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Build More Muscle With Ashwagandha

Athletes, body builders and/or anyone who wants to build lean muscle and look better should check out this November, 2015 study examining the effects of ashwagandha on muscle strength and recovery.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26609282

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Here is the conclusion: “This study reports that ashwagandha supplementation is associated with significant increases in muscle mass and strength and suggests that ashwagandha supplementation may be useful in conjunction with a resistance training program.”

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Pretty impressive stuff!  So, if you are looking to get stronger and build more muscle, do it the right way, the healthy way, with ashwagandha!

 

 

Hanging With Huang Qi

In China, where it is a native plant, astragalus is known as Huang Qi which is translated to mean “Yellow Leader.”  This title seems somewhat oxymoronic since it would be difficult to be both yellow (or cowardly) and a leader, unless you were a very poor leader, but I digress, which genies should be allowed to do.

Anyway, astragalus is an adaptogen that is a leader among tonic herbs and is anything but poor or cowardice in terms of it’s potency and benefits.  Astragalus root has been used for centuries to expel pus and relieve pain.  Chinese herbalists recommended astragalus for night sweats, asthma, coughing and diseases with chills and fevers.

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Modern uses of astragalus include preventing liver and kidney damage due to long term use of medications.  It is a known immune booster that helps prevent colds, flus, bronchitis, mononucleosis, pneumonia and other common ailments.  Astragalus has been known to improve blood flow and increase stamina.

Other benefits attributed to astragalus include increasing appetite, improving recovery from chemotherapy and as a cure for hemorrhoids.

Recent research at the UCLA AIDS Institute focused on the function of cycloastragenol in the aging process of immune cells, and its effects on the cells’ response to viral infections. It appears to increase the production of telomerase, an enzyme that mediates the replacement of short bits of DNA known as telomeres, which play a key role in cell replication, including in cancer processes.

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With such a broad array of benefits, you can easily see how astragalus received its name.  It is a leader among herbs.  The yellow part simply refers to the color of its root, but then you probably figured that out.

Sensational Schisandra

Schisandra is an adaptogen that is native to northern and northeastern China. Its name comes from the fact that its berries possess all five basic flavors: salty, sweet, sour, pungent (spicy), and bitter. The Schisandra berries are used in traditional chinese medicine, where it is considered one of the 50 fundamental herbs.

 

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Schisandra is classified as an “adaptogen” because it increases resistance to disease and stress.  It works to balance hormones naturally and therefore improves the ability to deal with stressors, both physical and psychological. It has also been traditionally used to increase energy, physical performance and endurance.

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It is also well know for its prowess in preventing early aging and increasing lifespan. Different cultures have had different uses for Schisandra.  Just look at the impressive list of conditions addressed by this amazing herb:

  • Normalizes blood sugar and blood pressure
  • Stimulates the immune system 
  • Liver detoxing and hepatitis  (The Chinese have developed a liver-protecting drug called DBD that is made from schisandrin, one of the chemicals in schisandra.)
  • Lowers cholesterol
  • Asthma and chronic cough
  • Improves sleep
  • Helps relieve nerve pain
  • Prevents night sweats
  • Stops chronic diarrhea
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Excessive urination
  • Depression and irritability
  • Protects against memory loss
  • Improves vision
  • Relieves adrenal fatigue

Historically, schisandra was consumed as a tonic in tea form, but today you can find it in capsules and herbal beverages, which makes it easier than ever to use. Because it is an adaptogen, it can be taken long term without any negative side effects or risks.  In fact, it’s believed to work better and better the longer you take it, just like many other natural adaptogens.

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Schisandra berries may have five flavors, but it has at least 5 times that many health benefits.   Schisandra…an adaptogen for everyone!

 

Here Comes the King!

Of all the plants classified as adaptogens, the one with the most renown is eleuthero!  Eleuthero has been the subject of thousands of scientific studies, in dozens of countries and its benefits have been extremely well documented.

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In fact, in the 16th century Li Shih-Chen, a Chinese pharmacologist and physician wrote a 52-volume manuscript detailing the treatments used in traditional Chinese medicine. He covered over 10,000 substances, but there was one herb in particular that stood out to him. When it came to the herb eleuthero, he saw no comparison.

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He wrote, “I would rather take a handful of eleuthero than a cartload of gold and jewels.”

