A friend and I were talking about health, sleep and food (yes, this is what we talk about for fun) and she mentioned that the midday slump has been killing her since she gave up caffeine.
I asked if she'd tried maca powder and she said she has some in the cupboard but hasn't used it. I went on to tell her how I'd been using maca and several other superfood powders for about a month and a half and my last period was a breeze, especially compared to the torture I often go through.
She gave me the look that said, You know you have to post about this, right?
So here we are.
I've been collecting research and reading about this newest round of hyped-up "superfoods" for a while and slowly integrating them into my daily/weekly protocol, partly for energy, partly for nutritional value and partly for hormone balance.
After about six weeks of consistent use (I even packed pre-measured doses for my travel), I'm reporting positive effect.
I like a little "boost" after lunch and wouldn't it be great if that was something more healthy than a cookie? I usually do chai, but the caffeine can mess with my sleep, even if I have it in the morning. So I was curious about these energy boosters.
My other big motivation was hormone balance. My cycle is mostly regular but incredibly painful -- PMS, bloating, digestive issues, intense cramps and migraines. I'd been reading about several of these adaptogens to help ease these symptoms. But more on this later....
The three supplements featured here are for energy and focus (among other things).
Maca is a root vegetable similar to a radish, native to the Andes of Peru. It has many claimed benefits including increased energy and stamina without the jitters of caffeine, improved memory and focus, elevated mood and improved hormone and sexual health. It also is rich in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.
Here is more information about maca.
After much research, this is the brand I purchased and have really liked (the raw one).
A common herb in Chinese Medicine, this supplement is known by many names, like king's crown and golden root. The major health benefits of rhodiola are said to be energy boost, mild stimulant, it combats stress and fatigue and supports the nervous system, cognition and mood.
Two articles on Rhodiola. One note -- I chose rhodiola with 3% rosavin over salidrosides, since rosavin is reported to correspond to the neurotransmitter serotonin, being more stabilizing and regulating (vs salidrosides corresponding to dopamine and being more stimulating).
This is the brand I went with after my research.
The last herb in this feature is mucuna pruriens, which also goes by other names and is used in Ayurvedic medicine. It is said to support the nervous system, improve energy and stamina, increase cognitive function and support the reproductive systems.
More on mucuna pruriens.
And here's the brand I've been using.
How to use these?
I used to do capsules for everything, but I started making balls that called for some of these fancy ingredients and it was a real mess to cut the capsules open.
Powders are also most economical and direct.
Plus, I like using these as flavor and thickeners in my oatmeal, smoothies, chai and yogurt.
A few ways you could try these:
- Add to a beverage, like chai, a mushroom tea or golden milk for a midday pick-me-up.
- Stir into hot breakfast cereal.
- Stir into coconut yogurt for a snack.
- Blend into smoothie.
- Mix with a tablespoon of honey and just eat it.
- Make balls.
How much to use?
- Because these are stimulants, start small and slowly increase the serving if necessary. I started with half the suggested serving size.
- Always be conservative, since you don't know how your body will react.
- Start taking one at a time so that, like any good scientist, you'll have more data on how your system responds to each.
- Take them in the morning in case they are overly stimulating for you.
- Take a break once a week from the supplements.
- You may feel the effects quickly, or you may not notice the effects until you stop taking them.
- Take notes! Maybe one product doesn't do anything for you, but another gives you pep. You'll want to remember which did what.
I've read that people have used these single herbs (or in combination) to help kick everything from nicotine to caffeine. These three herbs have been used for thousands of years in other cultures/countries and have enormous nutritional value as well. Let me know if you have tried or decide to try any of these!