Adaptogens were initially defined as substances that enhance the “state of non- specific resistance” in stress, a physiological condition that is linked with various disorders. Stress comes in many forms, but ranges from environmental to physical to mental. The theoretical concept of adaptogens has been accepted by the FDA and the EUMA.
Adaptogens have been shown to exhibit neuroprotective, anti-fatigue, antidepressive, anxiolytic, nootropic and CNS stimulating activity. In addition, a number of clinical trials demonstrate that adaptogens exert an anti-fatigue effect that increases mental work capacity against a background of stress and fatigue, particularly in tolerance to mental exhaustion and enhanced attention. Indeed, recent pharmacological studies on a number of adaptogens have provided a rationale for these effects also at the molecular level.
As you can see, there are important differences between stimulants, such as caffeine and Testosterone, and adaptogens:
So, in general, adaptogens create a new level of homeostasis, or heterostasis, at a higher level of function, and lower level of stress through effects on the multiple biological systems, including neurologic, hormonal, eicosanoid, and molecular systems (see figure and table below).