Ingredient Check: Adaptogens Are Showing Up Everywhere

Every once in awhile, a particular ingredient (edible or otherwise) gets a ton of press and starts appearing in everything from drinks to lotions. Why? Is it all hype, or are there any real benefits? If there are benefits, what’s the best way for you to incorporate this new ingredient into your already-crowded life? We do the research so you don’t have to, because we’re good at reading between the lines: welcome to Ingredient Check!

WHY ARE PEOPLE TALKING ABOUT ADAPTOGENS?

Adaptogens are right up there with commercial cannabis and drinkable collagen when it comes to buzzy wellness trends of the moment. Adaptogenic herbs are everywhere nowadays: blended into pressed juices, mixed in with protein powder, even sprinkled into skincare oils and mystical beauty elixirs like Amanda Chantal Bacon’s highly coveted Moon Dusts. The term is even hitting skincare in brands like Allies of Skin (more on that later).

Adaptogens are big in the beauty world because they’re said to do wonders for the skin. They have excellent antioxidant profiles and create nutrient reservoirs within the skin to help regenerate and repair it (GliSODin‘s Corina Crysler just told us antioxidants are literally the most important thing we can take for skin). Other adaptogens such as Asian ginseng, rhodiola and maca have gained popularity because they’re known to increase mental sharpness, reduce fatigue and boost energy.

WHAT IS AN ADAPTOGEN?

But hold up: adapto-what?

The low-down: An adaptogen is any natural, non-toxic agent or substance, e.g. an herb or a nutrient, that stimulates immunity and helps restore homeostasis in the body. Adaptogens support the body’s adrenal glands, which help manage the body’s hormonal response to stress. Adaptogens basically assist the body in adapting to stress, hence the name.

The science behind it: Adaptogens prevent the formation and accumulation of harmful beta-lipo-proteins (stress-induced molecules made up of proteins and fat that carry cholesterol through the blood) and also allow hexokinase enzymes to more readily catalyze glucose into energy. Adaptogens also support optimal cellular function by increasing the capacity of our cells to build mRNA (messengers) and tRNA (transporters).

It’s important to note adaptogens don’t block the stress response; they moderate it. They strengthen the body’s immune system and improve resistance at the cellular level, thereby prolonging the onset of fatigue, exhaustion, injury, and/or illness.

Some well-known adaptogens include ginseng, rosemary, aloe vera, holy basil and milk thistle.

DO YOU NEED IT? WHY?

While adaptogens or adaptogenic herbs don’t hold the cure to any one specific condition or ailment, they bring the body back to balance and support overall well-being. So, if you’re constantly fatigued, feel under the weather all the time, struggle with high stress levels, or just feel off-center, adaptogens might be worth a try.

HOW TO GET IT

Consuming adaptogenic herbs is the best way to increase your adaptogen intake. You can take them in capsule form, we are big fans of Gaia Ashwagandha capsules ($14), brew them in tea, or add them in powder form to your favorite meals and/or beverages. Sun Potion makes a high quality Ashwagandha powder ($35). HUM Nutrition makes it’s Big Chill ($25) supplement that we also think is great.

In addition to adaptogens in raw powder form, Moon Juice offers a full range of individual Moon Dust Packets ($20) that you can mix into any beverage, whether it’s coffee, tea, or your favorite smoothie. These are custom blends of several adaptogenic herbs. If you’re more of a superfood snacker, try their fun and fanciful adaptogenic snacks like Maca Mesquite Walnuts ($7) and Schisandra Cacao Papaya ($6).

Not just food and supplements are adaptogenic.  The term is carrying over into skincare. Every Allies of Skin product, including the overnight mask ($109), is adaptogenic. What Allies of Skin means by adaptogenic is that the products function as nutrient reservoirs for the skin; supplementing the skin with all the nutrients it needs to regenerate and repair itself. It works the same way as a supplement; the body takes what it needs from it. Allies of Skin believes the skin is smart enough to do the same. So, if your skin is dehydrated, the hydrators and moisture-magnets will be activated. If you’re in a polluted city, the antioxidants will kick in to protect from free radical damage. The CB team loves their molecular savior toner mist ($55).

Illustration by Rebekah Flores

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