The actions and effects of adaptogens on the human organisms, the vital force, can be broken down into four categories-the four R’s | adaptogens can improve our ability to recognize, respond, recover, and restore/regenerate.
When we are confronted with a stressful event, the body’s recognition of the stressor is the first step that is activated. When something threatens us, our sensory system is amplified, including our senses of eyesight, smell, hearing, and touch; this enables us to quickly recognize a dangerous or life-threatening situation. Our immune system acts in much the same way to protect us from unseen dangers such as bacteria and viruses. For example, when we come into contact with a pathogen, like influenza, in order to prevent that pathogen from causing illness or to mount an effective response to quickly eradicate the invader, we first need to recognize it. If our vital force is depleted or too busy dealing with other stressors, this ability to recognize may be compromised, thus allowing a full-blown infection to manifest. This recognition applies to chronic pathological stress as well.
Once the stressor has been recognized, the next step is for the body to respond. Here is where adaptogens can provide exceptional support. Adaptogens do not directly stimulate the immune system but rather enable the cohesive networking of the neuroendocrine, nervous, and immune systems to respond more efficiently. Our innate vital force activates the response, and adaptogens ensure that the response will be efficient and effective despite stress, weakness, old age, or compromised immunity.
After adaptogens have enabled us to mount the appropriate and effective response to stressors, they help us recover by restoring anabolic metabolism, improving the removal of metabolic waste products, and normalizing all of the response pathways (mostly proinflammatory) that were up-regulated during the response phase.
Restoration is the final way in which adaptogens support our health. Once our body has sufficiently recovered from the residual effects of the stressful event, adaptogens then go to work on building up our reserves, storing energy, and increasing our vital force, thereby reducing and delaying the effects of aging and the onset of chronic diseases and conditions optimizing health and well-being.
From Donald Yance Adaptogens in Medical Herbalism