Adaptogens may be new to the Western World, but they have been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic healing and Chinese medicine. They are plants and herbs which, when ingested, help to rebalance your body’s stress responses and “adapt” to these stressors in a healthier way. As I say all the time, taking care of our skin is also an inside job, and these herbs help to heal our skin from the inside out.
Proponents of adaptogens claim that they may impact hormone production and physiological responses to stress to ensure that your body—from your mind to your immune system to your energy levels—are balanced, restored, and returned to calm, optimal functioning. From a scientific perspective, it would be beneficial to see larger studies establishing the benefits of these herbs. Although, as we know from The Beauty of Dirty Skin, it is very well established that what you eat impacts your health and can reduce the inflammation that contributes to so many chronic diseases.
I love this type of approach to healing, so I have been working several adaptogens into my diet over the past few months and these are the two I’m most excited about right now:
- Ashwagandha: Ashwangandha is a plant and people typically ingest the roots. This herb has been used for thousands of years to help manage stress. It contains chemical compounds called alkaloids, which help to ease stress and anxiety. This herb is also valued for its nervous system benefits and anti-inflammatory properties. Even though its name is translated as “smell of the horse”, it is sometimes referred to as “strength of the stallion” because when you ingest it, you are said to have immune strength and increased stamina. In terms of skin health, when we are stressed, our cortisol levels spike, which in turn impacts our oil production. This leads to acne and other skin issues. Ashwagadha has been shown to lower cortisol, which assists in dialing down that oil production. Topical application of this antioxidant rich root has been long used in Ayurvedic healing to help reduce inflammation.
- Maca Root: Maca is a plant that is indigenous to the Peruvian Andes. It is sometimes called “Peruvian Ginseng.” It looks a lot like a radish or a turnip with a leafy top and roots. It varies in color and can be yellow, purple, and even black. Maca has a nutty, earthy taste. You can find it in powder, liquid, extract or even capsule form. I have been using maca powder and mixing it into my low glycemic index steel cut oats. Rich in antioxidants, maca is touted to enhance your energy and your mood and, is often taken to soften and ameliorate the symptoms of PMS.
I will be sharing more info on these adaptogens in the coming weeks, so stay tuned!