Eleuthero is native to Eastern Asia and is found primarily in mountain forests.   It has been called the king of adaptogens, because of its almost endless list of benefits endless.  Eleuthero has been used as a treatment for:

  • Cold & flu
  • Stress & anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Weakened immunity
  • Emotional imbalance

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Eleuthero is also a top choice for athletes and fitness enthusiasts.  Dr. Ben Tabachnik, a former Soviet sports nutrition researcher and coach, attributes eleuthero to helping the Soviet Olympic team dominate the 1988 Olympics.  Athletes who supplement with eleuthero report significant improvements in:

  • Peripheral vison
  • Reaction time
  • Stamina
  • Suppression of increased cortisol
  • Oxygen uptake
  • Lung capacity
  • Faster recovery

So, whether you are a professional athlete looking for an edge, a weekend warrior trying to relive your glory days or just a soccer mom looking for greater stamina and better immunity, eleuthero could very well be the perfect supplement.  Look to the king of adaptogens, eleuthero.

No Horsing Around, Ashwagandha Works!

In Sanskrit Ashwagandha means literally, “the smell of a horse.” Fortunately, this name  does not refer to the smell of the plant itself, but instead is indicative of Ashwagandha’s ability to impart the vigor and strength of a stallion.  Historically, Ashwagandha has been particularly beneficial helping people strengthen their immune system after an illness.

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After years of scientific studies involving Ashwagandha, researchers have determined that this amazing plant has a myriad of health giving properties.  Four recent studies clearly illustrate Ashwagandha’s broad array of benefits.

  1. Physical Performance
    In a small double-blind, placebo-controlled study, healthy participants receiving a standardized root extract of ashwagandha for eight weeks showed an increase in speed and muscular strength by nearly 10% in tested physical activity.2
  2. Focus and Concentration
    In this double-blind, placebo-controlled study, twenty healthy males were given 500 mg of ashwagandha root extract for fourteen days. Significant cognitive improvements were seen in reaction-time tests, discrimination tests, and in card sorting tests, among many others. These results show ashwagandha’s ability to support attention, memory, focus, concentration, and responsiveness and coordination between the mind and motor functions.3
  3. Stress and Food Consumption
    In a study with fifty-two healthy subjects experiencing stress for a long period of time, ashwagandha (300 mg twice daily) not only decreased stress (as measured by the perceived stress scale), but also food cravings and overall body weights. This was a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial that lasted eight weeks.4
  4. Rejuvenation
    In a clinical trial with healthy male volunteers aged fifty to sixty-nine, purified ashwagandha powder, given as 3 grams per day for one year, showed increases in blood counts, improved posture, and increased hair melanin (pigmentation of the hair). In another study, healthy children who were given 2 grams of powdered ashwagandha in milk, experienced improvements in blood counts, body weight, and hand strength.

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Truly, Ashwagandha is an herb that can benefit people of all ages.  Because, it is an adaptogen, it has a non specific effect and helps bring the body and mind into balance, it can be taken over an extended period of time with no adverse side effects.  So, put some giddyup into your daily health regimen with Ashwagandha!

References

2 Sandhu Jaspal, et al. “Effects of Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha) and Terminalia arjuna (Arjuna) on physical performance and cardiorespiratory endurance n healthy young adults.” Int J Ayurveda Res. 1, no 3 (July-Sept 2010):144-149.

3 U Pingali, et al. “Effect of standardized aqueous extract of Withania somnifera on tests of cognitive and psychomotor performance in healthy human subjects.” Pharmacognosy Res. 6, no 1 (January 2014):12-8.

4 D Choudhary, et al. “Body Weight Management in Adults Under Chronic Stress Through Treatment with Ashwagandha Root Extract: A Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial.” J Evid Based Complementary Altern Med. April 6, 2016.

5 Lakshmi-Chandra Mishra, Betsy Singh, and Simon Dagenais. “Scientific Basis for the Therapeutic Use of Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha): A Review.” Alternative Medicine Review. 5, no 4 (2000):334-346.

Adaptogens For Athletes – 7 Performance Powering Plants!

