The herbal way of life has been a mainstream market for about a century now, they started to get capsulized and bottled just a few decades back.
In traditional medicine like Ayurveda, herbs were exclusively used for their medicinal properties in curing diseases, but there are a lot of mentions about certain herbs being used in improving the athletic and sexual abilities (like Red ginseng, Withania somnifera, etc.)
However, nature’s gift has been well utilized by humankind for various applications, and all modern-day supplements you see came from the herbal preparations.
There are a lot of them, in fact, hundreds of herbs used for various applications in the human body.
As far as an athlete is concerned, improving fitness via strength, stamina, endurance, and muscle enhancement1 is the prime motive.
Therefore, in this article, we are to meet 9 herbs for building strength, fitness, and endurance.
Let us wind up the intro here and move straight into the topic.
Why herbs are essential for bodybuilding?
The pharmaceutical industry is one of the major shareholders of a countries economy, which can even define the politics of a region.
The trust people embedded in the magic of a drug was the critical factor that led to the rising of pharma companies.
But over time, synthetic drugs proved to be a ‘necessary evil,’ rather than being an angel, and the malevolence slowly started changing people’s mind.
Now a significant percentage of the population has turned to less potent but more safer nutraceutical products for wellbeing.
Herbs are the foundation of nutraceuticals, and this sector is all about herbal mixtures, and their efficacy in invoking a metabolic change.
Athletics and bodybuilding are two segments that boost the overall sales and popularity of herbal products.
The common factors in both are strength, stamina, endurance, and muscle required to excel in the field. Herbal supplements are beneficial in building an excellent physique for sports.
Plus, the great advantage of side effects free use has made herbs and herbal supplements a favorite choice for bodybuilders.
In order to combat the low efficiency of herbal supplements, manufacturers started making combinations of multiple herbs, which can grant numerous benefits simultaneously.
9 herbs for building strength, fitness, and endurance
Here is a list of 9 herbs that will help you get on track and improve your fitness, strength, and endurance.
Ashwagandha2 is a traditionally used herb that plays a pivotal role in Ayurveda and many other treatment regimens.
They are classified under ‘adaptogens,’ which are those plants that can fix the androgen imbalance in the body, which gives you a good grip in handling stressful situations.
Studies show that when the stress is high, the production of stress hormone cortisol increases, and this will interfere with the fat-burning process.
A clinical study showed that people who used Ashwagandha for a prolonged time had a 13% increase in ‘maximum oxygen intake (VO2 max)’ and around 10% increase in endurance.
With increased oxygen concentration, now the same amount of blood can deliver more oxygen than before, thus contributing to the performance.
2. Siberian Ginseng
Siberian Ginseng3, aka ‘eleuthero,’ is a 2000 years old Chinese traditional herb that is widely used in the supplement industry.
They are best known for their ability to improve stamina and boost your energy output.
They have adaptogen properties and mainly helps in reducing stress.
Other actions include improving cognitive ability, reducing fatigue, faster healing of injuries, lowering hypertension, and also helps in preventing nerve damage.
In a study, it was found that Siberian ginseng was able to increase the VO2max levels by up to 12 percentage, which resulted in a 23 percent improved performance.
Siberian ginseng is also found to reduce the lactic acid build-up from strenuous exercises, which helps in preventing muscle soreness.
3. Maca root
Maca (Lepidium meyenii)4 is sometimes referred to as ‘Peruvian ginseng’ because it flourishes in the Andes of Central Peru.
It is more like cabbages or broccoli, and the edible part is the root of the plant, which grows underground.
They are one of the most nutritious herbs with higher levels of vitamin C, copper, iron, potassium, and vitamin B6.
Maca root extract is a classic recipe in most male enhancement supplements due to their ability to improve muscle gain, stamina and boost the energy.
They have both anabolic and androgenic properties, which also helps make a quick recovery after a workout.
This was a traditional herb used by American Indians for treating cold, flu, and other common maladies.
They are well known for their antibacterial activity.
At least some 300 studies have been conducted on this North American herb, and all of it concurs the immuno-stimulatory effect of Echinacea5.
With the boosted immune system, the body has a fast recovery post-workout session, and this means you will have long-lasting energy to push limits.
Muscle gaining is another process that is benefited by the activity of this herb since enhanced immune response means faster healing of micro-tears occurred during exercise, and the end result is muscle gain!
5. American Ginseng
American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius)6 is an herb that helps in improving the recovery after a workout and has calming action as well.
It is sometimes used in combination with Asian ginseng, and this helps in CNS stimulation, and that might explain why ginseng supplements induce relaxation.
They are classified under adaptogens with stress-relieving properties, and for this reason, they have both anabolic (testosterone) and catabolic (cortisol) activity.
American ginseng is found to improve stamina and endurance with delayed fatigue response.
Also, when shifting between exercises, chances of muscle damage is increased, but when ginseng is supplemented regularly, this risk of muscle damage can be significantly reduced.
