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From the Townsend Letter
January 2007


Breakthrough Solutions in Herbal Medicine
Adaptogenic Formulas: The Way to Vitality

by Donald R. Yance, CN, MH, AHG, and Ben Tabachnik, PhD

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Page 1, 2, 3, 4, Notes

Phase II
The second stage of building adaptive energy begins with a rejuvenating formula, thereby optimizing both physical and mental performance. Such a rejuvenating formula would include herbs that strengthen the body; improve the capacity to carry out more intense undertakings; promote healing and recovery with sustained results; and increase energy and endurance. The formula might include primary adaptogens such as Korean ginseng root (r), Rhaponticum (r), Aralia manchurica (r), and Pantocrene (all described below). Their effects may be enhanced by including fresh milky oat seed, licorice, and cordyceps mushroom. Milky oat seed nourishes and balances the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system.35 Licorice acts as a synergist, because it moderates and harmonizes the characteristics of other plants. A number of pharmacological effects of licorice are known, which include anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial, and others. Cordyceps, like other medicinal mushrooms, has several compounds including polysaccharides, that contribute an immunomodulating effect.36

Pharmacology of Phase II Primary Adaptogens

Korean Ginseng (Panax ginseng)
Panax Ginseng (PG) restores yin and yang, but more so yang, as opposed to American Ginseng. Historically, PG has been used to increase longevity of men and women. The Chinese called it the "dose of immortality."194 Panax Ginseng extract (PGE) enhances the ability of humans to withstand a variety of stresses, including workload, pollution, physical and mental stresses, radiation, and exercise exhaustion.34 PGE is well-known for its anti-fatigue and anti-aging effects.6 Ginsenosides, as well as other compounds in ginseng, have been shown to inhibit the proliferation of tumors induced by various chemicals and have demonstrated some overall antitumor activity. When PGE was tested in animal models, a reduction in cancer incidence and multiplicity at various sites was noted. PGE and its chemical constituents have been tested for their inhibiting effect on putative carcinogenesis mechanisms (e.g., cell proliferation and apoptosis, immunosurveillance, angiogenesis); in most experiments, inhibitory effects were found.66

PGE has been shown to enhance the overall activity of the immune system, including antibody response, Natural Killer (NK) cell activity, interferon production, and the proliferative and phagocytotic ability of the immune system.37 Panax has a sparing effect on the adrenal cortex, mediated through the anterior pituitary and ACTH release. Response to stress is quicker and more efficient, and feedback control is more effective, so that when stress decreases, glucocorticoid levels fall more rapidly to normal.22,23

Rhaponticum (Leuzea carthimoides)
The root and underground stems of Rhaponticum are used as a powerful adaptogen, possessing specific anabolic actions that prevent the catabolic state seen with stress. The biological activity of this plant is determined by the phytoecdisones: ecdisterone and incosterone.64 Research has demonstrated that the phytoecdisteroids from Rhaponticum extract (RE) exert an appreciable influence on metabolic processes and improve adaptability to stress. Under their influence, marked protein anabolism occurs. RE increases ATP production in the liver, enabling a more efficient rate of oxidative phosphorylation. RE increases the resistance of hepatocytes to toxins and possesses the capacity for blocking processes of free-radical oxidation.65 RE improves physical work capacity and coordination of movement, increases athletic performance, and builds lean muscle mass.62

Known effects of RE include loss of body fat and increase of muscle tissue, maintenance of stable glycogen and macroergic phosphates in the skeletal muscles during high workload demand, and improved vascular perfusion of muscles and brain.38 RE has a normalizing effect on the central nervous and cardiovascular systems. RE has pronounced tonic and adaptogenic effects, increasing dynamic work capacity, activating sexual behavior, and improving adaptive abilities with respect to environmental stresses. In human studies, RE has been shown to improve sleep, appetite, mood, and work performance under stressful conditions.63

Manchurian Thorn Tree (Aralia manchurica)
Aralia manchurica, commonly referred to as Manchurian Thorn Tree, is a well-known adaptogenic plant used in Russia that has particular benefits in normalizing glucose and increasing stamina and cognitive ability. Aralia species contain some ginseng-like triterpenoid saponins (Aralosides A, B, and C), which probably contribute to Aralia's ability to increase athletic performance. The extract of Aralia was officially approved for therapeutic use in the USSR, as a tonic, in 1957.192

Soviet research on Aralia manchurica (AM) liquid extract has shown that its stimulating action on the central nervous system is higher than Panax ginseng and Eleutherococcus.48 AM is effective against colds, flus, and nocturnal enuresis, and protects from radiation. AM extract is employed as an adjuvant in the treatment of disorders of the nervous system, as a stimulant to increase energy, increase work capacity, and aid patients recovering from severe illnesses.39,50 AM has been shown to increase long-term memory.39,40,41 AM prevents lipid metabolism disorders and decreases cholesterol and triglyceride levels, while simultaneously increasing the production of phospholipids.46 AM extract prevents stress-induced gastric ulcers and inhibits gastric acid secretion.47

Pantocrine "Pantokrin" (Cornu cervi parvum)
Pantokrin™ is a specific Pantocrine product manufactured by a Russian State Pharmaceutical company and is officially approved by the Ministry of Health. Pantokrin is a purified, aqueous-alcohol extract optioned from the young Siberian spotted deer (stage three, unossified). Stage-three antlers are proven to have the highest medicinal effects.42 Laboratory analysis show that deer velvet contains an amazing comprehensive nutritional profile including collagen, amino acids, essential fatty acids, minerals, trace minerals, and other functional proteins, all vital components for human metabolic function.

