Adaptogen research departs from Brekhman’s work

Much of the contemporary adaptogen research departs from the work of Brekhman. (6–10) A
summary of the departures from Brekhman’s work frequently found in contemporary
adaptogen include: the adaptogen criterion is misrepresented; researchers attempt to make the
concept palatable to the medical establishment; adaptogens ability to raise resistance is often
ignored; the adaptogen and its effect on the GAS are overlooked.
Brekhman’s message was that the body has an in built capacity to resist stressors through
interrelated phenomenon involving all the major body systems. If one is exposed to bacteria, the
immune system jumps into action and produces phagocytes, T cells, and interferon to combat
the invading bacteria. If the body is plunged into cold water, blood concentrates into the
interior and calorific processes are initiated which liberate heat to maintain body temperature. If
one is subject to hunger, the body begins to ration calories to maintain energy stores. If one
inhales noxious dust, the body responds with a sneeze to expel the dust. Indeed, all of these
actions are manifestations of the General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS) described by Selye.
Drugs that augment this resistance capacity, ones that Brekhman called adaptogens, were the
real focus of adaptogen research; it was meant to be the search and study of those drugs that
augment the GAS. (1?4, 5)
What has happened instead is that researchers generally display ignorance of the greater
context in which the adaptogen concept exists. They have drifted from Brekhman’s original
concept. For example, an excerpt from a recent article published in 2000, “Eleutherococcus
senticosus (Rupr&Maxim.) Maxim. (Araliaceae) as an adaptogen: a closer look,” (4) misses the
essence of Brekhman’s work. The researchers conclude:
“Clearly Eleutherococcus contains pharmacologically active compounds but one wishes the term
adaptogen could be dropped from the literature because it is vague and conveys no insights into the
mechanism(s) of action. If a precise action can be attributed to it, then the exact term for said action
should obviously be used; if not, we strongly urge that generalities be avoided. Finally, our reexamination
and fresh interpretation of the literature on Eleutherococcus and comparison with true
ginseng shows that the potential for a scientifically more complete and defensible exploitation of these
plants will be better served by investigating and considering them in a context that consciously ignores
the fact the word ‘adaptogen’ was ever invented.”