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Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief

  • SALAM Research
Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief
By David Winston and Steven Maimes
Acknowledgments 00
Introduction 00
Part One: Herbal Adaptogens
1 Herbal Medicine around the World 00
2 Adaptogens: An Overview 00
3 History of Adaptogens 00
4 Actions of Adaptogens 00
5 Adaptogens and the Stress Response 00
6 Health Benefits of Adaptogens 00
Part Two: Materia Medica
7 Monographs on Adaptogens 00
American Ginseng • Amla • Ashwagandha • Asian Ginseng
Astragalus • Cordyceps • Dang Shen • Eleuthero
Guduchi • He Shou Wu • Holy Basil • Jiaogulan
Licorice • Lycium • Prince Seng • Reishi • Rhaponticum
Rhodiola • Schisandra • Shatavari • Shilajit
8 Nervines: Complementary Herbs for Adaptogens 00
Blue Vervain • Chamomile • Fresh Milky Oat • Hawthorn
• Lemon Balm • Linden • Mimosa • Motherwort
• Passionflower • Skullcap • St. John’s Wort
9 Nootropics: Complementary Herbs for Adaptogens 00
Bacopa • Bhringaraj • Ginkgo • Gotu Kola • Lavender
Rosemary • White Peony • Yuan Zhi
Part Three: Herbal Adaptogens in Use
10 Clinical Use of Adaptogens 00
11 Adaptogenic Herbs in Combination 00
12 Adaptogens as Food 00
13 Adaptogens for Animals 00
Resources 00
Glossary 00
Bibliography 00
Index 00
Health Benefits
of Adaptogens
“For every human illness, somewhere in the world there
exists a plant which is the cure.”
Rudolf Steiner
When compiling research on the health benefits of adaptogens, the
amount of data is almost overwhelming. This is due to the large number
of studies and the fact that adaptogens have such a broad influence on
the entire body.
The reality of adaptogens is that they are effective tonics and can be
taken daily for overall health. In fact, throughout the world millions of
people are using these products on a daily basis.
Many of the adaptogens that are commonly used today have a his-
tory of use that goes back hundreds and thousands of years. Over that
time, a vast amount of experience has been gained that has gone toward
understanding their therapeutic applications.
Adaptogens can greatly increase the effectiveness of some modern
drugs, including antibiotics, anxiolytics (anxiety relief), antidepressants,
and hypoglycemic agents. They also can reduce, and in some cases
eliminate, the side effects of some drugs. They have a proven record of
being safe, efficacious, and quite versatile in their treatment of many
4 Herbal Adaptogens
This chapter will provide information about specific adaptogens that
can be used for many conditions, including aging, cancer, elevated cho-
lesterol levels, decreased immune-system function, fatigue, stress, and
weight management. The disorders have been arranged alphabetically to
assist readers in locating the conditions that most interest them.
The adrenal glands mobilize the body’s response to every kind of stress.
Adrenal fatigue is caused by adrenal insufficiency that occurs when the
glands cannot adequately meet the demands of chronic stress.
In adrenal fatigue the adrenal glands function, but not enough to
maintain normal, healthy homeostasis. Their output of regulatory hor-
mones has been diminished by overstimulation. This overstimulation
can be caused either by a very intense single stress or by chronic or
repeated stresses that have a cumulative effect.
People suffering from adrenal fatigue often have to use coffee, colas,
and other stimulants to get going in the morning and keep themselves
going during the day.
With each increment of reduction in adrenal function, every organ
and system in the body is more profoundly affected. The body does its
best to make up for underfunctioning adrenal glands, but it does so at
a price. Many people who feel fatigued and exhausted eat more to pro-
vide additional energy. Thus, adrenal fatigue also can promote obesity
and its inherent risks.
Adaptogens for Adrenal Fatigue
When a person is under stress, more stress hormones are released and
manufactured. Adaptogens help the adrenal glands respond more effec-
tively and efficiently to the excess in hormones. When stress stops, adap-
togens help the adrenal glands shut down more quickly. Adaptogens
also support adrenal function by allowing cells access to more energy
and preventing oxidative damage.