In TCM, Pantocrine is classified as a kidney tonic that fortifies yang. Pantocrine has shown to increase work capacity, improve sleep, strength, appetite, and decrease the rate of muscle fatigue. It possesses anti-catabolic action that is invaluable to reduce wasting and debility. Pantocrine increases production of red and white blood cells and accelerates healing and recovery.43,44,45

In an extensive series of studies over a period of 50 years until the 1980s, the Russians systematically recorded the beneficial effects of Pantocrine and developed ideas as to why it was successful. The Russians believe that deer velvet is a true tonic, capable of vitalizing the body in a number of ways. For example, their research shows that the running performance of athletes improves after taking Pantocrine and that the stamina of experimental animals improves. Their results also show that deer velvet is useful to heal wounds after surgery and could aid in the recovery of trauma patients.

Dr. Arkady Koltun, MD, PhD, Chairman of the Medical Committee for the Russian Bodybuilding Federation, conducted research for many years into anabolic agents that can improve performance, strength, and musculature in Russian athletes. In studies with Russian kayakers, weightlifters, bodybuilders, and power lifters, Dr. Koltun found that Pantocrine has a myotropic (increases muscular strength) effect. He also found that it has a powerful neurotropic (nerve strengthening) ability and is beneficial in treating infectious diseases, fatigue, and hypertension.

Dr. Koltun also mentioned that one of the most significant attributes of velvet deer antler can be found in the discovery of Dr. Ivan Kinia, who co-authored several studies from the Siberian institution known as Blagoveshemska in 1989. Dr Kinia's studies showed that among the main bioactive substances in Pantocrine are the anti-inflammatory compounds that assist in the regulation of prostaglandins.191

Medicinal Mushrooms as Adaptogens
Mushrooms such as Cordyceps and Reishi have traditionally been used as medicines and/or tonics in many parts of the world for thousands of years for their health-promoting effects. In recent years, medicinal mushrooms have been used in cancer treatments to counteract the toxic effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

Medicinal mushrooms have several compounds including polysaccharides, polysaccharide peptides, nucleosides, triterpenoids, alkaloids, and compound structures yet-to-be-identified, all contributing an immunomodulating effect referred to as Host Defense Potentiators (HDP) and/or Biological Response Modifiers (BRM).

Cordyceps Mushroom (Cordyceps sinensis)
Cordyceps is considered to be one of the most valuable medicinal herbs used traditionally in China, equaling Ginseng as a restorative tonic. In Chinese medicine, it is classified as a kidney and lung tonic. Although Cordyceps tonifies both yin and yang, it predominately tonifies yang and is used to treat impotence as well as soreness and weakness of the lower back (deficient kidney yang). The vast array of scientific studies on Cordyceps mushroom extract (CME) show that the main activities are oxygen-free radical scavenging,73,82 anticancer,74-78 antisenescence (inhibits aging of the brain), endocrine-modulating, hypolipidemic,73 and antiatherosclerotic.73

CME restores sexual function (replenishes sperm, increases testosterone)81 and is antiasthmatic.79 It also shows significant beneficial effects on the nervous (stress-reducing effect), respiratory, hepatic, cardiovascular,73 and immune systems (increases IL-2, interferon, NK-cells, and TNF production).67-70,82 CME improves glucose metabolism80 and is used to treat immunological diseases, inflammatory conditions, cancer, and diseases of the kidney and liver (being protective, as well as regenerative).67,71,72

Reishi Mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum)
Reishi has been used in TCM for at least 2,000 years for deficiency of vital energy. It is used to increase longevity and has been highly prized as an elixir of immortality. In TCM, Reishi is called Ling Zhi which means "spirit plant." Reishi contains several major constituents, including sterols, coumarin, mannitol, polysaccharides, and triterpenoids called ganoderic acids.83,84

Scientific studies on the beneficial actions of Reishi extract demonstrate the following effects:

  • oxygen free-radical scavenging
  • antisenescence (inhibits aging of the brain)
  • hypolipidemic (cholesterol lowering)
  • antiatherosclerotic (inhibits platelet aggregation)
  • cardiovascular-regulating
  • hypotensive
  • immunomodulating (including an increase of white blood cell count, platelets, hemoglobin, and various tumor-fighting cells)
  • liver protective
  • hypoglycemic
  • stress-reducing
  • prevents altitude sickness 88

Reishi's overall effects could be described as regulatory and beneficial to the restoration of homeostasis. Reishi improves energy and sleep and conserves and promotes good health. Reishi aids in the treatment of age-related illnesses such as hypertension – two controlled clinical trials have found Reishi could lower blood pressure significantly, compared to a placebo or controls85,86 – coronary heart disease, and cancer, as well as hyperlipemia, angina pectoris, chronic bronchitis, hepatitis, and leukopenia (low WBC).87,88

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