Panax ginseng (Ginseng), Rhodiola rosea (Hong Jing Tian) and Schisandra chinensis (Wu Wei Zi) are well-known herbs in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Recently, there have been a number of studies on these three herbs. This review discusses their active components and major pharmacological effects. For P. ginseng, it has been shown to have an anti-inflammatory activity, affects pulmonary function and erectile dysfunction, improves cognition in patients with Alzheimer's disease and promotes sexual arousal in menopausal women as well as prevents cancer. For R. rosea, its effectiveness in alleviating depression and reducing fatigue is summarized in this review. Additionally, anti-cancer and other clinical effects of S. chinensis are also discussed. These three herbs are considered as adaptogens as they bear multiple functions and their effects were found to be very different in patients depending on the circumstances (age, gender, environment, diet, season, etc.). Thus, in most cases, the art of the TCM practitioner is to prescribe these herbs after a complete evaluation of overall heath status of the patients.