Hacking plants for protection from biological and environmental stressors is an ancient concept, deeply rooted in Herbal, Traditional Chinese, and Ayurvedic Medicines. First appearing in 1947, adaptogens are experiencing a renaissance in today’s skincare and wellness community.
What is an Adaptogen?
A medicinal herb that produces a physiological benefit, available in both oral supplements and topical applications – eat it or wear it.
An adaptogen is:
- Wholly plant-based,
- Affects physiological function, and;
- GRAS (generally considered as safe).
The promise of anti-inflammatory benefits, hormonal balancing, immunity boosting, and antioxidant benefits, have fueled the appeal of adaptogen skincare for decades. Typically herbs or mushrooms, they have re-emerged as the latest nutraceutical aid to “living your best life” along a fierce glow.
Do Adaptogens Work?
Yes, no and maybe.
As with any claim, look to independent studies and clinical data for support before making any major investment.
Sufficient research support the skin benefits of some, while others adaptogens await further study. The former feature prominently in most about-face essential products for their proven capability to deliver better skin.
Best to consider adaptogen skincare with the inclusion of other proven topical ingredients – antioxidants, peptides, and/or vitamins.
In most cases, yes, adaptogens are GRAS.
Keep in mind that the adaptogen that helps your BFF, may have you breaking out in hives. They may trigger allergic reactions or interact badly with other skincare. Under the right circumstances or quantities, everything is capable of causing harm, including water, oxygen, and plants. The very reason why I get a little salty with the irresponsible overuse of the term “non-toxic”.
Plant-based ingredients are especially vulnerable to adulteration, taint and degradation. Overtime, even an apple can transform into poisonous Patulin with immunotoxic, genotoxic, and neurotoxic properties. Small-batch brands offer an advantage regarding optimal freshness of adaptogens, along with antioxidants, vitamins and other botanicals.
Clean skincare places a higher premium on science-backed skin benefits, over 100% natural. A bit more complicated, but worth the effort.
Cheers to Better Skin
Frontiers in Neuroscience, 2012, 6 (6), Adaptogens Stimulate Neuropeptide Y and Hsp72 Expression and Release in Neuroglia Cells.
Pharmaceuticals (Basel), 2010 Jan, 3(1), 188-224, Effects of Adaptogens on the Central Nervous System and the Molecular Mechanisms Associated with Their Stress—Protective Activity.
International Journal of Molecular Sciences, Nov 2018, 19(11), 3349, Assessment of Human Skin Gene Expression by Different Blends of Plant Extracts with Implications to Periorbital Skin Aging.
International Journal of Molecular Sciences, Feb 2016, 17(2), 160, The Potential of Plant Phenolics in Prevention and Therapy of Skin Disorders.
Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine, Apr-Jun 2010, 1(2), 110-113, Trends in aging and skin care: Ayurvedic concepts.
PLoS One, 2012, 7(11), e49676, Toxic Element Contamination of Natural Health Products and Pharmaceutical Preparations.
Toxins (Basel), May 2017, 9(5), 157, Mitigation of Patulin in Fresh and Processed Foods and Beverages.