For muscle pain, Adriana Ayales, a clinical herbalist from Costa Rica and the owner of Anima Mundi Apothecary in Brooklyn, NY, recommends antispasmodic herbs to soothe muscle aches and growth. “Then, adaptogens are adrenal regulators that are more for preventing the burnout if you’re overdoing it or you need to recover,” she adds.
Ayales’ top recommendation is suma ($25), also known as Brazilian ginseng, which has become more popular recently, according to Ayales. “It increases muscle density, and at the same time, it prevents you from the burnout. So any kind of muscle fatigue or any issues surrounding the workout, it is an incredible root for that.” You can add suma to hot water (or any hot water extraction such as soup or broth), she says. Ayales also suggests making a tonic by combining suma with turmeric ($17), because curcumin, “the active constituent in turmeric, is highly anti-inflammatory,” and soothes both the muscles and joints.
In addition to suma and turmeric, Ayales also recommends using cordyceps ($42) in combination with the two or independently. According to Ayales, cordyceps has been found to help the body utilize oxygen more efficiently. As you exercise, your muscles are working harder and need more oxygen to break down glucose and create “fuel” for your muscles, also known as adenosine triphosphate (ATP).
And if your body can’t get that much-needed oxygen fast enough, the glucose available turns into lactic acid, which usually feels like a combination of your muscles burning, fatiguing, and cramping simultaneously. (If you’ve ever done an intense sprint workout, you know exactly what we’re talking about.) So consuming cordyceps before a workout may help improve your performance.
For an extra boost, try pairing these herbs and adaptogens with magnesium-rich foods like bananas, almonds, and legumes, and healthy fats such as raw coconut oil, raw flaxseed oil, and sacha inchi. You can make a smoothie with them or a hot oatmeal bowl, and whichever you choose, just know, “they’re all great sustaining forces to the expression of those plants,” and will help prevent fatigue and muscle soreness, according to Ayales.
Another adaptogen Ayales recommends for muscle fatigue and soreness is maca ($13), stating that it’s great for those who need both energy and aid in recovery. But because it increases testosterone, Ayales advises those who are estrogen heavy and those with too much testosterone to refrain from using it for energy if they don’t want their testosterone levels to be boosted.
Post-workout, Ayales suggests rhodiola ($15) to give your muscles and joints some extra TLC. “Rhodiola is also fantastic for muscle recovery, adrenal burnout, or anyone living in the fight-or-flight response for way too long and they’re about to have an emotional collapse,” says Ayales, because not only will it help relax your muscles, but it can also help to improve your mood, she says.
Herbs can help improve fatigue whether from life or exercise, but Ayales notes that it’s important to understand where the pain is coming from because sometimes temporary pain can be the side effect of something bigger. “Herbs won’t work as bandaids. It’s as simple as that.”
Herbs For Sore Muscles
“It’s very energizing, it’s grounding, soothing, and it prevents the adrenal burnout which all of us could use right now just for regular stress,” says Ayales. She also explained that suma is a natural aphrodisiac, helping you get your mojo and energy simultaneously. “So it’s a really great general tonic and it really prevents, more than anything, the spasmodic effect of the muscle after workouts.”
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