If you keep up with health and wellness trends, you may be familiar with adaptogens. This buzzword may seem like it’s become popular only recently. But, adaptogens have actually been used in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine for centuries.
Essentially, adaptogens are plants and herbs known to combat the effects of stress in the body. With the fast-paced world we live in today, it’s no wonder they’ve become popular in recent years.
More and more research is continuing to show us the negative effects stress can have on our bodies—our skin in particular. Fatigue and stress wear on our skin over time, and unfortunately, no amount of sleep our high-end skincare products can completely reverse the damage. This is where adaptogens come into play.
So what exactly are adaptogens, and what benefits do they have to offer the skin? Keep reading to learn all about these superhero herbs.
What are Adaptogens?
Adaptogens are plants and herbs that “adapt” (hence the name) to provide your body with what it needs to effectively manage stress. They were first discovered and researched during World War II. Sscientists were looking for ways to help pilots fly faster, more effectively, and for longer stints of time.
One of the first adaptogens to be researched was schisandra chinensis, a plant that produces magnolia berries. A study found that when eaten by hunters, berries and seeds from the plant helped to reduce thirst, hunger, and exhaustion.
Since then, adaptogens have been used in various different ways in other countries. For example, Indian women incorporate turmeric into their cooking to fight inflammation. Japanese women turn to matcha for its antioxidant properties.
Adaptogens work to regulate the hypothalamic, pituitary, and adrenal glands—which are all involved in the way our bodies respond to stress. They have been found to have anti-fatigue properties, antidepressive effects, and stimulate the central nervous system. They’ve also been shown to enhance attention, mental work capacity, and prevent stress and fatigue.
Benefits of Adaptogens
Every adaptogen offers a unique set of benefits. In a nutshell, here are some benefits adaptogens are commonly associated with:
- Stress management
- Less fatigue
- Better digestive health
- Improved focus and concentration
- Increased stamina
- Strengthened immunity
- Restful sleep
- Decreased anxiety and depression
- Balanced blood sugar levels
- Improved brain function
- Acne treatment and prevention
Adaptogens & Your Skin
If you’re feeling stressed and your skin is starting to show it, whether it’s through dark circles, puffiness, dull texture, or breakouts, adaptogens may be the solution. In particular, these adaptogens may help to balance your body and get your skin glowing:
- Maca: Commonly referred to as Peruvian ginseng, maca is known for its ability to improve stamina and calm the mind. In addition, it helps toregulate hormones that can cause breakouts when they’re out of balance. Maca is also high invitamin C, which has been shown to strengthen the skin’s barrier and protect it from harmful UV rays.
- Reishi Mushroom: It seems like more and more skincare products are popping up with mushrooms—and for a good reason! Studies show that reishi mushroom has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It’s also known to be a very calming ingredient for irritated skin.
- Triphala: Triphala is made up of three fruits—amalaki, haritaki, and bibhitaki. This concoction of herbs is known for its ability to fight inflammation and bacteria. It’s also been shown to protect cells within the dermal layer of the skin and boost the production of collagen.
- Goji Berry: If you suffer from dry skin, goji berry may be the answer. The oil from goji seeds can help to strengthen the skin’s barrier and prevent water loss. It’s also rich in vitamins and can boost collagen production.
- Shilajit: Rich in minerals, shilajit is formed by compressing organic material between layers of rock—a process that takes thousands of years. This substance contains more than 85 minerals and may help to fight free radicals and cell damage, which speed the aging process.
- Indian Gooseberry: The Indian Gooseberry tree produces fruit, known as gooseberries, that have been linked to better liver health, reduced cholesterol levels, and decreased inflammation. Gooseberries have even been shown to boost collagen production, which is essential for firm, healthy skin.
- Schisandra: The fruit of the schisandra vine has been known to help with stamina and even boost concentration. It’s also been found to aid in chemical processes involved with healthy skin aging.
- Ashwagandha: The Ashwagandha plant is a small evergreen shrub. It offers many benefits—among them being its ability to lower spiking cortisol levels, which have been linked to breakouts. When applied topically, it can also be used as a spot treatment.
- Rhodiola Rosea: Commonly referred to as golden root or arctic roote, this plant is commonly used to combat stress and fatigue. It’s also known to prevent premature aging and stimulate the skin to support circulation and cell turnover.
How to Use Adaptogens
Now that we’ve broken down some of the benefits of adaptogens, you might be wondering, “How do you use them?”
It’s important to note that every adaptogen is unique and impacts the body in different ways. Doing your research is essential to choosing the right adaptogen for your specific needs. For example, if you feel stressed and tired all of the time, ashwagandha may be a great place to start.
While adaptogens are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there is a lot of research that backs up their claims. As with any supplement, it’s wise to consult with your doctor before incorporating anything new into your routine.
Here are some tips to keep in mind when trying adaptogens for the first time:
Follow the Correct Dosage
Taking the correct dose of adaptogens is critical to staying safe and reaping the full benefits the supplement has to offer. Adaptogens are generally safe, but it’s best to start with smaller amounts and work your way up.
Always follow the instructions for the particular adaptogen you’re using, and consult a naturopathic physician if you have questions. A professional can also provide suggestions on what adaptogens you should be using based on your condition and desired results.
Timing is Everything
Studies have shown that adaptogens with stimulating effects, such as rhodiola, are most effective when taken earlier in the day. This allows the adaptogen to work with your body’s natural rhythm. On the other hand, if you’re taking an adaptogen to help calm you, it may be best to take it in the evening before bed.
Mix it Up
Adaptogens can be used for a few days or weeks to help you get through a stressful time, such as studying for an exam. They can also be used long-term, however, it’s suggested to switch up the type of adaptogen you’re taking at least every 6 weeks. This allows your body to reap the full benefits of different herbs.
Enjoy Getting Creative
Incorporating adaptogens into your diet can be fun. Many supplements can be taken in the form of a pill. There are also a ton of delicious recipes you can use to include them, such as smoothies, soups, teas, or superfood lattes. For example, maca powder has a nutty taste perfect for sweet treats like hot chocolate, energy bites, overnight oats, and chocolate peanut butter cups.
Have Realistic Expectations
Just like any supplement, it’s important to remember that adaptogens aren’t miracle-workers. They’re simply meant to supplement a healthy lifestyle and diet—not replace key nutrients your body needs.
In some cases, adaptogens can have side effects or may not be safe when taken alongside other medication, so always consult your doctor first. However, if your doctor gives you the green light, they can be an amazing way to boost your health.
Adaptogens in Skincare
Incorporating adaptogens into your diet is a great way to soak up their benefits, but you can also find skincare products formulated with these plants and herbs. Applying adaptogens topically may strengthen your body’s defenses to fight inflammation and protect the skin from harmful environmental factors, such as the sun’s harsh UV rays.
Adaptogens are commonly found in serums, creams, toners, and even masks, like Herbal Dynamics Beauty’s Hyaluronic Acid & Oat Overnight Recovery Mask. Formulated with aloe vera extract, broccoli extract, and tremella mushroom, this antioxidant-rich overnight treatment brightens, hydrates, and evens skin tone and texture.
While adaptogens aren’t a new concept, an increasing amount of research is being done on different plants and herbs and the benefits they can offer. These ingredients may sound intimidating at first, but they’re definitely worth trying if you’re looking for a complexion boost!