Improving Athletic Endurance
There are many "natural herbal" supplements available too. Unfortunately, most are manufactured by companies whose chief aim is to make money instead of promoting health. These companies have little, if any, concept on how or why herbs should be used and combined. The result of marketing herbal products without knowledge has given a lot of bad press to the legitimate herbal industry. An example of lack of herbal knowledge in manufacturing was seen in the 1990's when multi-level marketing companies sold Ma-huang (ephedra) combined with guarana. This combination was shown to have serious and dangerous side-effects that lead to ephedra being taken off the market. This was unfortunate for Chinese medicine practitioners and their patients because used as intended Ephedra is a valuable medicinal herb. Fortunately, there are companies that have the knowledge, expertise, and conscience to make safe and effective products.
There are several individual herbs that can help with athletic performance. Once is Siberian Ginseng. Siberian Ginseng improves circulation, strengthens ligaments and bones and acts as a tonic. Athletes use Siberian ginseng to speed up the recovery time after a workout. Research in the former Soviet Union noted many positive effects from the daily use of Siberian ginseng including increase in reflex speed and endurance, improved work capability, and normalization of blood pressure for both low and high blood pressure. American Ginseng is another favorite. American Ginseng is known for its nourishing and rejuvenating properties. Botanists consider it to be an adaptogen. It is milder than Panax Ginseng and is more appropriate for training in warmer climates or summer temperatures. It boosts your energy and endurance and can increase your drive. You should note that Panax ginseng is warming and is not recommended to use when the weather is too warm or hot. Panax ginseng is best used during the cooler months as it creates heat in the body. Ginseng can be considered a "superfood" as it is very nourishing to the body.
One herbal supplement that gives consistent results to athletes is Dragon 'Seng. Dragon 'Seng is well-balanced, so the long-term effects help increase the performance potential derived from inner strength gained by the organs, muscles, and nerves. Those who use Dragon 'Seng find they can go the extra distance during intense workouts or competitions. However, it doesn't leave you feeling depleted or run-down by any after-effects. The herbs in Dragon 'Seng nourish the basic activating qualities that give drive and movement to life. They also help to strengthen a person's will, breaking through the emotional restrictions from lack of assertiveness, or fear.
Looking for a modern equivalent of Dragon 'Seng would lead you to steroids. There is no doubt that steroids are powerful but where does their power come from? In terms of Chinese medicine, steroids rob the vital energy (Qi) of the kidneys, spleen, heart, and liver. The strength of the internal organs is transferred to the large muscles. Thus, the negative effects of long-term steroid use observed by Western clinicians are due, according to Chinese medicine, to the weakening of the vital life force or "Qi" of the internal organs. According to Chinese medicine theory, the root of the body's strength resides in its kidney function. In contrast to steroids, Dragon 'Seng nourishes the energy (Qi) of the internal organs, especially in the kidney meridian, filling them with enduring energy and helping them to function at peak levels. Dragon 'Seng is healthier for your body than steroids and vitamins when the overall structure of the body is taken into account. The herbs go directly to the main bodily organs and fill them with long-lasting energy, enabling them to function at peak levels. Dragon 'Seng is well balanced, so its extended effects are increased performance potential built on long-term strength in the organs, muscles and nerves.
Central to Dragon 'Seng are herbs that energize the Spleen and kidney function. The Spleen governs the muscles and the Kidneys rule the bones. The herbs nourish the basic activating and energizing qualities that give life drive and movement. Another way of describing these herbs is that they stimulate the fire that energizes life. They break through the restriction and immobility of an unassertive or weak will, paralyzing fear, or numbing cold, by strengthening the will. This formulation contains some of the most potent tonifying herb in Chinese medicine including Ginseng, Polygonum Multiflorum, Angelica Sinensis, Schizandra, Dioscoriae, and Eucommia.
When using herbs for athletic performance it is important to follow the Taoist principle of following the middle path. Too much is never a good thing. Experiment with the herbs cautiously and listen to how your body responds. Ideally, you should find a level where you use the minimal amount of herbs to achieve maximum personal performance.
Michel Czehatowski, L.Ac. is a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist. He has trained in several different martial arts over a number of years.