5 Herbal Adaptogens
= The following adaptogens provide adrenal support: American gin-
seng, ashwagandha, Asian ginseng, cordyceps, dang shen, eleuthero,
holy basil, jiaogulan, licorice, reishi, rhaponticum, rhodiola, and
Adaptogen Notes
American ginseng is an endocrine amphoteric and adaptogen useful
for mild to moderate depletion of the HPA axis and adrenal glands.
Asian ginseng and licorice can be used together for adrenal exhaus-
tion (Addison’s disease) along with conventional therapy.
Arthritis (inflammation of the joints) produces pain, loss of movement,
and sometimes swelling. It is caused by tissue injury or joint disease. The
two most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid
arthritis. Fibromyalgia often is considered an arthritis-related condition,
but it is not a true form of arthritis because it does not cause inflam-
mation or damage to the joints. According to the Arthritis Foundation,
nearly one in three adults has arthritis or chronic joint symptoms, and
arthritis is the leading cause of disability among Americans older than
age 15.
Adaptogens for Arthritis
Adaptogens can help reduce inflammation and as a result reduce the
pain associated with arthritic conditions.
= The anti-inflammatory action of the following adaptogens makes
them useful for relief from arthritis: amla, ashwagandha, Asian gin-
seng, cordyceps, eleuthero, guduchi holy basil, jiaogulan, licorice, rei-
shi, rhodiola, schisandra, and shilajit.
= The following adaptogens are useful for relief from rheumatoid
arthritis (an autoimmune disease): amla, ashwagandha, cordyceps,
guduchi, licorice, and reishi.
6 Herbal Adaptogens
Adaptogen Notes
Amla is used to prevent and treat damage associated with connec-
tive tissue disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.
Ashwagandha is used to treat fibromyalgia and autoimmune dis-
eases such as rheumatoid arthritis and polymyoseitis.
Guduchi is used to modulate excessive immune response in auto-
immune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. It can also enhance
uric acid excretion and relieve arthritis with accompanying gout.
Holy basil oil is used topically for arthritis.
Many people suffer from insomnia and related sleep problems. Stress
can disrupt the regular circadian (time-related) secretion of cortisol and
can be a major cause of sleep problems. Cortisol normally obeys the
body’s inner clock and responds to light and dark, morning and night.
Cortisol levels are highest in the early morning, lower in the afternoon,
and lowest at night. Cortisol helps to synchronize activity, patterns of
eating, and patterns of sleeping.
Adaptogens for Improved Sleep
Adaptogens regulate the production of cortisol, reducing stress. A
relaxed body allows for better and more rejuvenating sleep.
= The following adaptogens aid the body in sleeping: American gin-
seng, ashwagandha, eleuthero, jiaogulan, rhaponticum, rhodiola, and
= The following adaptogens help relieve the symptoms of jet lag, which is
caused by a disruption of the body’s circadian rhythms: American gin-
seng, Asian ginseng, eleuthero, jiaogulan, rhaponticum, and rhodiola.
Adaptogen Notes
American ginseng helps people with insomnia that is associated
with chronic fatigue syndrome.
7 Herbal Adaptogens
Ashwagandha is a calming adaptogen traditionally used for insom-
nia and nervous conditions.
Eleuthero improves sleep quality and prevents nighttime waking.
Jiaogulan is a calming adaptogen appropriate for anxious or agi-
tated people with unstable hypertension, stress headaches, and
anxiety-induced insomnia.
Rhodiola is used to regulate sleep disorders and improve sleep
Schisandra is reported to relieve insomnia and dream-disrupted
[sample monograph]
Botanical Name: Panax quinquefolius
Family: Araliaceae
Common Names: Sang, seng
Taste/Energy: Sweet, bitter, slightly cool, and moist.
Parts Used: Root and leaf
Location/Cultivation: American ginseng is native to the eastern United
States and Canada, from the Catskill Mountains of New York and
the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts, north into Ontario, west
to Iowa, south to Arkansas and Kentucky, and east through the high-
lands of Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Virginia.
American Ginseng
8 Herbal Adaptogens
American ginseng requires rich soil with humus and full shade, and
it prefers deciduous woodlands, especially those with tulip poplars.
