Could Tai Chi Encourage More Patients to Take Up Cardiac Rehab?

Preliminary research suggests that tai chi, with its slow, gentle approach, might offer a safe and attractive option for patients who do not take up conventional cardiac rehabilitation.

A report on the study, which has been published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, explains that the majority of heart attack patients who are offered cardiac rehab refuse it, in many cases because they are put off by physical exercise.

Some patients are put off cardiac rehab because they believe that it might be painful, unpleasant, or perhaps not even achievable in their current physical condition.

In the United States, heart disease accounts for 1 in 4 deaths and claims 600,000 lives per year. It is the leading cause of death for men and women.

Of the 735,000 people in the U.S. who experience a heart attack every year, 2 out of 7 have already had a heart attack.

Need to improve cardiac rehab usage

At present in the U.S., despite evidence of its benefits, more than 60 percent of patients decline conventional cardiac rehabilitation following a heart attack.

Given this situation, the study authors urge that there is a need to improve the take-up rate of cardiac rehabilitation, to get patients more physically active and reduce their heart risk.

“We thought,” explains lead author Elena Salmoirago-Blotcher, an assistant professor of medicine at the Warren Alpert School of Medicine at Brown University in Providence, RI, “that tai chi might be a good option for these people because you can start very slowly and simply and, as their confidence increases, the pace and movements can be modified to increase intensity.”

As well as helping to achieve low- to moderate-intensity physical activity, tai chi’s emphasis on breathing and relaxation might also relieve stress and reduce psychological distress, she adds.

Therefore, the team carried out a randomized, controlled trial to find out how safe and acceptable tai chi might be – as well as what impact it might have on weight, physical activity, fitness, and quality of life – for heart patients who had refused conventional rehabilitation therapy.

Trial tested LITE and PLUS tai chi programs

The trial compared two regimes: a PLUS and a LITE tai chi program, both adapted from a routine used for patients with lung disease and heart failure.

The PLUS program consisted of 52 classes of tai chi over 24 weeks. The LITE program was a shorter version, with 24 classes over 12 weeks. All participants were also given an instructional DVD so that they could practice tai chi at home during and after the program.

The participants were 29 coronary heart disease patients (21 men and 8 women) – aged 67.9 years, on average – who were physically inactive and had declined cardiac rehabilitation but expressed an interest in a tai chi program. Nine patients were enrolled in the LITE program and 21 on the PLUS.

None of the participants had physical conditions that would preclude they’re being able to do tai chi (for example, recent joint replacement or other orthopedic condition).

Most of the group had had a previous heart attack or undergone a procedure to open a blocked artery, and all continued to have high cardiovascular risk factors.

These factors included having high cholesterol (75.9 percent of the group), having diabetes (48.3 percent), being obese (45 percent) or overweight (35 percent), and continuing to smoke (27.6 percent).

‘Safe bridge to more strenuous exercise’

The results of the trial showed that tai chi was safe: apart from some mild muscular pain at the start of the program, there were no adverse side effects from the tai chi itself.

The participants liked the program that they completed, and all of them said that they would recommend it to a friend.

The researchers say that the attendance level – participants went to 66 percent of scheduled classes – showed that the tai chi program was “feasible.”

Although neither program raised aerobic fitness, as measured after 3 months, the participants on the PLUS program did have higher levels of moderate to vigorous activity after 3 and 6 months.

“On its own,” says Prof. Salmoirago-Blotcher, “tai chi wouldn’t obviously replace other components of traditional cardiac rehabilitation, such as education on risk factors, diet, and adherence to needed medications.”

In an accompanying article on possible ways to improve the take-up of cardiac rehabilitation, a panel of experts writes that it “remains powerful, yet underutilized, tool” in the management of patients following a heart attack or blocked artery procedure.

They suggest that the tai chi study offers an option “that addresses barriers at the individual level (e.g., negative sentiment toward exercise).”

If proven effective in larger studies, it might be possible to offer it as an exercise option within a rehab center as a bridge to more strenuous exercise, or in a community setting with the educational components of rehab delivered outside of a medical setting.”


