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Move over, brotein… it’s time to throw down some herbs for muscle growth and move into giga chad mode.
Or is it?
It’s not like you can grab a handful of parsley after a workout and expect gains. We’re not looking at herbs as a replacement for protein and to be the primary cursor for muscle repair and growth.
BUT, there is a case for herbs for muscle growth, as you’re about to find out.
What are the most common sources of herbs for muscles?
Hey, come on now… don’t go thinking I’m going to say, “from your local grocery store”.
But I bet you didn’t know that African and ayurvedic sources are the most common herbs for muscles?
Check out the list of herbs for muscle growth below:
List of African herbs for muscle growth
These are the most common African herbs for muscle growth:
- Tribulus terrestris
- Safed musli (Chlorophytum borivilianum)
You’ll note that there’s also some crossover of these in ayurvedic medicine:
List of ayurvedic medicine for muscle strength
Popular herbal ayurvedic supplements for bodybuilding are:
- Rhodiola rosea
- Safed musli (Chlorophytum borivilianum)
- Tribulus terrestris
- Bitter orange (watch out: this one is contentious!)
However, that doesn’t mean that these are all good options for building muscle, nor are they necessarily natural steroids in ayurveda.
Let’s look at some science so you can work out the best option for you…
What are the best herbs for muscle growth?
These are the most popular muscle building herbs:
- Rhodiola rosea
- Safed musli
You should be aware of how these herbs affect the body and whether they directly impact muscle growth or not.
Some will label them as herbs for bodybuilding, but the jury’s out in certain respects, so I encourage you to check out the further information below…
… or I’ll throw some herbs in your general direction!
1. Ashwagandha (best herb for muscle growth overall)
Since ashwagandha is one of the most popular ayurvedic herbs, it’s no surprise that it’s one of the best herbal supplements for muscle growth, too.
For instance, a 2015 study found that the 29 men in the test group had increased muscle strength over the placebo group in 8 weeks throughout a series of resistance exercises.
They were given 300mg of ashwagandha root twice a day, and the results were pretty astonishing (or should I say, ashwaghanishing? Ok, sorry…).
Muscle strength increase:
|Resistance exercise||With ashwagandha (avg. kg increase)||Placebo (avg. kg increase)|
To summarize, the average rep increase for a leg extension over the 8 weeks was 14.5kg’s for the ashwagandha group and only 9.77kg’s for the placebo group.
Note that the study also found that ashwagandha was beneficial to an increase in muscle mass!
It’s hard to pass on this bad boy as one of the best herbs for bodybuilding after reading that, huh?
How & when to take ashwagandha for muscle growth
There’s a significant lack of science-backed data to show how and when to take ashwagandha for muscle growth and energy, and if you should take ashwagandha before or after workout sessions.
In the test mentioned above, the test subjects were given two doses of 300mg per day, so one tablet per day of 600mg is sensible—for example, like the Garden of Life Organic Ashwagandha.
Considering you can get 1,000mg capsules, such as with the Youtheory ashwagandha supplement, there’s no danger in terms of a 600mg dosage.
There’s no evidence backing up as to when to take ashwagandha, so consider taking it as nature intended and within a diet i.e. with a meal.
2.Ginseng for muscle growth (one of the natural herbal steroids)
Ginseng is prominent in Chinese medicine and as one of the natural steroids in ayurveda. But, it’s mostly known for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits; there’s also evidence to suggest that ginseng does have muscular benefits.
But what about muscular growth, specifically?
One study saw 10 field and track athletes take Panax ginseng for 8 days. After day 4, they performed specific exercises and were measured for 4 sets of half-squats. The study found that ginseng increased perceived effort, muscle excitation and recovery.
Even though ginseng doesn’t directly increase muscle growth, its ability to increase effort and reduce recovery times indicates that you could take ginseng for muscle growth.
How & when to take ginseng for muscle growth
There’s no substantive evidence to suggest when to take ginseng for growing those muscles. But, it’s recommended to start on a lower dose of between 200 and 400mg before meals and increase it from there.
To start off, avoid capsules since they tend to be 500mg per capsule and above. Go for something like the Micro Ingredients Organic Ginseng Concentrate Powder.
There’s nothing to suggest any ginseng pre workout supplements exist; just general supplements.
3. Rhodiola rosea & muscle growth
Rhodiola rosea is a highly popular herb in the health and fitness industry, mainly taken for its ability to help the body adapt to stress and return it to balance—homeostasis. As such, Rhodiola rosea is an adaptogen.
As a natural side-effect of this, the body recovers faster, allowing for greater efficiency in training and allowing muscle growth.
Of course, it doesn’t replace the natural process of protein in repairing muscles, but it can reduce lactate levels and skeletal muscle damage.
