about common adaptogenic plants used in various traditional medical systems (TMS) and conventional medicine and to provide a modern rationale for their use in the treatment of stress-induced and aging-related disorders. Adaptogens have pharmacologically pleiotropic effects on the neuroendocrine-immune system, which explain their traditional use for the treatment of a wide range of conditions. They exhibit a biphasic dose-effect response: at low doses they function as mild stress-mimetics, which activate the adaptive stress-response signaling pathways to cope with severe stress. That is in line with their traditional use for preventing premature aging and to maintain good health and vitality. However, the potential of adaptogens remains poorly explored. Treatment of stress and aging-related diseases require novel approaches. Some combinations of adaptogenic plants provide unique effects due to their synergistic interactions in organisms not obtainable by any ingredient independently. Further progress in this field needs to focus on discovering new combinations of adaptogens based on traditional medical concepts. Robust and rigorous approaches including network pharmacology and systems pharmacology could help in analyzing potential synergistic effects and, more broadly, future uses of adaptogens. In conclusion, the evolution of the adaptogenic concept has led back to basics of TMS and a new level of understanding of holistic approach. It provides a rationale for their use in stress-induced and aging-related diseases.