What Are Adaptogenic Herbs and Why Does Our Beauty Routine Need Them?

By Alex Bryson -

A first glance, 'adaptogenic' is a word that appears to belong to Michael Bay's never-ending, unknowingly-tasteful Transformers series. And yet its actual origins are rather more earthbound. Quite literally, given that what we refer to as adaptogens are not, in fact, mashups of robot and classic car, but rather herbs and roots. A fixture of traditional Chinese and Ayuverdic medicines, these natural remedies were valued for their role in helping the body resist physical, biological or chemical stresses. In practice, they're supposed to hit the reset button, bringing irritated, stressed out bodies back to a state of equilibrium.

What's the Science?

Fans of adaptogenic remedies sometimes illustrate the plants' and herbs' benefits by comparing them to regular exercise. The analogy is rooted (ahem) in the way that they condition our bodies to deal with stress, in a comparable way to how exercise conditions us become fitter and stronger. How exactly they go about this takes us away from traditional medicine, and into unavoidably wordy biology.

Essentially, the plants interact with both the sympathoadrenal system and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, two terms that you wouldn't want to say in a hurry. They play a fairly key role in your natural response to stress, and can be subtly tweaked by the right adaptogen, which 'hack' your internal processes. When your body encounters stress, it moves through three distinct stages: alarm, resistance and exhaustion. Adaptogens work to extend the 'resistance' stage, during which your body is filled with both energy and clarity.

Studies have also linked the herbal pharmaceuticals to fatigue-fighting, neuroprotection and anti-depressive benefits.

Adaptogenic collage

...And Where's the Evidence?

Centuries of use across different cultures suggests that adaptogen's first users were onto something and recent scientific studies attest to the herb's effects. But while findings are overwhelmingly positive, naturally-sourced, traditional medicines tend not to attract the same intensive level of study as synthetic alternatives. For all that, the aforementioned Chinese and Ayuverdic practitioners would no doubt class their own wellbeing as pretty comprehensive evidence, as well might celebrities such as Goop founder Gwyneth Paltrow.

Three of the main herbs with widely-cited effects are ginseng, which has been linked to warding of fatigue and stress, arctic root, otherwise known as 'rose root', and turmeric, the ever-present fixture of curry houses, herbal teas and wellness centres.

Where Can I Find Adaptogenic Products?

If these unique herbs have piqued your interest, then check out one of the following formulas.

själ Mineral Kalla Energy Tonic

själ Mineral Kalla Energy Tonic

Western technology and Eastern tradition are brought together here through precise Swedish design principles. That means combining the natural minerals gold, silver and rose quartz with both arctic root and Siberian ginseng, creating a formula that doesn't just combat environmental stresses but also heals and tones skin before makeup application.

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ELEMIS Rehydrating Ginseng Toner

ELEMIS Rehydrating Ginseng Toner

Carefully selected extracts of quillaja wood, sweet Betty flower and Korean ginseng are what provide this ELEMIS toner with its unique benefits. On application, your skin is toned, its pH re-balanced and its natural oils preserved.

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Ayumi Turmeric & Shea Butter Body Lotion

Ayumi Turmeric & Shea Butter Body Lotion

Ayumi's Turmeric Body Lotion is ideal for anyone wanting everyday protection and nourishment. Thanks to infusions of both papaya extract and noted adaptogen turmeric, the lotion provides essential moisture for healthy skin.

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Given that modern products are often competing to be ever more cutting-edge and innovative, we can sometimes lose sight of the cosmetic wonders that await just a little way down our collective memory lane. Try your hand at adaptogens, the high-class herbs that we can find beneath our feet.

Want to learn more about traditional skin care options? Check out our blog on Ayurvedic beauty.

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Alex Bryson

Written by Alex Bryson

Alex has over six years of experience as a writer. He demonstrates exceptional grooming knowledge and has a natural skill for following current trends.