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Ingredient Check: Adaptogens Are Showing Up Everywhere


March 31, 2019

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 these days. They’re literally everywhere: blended into juices, mixed into protein powders, and even sprinkled into mystical beauty elixirs. The term is also making its way into skincare products like Allies of Skin (more on that later).

Adaptogens are big in the beauty world because they do wonders for the skin. They have excellent antioxidant profiles and create nutrient reservoirs to help the skin regenerate and repair itself (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 are popular because they increase mental sharpness, reduce fatigue, and boost energy.

What’s an adaptogen?

But hold up: adapto-what?

The low-down: An adaptogen is a natural herb or nutrient that stimulates immunity and restores homeostasis in the body. Adaptogens support the body’s adrenal glands, which manage the body’s hormonal response to stress. In short, adaptogens 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 help hexokinase enzymes 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 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, brew them in tea, or add them in powder form to your favorite meals and/or beverages. We’re big fans of Gaia Ashwagandha capsules ($14) and Sun Potion’s Ashwagandha powder ($35). We also like HUM Nutrition’s Big Chill ($25) supplement.

Moon Juice offers custom adaptogenic blends packed in individual Moon Dust Packets ($20) that you can mix into any beverage, whether it’s coffee, tea, or your favorite smoothie. If you’re more of a superfood snacker, try their fun and fanciful adaptogenic snacks like the Maca Mesquite Walnuts ($7) and Schisandra Cacao Papaya ($6).

The term adaptogenic also carries over into skincare. For example, Allies of Skin describe their products as adaptogenic because they adapt to the skin’s needs. They supplement the skin with the nutrients it needs to regenerate and repair itself. 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 overnight mask ($109) and molecular savior toner mist ($55).

Illustration by Rebekah Flores

Read this next

Check out our review of Amanda Chantal Bacon’s highly coveted Moon Dusts.
Plus, the importance of fatty acids (inside and out).

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