Herbs have been used by ancient civilizations for centuries, as an effective way to not only combat diseases, but also as an effective way of improving health and fitness significantly. Our modern cultural practices do not generally include herbs and herbal teas with most meals, leading to our dismissal of them overall. But modern studies have shown that herbs are still highly effective at fighting certain diseases, and improving our overall wellbeing.
In a recent study conducted by the US National Library of Medicine of 100 participants, more than half of users rated the herbal medicine as helpful, while another 33% said herbs were somewhat helpful for treatment and improving wellness overall. These diseases range from chronic conditions such as arthritis, cardiovascular disease and cancer, to other conditions such as arthritis.
Studies such as the one above have continue to prove what ancient civilizations have always known to be true, herbs are effective at improving health and fitness naturally, as well as in fighting certain health conditions. In today’s article, we will be diving into herbs and their benefits, and taking a look at some herbs that you can start using right away to improve your health & wellbeing.
What are Herbs?
Herbs are easily defined as the leaf of the plant that can be consumed, whether through herbal tea or by using it in our cooking. Herbs can be fresh or dried, and are used mostly as forms of seasonings. Some are available for steeping in hot water as they are available in dried form as herbal teabags. Recently, herbs have been processed and concentrated into pills that can be taken on a regular basis, known as herbal supplements.
There are also many different external uses for herbs. They can be applied to cuts or bruises to quicken healing, and they can even be steeped in a carrier oil to make some of our favourite essential oils.
Many of us are not used to using herbs outside of a teabag or seasonings, nor do we know which herb is best for what purpose, so we shy away from using herbs in our daily lives. Even when they are pre-packaged, we tend to stick to the simple and normal herbal teas that we are familiar with, without knowing exactly how certain herbs can be used to improve our state of wellness.
How Herbs were used as Medicine Historically
Herbs have been used by doctors historically to heal many ailments, but with the pharmaceutical advancement and western medicine, herbal solutions have been placed on the back burner. Natural health and holistic doctors are the main users of herbal supplements as a way to heal the body naturally. Many tend to only find this option when modern medicine seems to have no remedy for their condition.
Nevertheless, herbal remedies remain crucial for certain parts of modern medicine, and still helps to treat many major conditions such as glaucoma and even cancer.
How should we use Herbs today?
Modern society has placed herbs on the backburner in favour of modern medicine, completely forgetting the power of a healing herb for total wellness. So how can we use herbs and what are they good for? Let us take a look at 10 of the best herbs that we can use to improve our overall health, fitness and achieve our wellness goals.
Herbs that improve our Holistic Health & Wellness
Firstly, let us dive into herbs that contribute to overall health, wellbeing, improving mental clarity and boosting our immunity.
One of the easiest ways to fight off a nasty cold is by using Elderberry. It is well-known in the natural health space, and is often referred to as a medicinal herb because of its effectiveness in fighting off flu-like conditions and boosting immunity according to this study done in 2016.
It contains antioxidants that boost the immune system, including anthocyanin which gives it that deep blue-purple hue. Most elderberry supplements can be picked up from your local pharmacy in the form of a tincture, capsule or liquid to mix into your morning smoothie. A daily dose of this herb will boost your immunity, and empower your body to fight off many diseases.
Ginger is one of the most well-known spices due to its refreshing taste in flavouring food, but it actually has many helpful properties that improve the functions of our bodies. Firstly, ginger contains anti-inflammatory properties that help to relieve joint pain.
It is also very effective at treating issues related to the gut. It is a great soother to the stomach, helping to relieve issues such as diarrhoea, consistent vomiting, nausea in pregnant women and other stomach complications.
Ginger is available at most grocery stores in its natural root form, but there are also ginger teabags, ginger sweets and ginger powders that you can stock up on.
3. Gingko Biloba
Gingko Biloba is a herb that has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for years, and is regularly touted for its benefits in improving cognitive function. It is said to be useful in treating mental health conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Dementia, by stimulating blood flow to the brain.
While studies remain inconclusive, many college students use Gingko Biloba as a way to improve mental clarity when studying for their final exams. Gingko is also sold in many major pharmacies and health centres, and is normally found in the forms of pills, powders and teas.
Turmeric, like ginger is a root herb that is normally used in a variety of different dishes for its colour. It’s most useful component is curcumin, a compound that helps the body to treat conditions such as anxiety and arthritis, among others.
Turmeric contains both anti-inflammatory properties and antioxidants that may benefit brain health, and decrease free radical damage to the body. Turmeric is a great source of energy, and is sometimes sold in natural health stores in a concentrated form as an energy shot.
Otherwise, turmeric can be found on online retailers, or in pharmacies and plant based shops in local areas.
Astragalus is not a well-known herb, but like Elderberry, it is very beneficial for protecting and boosting the immune system, as well as for preventing colds and flu-like symptoms. Astragalus is also known for its anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, and is great to apply directly to the skin to care for wounds. Though inconclusive, there have also been studies that highlight Astragalus as being useful for treating major lifestyle diseases such as diabetes and hypertension. Astragalus is available as a supplement or in tea form at online retailers or your local pharmacy.
Herbs that help with Fitness, Muscle Recovery and Boosting Energy
For those aiming to attain their fitness goals, (whatever those goals may be) you may be surprised to learn that there are also herbs that assist with helping you get fit. Here are our favorite herbs to improve fitness, muscle mass and boost energy levels.
Also known as Indian Ginseng or Wild Cherry, Ashwaghanda is one of the best herbs to take to increase stamina, strengthen your muscles and boost your energy levels. It is an adaptogenic herb, meaning that it works by improving the physiological functions of the body. This, in turn creates the perfect environment for the body to strengthen the muscles as a result of it being at an optimal level.
7. Red Ginseng
Next on our list is Red Ginseng, which is sometimes referred to as nature’s pre-workout. Red Ginseng gives the body a powerhouse of energy that increases the level of oxygen available to the muscles in a certain time and boosts adrenal strength. So instead of stocking up on that store bought pre-workout, how about you give red ginseng a try?
Tribulus Terrestris is an excellent testosterone booster for men who struggle with lower levels of testosterone. As we know, muscle growth completely depends on how much testosterone the body has, so taking Tribulus may increase testosterone levels, leading to an increase in the growth of muscles. Because it increases testosterone, it may also help with issues caused by a lack of this hormone, such as erectile dysfunction.
This green superfood is beneficial for a number of reasons, including increasing and improving fitness, assisting with mental clarity and boosting energy levels. Spirulina is blue – green algae that grow naturally in the ocean. It is known to boost energy levels and improve your immune system. Research has shown that Spirulina contains Vitamins B6, C and E among others, and helps to boost the white blood cell count in the body.
10. Matcha/ Green Tea
This one is a very popular and very effective herbal solution for all fitness issues. Perhaps someone has told you to ‘switch your coffee to Matcha’, or to ‘drink green tea to lose weight.’ If you are on a fitness journey and you’re aiming to drop those few extra pounds, taking green tea will help to boost your metabolism so you burn fat faster. Matcha also helps by giving you a burst of energy similar to what you would get from drinking coffee, making it a great pre-workout tea.
Ultimately, the way you choose to introduce herbs into your diet is up to you. The most important thing is making sure that you reap the benefits that are available from these herbs. Until next time, stay happy, healthy and stocked up on herbs.
Article by Tavisha Samuels