Suddenly it seems like every celebrity under the sun is touting the benefits of powdered wellness supplements, with some even starting their own lines or promoting certain brands as spokesmodels or "creative directors." There's a powder you can add to your water, smoothie, tea or coffee to achieve any wellness goal you can imagine, from detoxification and stress relief to glowing skin and shiny hair.
Jennifer Aniston credits Vital Proteins collagen powder for her enviable complexion. Gwyneth Paltrow's morning routine includes adding "GOOPGLOW," a "superpowder" from her Goop lifestyle brand that claims to increase skin's luminosity with its blend of six antioxidants, CoQ10, vitamins C and E, grape seed extract, lutein and zeaxanthin.
Kate Hudson recently jumped in on the trend with In Bloom, a line of plant-based nutrition supplements in powder form that are said to offer health benefits such as better sleep and more energy.
Many of these powders are composed of adaptogens, or herbal preparations that help the body adapt to stress and balance the mind and body. Adaptogenic herbs, roots and mushrooms such as ashwagandha, reishi and cordyceps have been used in ayurvedic and Chinese medicine for ages, but it wasn't until the 1950s that the concept of "adaptogens" came about. According to a 2010 Swedish study, the concept is based on Hans Selye's three stages of stress response: alarm, resistance and exhaustion. Adaptogens increase resistance to stress and decrease sensitivity to stressors, giving one the ability to adapt and find balance when faced with stress rather than moving to the exhaustion phase.
It's no surprise that adaptogenic "stress protectors" are appealing amid a pandemic, with all the uncertainty and unprecedented stressors people are experiencing.
In clinical trials, adaptogenic herbs have been proven to increase attention and endurance in fatigue, as well as reduce stress-induced impairments and disorders.
If you're looking to resolve a wellness issue with a solution that's as easy as drinking a glass of water, here are a few popular adaptogenic herbs to try for various ailments.
* Ashwagandha: This calming herb is good for insomnia, stress and anxiety. A 2014 medical review of various studies involving ashwagandha said it has been proven to have a similar effect on anxiety as standard benzodiazepines such as diazepam (Valium).
* Chlorella: Good for people with plant-based diets, chlorella contains vitamins that other plant-based foods don't have, such as vitamins B and D12, as well as more folate and iron than most plant-based foods. It reportedly improves blood pressure and cholesterol levels, a 2020 Japanese study said.
* Collagen: This protein maintains the structure of the skin, keeping it smooth, firm and strong. Adding this supplement to your morning smoothie can improve skin elasticity, hydration, roughness and density, according to a 2019 study.
* Cordyceps: Favored in ancient Chinese and Tibetan medicine, these hybrid mushrooms have been shown to have wide-reaching health benefits and applications. Most notably, according to a 2011 study, they support kidney and liver function and can help to fight cancer, while also offering energy and vitality.
* Maca: A Peruvian root used by the Incas to increase vitality and energy, maca has also been found to increase libido and fertility in women as well as to balance stress hormones.
* Matcha: This powdered green tea is rich in the stress-reducing amino acid theanine, along with a heavy dose of caffeine. A 2017 study showed that consuming matcha can improve cognitive function, particularly in tasks involving attention and memory. There is also evidence that matcha reduces anxiety, according to a 2018 Japanese study.
* Reishi: According to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, this mushroom has been shown to boost immunity, and there is anecdotal evidence that it relieves stress, anxiety and insomnia.
* Rhodiola: Long used in Scandinavian medicine, this herb is said to reduce stress.
* Spirulina: Good for relieving allergy symptoms and boosting immunity, this blue-green algae joins Tempur-Pedic memory foam in the category of items that have become popular after NASA researchers developed them for use by astronauts. Used as a nutritional supplement on space missions, spirulina has anti-inflammatory and nutritional benefits on Earth as well — though the otherworldly hue of a spirulina-spiked smoothie may garner a few stares. Its myriad nutritional benefits include a high protein content of up to 70%, as well as essential vitamins and minerals such as vitamin B12, beta carotene and iron.
* Turmeric: A member of the ginger family, this plant is thought to reduce inflammation and balance stress hormones.