Dubbed the ‘superfood 2.0’, adaptogens are herbs that help the body adapt to stresses and improve strength and recovery. With our sceptic’s hat firmly on, here are five foods rich in adaptogens that have other health benefits too.
Ginseng has long been known to reduce perceived levels of fatigue in a similar way to coffee. It has been used throughout the centuries by Chinese and Indian soldiers to increase mental alertness and improve resistance to stress. Historical anecdotes aside, ginseng was proven to improve physical and mental alertness in the Chinese Journal of Physiology.
As well as aiding strength and recovery, nootropics are cognitive enhancers that are used to enhance memory, creativity and productivity. Although these mostly materialise as supplements on the wrong side of the web, some natural herbs offer similar benefits. One of those is bacopa monnieri, which originates as a marsh plant but is used to deal with stress in traditional Chinese medicine. Scientists writing in Phytotherapy Research found that it could help animal subjects deal with stressful situations, but it’s as yet unclear if that translates directly to human brains.
Traditionally used to improve vitality, rhodiola has been demonstrated to reduce fatigue in a study published in the Bulletin of Experimental Biology and Medicine. In good news for runners, the researchers tested participants before and after exhausting exercise, in which rhodiola was shown to have an anti-inflammatory effect and protect muscle tissue during training. Available from health food shops, just blend it into your morning coffee for
a top-up first thing.
Feeling a bit flat during your New Year training programme? Jujube berries are reputed to boost energy levels and aid in recovery, as well as alleviating symptoms of anxiety. It was also noted in a 2015 study published in Pharmacognosy Review for its promising “anticancer effects”, though we’d be incredibly wary of any natural or alternative remedy to life-threatening diseases like cancer. When it comes to picking up your energy for a frosty winter run, though, jujube berries could be worth a look.
According to the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, holy basil improves levels of cytokines associated with immunity. Exercise, for all its benefits, reduces immunity, so this is a way of helping to keep colds at bay.