Competitive athletes are always looking for an edge.  In the world of sports, the difference between winning and losing can be a couple inches or a few hundredths of a second.  You may have watched an Olympic event where the difference between an athlete receiving a gold medal and one finishing in 4th place, out of the medals and never mentioned and/or celebrated is miniscule.  Almost every serious athlete has experienced the joy of victory and the devastation of defeat and recognizes the slim margin between those two outcomes.  As a result, most competitors continue searching for something, anything, that can add a little extra speed, strength or mental focus to make the difference between winning and whining.

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With all the controversy surrounding performance enhancing drugs, you need to know that there is a natural alternative.  If you are an athlete and you would like to improve your performance through better nutrition, there are a number of adaptogenic herbs that can safely and effectively provide you with that competitive advantage.  Here are seven adaptogens that have been documented to drastically improve athletic performance.

Eleuthero

Eleuthero, also known as Siberian ginseng, is particularly effective for athletes and can boost energy, sharpen mental concentration and help improve strength and stamina.  Studies have shown that when taken consistently, eleuthero will improve one’s ability to manage stress, tolerate heat and endure longer and more intense workouts.  Russian athletes started taking eleuthero in the 1970’s and were able to significantly improve stamina, endurance and mental focus.

Cordyceps & Reishi Mushrooms

New research has determined that two adaptogenic mushrooms Reishi and Cordyceps significantly improve performance and recovery in cyclists.  The double blind study conducted by researchers from Italy’s Pavia University have found these two adaptogens to be powerful performance boosters by increasing the production of testosterone and decreasing the production of cortisol.  The cyclists in the study demonstrated greater stamina and shorter recovery times after taking reishi and cordyceps .

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Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is a classic ayurvedic herb. Ayurveda is one of the oldest forms of medicine, dating back thousands of years, and ayurvedic practitioners have long known about the benefits of ashwagandha.  In a recent study involving elite athletes, ashwagandha was shown to dramatically improve cardiovascular endurance.  In the study, athletes were given 500 mg of ashwagandha twice a day for eight weeks.  The placebo group was given capsules filled with starch.  Here is the conclusion as written by the clinical research team:

“To date, most of the properties of Ashwagandha have been studied, investigated and reported only in sedentary healthy subjects having low fitness levels. Thus, this study was designed to analyze its effectiveness in improving performance in well-trained athletes. Considering the fact that it is difficult to detect minor changes in elite athletes, this study was the first of its kind to document the significant improvements in aerobic performance with regard to cardiorespiratory and cardiovascular endurance of elite athletes”

Rhodiola

The science involving Rhodiola is amazing and it is perhaps the most thoroughly tested of the well-known adaptogens.  Historically it was consumed by the ancient Greeks and Vikings for strength and stamina.  Rhodiola may have its greatest effect on the mental part of athletic performance. In multiple double-blind, placebo controlled studies, Rhodiola Rosea enhanced learning, prevented mental fatigue, reduced errors and improved the quality of work produced. Rhodiola rosea has the most pronounced effect on mental fatigue during stress and strain when compared to other adaptogens.  In other words, rhodiola may provide you with the drive and/or mental toughness to push through a difficult workout helping you to achieve a personal best in speed or strength training.

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Rhaponticum

Scientific studies performed on Rhaponticum (also known as Maral Root) have shown this adaptogen improves overall physical performance, and shortens recovery time after an intense workout.

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In athletes who use Rhaponticum regularly, it demonstrates a marked anabolic effect, and aids the body in the synthesis of protein. It also appears to protect the body from environmental stress. Rhaponticum is prescribed to athletes by Russian sports physicians in order to replenish depleted physical and psychical reserves that become exhausted as a result of hard training. After taking Rhaponticum carthamoides extract, an increase in muscle mass and a decrease in fat tissue has been documented by researchers.

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Schisandra

Schisandra is the berry of a climbing vine native to northeast China and parts of Russia.  According to the results of recent human studies schisandra has demonstrated the ability to increase stamina and endurance in athletes, specifically in distance runners, gymnasts and cross country skiers.  Chinese athletes have been using schisandra to boost performance for more than 2 decades.  Schisandra also has shown the additional benefit of limiting mental fatigue and improving concentration and mental alertness.

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So if you are an athlete and you’re looking for an edge, either mental or physical, adaptogens have you covered.  Adaptogens are safe for daily use and are devoid of side effects, unless you consider “winning” a side effect.  So, let adaptogens start improving your performance.  They can be your secret weapon, your competitive advantage.

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