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Keep going strong with adaptogenic herbs that enhance endurance.

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Keep going strong with adaptogenic herbs that enhance endurance

To get the most out of your exercise regimen, you need endurance and stamina. This is true of just about any activity or sport you participate in, from a weekend softball game to a spinning class.

One thing that reduces our capacity to exercise is extended day-to-day stress, as it can damage tissue. When we’re under stress, primitive mechanisms in the body respond by producing hormones that change our physiological reactions—the famous “fight or flight” response. This response, which includes profound stimulation of the adrenal glands and sympathetic nervous system, also causes increased respiration, blood pressure, blood sugar, and heart rate. If stress is prolonged, the effects of these changes in the body can reduce muscular strength and endurance.

Herbal adaptogens, often called “tonic herbs,” can help defend against stress and its deleterious effects on the body. They are safe, nontoxic, and have a generalized, normalizing, balancing influence on the body—these herbs not only help the body to cope with stress but also enhance immunity, combat fatigue, promote strength, and encourage muscle development and repair.

Three herbal adaptogens to try:


Studies show ginseng (Panax ginseng) has a long-term antistress effect in the body. It is often recommended to improve physical and mental performance and reaction time. Ginseng increases physical working capacity in many ways, including by stimulating the central nervous system. It can also lower blood pressure and glucose levels when they’re high, and raise them when they’re low.

In one study, Asian ginseng, together with vitamins and minerals, improved energy and concentration, and reduced anxiety. Another study showed that muscle inflammation after performing a high-intensity treadmill running task was significantly lower in people taking ginseng than in a placebo group.

Ginseng is generally indicated for daily, consistent use in moderate doses. Do not use ginseng as a short-term stimulant. “Ginseng and other adaptogens work best after long-term (one to three months) use by regulating hormone levels and other biological functions to protect against the damaging effects of chronic stress,” says herbalist Christopher Hobbs, LAc, AHG, author of Ginseng: The Energy Herb.

A typical dose of ginseng powder in capsules is 4,000–6,000 mg per day. 


Traditional Chinese medicine has long used schisandra (Schisandra chinensis) for increasing stamina. Athletes have used it to increase endurance and speed, and reduce fatigue.

Research shows this fruit supports healthy blood sugar and testosterone levels during exercise. A 2013 study found that it enhanced exercise capacity by lowering lactate accumulation in tissues.

Take up to 10 gm per day in capsules or tea.


Eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus) has demonstrated anti-inflammatory activities. Soviet Olympic athletes have used it to augment their training and improve performance.

A 2011 study in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology concludes that the active constituents, eleutherosides, can alleviate both physical and mental fatigue. And the German Commission E, the standard guide for European herbal uses, lists eleuthero “as tonic for invigoration and fortification in times of fatigue and debility.”

Take 2–3 gm per day of powdered eleuthero root in capsules.