Bitters: A Healing Craft

WE ARE IN THE MIDST OF A RENAISSANCE in both the interest in natural health and herbal medicine; and the craft cocktail. The use of bitter herb extracts are a key part of both of these wonderful traditions, and a practice I adhere to regularly.


What Are Bitters & How Do They Work?

“Bitters” as a term refers to an alcohol extract of bitter tasting herbs such as gentian or yellow dock mixed with spices and natural flavors. Bitters formulas were very popular in the 1800s as herbal formulas and it is to this knowledge that we refer back to as bitters again gain deserved attention. Certain classes of herbs that produce a bitter flavor have a similar effect on the body, and herbalists know these bitter tasting herbs to have a positive effect on the digestion system and the body’s detoxification system. When bitters are tasted by specific receptor sites in the mouth, and at sites found throughout the entire gastrointestinal system, they activate the digestion system to function properly.

In the early 20th century, herbalism was the most common form of healing in North America. Most people had common knowledge of how to use herbs to heal common ailments. Bartenders knew this too. Bitter herbs are particularly helpful when we are consuming excess food and alcohol. Bitters were a key component in traditional cocktails and still are to this day. In cocktails, bitters provide depth and character to cocktails. They are the ingredient you should not be able to pick out clearly but would miss it if it was not there, like salt and pepper in food. Pre-abolition there were hundreds of bitters companies, but by the mid-20th century, it reduced down to a handful including Angostura and Peychaud’s. Happily, in the last decade there have been craft bitters companies popping up all over North America and you can now easily find a wide range of bitters that range from small distillers who brew their own alcohol and infuse the herbs in the process, herbalists preparing medicinal grade formulas, as well as a slew of incredible formulators making bitters for culinary uses and popular cocktails.

It’s exciting to be both a herbalist and cocktail enthusiast these days. We have an opportunity to share wonderful drinks with friends and family while at the same time sharing the wonderful healing properties of bitters. You can bookend your celebration meals with cocktails, aperitifs, or even desserts that feature a dash of bitters and support your guest’s health and feeling of wellness. Bitters taken before and after meal times support our bodies in a number of ways:

  • Stimulating the important vagus nerve in our body that connects key parts of our gastrointestinal system such as the tongue, stomach, intestines, liver, and gallbladder. This nerve is the ‘brain-to-gut connection’
  • Increasing saliva and digestive enzyme secretions
  • Slowing the movement of food out of the stomach and into the intestines. This action makes us feel fuller faster, and prevents gas and bloating through a better breakdown of food in the stomach.
  • Ensures a proper seal of the valve between your oesophagus and stomach preventing acid backing up and causing heartburn
  • Supporting the liver and gallbladder by kick-starting important secretions and proper detoxification

Many traditional cocktail recipes such as the Old Fashioned and Manhattan call for bitters but feel free to add a dash to any cocktail you love. I personally recommend serving a dash of bitters in a small glass with sparkling water and/or a splash of juice as a pre-dinner aperitif.


bitters makingMaking your own bitters is deceptively easy to do—all you need are some bitter herbs, spices, a jar, vodka, a touch of patience, and a willingness to experiment. With bitters, a little goes a long way. When making bitters of your own start by making small amounts. A one-ounce bottle will last you many, many, cocktails. Use recycled jam or even spice jars for making your them—don’t start with large quart-sized mason jars.

When making bitters you can technically use any alcohol you like. Every bitters-maker has their favorite for a reason. When teaching herbal medicine making, I recommend my students start making their alcohol extracts with vodka. It’s clear and neutral in flavor so you can really see and taste the herbs you infuse into it. It’s also 40% alcohol so you get a good extract of a range of constituents and it ensures proper preservation. Once you’ve made a few formulas I encourage you to try other types such as bourbon, whiskey or rum.

The next step is to get your hands on some herbs. Most local health food stores carry a selection of organic dried herbs, and you can use fresh ingredients from the grocery store or a local garden. You can use either fresh or dried herb in your bitters. (Note that herbs shrink by roughly half their weight when dried so you would use half as much of a dried herb as you would fresh.) If buying herbs it is important to buy certified organic or cultivated herbs as some species such as gentian are endangered in the wild. Most organic gardeners in your area would be quite happy to have you dig a few dandelion or yellow dock roots as they are very weedy species!

