Adaptogens: What is behind the hype?

The term “Adaptogen” is becoming popular in the wellness and cosmetics world, popping up everywhere from juice bars to lifestyle blogs. But what’s behind this concept? Here’s what you need to know.

What are adaptogens?

Adaptogens are a unique class of healing plants, marketed as helping the body to resist stressors of all kinds, whether physical, chemical or biological. Adaptogen is an alternative medical term for biologically active plant substances that help the organism to adapt to increased physical and emotional stress situations.

Examples of such plants with healing abilities are maca, ginseng, ashwagandha, chaga, rose root or schisandra. Although these herbs and roots have been used for centuries in Chinese and ayurvedic healing traditions, they are celebrating a revival right now, often also referred to as superherbs or super mushrooms.

How do adaptogens work?

When we are exposed to stress, our body releases the hormone cortisol (also known as aging hormone) as a response. Long-term, chronic stress leads to adrenal fatigue and can be potentially dangerous. High amounts of cortisol not only age the endocrine and immune system, but also negatively affect brain, sex drive and skin elasticity.

This is where the balancing power of adaptogens comes in. For example adaptogens may optimize hormone production and help balance physiological stress response. Generally speaking, adaptogens help your body to become more resilient to environmental stress factors. Also they have their own unique strengths as well (p.e. reishi for immune health, ginseng for fatigue).

What is happening on the market?

Adaptogens have found their way into various products for the end consumer. The biggest market for adaptogens is the nutraceutical market. Some, like holy basil, can be eaten as part of a meal, and some are consumed as supplements or brewed into teas, coffees or other kinds of fancy drinks.

Lately, adaptogens also popped up in beauty care. We see an increase in launches of creams and masks with ashwagandha, reishi and other superherbs, which are marketed under the term adaptogen beauty products. The principle is basically the same as for nutraceutical products: the specific ingredients should improve the skin’s natural defense system and make it more resilient to external stress factors.

The adaptogenic properties of moss

One so far little investigated adaptogenic plant type are mosses. They were one of the first plants to grow on dry land almost 500 million years ago. Many moss species survived from prehistorical times until today because they were able to adapt fast enough and are extremely resistant to climate changes. To harvest the resilient properties of moss for cosmetics is however difficult as mosses are slow growing, often contaminated with toxins in the wild, and many species are protected.

The novel biotechnology MossCellTec™ enables, for the first time, a large scale production of moss in both a reproducible and sustainable way. The resulting adaptogenic active ingredient MossCellTec™ No. 1 enables skin to better adapt to temperature and humidity changes. By improving skin moisture and evenness even under stressful conditions, the skin is strengthened to adapt to daily aggressors.

Written by

Franziska Wandrey