Mood for Life

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Archive of ‘exercise’ category

Hibiscus for mood, lowering blood pressure, and exercise performance

hibiscus-flower

Flowers of Hibiscus (rosa-sinensis Linn) popularly known as “China-rose flowers” contain significant flavonoids (such as anthocyanin and quercetin) known to have antidepressant activity[1].

The antidepressant effect may be from its antioxidant activity[2]; there are few controlled studies on human populations. Hibiscus has been used in Hawaiian cultures to treat postpartum depression[3].

Another herbal tea, made from the sepals of Hibiscus flowers are beautiful, showy red flowers that are harvested and dried like most teas.  This plant contains bioflavonoids, which are believed to help prevent an increase in LDL cholesterol, and to lower blood pressure[4].  The research is quite clear on these effects. It may work by boosting nitric oxide production, generally an advantage for cardiovascular activities (aerobic exercise).

Again, why bother to make tea with this food and limit the nutrient availability when you can eat it! I use a heaping tablespoon in my morning smoothie. I also like to blend it with green tea and ice, then strain it into water bottles as a drink during exercise.

References

[1] Butterweck, V., Jürgenliemk, G., Nahrstedt, A., & Winterhoff, H. (2000). Flavonoids from Hypericum perforatum Show Antidepressant Activity in the Forced Swimming Test. Planta Medica, 66(1), 3-6. doi:10.1055/s-2000-11119.

[2] Vanzella, C., Bianchetti, P., Sbaraini, S., Vanzin, S. I., Melecchi, M. I., Caramão, E. B., & Siqueira, I. R. (2012). Antidepressant-like effects of methanol extract of Hibiscus tiliaceus flowers in mice. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 12(1). doi:10.1186/1472-6882-12-41.

[3] Kobayashi, J. (1976). Early Hawaiian Uses of Medicinal Plants in Pregnancy and Childbirth. Journal of Tropical Pediatrics, 22(6), 260-262. doi:10.1093/tropej/22.6.260.

[4] Siddiqui, A., Wani, S., Rajesh, R., & Alagarsamy, V. (2006). Phytochemical and pharmacological investigation of flowers of hibiscus rosasinensis linn. Indian Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences Indian J Pharm Sci, 68(1), 127. doi:10.4103/0250-474x.22986.

Ashwagandha roots for exercise recovery, insomnia, and cognitive health

 

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The root of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is used extensively in Ayurveda, the classical Indian system of medicine, and is categorized as a rasayana, an herbal remedy used to promote physical and mental health[1].

There are many claims concerning the health benefits of Ashwagandha root and most all of them concern reduction of adrenal stress (anxiety) and reduction of inflammation; there are many peer reviewed studies, including systematic review summaries that are rather convincing.  Positive influences on neurodegenerative diseases such as cognitive decline and dementias have been suggested[2].

It is likely helpful to ingest this substance after exercise, particularly endurance workouts or heavy lifting (supposedly it helps to stimulate muscle recovery).

Also this Ayurvedic has been used to help treat insomnia.

The amount suggested by the literature studies is one-half teaspoon, about 1600 mg.

References

[1] Bhattacharya, S., Bhattacharya, A., Sairam, K., & Ghosal, S. (2000). Anxiolytic-antidepressant activity of Withania somnifera glycowithanolides: An experimental study. Phytomedicine, 7(6), 463-469. doi:10.1016/ s0944-7113(00)80030-6.

[2] Manchanda, S., Mishra, R., Singh, R., Kaur, T., & Kaur, G. (2016). Aqueous Leaf Extract of Withania somnifera as a Potential Neuroprotective Agent in Sleep-deprived Rats: A Mechanistic Study. Molecular Neurobiology Mol Neurobiol. doi:10.1007/s12035-016-9883-5.

Maca root: increases energy, stamina, and immunity

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Maca has been cultivated and grown high in the Andean Mountains of Peru for thousands of years.

Like Rhodiola, it flourishes in extreme environments of freezing cold winds, strong sunlight, and high elevation (over 10,000 feet).  There does appear to be a correlation between plants that survive in stressful circumstances and the adaptogenic effects that such plants have on the human body and mind.

The root of the maca plant has been used for centuries as a nutritive substance that raises the body’s state of resistance to disease by increasing immunity to stress while remaining nontoxic to the recipient.

The shelf life is an amazing seven years.  Maca is powerfully abundant in amino acids, phytonutrients, healthy fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals. This superfood allegedly has the ability to increase energy and stamina, working directly on the hypothalamus and pituitary glands.

Once again, there are some indications of positive effect on mood[1].

About two tablespoons of maca powered root was used in the above studies. A good source of maca is the “premium” combination of Peruvian sources from “The Maca Team” available on the internet.

[1] Rubio, J., Caldas, M., Dávila, S., Gasco, M., & Gonzales, G. F. (2006). Effect of three different cultivars of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) on learning and depression in ovariectomized mice. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine BMC Complement Altern Med, 6(1). doi:10.1186/1472-6882-6-23.

Intense green tea and hibiscus work-out drink

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Intense physical exercise is often associated with an increase in the production of free radicals and reactive oxygen species (ROS) in various tissues, which may overwhelm the capacity of the antioxidant defense systems[1].

Oxidative stress, induced by the accumulation of large amounts of ROS and an imbalance between ROS and antioxidants, can lead to the destruction of tissue and cell macromolecules such as lipids, proteins, and nucleic acids. It has been suggested that exercise-induced oxidative stress may be associated with muscle fatigue, muscle damage, and a decrease in physical performance.

Use of green tea prevents oxidative stress in endurance athletes[2].  Polyphenols from Hibiscus flowers appear to induce an endothelium-dependent relaxant effect via stimulation of nitric oxide production or a decrease of blood viscosity.

Adding hot water to tea bags help solubilize the polyphenols because the temperature softens the cells walls and increases the solubility of cellular contents; steeping 5 minutes or so is enough.  But there is a “biohack” that can get the goodies into solution even faster: blending.  The reason is that agitation in the aqueous environment and particle size reduction aids the extraction.  High-speed blenders can get the particle size down below 100 microns and the agitation is maximal. Reduction of tea time availability: 5 minutes from “steeping” to less than 30 seconds using blending.

Here is what I do to make a “water bottle” mixture for exercise. This uses bulk tea leaves (no tea bags, which are much more expensive).

  • Place one to three tablespoons of raw dried Hibiscus flowers into a blender (mine is 64 ounce capacity).
  • (optional) Add one to three tablespoons green tea leaves.
  • Add a tablespoon of lemon or lime juice (to protect the antioxidants when blending).
  • Add ice (optional) and water to three quarters of the capacity of the blender.
  • (optional) If the sour bitter taste is an issue (I actually prefer it), add a date or date syrup to taste.

References

[1] Alessio, H. M. (1993). Exercise-induced oxidative stress. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 25(2). doi:10.1249/00005768-199302000-00010

[2] Jówko, E., Długołęcka, B., Makaruk, B., & Cieśliński, I. (2015). The effect of green tea extract supplementation on exercise-induced oxidative stress parameters in male sprinters. European Journal Of Nutrition54(5), 783-791. doi:10.1007/s00394-014-0757-1