To craft your own bitters extract here are some guidelines to follow for ratios of herbs;

  • 10% very bitter herbs: These would include gentian, cinchona, yellow dock or wormwood. They are by far the most intense, and using too much will overpower your formula.
  • 50% medium to mild bitter herbs: We get most of our action from medium to mild bitters herbs. My favorites are dandelion root and leaf, orange or lemon peel (make sure you include the white pith), bitter greens such as parsley or arugula, and angelica root.
  • 30% aromatic herbs: This is where we get to have fun. Aromatic herbs are what we think of as tea and spice herbs. Use ones that smell fragrant and delicious—some examples are rosemary, coriander, fennel, peppermint, ginger, lemongrass, celery seed, or allspice. This part of the formula is where you get to really infuse the flavor you want, allowing you to play and experiment until you stumble upon a blend you really like.
  • 10% sweet: A touch of sweetness acts as a harmonizer in our formulas. It pulls together the flavors and actually helps their uptake in the body. You can use traditional sweeteners such as simple syrup, maple syrup or honey (these you would add after you have infused and strained the extract). You can also use herbs on the sweet spectrum such as burdock root, codonopsis root, or licorice root. If you want to make savory bitters such as rosemary or jalapeno, I’d use burdock root.

To make your extract you need enough herb to loosely fill half of the jar if using dried or three-quarters if using fresh. Top the herbs with vodka, seal with a tight-fitting lid, and label with the date and contents. The important part is that the herbs are covered entirely by the alcohol in the jar; you may need to top up the jar a day or two later as the dried herbs will absorb some of the fluid. Place this jar in a dark place and shake daily for a period of two weeks to one month. Taste your formula every few weeks to see when you like the flavor. When the bitters are ready, strain the mixture through a fine strainer or an unbleached coffee filter. If using honey, maple syrup, or simple syrup as a sweetener this is the time to add it. A good ration is a tablespoon of sweetener to a cup of extract, shaking well to dissolve. Pour the finished extract into a clean bottle; a small dropper bottle works great. Let your extract age for at least one or up to a few weeks and then start using them in your favorite recipes, or as a digestive tonic before meals.

Citrus Spiced Dandelion Bitters

Bitters aren’t just for fancy cocktails. They’re also an incredible digestive aid perfect for any holiday season.* We too enjoy mulled wines, grandma’s cinnamon raisin bread and those amazing miniature hors-d’oeuvres (that we ate a dozen of) at last week’s holiday party. But sometimes, our bodies have trouble processing all these bizarre combinations of foods. It’s at these times we turn to our bitter allies, like our lovely Citrus Spiced Dandelion Bitters.

Traditionally, all cultures enjoyed bitter foods during their mealtime rituals. Many of these bitter plants were collected from the wild or found in the garden, but farming has actually changed the taste of many of our bitter greens. Our cultivated vegetables have been bred to appeal to our preference for sweet foods, and the consequence is we’re now missing out on the incredible wellness benefits of these bitter plant allies. The bitter taste actually activates the liver and digestive juices to prepare the body to effectively process foods, which is especially helpful when digesting all the rich and fatty foods that we tend to enjoy more of during the holiday season.*

In Western Herbalism, we often create bitters as tinctures, which make it easy to incorporate bitters on the go. Tinctures are plant extracts (usually alcohol based) that can easily be taken from a dosage bottle. Taking bitters can be helpful anytime, but we suggest a teaspoon about 30 minutes before eating to give the plants enough time to activate our bodies’ natural digestive processes.

In this tincture, we have chosen to include herbs that are simple to find in the produce section, spice aisle or perhaps growing in your front yard! One of our favorite ingredients here is dandelion, and while some might consider this plant a pesky weed, the dandelion is incredibly supportive of both our digestive system and our bodies’ natural detoxification process by helping the body break down fats and carry away waste.* If you can’t find any fresh dandelion root, we would suggest using an organic Dandelion Leaf and Root Tea for this recipe.

