Plant adaptogens are compounds that increase the ability of an organism to adapt to environmental factors and to avoid damage from such factors. The beneficial effects of multi-dose administration of adaptogens are mainly associated with the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, a part of the stress-system that is believed to play a primary role in the reactions of the body to repeated stress and adaptation. In contrast, the single dose application of adaptogens is important in situations that require a rapid response to tension or to a stressful situation. In this case, the effects of the adaptogens are associated with another part of the stress-system, namely, the sympatho-adrenal-system (SAS), that provides a rapid response mechanism mainly to control the acute reaction of the organism to a stressor. This review focuses primarily on the SAS-mediated stimulating effects of single doses of adaptogens derived from Rhodiola rosea, Schizandra chinensis and Eleutherococcus senticosus. The use of these drugs typically generates no side effects, unlike traditional stimulants that possess addiction, tolerance and abuse potential, produce a negative effect on sleep structure, and cause rebound hypersomnolence or 'come down' effects. Furthermore, single administration of these adaptogens effectively increases mental performance and physical working capacity in humans. R. rosea is the most active of the three plant adaptogens producing, within 30 min of administration, a stimulating effect that continues for at least 4-6 h. The active principles of the three plants that exhibit single dose stimulating effects are glycosides of phenylpropane- and phenylethane-based phenolic compounds such as salidroside, rosavin, syringin and triandrin, the latter being the most active.
Copyright (c) 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.