Document Preview
  • Full Text
  • Trade Journal

Can Herbs Improve Endurance? Adaptogens and Athletic Performance

Full text preview

Dr. Wissink, Dr. Lamoreau, and Dr. Schneider report no financial relationships relevant to this field of study.


* Data support the use of several adaptogenic plants for the enhancement of athletic performance.* Four plants — eleuthero, cordyceps, rhodiola, and ashwagandha — are mentioned most often in the literature and commercial products.* Of these, the two with the strongest evidence (and their dosing) are: eleuthero (800-1,200 mg daily) and ashwagandha (300-500 mg BID).

The term “adaptogen” appears to have been coined by Russian researchers in the 1950s to describe medicinal botanicals with the potential to increase stamina and survival in stressful environments. 1 The concept appears to have been inspired by the use of stimulants to enhance mental and physical performance among Russian fighter pilots and submarine crews during World War II. 2 Among the first adaptogen studies published in Soviet Union World War II military journals was Schisandra chinensis . Initial interest in S. chinensis arose from ethnopharmacological research from the late 19th and early 20th century noting that these berries and seeds were used by Nanai hunters as a tonic to reduce thirst, hunger, and exhaustion and to improve night vision. 1

After World War II, Russian interest in gaining a competitive advantage for its military extended to its athletes and cosmonauts, fueling further research into other adaptogens. In the 1960s, a scientist named Israel Brekhman began his search to develop drugs from natural substances to stimulate the intrinsic adaptive mechanisms of an organism to help survival in situations of intense and prolonged stress, while maintaining capability for physical and mental work. 3 Brekhman began by investigating Asian ginseng (aka Panax ginseng ), long regarded as the “longevity herb” in traditional Chinese medicine. However, Asian ginseng did not grow in the Soviet Union and was costly to import....