It takes a minimum of seven years to grow a mature root from the
time of germination. Due to this plant’s endangered status, wild
plants should be left alone, and you should avoid purchasing prod-
ucts labeled “wild American ginseng.” The best American ginseng on
the market is grown organically in the woods.
Safety Rating: ★ ★ ★
Properties: Adaptogen, antioxidant, bitter tonic, mild central nervous
system stimulant, mild demulcent (soothes mucous membranes),
hypoglycemic agent, and immune amphoteric.
Constituents: The active constituents include triterpene saponins such
as the ginsenosides and panaxosides. The bitter taste comes from its
sesquiterpene content.
Daniel Boone, in Kentucky, made his fortune trading ginseng, although
he is remembered as a fur trader. It is reported in a book called Wood-
land Nuggets of Gold that George Washington wrote to Boone, “The
war effort needs money, bring ginseng.” American ginseng helped sup-
port the revolutionary war effort, and the most valuable cargo to leave
New York by ship in that time period was in the Empress of China,
which was carrying American ginseng to the Orient.
The plant is best known for its purported benefits to male libido and
sexual performance and its ability to enhance energy and relieve fatigue.
To this day, it is not uncommon for mountain people in North Carolina
and Tennessee to take fresh ginseng roots and put them in a bottle or cask
of corn liquor to set aside for a while. After steeping for six months or a
year, the ginseng “cordial” is ready for use. It is believed that a shot of this
“mountain medicine” is good for what ails you—every now and then.
Modern Uses
Modern research confirms that the American species of ginseng is an
endocrine amphoteric and adaptogen that is useful for mild to moderate
9 Herbal Adaptogens
depletion of the HPA axis and adrenal glands. People with adrenal insuf-
ficiency often have dark circles under their eyes, are chronically fatigued,
and have elevated cortisol levels. Because American ginseng affects the
HPA axis, it can help correct dysfunction of the immune system, includ-
ing depletion that leads to a person constantly catching colds.
Amphoterics help balance deficient or excessive bodily functions, so
as an immune amphoteric, American ginseng also can be of benefit for
allergies and allergic asthma. It also re-regulates overly stressed nervous
systems, helps deficient insomnia associated with chronic fatigue syn-
drome, and relieves many of the symptoms of jet lag.
The pancreas is also regulated by the HPA axis, and American gin-
seng root also has been shown to help control metabolic syndrome
(hyperinsulinemia) as well as type 2 diabetes.
The reputed “male sexual tonic” effects of American ginseng also
may turn out to be real. For years, many herbalists assumed that any
sexual effect was due to either a placebo effect or to increased energy
caused by using an adaptogenic herb. Recent studies found that the
related Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng) enhanced erections and sexual
performance. It is not too much of a stretch to conclude that the Ameri-
can species, especially with its history of use as a sexual tonic, could
share this effect as well.
The Eclectic physicians used this root as a simple digestive bitter.
Although it has a multitude of other uses it is, in fact, a useful medicine
to enhance digestion and absorption. Chewing on a small bit of the root
can help stimulate the production of stomach acid and other digestive
juices, making it useful for achlorhydria (lack of stomach acid), borbo-
rygmus (intestinal rumbling), and impaired absorption.
Other Uses
Many years ago, when I was a young man, I noticed that my Cherokee
uncle often would put a pinch of the dried leaf of American ginseng in
almost every herbal formula he gave to people he was doctoring. One
day I asked him why he did this. His response was that ginseng (the leaf
or root) made everything work better.
10 Herbal Adaptogens
Research has shown that adaptogens do just that. Through re-
regulation of the endocrine, immune, and nervous systems, they—in
simple terms—“make everything work better.” Phytochemical studies
have revealed that the leaves of plants in the Panax genus actually con-
tain more of the ginsenosides (the plants’ active constituents) than do the
roots. Many ancient traditions, when examined by science, are found to
have more than a seed of truth.
Dosage and Safety
Tincture (1:5): 30 percent alcohol, 3–5 ml (60–100 drops), three times
per day.
Decoction: Take 1–2 tsp. dried cut/sifted root to 12 oz. water. Gently
simmer for 1/2 hour, steep an additional 1/2 hour. Take 4 oz. three
times per day.
Capsule: Two capsules, twice per day.
