Page Description: If you are an athlete or know someone who is, spare some minutes to read through this article. Many athletes underestimate the power of herbs in their fitness journey. There are a lot of herbs that will help your body during, before, and even after a workout session. These herbs help you stay energized, replenish nutrients and relieve your stress.
What is an herb?
An herb is a leafy green or flowering part of a plant either fresh or dried that is used for flavoring, food, medicine, or perfume. Herbs are plants with seeds, leaves, or flowers with fragrant or aromatic properties.
Examples of pre-workout herbs
American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) is an herb that has been long used by the Native American populations of North America. The word Ginseng in itself means ‘wonder of the world’. In the 19th century, it was used as a tonifying herb for the nervous system. Now, it has been classified as an adaptogen. It supports oxygen uptake and healthy metabolism of lactic acid, a very important action for athletes. Not just that, it also promotes balance in the neuroendocrine system and cognitive performance and support for reaction time.
Once combined with Eleuthero, American Ginseng can be taken before workouts and training to support endurance and stamina. it can be added to water or Ginger tea as the flavors combine well. It is a great option for endurance athletes like road cyclists and long-distance runners.
Eleuthero root (Eleutherococcus senticosus) is an herb that comes from Siberia. It has been used traditionally there as an adaptogen. Eleuthero helps to support healthy blood sugar levels that are within the normal range. It also supports the optimal use of glycogen and high-energy phosphorus compounds ADP and ATP (these are what provide energy for cellular processes).
Eleuthero also promotes the metabolism of pyruvic and lactic acid which promotes the production of energy. The build-up of lactic acid is the cause of a heavy and sore feeling in the muscles of athletes after a workout. The herb helps magnesium and vitamin C reach the adrenal glands, which are the essential micronutrients to adapt to stress. If you are an athlete that has a race fast approaching, you might want to invest in this herb.
Green Tea (Camellia sinensis) is one herb that has been consumed for thousands of years. It has been proven to encourage the healthy metabolism of carbs (sugars) that serve as fuel for workouts or training. It also gives the body antioxidant support and aids metabolic and cardiovascular health. When Green Tea is combined with caffeine, it creates a muscle-building (anabolic) effect in weight lifters and older adults who by nature start losing muscle mass as they age. You can also drink this combination after a workout exercise. Green tea supports metabolism of sugar for fuel.
Schisandra (Schisandra sphenanthera) is an adaptogenic five-flavor berry that helps athletes thrive as it promotes peak performance and guarantees vitality.
Examples of post work out herbs
Maca root (Lepidium meyenii) is a plant-based performance enhancer that is caffeine free. This plant is a knobby root that has a strong resemblance to a turnip. It comes from the high Andes Mountains of Peru, an extreme environment where it thrives. Even though this herb grows in outer parts of the world, it has successfully been cultivated over time in Peru. Maca energy and endurance.
Maca is widely known for two traditional uses. One is to support one for a healthy libido either male or female and to provide energy and stamina. You would agree that as an athlete you need it more for the latter. Maca is also an adaptogen which gives it the ability to help you manage stress. As the name ‘adaptogen’ implies, you can trust this herb to help you adapt to whatever fitness routine or life in general throws at you.
After a tedious workout, trust Maca to support recovery and endurance when put in a smoothie or a shake as it easily dissolves in them and has a great taste. You can sprinkle it over foods, energy bites, or smoothies. If you are a runner or someone looking to get a natural means of getting energy after a tiring and long workout, Maca is just for you.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is an herb that promotes healthy function and mobility of the joint by supporting the body’s inflammatory response. Also, its antioxidant action helps support the body after a workout. It has also been used to support the body’s response to pain and promote a normal inflammatory function like pushing the body during a workout.
Curcumin, an active ingredient in Turmeric that gives the herb its color, provides antioxidant support. This compound also promotes healthy inflammatory responses and helps in maintaining the overall health and vitality of the body. Lastly, curcumin supports the production of proteins that regulates the immune cell function which is great for athletes during training.
Turmeric is a rhizome that is a natural pain killer and it is also helpful for running, injuries, and weight loss.
Boswellia, also known as Indian Frankincense, is an herb that has been used over the years to promote a healthy inflammatory response by inhibiting certain enzymes. It provides a healthy flow of blood to the body’s connective tissue and supports healthy joints. It also gives a healthy inflammatory response and supports gut health during long runs and hectic workouts by nourishing the mucosal lining of the GI tract. The active constituents in it support apoptosis which is the end of the normal cell life cycle while it promotes healthy tissue growth. Research has it that Boswellia works synergistically with the curcumins in Turmeric too.
Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) is a herb that contains some unique compounds that makes it a soothing herb perfect for an athlete to provide comfort after strenuous exercise or training.
Classification of herbs for athletes according to their uses
1. Herbs as electrolytes
Nettle (Urtica dioica) is a slightly drying herb that contains a variety of nutrients and is most often found in anti-histamine or allergy tea blends. However, you need not suffer from any allergy before you benefit from the nettle’s nutrition. As an athlete who lives and trains in a dry climate, pairing nettle and a moistening herb like marshmallow leaf or aloe Vera will go a long way.
Red raspberry leaf (Rubus idaeus)
The Red raspberry leaf is another herb that has several nutritional benefits. It can be found in fertility blends and tea for new moms but athletes can get several benefits from it too. It offers athletes a nutritional boost and digestive support needed for their body to make good use of the nutrition available in it.
2. Herbs as adaptogens
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)
Ashwagandha is an herb that supports a healthy body-mind-spirit. It has been shown to support the immune system and help in balancing the adrenal-endocrine system, after a tiring workout, it can serve as an energy booster by promoting a restful state of being the whole day and making one sleep well at night and awake the next day fresh and vitalized. It is a great herb for stress reduction.
Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum)
Tulsi or holy basil is a calming adaptogen. It is known by practitioners as The Great Protector. It calms the nervous system without it dampening the digestive or immune systems. It helps the body reduce its stress responses such as cortisol production and insulin sensitivity while it directs energy into essential work like digestion. It is a generally calming and energizing herb.
3. Herbs as antioxidants
Cinnamon (Cinnamomum cassia) is an antioxidant herb that contains free radical-scavenging constituents. This means that this herb helps the body in tracking down excess free radicals and removing them. Cinnamon is also highly stimulating and can get your energy going as an athlete. All athletes can benefit from taking cinnamon daily to protect them from oxidative stress and boost their vitality.
Hibiscus and Rose hips
These set of herbs are active antioxidant herbs that can be easily ingested. . They are rich in Vitamin C and which gives them their distinct tart flavor. These herbs support a healthy circulatory system and reduce inflammation. While hibiscus can be mildly diuretic, rose hips are less so. Rose hips are mildly warming while hibiscus is more neutral. As an athlete, you can easily alternate between the two, taking hibiscus in warmer months and climates while Rose hips during the cooler climates. Both are great additions to an athlete’s daily tea.
Benefits of herbs to athletes
1. Herbs provide energy and can serve as energy boosters. For example, Rhodiola
2. Herbs promote a speedy recovery. For example, Corydalis and Thyme.
3. Herbs help to increase muscle growth. For example, Apigenin.
4. Herbs help to relieve pain from strenuous workouts. For example, Turmeric.
5. Herbs are used to boost immunity. For example, Oregano.
6. Herbs aid digestion. For example, Ginger.
Now that you know the various herbs that you can benefit from as an athlete, you don’t want to forget to incorporate them into your diet, smoothies, and shakes. Now you know what natural options you have to improve your performance, experience quick recovery, and perhaps even gain some muscle strength.
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