Beauty IN & OUT 

The magic of adaptogens

The rising star of the wellness industry, the family of adaptogens is as fascinating as it is mysterious. While they have been lining the social networks, magazines and shelves of our favorite specialty stores for years, the ambiguous function of these small plants with strange names is an undetectable enigma to many. So what is behind the most hypnotic medicinal plants of the moment? Follow the guide.

The rising star of the wellness industry, the family of adaptogens is as fascinating as it is mysterious. While they have been lining the social networks, magazines and shelves of our favorite specialty stores for years, the ambiguous function of these small plants with strange names is an undetectable enigma to many. So what is behind the most hypnotic medicinal plants of the moment? Follow the guide.

A bit of history

What is known today as an adaptogen designates a category of plants that act as metabolic regulators by increasing the body's ability to adapt to the many stresses of daily life, whether physical, mental or environmental. It is therefore not a synonym for medicinal herbs or even "superfoods", but rather one classification among many others (sedative, stimulating, anti-inflammatory or antiviral herbs, for example, are well known). This concept is relatively recent, since it appeared in the 1950s and comes to us from the Russian pharmacologist Nicolaï Lazarev, whose research aimed to concoct a natural fortifying tonic to improve the performance of soldiers of the Soviet Union during the Cold War. In truth, however, these very special plants have been used since the dawn of time and are abundantly found in Ayurvedic traditions and in Chinese medicine.

How exactly does that work?

Studies conducted to date have shown that adaptogenic plants increase our tolerance to stress by supporting the function of our adrenal glands, which secrete, among other things, the famous stress hormone cortisol, but also by improving the delivery of oxygen throughout our body to promote cellular respiration and the elimination of toxins whose accumulation considerably weakens our metabolism. The action of an adaptogenic plant is called normalizing, since it allows to gradually restore the natural balance of the body according to its needs, by stimulating for example a system completely devoid of energy, or on the contrary by slowing down the production of adrenaline and by calming the nerves of an ultra-stressed body. The great peculiarity of adaptogenic herbs that causes much confusion today is that their effects are therefore non-specific, since they do not target a particular organ or physiological function, and it is therefore difficult to predict their action as well as to target specific concerns as other substances can do.

How do you find the right shoe?

The official list of adaptogens drafted by Lazarev is very restrictive and in reality includes only a few lucky ones. That said, many other plants have virtues similar to those of adaptogens and are often used as such. Among the adaptogenic superstars, Ashwagandha and Rhodiola are undoubtedly the two most sought-after plants to date. Ashwagandha is renowned for its aphrodisiac virtues but this is far from being its only asset. Its greatest potential lies above all in its ability to combat the effects of stress and prevent it, making it the best ally of the most anxious. Rhodiola is also a wonderful creature that grows in cold, mountainous regions and helps to fight fatigue, nourish exhausted nervous systems and improve physical and cognitive performance. Reishi is also associated with the adaptogen class for its protective virtues and its special affinity with our immune system, which it modulates and strengthens. Mucuna Pruriens, a magic pea native to India, also behaves partly as an adaptogen and acts on the nervous balance and our mood by boosting our production of dopamine. Finally, Lion's Mane, this magnificent medicinal mushroom that looks like a lion's mane, is another secondary adaptogen with impressive neuro-protective properties that promote better concentration and optimize cognitive performance.

The great strength of adaptogens, and the reason for their growing popularity, is that they allow our bodies to regain their natural balance, the one they were designed for, whatever the situation. It is therefore not surprising that many misunderstandings accompany the discovery of these intriguing herbs, in a world where superfoods are commonplace and the race for performance is constant. Adaptogens do not promise, contrary to the wild praise of social networks, to transform us into superhumans. No super energy, no super relaxation, no super libido either. Worse still, unlike traditional medicine, these remedies will not give us immediate results, since daily and long-term consumption is necessary to fully feel their benefits. So don't be disappointed if you don't immediately fall into the arms of Morpheus after your first sip of the Ashwagandha elixir, or if you don't feel energized after your morning Rhodiola smoothie. While many herbs act instantly on our system, adaptogenic plants require patience and persistence, but their effects promise to metamorphose our entire body and improve our quality of life for a long time to come. An adaptogen therapy, at its core, reminds the body that it is better to live than to survive, and reminds the human heart that normality in all its splendor and perfect balance is the most divine of gifts.