Safety Issues: None likely.
Herb/Drug Interactions: In a recent human trial, high doses of American
ginseng altered the effects of the medication warfarin (Coumadin) in
twenty healthy patients. Avoid using large amounts of this herb if tak-
ing this medication.
Selected Research Studies
Efficacy of COLD-fX in the Prevention of Respiratory Symptoms in
Community-Dwelling Adults: A Randomized, Double-Blinded, Placebo
Controlled Trial (McElhaney et al. 2006).
In this study, a proprietary extract of American ginseng root reduced
the risk of catching cold or acute respiratory illness by 48 percent and
the duration of such conditions by 55 percent.
American Ginseng Reduces Postprandial Glycemia in Nondiabetic Sub-
jects and Subjects with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus (Vuksan et al. 2000).
American Ginseng lowered blood sugar levels in both healthy volunteers
and patients with diabetes.
... Już tysiące lat temu wielkie kultury Wschodu używały tajemniczych "magicznych" roślin, które miały obdarzyć mężczyzn siłą ogiera, a kobiety płodnością bogini. Rośliny, którym przypisuje się właściwości adaptogenne, były spotykane najczęściej na terenach dzisiejszych Chin, Indii i Iranu, dlatego właśnie tam cieszyły się największą popularnością [4]. Pojęcie "adaptogen" (adaptare) po raz pierwszy zostało użyte przez radzieckiego naukowca, lekarza i farmakologa Nikołaja V. Lazareva. ...
... Pojęcie "adaptogen" (adaptare) po raz pierwszy zostało użyte przez radzieckiego naukowca, lekarza i farmakologa Nikołaja V. Lazareva. Adaptogenem nazwał on substancję, która zwiększała odporność organizmu na stres [4]. Radzieccy naukowcy w latach 40. ...
... W kolejnych latach kontynuowano badania nad skutecznością wielu związków roślinnych w redukcji reakcji stresowych [5]. Według definicji Brekhama i Dardymowa zaprezentowanej w 1968 roku adaptogen jest nietoksyczny dla stosującego, wytwarza niespecyficzną odpowiedź immunologiczną (powoduje wzrost odporności na wiele czynników stresogennych), a także ma normalizujący wpływ na reakcję fizjologiczną organizmu indukowaną stresem [4]. Wyniki przeprowadzonych do chwili obecnej badań dotyczących wpływu roślinnych adaptogenów na organizm nie są jednoznaczne. ...
... Tulsi is considered one of the most powerful herbs as it is used for treating a vast array of medical disorders, including conditions that affect the cardiovascular, endocrine, respiratory, and central nervous systems and the skin [3]. Traditionally, Tulsi has been used to treat anxiety/depression, asthma, bronchitis, diabetes, diarrhoea, eye disorders (chronic conjunctivitis, cataracts, and glaucoma), fever, insect bites, snake bites, malaria, and a variety of skin disorders [4,5]. ...
... (which is now recognized as a synonym of O. tenuiflorum L.). Tulsi is considered one of the most powerful herbs as it is used for treating a vast array of medical disorders, including conditions that affect the cardiovascular, endocrine, respiratory, and central nervous systems and the skin [3]. Traditionally, Tulsi has been used to treat anxiety/depression, asthma, bronchitis, diabetes, diarrhoea, eye disorders (chronic conjunctivitis, cataracts, and glaucoma), fever, insect bites, snake bites, malaria, and a variety of skin disorders [4,5]. ...
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Tulsi (Holy basil, Ocimum tenuiflorum L., Lamiaceae), native to Asia, has become globalised as the cultural, cosmetic, and medicinal uses of the herb have been popularised. DNA barcoding, a molecular technique used to identify species based on short regions of DNA, can discriminate between different species and identify contaminants and adulterants. This study aimed to explore the values associated with Tulsi in the United Kingdom (UK) and authenticate samples using DNA barcoding. A mixed methods approach was used, incorporating social research (i.e., structured interviews) and DNA barcoding of Ocimum samples using the ITS and trnH-psbA barcode regions. Interviews revealed the cultural significance of Tulsi: including origins, knowledge exchange, religious connotations, and medicinal uses. With migration, sharing of plants and seeds has been seen as Tulsi plants are widely grown in South Asian (SA) households across the UK. Vouchered Ocimum specimens (n = 33) were obtained to create reference DNA barcodes which were not available in databases. A potential species substitution of O. gratissimum instead of O. tenuiflorum amongst SA participants was uncovered. Commercial samples (n = 47) were difficult to authenticate, potentially due to DNA degradation during manufacturing processes. This study highlights the cultural significance of Tulsi, despite a potential species substitution, the plant holds a prestigious place amongst SA families in the UK. DNA barcoding was a reliable way to authenticate Ocimum species.
