By Tamara Welsh, Head Herbalist at Happy Herb Co
Herbal help to get s**t done
Finding a balance in life between work, play and rest is arguably one of the most important facets to master for better health and wellbeing. Nevertheless, we all have those times in our lives where we just need to push through and get sh*t done. Maybe you have an important work deadline to meet, or you are competing in a marathon. Perhaps you are studying for your final exams or you are working hard on renovating your house before Christmas? Whatever the reason, during these times of pushing through to get to your goal, herbs can be of great support. Here are some herbs you might consider next time you find yourself needing a little extra help to get you over the line.
Ginkgo leaves come from the ancient tree which has survived unchanged for approximately 150 million years- a hint to its ability to soldier on! Today Ginkgo is a particularly popular herb amongst students for its reputation to enhance cognition and memory. This may be due partly to its ability to increase blood flow, especially to the peripheries which has been shown in various studies (1,2). It has also gained a reputation in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia due to its neuroprotective characteristics (3)
Panax ginseng, also known as Korean ginseng, certainly has a reputation as a powerful herb. It is known as a tonic herb with whole body effects. Panax ginseng is described as having the ability to profoundly influence the metabolism of the individual cell (4). Therefore, this herb has the ability to bring a person to their physical peak by increasing vitality and physical performance. Ginseng has been shown at appropriate doses to improve learning, memory and physical capabilities (5). Most herbalists will agree, Panax ginseng is a herb to use and treat with care as exceeding the recommended dose or combining this herb with caffeine or other stimulants can lead to overstimulation.
Rhodiola is a wonderful herb that supports the adrenals, increasing resilience to stress i.e. it is an adaptogen. It is a tonic herb which means it improves the tone, vigour and function of the whole body leading to a boost in energy. Rhodiola is therefore a herb to turn to when you are feeling depleted and exhausted. When under stress, Rhodiola has the ability to improve concentration and physical performance. It also has antidepressant activity according to preclinical studies and can improve mood while reducing irritability, insomnia and emotional instability (3).
Caffeine containing herbal stimulants
In times of need, we can also turn to the herbs that contain caffeine. Caffeine, when used wisely, is a helpful stimulant that can significantly reduce fatigue. Yerba Mate is a popular tea containing caffeine and is rich in antioxidants and minerals. Green tea and matcha green tea contain the amino acid l-theanine, which has a wonderfully stimulating yet calming effect on the brain. Kola nut is a strong central nervous system stimulant that can be used short term for fatigue and debility. Remember to always keep the use of caffeine containing herbs to the first half of the day, then make the switch to a herbal tea that can support the nervous system and begin to wind you down for sleep (think of herbs such as Damiana, Chamomile or Skullcap).
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- Jung F, Mrowietz C, Kiesewetter H, Wenzel E. Effect of Ginkgo biloba on fluidity of blood and peripheral microcirculation in volunteers. Arzneimittelforschung. 1990 May;40(5):589-93. PMID: 2383302.
- Mehlsen J, Drabaek H, Wiinberg N, Winther K. Effects of a Ginkgo biloba extract on forearm haemodynamics in healthy volunteers. Clin Physiol Funct Imaging. 2002 Nov;22(6):375-8. doi: 10.1046/j.1475-097x.2002.00445.x. PMID: 12464140.
- Braun, L. and Cohen, M. Herbs & natural supplements 2007, Churchill Livingstone/Elsevier, Sydney.
- Mills S & Bone K, 2000, Principles and practice of phytotherapy: modern herbal medicine, Churchill Livingstone, Edinburgh, London.
- Petkov VD, Mosharrof AH. Effects of standardized ginseng extract on learning, memory and physical capabilities. Am J Chin Med 1987; 15(1 and 2): 19–29