If your New Year’s resolution was to begin adding exercise to your life, you might need a little boost of energy to get you started.
After all, time spent on the couch makes a person feel lethargic, and lethargy only leads to more lethargy, until you find yourself in your pajamas for an entire weekend binge-watching “Downton Abbey” and wondering where all the time went.
Thankfully there are a wide range of herbs and spices that can help supercharge your energy resources, making it easier to find your willpower and get moving, whether you’re headed to the gym, out for a run or hiking along your favorite mountain trail.
The leaves have it
There are a wide range of energy-inducing leaves to check out in your quest for energy, including mint, moringa and ginkgo.
Even Dr. Mehmet Oz appreciates the energy-boosting powers of moringa, a super food that’s packed with iron as well as plenty of B vitamins.
On his popular daytime talk show, Oz called Moringa oleifera – a super food with roots in India, if you’ve never heard of it - an “energy blaster” thanks to the nutrient-dense leaves.
When we don’t get enough nutrients, everyday tasks can seem absolutely Herculean in nature. Moringa offers sustained energy, so you’ll have no need to raid the office snack machine for chocolate during an afternoon slump.
“These things have been used because people have always felt low energy throughout their lives,” Oz said. “Just because we’ve forgotten some of these old techniques doesn’t mean they don’t work on us anymore.”
Moringa is readily available at health food stores. Look for bright green moringa, which has been properly processed to retain its nutrients. The darker in color, the less likely it will be to meet your nutritional needs.
While long praised for its benefits for brain power and memory, ginkgo also helps provide much-needed energy, so the last mile of your run doesn’t break you, even if you’re running a marathon.
Ginkgo boosts blood flow to the entire body, which helps feed muscles as you work out, and elevates oxygen levels in the brain, so you feel more alert and energized.
A spot of peppermint tea during an afternoon slump is the perfect way to help you not only resist a sugary snack – which sends blood sugar soaring, then plummeting again, resulting in feelings of exhaustion that are worse than before you had the cupcake or cookie – it also helps provide sustained energy so you can squeeze in a workout after the gym.
Combining mint with ginkgo will make an ideal energy-boosting tea.
Spices and herbs elevate energy
There are so many benefits to the items in our spice racks that it’s no wonder Americans spend as much as $34 billion a year on alternative remedies rather than traditional health care.
While there was a time when everyone from truck drivers to stressed-out college students were popping ephedrine in gargantuan amounts, eventually, the Food and Drug Administration realized how dangerous ephedrine was when used unchecked, and removed it from the over-the-counter market. (It is still available by prescription to treat asthma and other health issues, however.)
But that doesn’t leave the exhausted among us with no solution aside from caffeine. Herbs and spices are also packed with energy-giving properties that can help us keep our New Year’s resolutions to get moving.
Ginger is a mild stimulant, much more refined than the jolt that comes from the caffeine of tea, but one that will provide sustained energy nonetheless.
Ginger boosts circulation, providing blood to muscles so you can work out for longer periods of time, allowing you to spend more time on your favorite workout machine or tour a few extra country miles on your bike.
If you haven’t already figured it out, cayenne is one of those spices that should be part of your diet on a daily basis.
Not only does it protect your heart and boost your metabolism so you burn calories faster, it provides an energy boost in two ways. First, it helps cleanse away toxins that can leave you feeling bloated and sluggish. Secondly, it also helps boost blood flow throughout the body, so muscles are well fed and are better able to take you where you want to go.
While the lemony aroma of coriander is enough to revive the senses – lemon as aromatherapy can boost energy levels in minutes – coriander is also an excellent source of energy-boosting vitamins, minerals and other nutrients.
The seeds of the cilantro plant – if you grow cilantro you will have plenty of seeds by the short growing season’s end – coriander provides energy by flushing out toxins and stimulating digestion, so nutrients are more easily absorbed. That means your body will have what it needs to provide sustained energy, assuming you eat a diet rich in lean protein and plenty of veggies seasoned with your favorites from the spice cabinet.
At the heart of Chai tea, cloves can help boost energy levels while helping you unwind and destress at the same time.
Chai Tea Blend
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 6 whole cardamom pods, lightly crushed
- 6 whole cloves
- 1 star anise pod
- 1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger root, peeled and thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
- 2 single-serve black tea bags or 1 tablespoon loose black tea
- 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar (optional)
- 1 cup milk (optional)
Bring three cups of water and cinnamon stick, cardamom pods, cloves, star anise, sliced ginger and peppercorns to a boil in a small pot. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow the mixture to steep for about 10 minutes.
Return the pot to the heat and again bring to a boil. Add the tea bags, remove the pot from the heat and allow the mixture to steep for 5 minutes.
Strain the tea through a fine mesh sieve and discard solids.
NOTE: To peel ginger, use a spoon to scrape away the outer skin without wasting much of the ginger itself.