When you taste your homemade bitters, you’ll notice a rich orange flavor, followed by cinnamon spice and a mild touch of bitter at the end.



1 cup white rum

4 tsp of fresh orange peel

2 tbs dried dandelion root and leaf (or 6 tbsp fresh, chopped finely)

2 tsp fresh ginger

½ tsp cinnamon

6 cardamom pods



12 oz Mason jar

6-8 amber dropper bottles (1 oz)


tradmed_bp_december_embed02_winterresiliencebitters_v1-forwebPlace all herbs into a mason jar, and fill to the top of the jar.

tradmed_bp_december_embed03_winterresiliencebitters_v1-forwebLabel your jar with the name, plants used, alcohol used and alcohol strength. Include the date on the label.

tradmed_bp_december_embed05_winterresiliencebitters_v1-forwebShake daily for two weeks, and then strain out the herbs with muslin or cheesecloth. Be sure to squeeze out any remaining liquid from the herbs.

You should have enough extract to fill about six (or more) one-ounce dropper bottles.

You can save all this plant power for yourself, or share the bounty as gifts with friends and families. We would like to add that we would not recommend using bitters if you have kidney stones, gallbladder disease, acid reflux, hiatal hernia, gastritis, peptic ulcers, severe menstrual cramping, or if you are pregnant.

Herbal Bitters

At one point in time, bitters typically only made an appearance in the American diet in the form of black coffee or a dash of Angostura in a cocktail. But times are changing, and bitter-tasting herbs now rock the aisles of natural food stores, hipster bars, and the workshop offerings at herbal conferences. We can thank herbalists for bringing these herbs to the forefront of “mainstream” herbal consciousness, but medicinal bitters actually date back thousands of years and have played a major role in modern herbalism for decades.

What Is A Bitter?

Quite simply, a “bitter” is an herb that tastes bitter. Bitters stimulate bitter receptors on our tongue’s taste buds and elsewhere in the body. Strong classic bitters include gentian and wormwood, though we don’t tend to use either due to sustainable harvesting concerns and potential safety issues, respectively. Our favorite basic bitter is artichoke leaf. Fellow mild lettuce-family bitters include burdock, dandelion, chicory {radicchio, endive}, and certain varieties of lettuce. More complex bitters include coffee, which has high levels of the alkaloid caffeine, and herbs rich in the antimicrobial alkaloid berberine, including goldenseal, coptis, barberry, and Oregon grape root. Aromatic bitters include elecampane root, chamomile, lemon balm, and catnip.

What Do Bitter Herbs Do?

Although individual herbs can have different properties, we generally call on their bitter flavor to encourage a certain set of health benefits.

Turn on Digestion: Bitters are most well known for their ability to stimulate digestion and assimilation, particularly when you taste them on the tongue {versus taking them in capsule form} since this turns on digestive-system function. Peristalsis, the wave-like motion that moves food through the digestive system, kicks in, which promotes better transit time and elimination. Blood circulation to the digestive tract also increases, and the body produces more stomach acid and digestive enzymes. Interestingly, many people with acid reflux actually feel better with bitters because they improve function and signaling so that the lower esophageal sphincter shuts properly while food churns in the stomach. Bitters seem to stimulate vagal tone, improving the bi-directional communication between the digestive system and the brain.

Studies show that bitters such as gentian and artichoke leaf relieve and prevent dyspepsia, a broad group of digestive symptoms that includes belly issues with food {pain, discomfort, feeling too full}, bloating, burping, heartburn, GERD, and the loss of appetite. This effect makes bitters potentially useful in various digestive issues, such as indigestion, hiatal hernia, ulcers, gastritis, irritable bowel disorder, and gastroparesis. Finally, they boost the absorption of nutrients.

Bitters may not agree with everyone, but you can usually tell within a dose or two whether or not they’re helping you.

