What Adaptogens Can Do for Your Hair

You might have tried rubbing cayenne pepper into your scalp, hanging upside down or coating your hair in egg whites all in a desperate effort to achieve long, shiny and healthy hair, but have you ever tried adaptogens?

Russian toxicologist Nikolay Lazarev introduced the term “adaptogen” in 1957, defining them as substances that heighten the body’s “non-specific resistance” to stress and fatigue. Adaptogens achieve this feat by regulating homeostasis through many processes, primarily the one that regulates adrenaline levels in the body.

What Adaptogens Can Do for Your Hair

Rosemary is a common adaptogen.

Although research into adaptogens’ benefits began around World War II, communities worldwide have utilized these powerful substances for millennia. And recently, many health enthusiasts have incorporated adaptogens into their daily routines, taking everyday supplements, tossing the herbs into their smoothies and even adding a few drops of its extracts to their water. More common adaptogens include rhodiola rosea, licorice root, rosemary, and some types of ginseng.

Doctors, herbalists, and health fanatics spout so much about their unmatched properties and biological composition, but here’s the question we’re concerned about: what can they do for your hair? Here are three ways that adaptogens can impact your hair health:

1. Promote Hair Growth

Many adaptogens promote hair growth in various ways.

What Adaptogens Can Do for Your Hair

Some use licorice root as an adaptogen.

Instead of taking those tedious hair, skin, and nail pills, try adaptogens if you’re hoping to add a few inches to your hair. While managing the body’s sensitive stress mechanisms, adaptogens also work in their own ways to keep your hair long and healthy. The Indian gooseberry helps metabolize iron for hair health, ginkgo helps regulate cell cycles, rosemary increases blood flow to the scalp — the list goes on.

2. Block DHT

Some adaptogens help block dihydrotestosterone, a hormone linked to pattern hair loss.

Like testosterone, DHT is crucial to male development, and women possess it in small quantities. However, studies have shown that it also plays a major role in premature balding. Thankfully, a good number of adaptogens, such as saw palmetto and cordyceps, help stop DHT production by inhibiting the body’s production of one its chemical components called 5-alpha reductase. Taking these adaptogens might help you manage to hold off the wig or shaving your head clean for a little longer.

3. Balance Cortisol

Adaptogens help balance your cortisol — a hormone crucial to hair retention.

What Adaptogens Can Do for Your Hair

Indian gooseberry is used to help metabolize iron for hair health.

Our precious hair and stress levels have a rocky relationship: one component can’t thrive without seeing the others’ demise. Stress impacts our cortisol levels. Cortisol, sometimes dubbed the “stress hormone,” is a complicated hormone; not enough of it can result in your precious hair coming out in clumps, and too much of it can produce an alarming amount of shedding. To keep your hair on your head, your cortisol levels have to be just right. Thankfully, adaptogens keeps your body from upsetting this sensitive scale. Studies show that because adaptogens are designed to regulate the body’s stress response, they also normalize cortisol levels. Thus, incorporating adaptogens into your diet will keep your hair in its proper place on top of your head.

Don’t overdo it

Despite their larger-than-life abilities, adaptogens aren’t an exception to the “too much of a good thing can be a bad thing” rule. Taking excessive amounts of these super-substances can result in harmful side effects. Each herb varies, but adverse effects that most adaptogens share when taken heavily include insomnia, dry mouth, enabling burnout, anxiety, and rebound depression. So, as tempting as it may be to load up on these miraculous discoveries, remember that slow and steady always wins the race.

Have you tried adaptogens? Which ones? Did they work? Tell us about your experiences in the comments section below.

Tiana Woodard

Tiana, a sophomore at the University of Texas at Austin, is a journalist and freelance writer with a passion for highlighting the experiences of minority voices.

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