For good reason collagen is the darling of the supplement and skincare world
There are many promised benefits of collagen supplements - healthier hair, skin, nails, bones, even digestion.
Most brands to market contain animal based sources of collagen. As we’ve discussed before there are many problems with animal sources of collagen, see here.
The different approach between animal and plant sources of collagen
In a nutshell, the idea of animal collagen is to replace collagen loss by adding more collagen. Plant-based collagen is deigned to work with your biology to up regulate your own collagen production.
So what is the exact science of collagen?
Collagen is composed of a three chain of the amino acids glycine, lysine, and proline, that form a triple helix. Glycine needs B vitamins for its synthesis and holds the triple helix shape tightly wound together which allows collagen to resist stretching. Lysine is essential, which means it is not produced in the body and has to come from an outside source. Lysine however is abundant in many plant based foods. To view the top plant based foods for Lysine see here.
Vitamin C allows the conversion of lysine and proline into hydroxyproline and hydroxylysine which complete the triple helix. Your body needs all three of these amino acids to produce collagen. If you have a vitamin C or B vitamin deficiency this will inhibit collagen production. Ok, science class over!
All three of the above amino acids are all abundantly bio-available from plant-based sources.
The additional benefit to plant-based proteins is that they don't trigger your mTor pathway to the same extent as animal based proteins do as an over stimulated mTor is a major factor in accelerated ageing.
Our top five favourite collagen promoting herbs
He Shou Wu
Known in the Orient as the “Elixir of Life”, He Shou Wu is one of the most praised herbs in Chinese Medicine. He Shou Wu is an adaptogen that allows the body to counter and resist destructive stressors. Used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for more than 3,000 years. There are thousands of first-person reports and a number of clinical studies of He Shou Wu demonstrating a remarkable ability to reverse hair loss and restore colour to white or greying hair.
Although the mechanisms are not completely understood, substances with a marked harmonising effect on the endocrine system (hormone-producing glands) and high zinc content tend to have beneficial effects on hair growth and restoration.
Horsetail is one of the oldest plants on the planet. It is rich in naturally occurring calcium, magnesium, potassium and bioavailable silica. Silica is an essential trace mineral that restores weak connective tissues in blood vessels, cartilage, tendons, and in collagen–the body glue that helps hold our skin and muscle tissues together.
Silica plays an important role in the development, strengthening, and maintenance of healthy bones and teeth and speeds the healing of bone fractures. It can aid in improving the elasticity of the joints, and is recommended for sprains, pulled hamstrings, and torn ligaments.
Nettle contains high amount of calcium, silica, and sulfur, making it an excellent source to help boost collagen receptors. Nettle is also a multivitamin. It contains calcium (according to some sources, one cup of infused nettles contains 300-500 mg of calcium), carotene, magnesium, vitamin A, B + K, potassium, and protein.
The combination of Horsetail & Stinging Nettle is used for the building of strong bones, repairing joint cartilage, to strengthen fingernails, and stimulate hair growth. Horsetail's predominant element, natural occurring silicon (up to 70%) is the key ingredient to its curative properties while Stinging Nettles contains a very high source of digestible iron.
Schisandra chinensis (five flavor fruit) have been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years. Known for their beautifying properties, they support skin health by decreasing the amount of free radicals in the body.
Schisandra also protects skin cells from DNA injury. DNA injury can accelerate wrinkles, sun damaged damage and pigmentation. Its astringent quality can help keep moisture in the skin.
They also have the ability to fight inflammation and help overall repair of other inflammatory reactions on the skin.
Extracts of Schisandra have been used in cosmetic preparations for thousands of years to purify and strengthen the protective barrier of the skin and soothe irritation.
Lastly, they are also a powerful adaptogen and help maintain homeostasis during times of stress.
Touted as one of the best adaptogens found in nature it is surprising that it is not more well known in the West. Containing over 80 different saponins compared to the 28 found in ginseng.
Gynostemma is a natural antioxidant and a rich source of vitamins and minerals. It contains two very important antioxidants: glutathione and superoxide dismutase.
Glutathione is the most abundant antioxidant naturally found in human cells. It neutralises free radicals, boosts the immune system and detoxifies the body. It reduces signs of ageing as well as helping with fatigue, insomnia and memory loss.
Superoxide dismutase is arguably the body’s most crucial antioxidant, as it is responsible for disarming the most dangerous free radicals of all: the highly reactive superoxide radicals.
You want this powerhouse in your cupboard. It also tastes lovely.
There are many ways you can consume these herbs. Yoko Inoue from the wonderful Shoku Iku Australia has supplied the below delicious collagen boosting recipe.
Plant collagen booster
1/4 cup Gynostemma tea
1 tsp moringa powder
1 tsp ashitaba powder
3/4 cup warm plant based milk of your choice
1 tsp - 1 tbs syrup (recipe below)
He shou wu and chaga syrup
Mix in 1 tbs each of he shou wu and chaga extract powder or tincture in your favourite liquid sweetener ( I used maple syrup)
Also, if you are wanting a little caffeine you can also try this amazing recipe with Matcha replacing the ashitabha and morninga, using around 1 - 1 1/2 tsp.
Whisk the first two powder with Gynostemma tea
Add in the rest and whisk again
*Ashitabha and morninga are brilliant options for those opting for caffeine free and these herbs are great mineralisers.