Boost Detoxification: Most bitters have a cholagogues action, meaning that they encourage the liver to produce and excrete more bile. The liver produces bile as a waste product when it filters the blood. The gallbladder stores this bile. After you eat and food passes from the stomach to the intestines, the gallbladder releases its contents via the common bile duct to join the partially digested food. Through this process, it leaves the body via your waste, but it also helps emulsify fats and aid digestion in the process. If you don’t have a gallbladder, your body excretes bile gradually throughout the day rather than via food-driven spurts, which is why it’s harder to digest fatty meals without a gallbladder. By improving bile production and excretion, bitters support detoxification as well as fat digestion – regardless of the status of your gallbladder.

We often turn to dandelion, yellow dock, burdock, turmeric, artichoke, and other classic bitters for these benefits. Yellow dock has added laxative effects, burdock also boosts lymph detoxification, and dandelion leaf and root both enhance kidney detoxification. Artichoke leaf and turmeric help protect the liver from damage as well. New research suggests that bitters may also improve the cell’s ability to pump out toxins for removal.

Regulate Appetite and Reduce Sugar Cravings: Bitters have additional effects on the digestive system and brain-gut connection, as well as on endocrine function. In addition to supporting vagal tone, the stimulation of bitter receptors also regulates the production of gut hormones {CCK, leptin, and ghrelin}, as well as the sensitivity of your cells to these hormones. Among other things, these hormones affect your appetite and cravings. Taking bitters with meals can help people who tend to overeat feel healthfully full more quickly while also stimulating a better appetite in people who find themselves nauseated by food. {Note that taking strong bitters without any food can overstimulate the digestive system and aggravate nausea and hypoglycemia in sensitive people.} Regular use of bitters reduces your desire for sweets and increases your interest in healthy food, which can make it much easier to opt for good food choices and maintain a healthy weight.

Some herbalists believe that many of our obesity and appetite issues stem from”bitter deficiency.” As humans have selectivity adapted our food crops from their wild to current states, we have bred out bitter flavors in favor of sweet and starchy. Technology that allows us to process and refine foods furthers that divide. What was once a ubiquitous flavor in our diet is now quite rare, particularly in American cuisine. Other cultures still maintain the use of bitters in the meal, including citrus peel, bitter cordials, tamarind, artichoke, and wild bitter greens and lettuces. Even though we love our bitter coffee and chocolate, we sweeten and cream them past the point of recognition.

Lower Blood Sugar: We almost intuitively know that bitters reduce blood sugar when we sip black tea or coffee alongside something sweet. When consumed with sweets, bitters may reduce the glycemic effect of that food and improve the body’s sensitivity to insulin. This goes along well with the aforementioned ability of bitters to improve satiety as we eat, reduce sugar cravings, and improve our desire for healthy foods. Researchers think that insulin resistance may be caused in part by a lack of bitter stimulation of receptors on the pancreas.

Beyond The Bitter Basics

New research is revealing, even more, capabilities of the bitter flavor. We’re finding bitter receptor sites throughout the body, not just on the tongue or in the digestive tract. Here are a few potential benefits bitters may offer based on highly preliminary research:

  • Improving lung function by boosting bronchodilation.
  • Improving longevity by enhancing gene function.
  • Encouraging the parasympathetic “relaxation” response via its vagal nerve stimulation.
  • Promote bladder control.
  • Helping to regulate energy metabolism in the cardiovascular system, as well as heart rhythm and contractile force.
  • Supporting immune function.

Bitter Herbal “Coffee”

This coffee-like drink tastes particularly nice over ice. You may also enjoy adding chaga, cacao powder, and/or a pinch of ginger or nutmeg to the mix. It’s caffeine-free unless you use cacao.

1 part dandelion root

1 part burdock root

1 part roasted chicory root

1 part cinnamon chips or 1 cinnamon stick per cup {optional}

Simmer one heaping teaspoon of the blend per 8 to 16 ounces of water for 20 minutes. Strain and enjoy hot or cold. While it tastes great with cream and sugar, these offset the benefits.

Bitters Spray

Blends of bitters generally include strong bitters, warming spices, and perhaps a few other extras. Lightly sweeten them if desired. You can use dried herbs to make your own bitter tincture blend. Feel free to play around to create your own mix. Citrus peel/fruit, spices, elecampane, catnip, lemon balm, chamomile, holy basil, blue vervain, fennel, and other herbs make welcome additions.