... ommunication and indigenous practices. Despite the growing market demand for herbal medicines, there are still concerns associated with not only their use, but their safety. Less than 10% of herbal products in the world market are truly standardized to known active components and strict quality control measures are not always diligently adhered to (Winston. and Maimes, 2007). For majority of these products in use, very little is known about their active and/or toxic constituents. This raises concern on their safety on the kidney considering the fact that it is a principal route of excretion for many chemical substances in their active and/or inactive forms (Abdulrahman et al., 2007). Table 1 revealed signif ...
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Despite the growing market demand for herbal medicines, there are still concerns associated with not only their use, but their safety. This study was designed to investigate the acute toxicity of aqueous whole plant extract of selaginella myosurus on the kidney markers of albino rats. A total of thirty six (36) albino rats of both sexes weighing between 100.5g-149.5g were divided into nine groups of four rats per group. Group 1 received distilled water, while groups 2-5 and 6-9 received 400, 600, 800, and 1000mg/kgBW of extract for 7 and 14 days respectively. Rats were sacrificed 24hours after the last treatment and blood samples collected for biochemical investigations (urea, creatinine, sodium ion (Na +), potassium ion (K +), chloride ion (Cl-.), and bicarbonate ion (HCO 3-)). Histology of the kidney tissue and photochemical screening of plant were done. Result revealed significant reduction (p<0.05) in Na + , K + , Cl-, urea and creatinine concentrations in groups 4, 5, 6 and 8; 3 and 4; 5; 2-9 and 2-4, 6-9 when compared to control value respectively. Non-significant difference (p>0.05) was observed in HCO 3-concentration compared to control value. Phytochemical screening of plant revealed the presence of flavonoids, triterpenoids, saponins, tannin, steroid, cardiac glycoside and phenol in decreasing order (32.19 ± 0.23, 26.24 ± 0.12, 23.74 ± 0.20, 18.74 ± 0.17, 16.53 ± 0.12, 15.28 ± 0.23 and 13.10 ± 0.11 respectively). Non-significant increase (p>0.05) in weight of the kidney was observed. Histological observation of kidney tissue showed obliterated and occluded carpsular spaces in glomeruli and normal tubules in some extract treated groups. In conclusion, the extract demonstrated some levels of toxicity to the kidney at these concentrations.
... On the other hand, natural extracts often contain large amounts of ballast compounds; therefore, the evaluation of the quality of a particular extract considering the target compound concentration is of great interest. In traditional medicine, Rhaponticum carthamoides, also known as Maral root, has been used for centuries as a great source of toning agents that strengthen the central nervous system and increase mental and physical health [1,2]. The extracts were found to contain approximately 200 bioactive compounds belonging to various chemical groups such as ecdysteroids [3,4], flavonoids, phenolic acids, and sesquiterpene lactones [5][6][7]. ...
Full-text available
Classified as an adaptogen, Maral root (Rhaponticum carthamoides, Leuzea carthamoides) is a herb that has long been used in Siberian as well as Russian alternative medicine. With over 200 substances found, this plant is a great source of bioactive compounds which have significant beneficial effects on human health and physical enhancement. Simultaneous quantification of the eight most therapeutic and abundant substances, i.e., 20-hydroxyecdysone (20-HE), kaempferol, hesperetin, quercetin, chlorogenic acid, N-feruloyl serotonin, cynaropicrin, and tracheloside belonging to various groups, such as ecdysteroids, flavonoids, phenolics, sesquiterpenes, and lignans, was performed for the first time through validated HPLC-MS. The evaluated parameters for method validation showed excellent linearity with R2 higher than 0.996, stability under various environmental factors with % RSD ≤ 2%, and recovery between 97 and 103% for all the studied compounds. Other validation parameters including selectivity, sensitivity, and precision were found to be within the acceptance criteria. The results of the stability studies provide information on the best combination of conditions for sample handling and storage. Generally, for almost every compound, exposure to light and elevated temperature for 96 h led to degradation; nevertheless, the acidic environment was beneficial for most of them.
