A few years ago, I was introduced to the idea of turmeric as an anti-inflammatory. It wasn’t my first dabbling with a supplement (hello protein powders, greens powder, essential oils)but it was the first time I started to research the use of anabolic herbs, herbs for muscle recovery and adaptogens.
Since then my Instagram followers know, I’m a zealot about quality turmeric and now CBD oil for runners.
I think the two were a massive part in my return to running after knee surgery. Since, I’ve seen it help so many runners in our training groups feel better during training.
Like most things this lead me to begin doing a lot more research to find out how herbs could help with muscle strength and growth, another big focus for many of us female runners as we age.
What are Herbs for Muscles?
While you still need to be keen with anything that’s a supplement, overall herbs are generally not going to come with the side effects of prescribed options…my motto is basically I’m always willing to try something and see if it works for me.
Keep what does and toss the rest!
Many of these herbs are known as adaptogens. That means they can work differently in the body based on what you need. If you are low in something it will help raise, while if you are high it will help lower.
That also means they will have more impact the longer you take them. You can’t take them a few times randomly. They need to build up in your system for maximum results.
In fact, a fascinating National Geographic article talks about how the Russians were doing intense research on the use of herbs before steroids became a thing!
With that in mind, a little research for anyone else who has been looking for some natural options to improve their performance, herbs for muscle recovery or perhaps herbs for muscle strength.
Let’s start with the smallest group of herbs I’ll mention, those designed to help with muscle growth.
Why might a runner care about that? Well decreased body fat, stronger legs for powerful running, and core for better endurance.
The most interesting herb to catch my attention was apigenin, which comes from parsley.
Personally hate the taste, but those of you who love Mexican food are in for a treat because just sprinkling 2-4 tbsps in your meals throughout the day might be enough to see muscle growth with your strength training!
This is based on a 2017 study in mice, so who knows if they have yet replicated in humans, but there ya have it. A natural, normal food you can add in and see if it helps.
Fenugreek is another interesting one as it has been shown to help muscles increase their uptake of creatine a known muscle builder.
Per the results of a 2011 and 2017 study, “The use of fenugreek with creatine supplementation may be an effective means for enhancing creatine uptake while eliminating the need for excessive amounts of simple carbohydrates.”
You could easily take this in the form of a tea or add the ground seeds to food, voila!
Best Herbs for Muscle Recovery
Technically this list is a combination of herbs and spices, while the two are different based on where we find them (bark/seeds vs leaves) we tend to use them interchangeably.
Many of these you can enjoy as part of a daily cup of herbal tea and others are a powder to easily toss in your green smoothie.
#3 Turmeric for Pain
Possibly the most well known of the items on this list, it couldn’t be skipped. I talk about it incessantly, but haven’t ever truly written about it!
- reduces (inflammationhelpful for running, for weight loss, for an injury)
- improves joint function
- acts as a natural pain killer
You MUST take a turmeric that also has black pepper to help absorption and you MUST take the pill with a meal. It’s a fat soluble, so if you just take it with water you won’t absorb it.
I have tried a number of options and always come back to THIS ONE for efficacy.
#4 Rhodiola for Energy
I learned about this herb years ago thanks to my friends at Vega who put it in their pre-workout. It’s plan grown in Europe and Asia, whose root has long been used for healing.
As an adapotogen it will work within your body as your body needs it.
Many studies have been done showing that it not only reduces feelings of fatigue, but seems to reduce blood lactate levels and skeletal damage. It helps your body handle the stress of workouts.
- It’s also great for anyone heading to run with me in Colorado as it seems to help beat altitude sickness as well!
- Is being shown to really help with running after menopause.
- Remember this is an energy boosterso take it before workouts and pay attention to how you feel.
#5 Corydalis for Recovery
Is it weird I knew what this was because my mom is a flower lover?
The ground powder is actually useful for Reducing the discomfort of over training or stress. As athletes we have to find ways to decrease both life and workout stress to keep from pushing our bodies too far.
A little stress is where we find growth, but stress from too many angles at once is when we shoot our cortisol sky high and start to have all kinds of issues from adrenal fatigue to holding on to belly fat.
#6 Ashwaghanda for Stress Reduction
This super cool adaptogen came on to my radar a few years ago thanks to some of my very wise plant based loving friends. An adaptogen works in the body many different ways by working with the body to help it minimize the impacts of stress (physical, emotional and mental).
This herb is designed for calming, so unlike the rev of ginseng, this is perfect for helping your body absorb the stress of a workout or to promote restful sleep.
In fact, one study showed at 44% reduction in perceived stress levels for those who took it for 6 weeeks vs a placebo.
There is also some data to support it as an anabolic herb! So all in all ashwaghanda is giving you a bounty of benefits for a tiny amount needed.
#7 Green Tea for Metabolism
The Brits were on to something with all that tea drinking and getting in all kinds of herbs while we were over here focusing on lemonade and soda. Beyond herbal teas, green tea alone has been shown to have a number of health benefits.
Specifically for runners, it’s useful because it supports metabolism of sugar for fuel.
Yes indeed, we want our body to be prepared when we give it fuel during a run to quickly utilize it in the most efficient manner.
#8 Maca for Endurance
Often known as Peruvian Ginseng, Maca has been showing to support energy and endurance. It’s also been shown to help with all kinds of hormonal issues from fertility to libido to menopause!
It’s actually a cruciferous vegetable, but the root is grown down to a powder or pill for consumption.
The powder form has a slightly nutty taste, making it an easy addition to your green smoothie or even those protein pancakes.
#9 Ginger for Digestion
Probably the most well known of these is good old ginger. Thanks to great brands like Ginger Chews we can use it to calm the stomach and aid digestion.
Since it’s not uncommon for runners to suffer from the trots or have crazy nerves leading up to race day, a little ginger tea is a great way to help those issues without turning to a medication that could have other side effects on energy.
#10 Oregano for Immunity
When my travel schedule became crazy while living in Miami, I found myself getting sick after many flights. About that time I was working with a functional medicine doctor to figure out my hormones and mentioned this off hand.
His recommendation was to start taking oregano oil capsules with me or anytime I was starting to feel a cold come on. Trust me DO NOT take the oil under your tongue, it’s horrible. I like this quality brand of capsule.
In the years since then it’s become a MUST HAVE for me as I find it not only works as an antiviral to kill off bacteria, but helps during that time of the month when acne starts. It simply dries things out!
Not one to take every single day, but good for those occasional times and why it will also work for things like athlete’s foot or yeast infections.
#11 Thyme for Recovery
Thyme is another spice you might be familiar with thanks to the Thanksgiving turkey. But it’s actually one that is really beneficial to speed recovery from infections or illness.
Why not add it to a little more of your meals knowing that it could help boost your mood, fight off the sniffles, even help to clear up your skin thanks to the high levels of Vitamin C and Vitamin A!
All right, there you have it. A host of natural herbs for muscle recovery.
Are they wonder pills, super foods, magic in a bottle? Nope.
But they could be small ways to keep supporting your active body every single day.
Looking for more ways to recover or build muscle?
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