1/2 oz dandelion root

1/2 oz artichoke leaf

1/2 oz burdock root

1/2 Tsp grated fresh ginger

1 cardamom pod

4 oz of 80- or 100-proof vodka

2 oz of maple syrup or vegetable glycerine {or substitute more vodka}

Combine all of the above in an 8-ounce jar with a tight lid. If needed, top it off with more vodka so that it’s filled to the brim. Shake every day or so. Strain after one month, bottle, and store in a cool, dark, dry spot.

To Use: Take 1 ml {30 drops} or 1-4 sprays by mouth or add 1-2 ml to plain seltzer and sip with meals.


Exercise and Herbs

While the active season of summer may be coming to a close, fall entices many sports enthusiasts to run, bike, hike, and train when cooler weather presides. Of course, a successful workout requires adequate fuel and self-care to reduce the risk of injury and make for an enjoyable experience. So we look to herbs to help us postpone the onset of fatigue and aid in recovery.

Cayenne {Capsicum annuum}

Capsaicin, one of the cayenne’s active components, aids muscle pain and soreness by providing topical heat to those areas. Taken internally, the pepper informs the brain to circulate endorphins throughout the body. These endorphins make the athlete feel good, which helps with stamina during a long and intense workout. And because cayenne causes your body temperature to rise, it boosts metabolism {we burn more calories when the body is forced to go through a heating and cooling process}.

Ashwagandha {Withania somnifera}

A study published in 2015 in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition showed that the root has significant benefits for muscle strength, mass, and recovery in resistance training. Male subjects between the ages of 18 and 57, with little experience in resistance training, were split into a placebo group and an ashwagandha-extract group. The men spent eight weeks completing exercises that included leg extensions and bench presses. They were measured before and after eight weeks. At the end of the trial, those in the Ashwagandha group showed a siginificantly greater increase in muscle strength on the leg extension and bench press exercises and a significant increase in muscle size in the arms and chest. Exercise-induced muscle damage and body fat percentage were both reduced. In addition, participants saw a greater increase in testosterone levels.

Peppermint {Mentha x piperita}

Peppermint is a wonderful stimulating herb that boosts performance. Just a drop of peppermint essential oil on the tongue can give a blast of refreshing energy. Try it before and during a workout to increase endurance. Its antispasmodic properties help reduce muscle spasms and cramping, making it beneficial during a workout or while recuperating. This herb also contains potassium, magnesium, and calcium, important electrolytes that we can lose through sweat. An individual doing a long-duration run such as a marathon would benefit from drinking a peppermint infusion to replenish the needed potassium and electrolytes.

Chamomile {Matricaria recutita}

We may associate this herb with bedtime, but it actually works wonders on muscles, thanks to its ability to reduce inflammation of the affected areas. As an antispasmodic, it also eases muscle tension, which is particularly helpful during cramping. A cup of strong chamomile tea will work almost immediately. For topical relief before or after a workout, add chamomile essential oil to a base oil and use for a massage.

Lavender {Lavandula angustifolia}

This fragrant herb offers soothing relief for joint pain and muscle soreness, offering both anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic benefits. Combine it with almond oil for use in massage, or add it to a bath to relieve aches and pains while enjoying much-needed aromatherapy. It’s perfect for someone who’s just completed a long-duration workout or a marathon. {Use lavender essential oil or loose fried lavender in a muslin bag and add to the tub}.

Mustard {Brassica alba}

As a rubefacient, mustard {applied as a paste} brings heat to a sore or injured area by dilating the capillaries and increasing blood circulation {it will turn the skin red}. Some people also swear by “mustard baths,” an age-old bath blend that includes mustard powder, Epsom salts, and essential oils such as eucalyptus to warm fatigued muscles and lessen pain throughout the body.