6. Tribulus Terrestris
Popularly known as ‘Puncture Vine,’ Tribulus Terrestris7 has been long used in Ayurveda for improving sexual stamina and for treating erectile dysfunction.
This herb can enhance testosterone biosynthesis in the body, and in a study, it was found that healthy men who used 750 mg of this herb for a weak had a 30 percent hike in testosterone levels.
Several pieces of researches point towards the native property of Tribulus Terrestris in increasing the luteinizing hormone (LH), which is the first step in
testosterone production to be reason for its success.
With high testosterone, a person will have improved stamina, faster fat burning, and enhanced muscle growth, which might explain the athletic superiority when using this herb.
Unlike others on this list, Cordyceps8 is a little different one because this is a parasitic fungus that grows in the larvae of an insect.
Once they have infected the host’s, they grow within it by scavenging nutrients from the host system and produces slender stems that grow out of the insect body.
These fungi can boost the athletic performance of the user by increasing the biosynthesis of ATP, which is the energy currency of our body.
Increasing the VO2 max by 7%, Cordyceps can contribute a 15% enhancement in the endurance level of the user.
Jiaogulan, aka gynostemma9, is from the cucumber family with excellent stamina boosting properties.
The saponins in this plant are known to improve the tolerance towards fatigue and low oxygen conditions.
Also, continuous use of this herb can strengthen the cardiac muscles, which when combined with improved fatigue tolerance makes your exercise more comfortable.
The nitric oxide activity of Jiaogulan helps in vasodilation of blood vessels that carry nutrients to various organs, thus improving strength and stamina.
9. Green Tea
Thousand years of tradition and the unfermented leaves of Camellia sinensis10 has been enjoyed by the easterners till the date.
There are numerous benefits to replacing your ordinary tea or coffee with green tea.
Studies have reported that they help in improving the endurance of long-distance runners and also have fat-burning properties.
Reducing risks of cardiovascular diseases, preserving glycogen for endurance, and helping in fat oxidation are some properties that will benefit bodybuilders and athletes.
You have now been through most common and popular performance enhancer herbs, but that’s not the end of the list, though.
Traditional Chinese medicine has a bigger arsenal of medicinal plants that could benefit athletes.
Ayurveda also comes up with newer herbs and medicinal plants with endurance building properties.
But with this list, now you can consciously choose a supplement, including some of the above herbs in the ingredient list.
Also, always be cautious and vigilant when you buy herbal products because a herbal supplementation is comparably easy to fake.
- Clarkson, Priscilla M., and Eric S. Rawson. “Nutritional supplements to increase muscle mass.” Critical reviews in food science and nutrition 39.4 (1999): 317-328. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10408699991279196
- Singh, Narendra, et al. “An overview on ashwagandha: A Rasayana (Rejuvenator) of Ayurveda.” African Journal of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicines 8.5S (2011). https://www.ajol.info/index.php/ajtcam/article/view/67963
- Eschbach, L. Christopher, et al. “The effect of Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus) on substrate utilization and performance during prolonged cycling.” International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism 10.4 (2000): 444-451. https://journals.humankinetics.com/view/journals/ijsnem/10/4/article-p444.xml
- Stone, Mark, et al. “A pilot investigation into the effect of maca supplementation on physical activity and sexual desire in sportsmen.” Journal of ethnopharmacology 126.3 (2009): 574-576. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378874109005728
- Barrett, B. “Medicinal properties of Echinacea: a critical review.” Phytomedicine 10.1 (2003): 66-86. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0944711304701993
- Kim, Hyeong-Geug, et al. “Antioxidant effects of Panax ginseng CA Meyer in healthy subjects: a randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial.” Food and Chemical Toxicology 49.9 (2011): 2229-2235. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S027869151100264X
- Antonio, Jose, et al. “The effects of Tribulus terrestris on body composition and exercise performance in resistance-trained males.” International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism 10.2 (2000): 208-215. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Conrad_Earnest/publication/12458040_The_Effects_of_Tribulus_Terrestris_on_Body_Composition_and_Exercise_Performance_in_Resistance-Trained_Males/links/55d5d10908ae9d659488e743.pdf
- Manabe, Noboru, et al. “Effects of the mycelial extract of cultured Cordyceps sinensis on in vivo hepatic energy metabolism in the mouse.” The Japanese journal of pharmacology 70.1 (1996): 85-88. https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/jphs1951/70/1/70_1_85/_article/-char/ja/
- Yang, Fei, et al. “Two new saponins from tetraploid jiaogulan (Gynostemma pentaphyllum), and their anti-inflammatory and α-glucosidase inhibitory activities.” Food chemistry 141.4 (2013): 3606-3613. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0308814613007814
- Hara, Yukihiko. Green tea: health benefits and applications. CRC press, 2001. https://books.google.pl/books?hl=en&lr=&id=YfmOqLrTLJAC&oi=fnd&pg=PR3&dq=green+tea+health+benefits&ots=5tMsttzATO&sig=lo913PQyqUqbY1g492o6ESSbIzM&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=green%20tea%20health%20benefits&f=false