Adaptogens Are the Buzzy New Ingredients Promising Glowing Skin—and We Want In
Apparently, we’re a nation of powder and pill poppers. I’m talking about supplements, of course. In the last year, 65% of Brits took a supplement daily or occasionally, according to Mintel. So it’s little wonder that the beauty and wellness industries are targeting our love of supplements with fancy new pills and powders promising glowing skin! More energy! Shiny hair!
The buzziest supplement of 2017 has to be adaptogens. We wrote about them back in January, as a stress-relieving juice add-on. Adaptogenic herbs are known as such because when ingested, they help our bodies adapt to stress or work to boost energy if we’re feeling particularly fatigued. So what does this have to do with skin?
Well, we’re becoming increasingly aware that our hectic lifestyles are having a negative effect on our skin. It’s pretty obvious when you think about it. After a particularly bad night’s sleep, we can expect to see dark circles, fine lines and a dull skin texture in the bathroom mirror come morning. But low-level stress and fatigue just chip away gradually over time, and no amount of sleep will fix it.
Sounds depressing, but we have to get on with our lives. The key is to give our bodies and skin as much support through a healthy diet and a little clever supplementation here and there. Naomi Buff, founder of Naomi’s Kitchen, did extensive research into adaptogens when she was creating her I AM superfood blends. So we asked her to share her findings on how these wonder herbs can help you look your glowing best.
Keep scrolling for Buff’s guide to adaptogens.
For centuries, women in the Eastern world have been looking to nature for beauty solutions. Indian women laced their food with turmeric and other anti-inflammatory spices to retain their youthful looks. In Japan, the women traditionally drank copious amounts of antioxidant-rich green teas and matcha, and they even applied them as a concentrate to acne.
With a renewed interest and extensive scientific studies and research, superfoods and adaptogens are now proving that we can achieve our beauty goals through what we eat. We are now literally eating ourselves younger and more beautiful. Adaptogens are popping up everywhere right now, but just like turmeric and green tea, they have been healing generations for thousands of years in Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic traditions; they are just new to the Western world.
Adaptogens come in various forms of plants and herbs, which, when eaten, rebalance the body’s stress responses. They effectively help the body adapt to stress, be it work stress, the changing of the seasons (which can effect the immune system) or emotional stress. Not only that, but they are nourishing for the adrenal glands and can stabilise blood sugar and immune system regulation. They also help restore blood pressure to a healthy level and even rebalance hormones.
Of course, we need a go-to stress response (known as “fight or flight”) to help us out of those tricky life and death situations. What we don’t need is to be triggering this extreme stress response daily, but we do, thanks to common concerns like a buildup of emails or a traffic jam. When the body is living in a constant state of stress, the digestive system shuts down, energy is moved away from digesting food to the arms and legs for quicker movement and to the brain for quicker thinking; basically the body becomes ready for battle. The knock-on effect of this heightened state of constant stress can be numerous, but includes digestive issues, illnesses and skin issues.
As we now know, the health of our digestive system affects everything from our mood to our skin. In Eastern medicine, the large intestines reflect the skin, so an over-congested digestive system will present itself as congested skin. Even the best topical products out there won’t be able to help if the issues are an inside job.
Keep scrolling for my five favourite adaptogen supplements and how they can help your skin from the inside out.
This is a herb that alleviates many of the symptoms of a stressful modern life. It contains chemical compounds called alkaloids, which are beneficial for the nervous system, and eases stress and anxiety.
"Ashwagandha acts on the endocrine system by encouraging hormone balance," says Dr. Ashutosh Gautam, clinical operations and coordination manager at Baidyanath. Studies suggest a reduction in menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes and mood swings.
It also contains potent antioxidant properties that help protect the skin against free radical damage and slow down the ageing process by firming up your skin for a more youthful look. You can find it in my I AM Energised powder (£15), along with maca and rhodiola rosea.
A type of medicinal berry, schizandra has multiple healing properties. It is a powerful natural skin tonic that can protect the skin from sun, wind, other environmental toxins, allergies and prevent dermatitis. In 2015, the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health published studies that determine the anti-inflammatory effects of schizandra. The study observed the effect on ear swelling by lowering skin dermatitis, immune cell filtration and cytokine production, which are all markers of inflammatory skin disorders in humans.
In Ayurveda, triphala is known as “three fruits” and is made from the combination of three myrobalans, fruit-bearing trees: amalaki, bibhitaki and haritaki. The benefits of this adaptogen are hugely amplified when the three are combined. Dr. Michael Tierra, LAc, OMD, researched triphala and reported that it improves the digestive and liver function. Amalaki is said to contain 20 times the vitamin C of an orange, which is essential for collagen synthesis. Triphala can also be applied topically to the skin to speed the healing of bruises and sunburns.
A plant from Peru, it is one of the more popular adaptogens on the market. It is known for its energy-enhancing effects, however studies have shown how it can also benefit skin health. According to the Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia in Lima, Peru, it can act as a protectant against the sun. One beauty company found that Maca can increase collagen synthesis in the skin. You can find maca (along with triphala) in my I AM Lean blend (£17).
If fine lines and wrinkles are your concern, then get to know this herb. It has been found to support collagen and elastin production in the skin, which are the building blocks of young, plump skin. The Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of California-Irvine reported promising anti-ageing benefits when they investigated the effects of rhodiola on the life span of fruit flies. It has been proposed that rhodiola could extend longevity and improve health span by alleviating oxidative stress.