Nettle {Urtica dioica}

This vitamin-packed herb strengthens the body’s overall health, stimulates metabolism, and boosts energy and stamina. It’s also beneficial for recovery after a hard workout. Nettle is rich in magnesium, calcium, zinc, manganese, iron, potassium, and many other minerals and vitamins. Calcium regulates muscle contraction and is necessary for the repair and maintenance of bone tissue. {Deficiency in calcium can result in stress fractures because of low bone mineral density.} Nettle reduces musculoskeletal pain as well as inflammation and muscle spasms.

Oats [Avena sativa}

Oats are a great source of energy, and their tops are rich in magnesium, an important mineral for muscle and nerve function. Oat’s anti-inflammatory action reduces fatigue and helps with post-exercise recovery.

Athletic Energy Balls

1/4 ounce spirulina

1-ounce Siberian ginseng powder

1-ounce ground ashwagandha

1-ounce astragalus

1 cup sesame butter

1/2 cup honey

1/2 ounce ground pumpkin seeds

1/2 cup crushed almonds

2 Tbls cocoa powder

1 Tbls carob powder

Combine herbs and spirulina, mixing well. In a separate bowl combine sesame butter and honey to form a paste. Add powdered herb mix into the paste. Next add pumpkin seeds, almonds, cocoa and carob powders. Roll into balls roughly the size of a walnut. Place in the refrigerator to harden.

Fo-ti {Polygonum multiflorum}

An energizing herb used in Chinese tonics, fo-ti improves endurance and reduces stress in the body by boosting circulation and supporting the heart. It contains lectins, protein-sugar complexes that help block the formation of plaque in the blood vessels that would restrict the flexibility of their walls. Fo-ti works best when taken regularly.

Astragalus {Astragalus membranaceus}

Another amazing tonic herb, astragalus strengthens the whole body, stimulates metabolism, and improves energy and endurance. This herb’s ability to increase the uptake of oxygen aids in recovery. A 2014 study published in Molecules showed that astragalus supplements increase exercise endurance and muscle glycogen {which muscles then convert into glucose} in mice. It also reduces exercise-induced fatigue.

Licorice {Glycyrrhiza glabra}

This anti-inflammatory aids the respiratory system, which is useful for the increased breathing associated with being active. It’s also handy {and tasty} when dealing with fatigue and exhaustion during high-intensity exercise or recovery.

Dandelion {Taraxacum officinale}

Dandelion is a restorative herb that helps during recovery. The leaves contain a wealth of vitamins and minerals, including magnesium, calcium, iron, and vitamins A and C. A shortage of iron in the body can cause a deficiency of hemoglobin, which makes it difficult for the body to move oxygen into the muscles. Adding raw dandelion leaves to a salad is a great way to increase iron intake. Dandelion is also rich in potassium, which replenishes the body after long-duration activity. It relieves inflammation and the buildup of fluid in the joints and increases the absorption of nutrients.

Rosemary {Rosmarinus officinalis}

As a stimulant, rosemary supports the circulatory system and boosts energy. Thanks to its analgesic and antioxidant properties, it’s great at targeting inflammation. These antioxidant properties also reduce oxidative stress and decrease joint pain. A nice cup of rosemary tea is a great way to relax and reap the benefits during recovery. Steep one tablespoon of rosemary leaves in two cups of water for 20 minutes. Strain and enjoy.

Turmeric {Curcuma longa}

Turmeric is an immune-boosting herb that has highly effective anti-inflammatory properties, thanks to its active compound curcumin. This powerful herb encourages flexibility and also aids the ligaments and tendons. Turmeric promotes the health of the musculoskeletal system. As a recovery herb, it reduces the pain, fatigue, and inflammation caused by the stress of an intense workout. For a simple recovery drink, mix turmeric root powder with a cup of warm almond milk {or milk of choice}. Stir 1/2-1 teaspoon of the turmeric powder into the warm milk. If you’d like something sweeter, add honey. Turmeric capsules are also a great option.

Athletic Energy Capsules

1 part ground licorice

1 part ground fo-ti

1/2 part ground oats

1/4 part cayenne powder

“OO” gelatin or vegetable capsules

Blend all of the powdered herbs together in a bowl and scoop into the capsules.