Natural Energy Enhancers and other Herbs for Runners

| 12/1/2011 4:24:38 PM

H.CardenasHeidi Cardenas is a freelance writer and gardener in Lake County, Illinois, with a background in human resources and business administration. She has written about home and garden topics for various online venues, helps you get your green on at  HC Greenery  and enjoys The Herb Companion’s valuable resources.  

If you’re a runner, forget expensive vitamins and energy products, ditch the caffeine and smelly ointments and go all natural. Athletes, including runners, may practice healthy lifestyles, but are subject to the same stresses, time constraints and nutritional challenges as the rest of us, along with sore muscles and joints. Poor sleep habits, work and social stress, processed foods and alcohol take a toll on physical performance. Pain-and-injury-free endurance and speed, as well as energy and vitality, are important for all athletes but to runners in particular. Fatigue affects running performance, attitude and mood, which are important in running events. Running is as much a state of mind as it is a physical activity and fatigue can mean the difference between finishing in the top 10 or just finishing. For runners who want a natural competitive edge, ginseng, ashwaganda, cayenne and comfrey are the answer 

ginseng roots 12-1-2011
Ginseng roots are used in teas, tonics and capsules for energy and stamina.
Photo by FloraFarm GmbH Katharina Lohrie/Courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Athletes enjoy enhanced endurance, reduced fatigue and increased stamina when using ginseng during conditioning. Ginseng is a family of plants with 11 varieties. Two of the most common are Panax ginseng, also known as true ginseng or Chinese ginseng, which is native to China, and Panax quinquefolius, or American ginseng, which is native to the Northern Hemisphere. They are both slow-growing herbaceous perennials related to ivy and grown for their fleshy roots. Ginseng grows in forests and woodlands in rich soil and shade. It is used extensively in Asian countries to maintain health. The name ginseng means “the essence of man.” It has also been called “the wonder of the world.” Ginseng has valuable properties to remedy fatigue, enhance vitality, increase strength, endurance and immunity and balance the metabolism. (It also has aphrodisiac effects.) Ginseng is used in teas, tonics and capsule forms. The sliced root is boiled for tea or tonic and the powdered root is taken as capsules or sprinkled on food. Native Americans chewed the root when traveling long distances and before fighting for strength and endurance. Using ginseng helps runners go the distance.

ashwaganda root 12-1-2011
Powdered ashwaganda root sprinkled on salads and cereals improves mental clarity and overall vitality.
Photo by
piouswatson/Courtesy Wikimedia Commons 

Ashwaganda root (Withania somnifer), also called Indian ginseng, is related to nightshade but doesn’t have the poisonous attributes of that plant. It is a small herbaceous shrub native to India, the Middle East, North Africa and the Mediterranean. It is used traditionally in Ayurvedic medicine for emotional well-being, mental sharpness and physical endurance. The main active ingredients in ashwaganda root are powerful alkaloids, which improve and support the immune system and have a light sedative and muscle relaxant effect, aiding sleep and relaxation. Studies show that other chemical compounds in ashwaganda root stimulate neurotransmitter pathways in the brain, enhancing memory, alleviating anxiety and reducing mental and physical fatigue. The root is ground into powder and used in capsule form or sprinkled on food.

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