The word adaptogens has been floating around the wellness community for a while now, and has recently started to become more relevant in the beauty world, too. But what exactly are adaptogens and why is everyone all of a sudden so obsessed with them? MOJEH.com spoke to Dr Hoda Makkawi, consultant family medicine, integrative holistic medicine and anti-ageing medicine specialist at the Euromed Clinic Center in Dubai to find out more about beauty's latest buzzword.
What exactly are adaptogens?
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 affect the immune system) or emotional stress. For a herb to be an adaptogen it has to tick a few boxes. It must be non-toxic to humans, offer support and help to bring the body back to equilibrium.
What are the overall health and beauty benefits of adaptogens?
They can support adrenal function, eliminate toxic by-products and counteract the adverse effects of stress by regulating hormones in the body. The stress hormone cortisol is hugely detrimental to the body, especially our adrenal and thyroid glands. Chronic stress and elevated cortisol levels lead to anxious and irritable behaviour, weight gain, bone loss, depleted energy levels and increased risk of diabetes and heart disease, but adaptogens help to balance fluctuating cortisol levels. They also help to restore health, vitality, stamina and immunity.
Are adaptogens a new discovery?
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. Soviet physician and scientist, Nikolai Lazarev, coined the name “adaptogens” in 1947.
Why do you think they have suddenly become so popular?
Adaptogens are now proving that we can achieve our health and beauty goals through what we eat. We are now literally eating ourselves younger and more beautiful.
Should adaptogens be consumed or applied topically in order for us to gain maximum benefit?
Adaptogenic herbs need to be ingested so they help our bodies adapt to stress or work to boost energy if we’re feeling particularly fatigued.
What are some of the best adaptogens we should be trying?
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. It also contains potent antioxidant properties that help protect the skin against free radical damage and helps slow down the ageing process by firming up your skin for a more youthful look.
A type of medicinal berry, schizandra has multiple healing properties. It is a powerful natural skin tonic that can protect the skin from environmental toxins, allergies and help prevent dermatitis.
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. In fact, one beauty company found that Maca could also increase collagen synthesis in the skin.
Rhodiola Rosea has been found to support collagen and elastin production in the skin, which are the building blocks of young, plump skin. It has been proposed that rhodiola could extend longevity and improve health span by alleviating oxidative stress.
It is an excellent tonic for the liver, the immune system, the cardiovascular system, the nervous system, the kidneys, and the adrenals. It’s also commonly prescribed by herbalist and naturopaths as a natural antidepressant.