Herbs of all stripes are credited with seemingly never-ending health benefits.
Whether it’s to aid weight loss, kickstart a flagging libido or to enhance athletic performance and recovery, there’s a constant search for natural and effective supplements.
The supplement industry makes particularly strong use of herbs known as adaptogens for a number of these purposes.
What Are Adaptogens?
Adaptogens are plant species thoroughly researched by the Soviets in the Cold War era.
The Russians studied herbs that might encourage the body to adapt to various physical or mental stresses with no meaningful side effects.
Sadly, the scientists involved in these experiments were banned from talking about their findings or from publishing their results. Since the 1960s, though, research has continued with a vengeance.
Dr David Winston, a leading authority, sets down 3 criteria all adaptogens must meet :
- The substance must be relatively non-toxic
- Adaptogens influence organs or body systems increasing resistance to adverse factors
- These substances maintain homeostasis and help regulate system function
Think of adaptogens as supplements for active and healthy athletes.
These herbs can offer a range of possible benefits to anyone training by promoting overall wellness, boosting resistance and aiding with swifter recovery.
With Americans spending almost $13 billion on natural product supplements in 2012 , it’s a huge market with absolutely no signs of shrinkage.
3 of the Most Common Herbs For Athletic Performance
To give you a flavor of just what these herbs can bring to the table, we’ll focus on 3 of the most popular adaptogens in common use…
Also known as Siberian ginseng, eleuthero is used to increase energy, endurance and stamina while helping you fight back against fatigue. 
Used by Russian athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics, eleuthero can also aid recovery and reduces the chance of immune system depletion after training too hard.
Preparations are made from the roots of the plant. Modern herbalists label eleuthero a stimulating adaptogen.
Some studies have shown Siberian ginseng helps with oxygen uptake and lung capacity while significantly improving recovery time. There’s about an even mix of no effect studies.
As an ergogenic, this herb helps to generate activity and energy. It also ensures the body more efficiently uses fuel.
2) Asian Ginseng
Asian ginseng has long been used in traditional Chinese medicine to restore lowered energy levels.
It can have a stimulant effect improving alertness while lessening fatigue and stress. 
Forced exercise trials show ginseng can extend exercise duration to the point of exhaustion. 
Overall, Asian ginseng contains a number of ergogenic properties that can lead to an upsurge in physical and mental performance. If you are competing in any discipline, ginseng will not lead to positive test results for banned substances.
Tests have shown that best results come with adequate dosage (200mg daily) and a sufficient supplementation period of 8 weeks.
Rhodiola might well have a role to play in athletic performance.
It’s long been considered a herb of vitality and longevity in Chinese traditional medicine. Also, rhodiola was extensively tested on Russian Olympians with claims of increased endurance and superior recovery.
Clinical studies have also shown that rhodiola can protect cardiovascular function and protect the body against the rigors of excessive training.
As with many natural herbs, research into the effectiveness of rhodiola for physical and mental fatigue is compelling but contradictory. 
How Can Adaptogens Boost Your Athletic Performance?
With incredible advances continuing to be made in health, fitness and pharmaceuticals, sports have been revolutionized.
For better performance and recovery without sacrificing long-term health, adaptogenic herbs can help in a number of ways…
- Help Recovery Time: Adaptogens help with recovery in 2 important ways. By not overworking your body, you can avoid excessive strain in the first place. Also, adaptogens work to increase lactic acid breakdown which will help you feel less tired and bounce back quicker
- Last Longer Without Crashing: Caffeine and energy drinks might give you a spike but, by overworking your organs, you’ll soon come crashing down again. Adaptogens lower the stress hormones produced when exercising without the overload and subsequent crash
- Inducement of HGH Production: Human Growth Hormone (HGH) helps you to endure more overload without fully breaking down. This ability leads to more muscle and less body fat. By working to activate your pituitary gland, adaptogens can increase HGH production
- Oxygen Uptake: The more oxygen you can breathe in, the more you’ll be able to consume. By upping oxygen intake, adaptogens can give you a shot of energy while also maximizing endurance
- Increase Mental Performance: Peak athletic performance demands more than physical strength. To perform at your best, you also need to be mentally tough. Adaptogens have shown some positive effects on cognitive functioning, motor skills and attention span. You need all these to perform at your very best
Adaptogens in the Bedroom
Using adaptogens for athletic performance has a knock-on benefit…
Most of these herbs have aphrodisiac qualities to a greater or lesser degree. 
Whether it’s Tribulus terrestris to nudge a flagging libido  or Ashwagandha for virility as well as weight loss , these traditional herbs have plenty of possible ways to give you a helping hand in the bedroom (it’s a common ingredient in male enhancement pills) as well as while training.
If you want to experiment with herbs that could potentially give you a safe athletic edge, adaptogens are a sensible starting point.
By balancing various body functions without the risk of any nasty side effects, adaptogens are among the most studied of all herbs. While, as you can see above, evidence is far from categorical, the claimed effects of adaptogens are generally accepted in the mainstream.
The strength of adaptogens lies in the way they target the whole body and can help to restore homeostasis.
If you’re clear in advance that you are likely to experience minor improvements rather than a dramatic change, give some adaptogens a try and see how they might work for you.
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