Adaptogens effective? Safe?

Dr Stacy Sims advocates adaptogens.
Does anyone have experience/ information on them?

What are these?

Quote from link below:
Proponents believe so, though more research is needed. Adaptogens may do for your adrenal glands what exercise does for your muscles, Powell says. “When we exercise, it’s a stress on our body. But as we continue to train and exercise, our body becomes better at dealing with the stress of it, so we no longer get as tired or as high a heart rate,” she says. When you take adaptogens, meanwhile, “you’re training your body to handle the effects of stress.”

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Adaptogens are fad of the week in the pseudo-food, nutraceutical, lifestyle supplement space.

From a chemistry and medical perspective, there is no question plants have a myriad of active compounds and some are beneficial to humans. It is when you start looking for high quality and replicated RCT data, toxicology data, and dosing data on “adaptogens” that we run into issues. That something hasn’t been well studied doesn’t make it incorrect but it does leave us short of providing guidance.

Break it down to benefit, toxicology and dose.

The benefits are going to be mostly anecdotal. That doesn’t make them not real, but means you’ll get everything from “Most amazing thing ever” to “Didn’t do anything for me”. For analogy see our beet thread.

From a tox perspective, a cup of ginseng tea, small amounts of golden root, sprinkle of turmeric, a few goji berries will (likely) do you no harm. But start taking large amounts - and nobody can easily define large, or too much - and you are on your own. If buying prepared material and not grinding up roots or leaves, you will have little knowledge of the purity of the substance you are taking and have to trust the manufacture/seller (e.g. good luck).

Dose is also going to be unknown and probably quite heterogeneous across a population. Without a good endpoint to measure, and target levels of active molecule to monitor, the individual is pretty much left with: “Two leaves in a cup of boiling water worked for me”.

So what to do? The adage if its too good to be true it probably is not might be a good place to start. Then, if you want to, just try some in moderation and see how you feel. If you get the desired effect it could be real, could be PBO but it “worked” for you and that is great.

Caveat - if you have a medical condition and/or are taking different drugs it would be worth keeping notes and to talk to your doctor. FWIW I actually do this - I talk to my GP about what I’m taking for sport (creatine, beta alanine, etc). She cannot guide me but at least knows what I’m doing in case something unexpected happens.

$0.02 and worth what you paid for it on a free forum :-]



Fantastic answer. Thanks for your time and your thoughts Mark:grinning:


I think this is the basic principle on which the entire pseudoscience wellness/lifestyle industry is based upon :laughing:


I’m about as far from the “wellness” movement as one can be. I see it as PBO coupled with perky attractive overly happy people making hyped claims. Painful as a couple good friends through bike racing are in this field. I just bite my tongue and they never ask what I think. Whatever you do, DO NOT watch the Bob’s Burgers essential oils episode…

To be fair, TCM and active chemicals from plants is real and very interesting. Its just a bugger to isolate the active molecule(s) and study the PK/PD/Tox properties. In a former life I was involved in an RCT testing a TCM for a dermatology disorder. The TCM absolutely had a real effect. Nowhere near as strong as western based pharmaceutical intervention, but demonstrably positive. We then failed miserably trying to isolate the active molecules from the TCM concoction. But it was a fun study.

There are other examples of nutraceuticals, or supplements, actually having modest effects when studied in RCTs. Often the real effect is small but also a surprise to investigators.

I’m firmly in the no harm is no foul camp on this stuff. At the extremes, on one end it seems “healthier” to just eat good food, get some exercise, be a nice person. On the other end, hate seeing people with really serious conditions who are desperate for miracles falling prey to outsized claims.



I have an accupuncturist/TCM friend who has “prescribed” me various adaptogens. I’ve taken one variety which did nothing. The acupuncture, however, has had pronounced and recordable effects (totally disregarding my scepticism!).

A mix of Eastern and Western modalities is probably a good thing, just be fully aware that neither provides a silver bullet.


Am vaguely aware of some semi-RCT acupuncture studies. Putting needles in right places vs wrong places. That was interesting and seemed to show specificity.

My goal when it comes to drugs is to never need anything stronger than a bicycle ride and a donut. That’s powerful stuff right there!!

But if I ever have a cancer or other serious medical need, am happy people work on treatments to try and help.

Apologies to OP for thread drift.

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I think acupuncture has an effect whether we believe in it or not.
If someone is selling a tablet and is claiming it has an X, Y or Z effect then that claim should be based on more than anecdote. Otherwise it is just a placebo. which is Ok unless there are possible negative side effects.
It’s very difficult to find clean info on the net as it’s all about the sales pitch.
Dr Sims has said there is some “solid research” which supports the use of adaptogens for particular conditions. I have asked her for the links to the studies…

All I could find was Dr Sims saying they could be helpful for adapting to… menopause, not that they are helpful for athletic performance across the board…

Also - on reflection - I’d really encourage OP to add the menopause bit or provide a source for Dr Sims “advocating” for adaptogens more generally. It’s a little irresponsible and potentially misleading IMO. Dr Sims also advocates for keto diets…for epileptic kids, and if I were to start a topic saying Dr Sims is advocating for keto diets, I’m sure lots of people would point me out the many times she is on record practically pleading for endurance athletes not to go keto.

Menopause source:

I was not attempting to mislead.
I just wanted to get an idea of whether adaptogens are safe / legitimate.
Men also take adaptogens, wether Dr Sims advocates it or not.

Dr Sims advocates adaptogens in her book Roar in the chapter related to menopause.
I did not know that she does not advocate adaptogens for any other context than the menopause.
She talked about studies to support their use in a podcast, which I can site tomorrow.
Roar is a great book and I’ve learnt alot from it.
My partner is reading:
Younger Fitter,Stronger by Matt Roberts, which seems to be a male version.
Hope that eases your wild goose chase!

I just think quite a bit is lost when you state things so generally.