... Despite the growing market demand for herbal medicines, concerns related to their safety remains questionable since strict quality control measures are not usually adhered to [33]. Available toxicological studies for TMP suggest that it is relatively safe for the following reasons: (1) it has a high oral LC50 value of 1910 mg/kg in rats; (2) it has no component present that at levels greater than or equal to 0.1% is identified as a human carcinogen (International Agency for Research for Cancer [IARC] as cited in M&U International); and, (3) it does not induce any pathological damage in organs as proven by hematological examinations and urine analyses [34,35]. ...
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Plant materials as sources of medical compounds continue to play a dominant role in the maintenance of human health since antiquity. The present study was designed to ascertain the toxicity of ethanolic extract of Senna tora leaves on Wistar rats. A total of twenty (25) Wistar rats were distributed into 5 group of 5 animals each. Group I, received normal saline, group II received 100 mg/kg, group III received 200 mg/kg, group IV received 400 mg/kg, and group V received 800 mg/kg of Senna tora leaf fraction respectively. The treatments lasted for 28 days of which the animals were sacrificed. Kidney test which includes the electrolyte like Sodium ion (Na+), potassium ion (k+), bicarbonate (HCO3 ˉ) Chloride ion (Cl-), Urea and Creatinine was done. The results revealed significant increase in the level of sodium ion (Na+), potassium ion (k+), and Chloride ion (Cl-) concentrations between and within the groups of the rats administered dose of 200 mg, 400mg and 800 mg when compared with Normal control. However, the result also revealed that there was no significant increase in the concentration of bicarbonate (HCO3 ˉ) and urea. In addition, the result revealed that there is significant (p≤0.05) increase in the level of serum urea and creatinine concentration between and within the groups of administered dose of 100 mg, 400 mg and 800 mg when compared with the normal control group. There is significant (p˃0.05) increase in total cholesterol (T.CHOL), high density lipoprotein (HDL), low density lipoprotein (LDL), and Triacylglycerol (TGs) on the treatment with Senna tora leaf fraction. The present study revealed that Senna tora as a traditional herb for the treatment and management of diseases associated with kidney toxicity is effective.
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Ayurveda is a Sanskrit word, which means "the scripture for longevity". It represents an ancient system of traditional medicine prevalent in India and in several other south Asian countries. It is based on a holistic view of treatment which is believed to cure human diseases through establishment of equilibrium in the different elements of human life, the body, the mind, the intellect and the soul [1].
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PURPOSE: This study was conducted with racket athletes at a university to determine the effect of combination of resistance exercise and black maca for four weeks on strength and endurance of trunk muscles and fatigue-related biomarkers.METHODS: There were 16 university racket athletes classified into two groups: CO (control) (n=8) and RE (resistance exercise) (n=8). Body composition and muscle function were tested before the experiment (baseline), after four weeks (racket), and after ten weeks (racket+black maca). Before measuring body composition, we collected a blood sample to measure fatigue-related biomarkers such as myoglobin, creatine kinase (CK), lactic acid, and ammonia. Black maca was purchased from Essoco.RESULTS: In both the CO and RE groups, racket+black maca lowered blood ammonia levels compared to that at the baseline ( p <.05) and racket ( p <.001). There were no differences in the other fatigue-related factors. In the muscle function test, the racket+black maca increased the extension and flexion strength compared to that at the baseline ( p <.05), while only extension strength increased after racket ( p <.05) in the RE group. In both groups, the racket+black maca increased the extension and flexion endurance compared to that at the baseline ( p <.05).CONCLUSIONS: Black maca intake effectively lowered the blood ammonia levels and improved muscle function. The effect on muscle function enhanced significantly when combined with resistance exercises. These results suggest that combination of black maca and resistance exercise may help improve exercise performance.
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