It can be hard to notice the real toll stress takes on your skin until the damage is already done. Here’s where adaptogens come in. These herbs help prevent your body from reacting to stress. They can also save your skin from worry lines, among other stressors.
How Stress Impacts Skin
The growing field of psychodermatology is all about the mind-skin connection. It addresses the apparent link between our emotional state, the body’s physiological response to our emotional state, and the outcome of this response on our skin, body, health, and well-being.
Stress hormones can wreak havoc on your skin. As a result, stress can lead to anything from breakouts, dark circles, irritation, redness, or wrinkles and fine lines. One study in mice shows that a stress-triggered hormone called glucocorticoid can lead to or worsen psoriasis and eczema. Other research links chronic bursts of cortisol in the system to elevated blood sugar. As a result, these spikes damage the collagen and elastin that keep skin smooth, firm, and supple. Furthermore, cortisol increases oil production in the skin, creating an environment prone to breakouts. (See more about the activation of the stress system in the body and how this impacts skin here.)
Your body responds to stress through the adrenal glands, which are endocrine glands that produce stress hormones like cortisol. According to the book Adaptogens by David Winston and Steven Maimes, “Adrenal fatigue is caused by adrenal insufficiency that occurs when the gland cannot adequately meet the demands of chronic stress.” As a result, stress leads to both mental and physical fatigue. Your body’s working overtime to support the exhausted adrenals. Here’s where adaptogens come in.
How Adaptogens Work
When you deal with chronic stress, the following cycle takes place in your body: You face a stressful situation. Your body releases hormones in response meant to deal with the potential threat. Your adrenal glands activate these hormones. Enter, adaptogens. This class of herbs supports the adrenal glands, allowing them to respond to this process more efficiently. In some cases, adaptogens help shut them down more quickly (i.e., stopping your body from reacting to stress).
Adaptogens are the special group of herbs that help your body adapt to its environment. In a stressful situation, adaptogenic herbs maintain and restore balance. They also normalize your physiological response to prevent your body and mind from jumping into overdrive and becoming exhausted at every stressor. They protect your skin and body from the toll of stress and the damage of hormones like cortisol that stress releases. (Check out our Uber Energy, packed with these clinically researched adaptogenic herbs to assist your adrenals and naturally boost your energy.)
So what does it all mean for you? Stress is a known precursor to an extensive list of diseases. Ailments include but aren’t limited to heart disease, asthma, obesity, diabetes, depression, digestive disorders, and accelerated aging. It’s also a key factor in damaging skin cells that lead to breakouts, aging, dullness, or dry and irritated skin. Adaptogenic herbs can be an essential aid to protect your skin, health, and well-being.
Clinically Researched Adaptogens
Here are a few of our favorite clinically researched adaptogens that support your mind and body.
1. Rhodiola Rosea
Rhodiola Rosea is one of the most clinically researched adaptogens with widespread traditional uses. With the ability to aid in regulating cortisol production, it manifests anti-fatigue, anti-inflammatory, and anti-depression benefits. Rhodiola has been studied for the ability to reduce stress in night-duty physicians and fight off fatigue of students caused by stress during exams. Strong scientific evidence for rhodiola rosea SHR-5 extract exists in improving attention, cognitive function, and mental performance in chronic fatigue syndrome. We use rhodiola rosea in our Big Chill supplement for natural stress relief.
Ashwagandha, sometimes known as Indian ginseng, is one of the most commonly used adaptogen herbs in Ayurvedic healing. It helps balance and restore the body. Ashwagandha is a powerful calming agent that naturally lowers cortisol, reduces fatigue, balances thyroid hormones, and regulates immune function.
Traditional Chinese Medicine has used this adaptogenic herb for centuries. It’s rich in antioxidants that protect the cells against oxidative damage. It also contains anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. Additionally, the root is traditionally used for strengthening immune function, protecting the liver, and protecting the body against the common cold.
4. Schizandra Berry
Although a Traditional Chinese Medicinal plant, Shizandra rose in popularity in the 1960s when it became an official medicine used in the USSR. Good scientific evidence was documented in the schizandra berry to increase endurance and mental performance in patients with mild fatigue and weakness. Due to its status in Russia to date, a widespread review of clinical research reports multiple findings. The herb provides strong adrenal support to enhance physical performance, promotes endurance, and offers stress-protective relief. In the mind, it can help prevent mental fatigue and improve mental concentration.
5. Licorice Root
Cited in use all the way back to Ancient Egypt, licorice root has been around for centuries due to its holistic medicinal benefits. As an adaptogen, the root extract helps stimulate and balance the adrenal glands, increase energy, and boost endurance. Anti-inflammatory properties of licorice can also help soothe gut issues and restore balance. Moderation is key here, however, as licorice contains the compound glycyrrhizin that can cause high blood pressure.
Also called Siberian ginseng, Eleuthero dates back thousands of years in Chinese Medicine to provide energy and vitality. Good scientific evidence documented its ability to increase endurance and mental performance. One study found supplementation supported high quality-of-life measures in healthy elderly people. Also, the herb may improve athletic performance, reduce fatigue, and support the normal function of the body’s hormonal stress system.
7. American Ginseng
Some studies show American ginseng has the potential to boost mental performance. One study noted it helped improve short-term memory and reaction time one to six hours before cognitive tests. In addition, lab studies show American ginseng is effective in boosting the performance of cells that play a role in immunity. Furthermore, it’s a potent antioxidant in the body, which indicates the potential to fight off infection and protect cells.