How & when to take Rhodiola rosea for muscle growth
Most people take Rhodiola on an empty stomach, but since it also acts as a stimulant, avoid taking it before bed.
There’s nothing to say how much dosage you should take, but the most common form is in capsules, with this Toniiq 600mg Rhodiola rosea containing 5% salidroside content, which is greater than the recommended amount. It’s also NSF-approved, so you know the quality is exceptional.
4. Safed musli
Most of you won’t have heard of Safed musli (Chlorophytum borivilianum), so welcome to the club if that’s you! It’s a rare herb hailing from India, has some kick-ass uses and is very popular in ayurvedic medicine.
This little-known herb actually does improve physical performance, as shown in a study back in 2019.
However, the mist around whether it directly increases muscle growth and strength is pretty thick.
We should conclude, though, that since the study showed improvements in the test group over the placebo during a 6-minute walk test, a 6-minute exercise test and a fixed workload test, this implies that muscle growth also benefits as a result of improved exercise performance.
In addition, the following metrics also improved:
- Distance traveled in the test
- Diastolic blood pressure
How & when to take safed musli for muscle growth
There’s no substantive evidence to say when to take safed musli for muscle growth, so the best advice is to follow the instructions on the package in conjunction with a medical professional.
For example, the Attar Ayurveda Safed Musli Powder recommended dose is twice per day with milk or water.
5. Kapikacchu (kapa-what??? Velvet bean/Mucuna pruriens)
It’s hard to know whether kapikacchu/velvet bean/Mucuna pruriens on its own can aid in muscle growth, especially since a study combined it and Safed musli with positive results.
It’s clear that more research is needed to categorically confirm its effect on muscle growth, but that doesn’t stop it being a popular herb, especially since it has multiple other benefits and is rich in essential amino acids, essential fatty acids & crude protein.
How & when to take Kapikacchu for muscle growth
The best thing to do is to follow the product’s instructions since kapikacchu can be toxic in high amounts.
Stick with mainstream products to be safe, such as the Double Wood Mucuna Puriens, which contains 1,000mg per serving.
6. Fenugreek for muscle growth (best natural testosterone booster for muscle growth)
Fenugreek is reported to increase testosterone levels in a study, with 30 men taking 500mg every day for 8 weeks while performing resistance training.
The result showed an increase in testosterone and a reduction in body fat when compared to the placebo group.
We also know that testosterone aids in building lean muscle mass, making fenugreek one of the best herbs for power and strength.
How & when to take Fenugreek for muscle growth
Fenugreek can be taken as either a capsule or in whole-seed form. There’s no clear benefit of one over the other; it’s just preference.
Follow the guidance on each product, but indicators seem to be that it’s best taken with a high-carb meal.
7. Eleuthero (an adaptogen—not directly for muscle growth, but is worth taking)
Eleuthero, also known as Eleutherococcus senticosus, is an Asian herb that’s popular in ayurvedic medicine.
There is a link between eleuthero and muscle growth since it works as an adaptogen, aiding in the body’s ability to recover from stress, just as you saw with Rhodiola rosea.
While you can form a link between this reduced stress and muscle growth, it’s only implied, and there’s no evidence to show a direct link. However, one study did conclude that eleuthero increased endurance levels.
In addition, other benefits include preventing heart disease, recovery from stress, anxiety and depression. It’s worth taking, but be aware of potential side effects, such as headaches and insomnia.
How & when to take Eleuthero for muscle growth
Eleuthero isn’t monitored by the FDA, so make sure you buy from a reputable source, such as Nature’s Way Siberian Eleuthero.
8. Shilajit & muscle growth (indirect impact on the muscles—another testosterone booster)
Shilajit is commonly found in the Himalayas and purported to be a safe ayurvedic natural herb to consume.
But, what about shilajit for muscle growth? Unfortunately, there isn’t a direct connection. However, as with other herbs I’ve covered, it is known to boost testosterone, which does have an impact on muscle growth.
In addition, this study showed that the men who took 250mgs twice a day had increased testosterone levels when compared to the placebo group.
How & when to take Shilajit for muscle growth
Shilajit is commonly available in either liquid or resin form, and should be taken as per the product label.
More muscle building herbs, or are they?
You’ll find lots of people classifying the below herbs as bodybuilding herbs.
But they aren’t…
And one of them isn’t even a herb! Check them out:
1. Jiaogulan (no known benefits for muscle growth in humans)
While Jiaogulan (Gynostemma pentaphyllum) is touted as being the “new” ginseng as an adaptogen, there’s nothing to confirm that it has a muscular growth benefit in humans.
An animal study found that it improved endurance in rats, but that doesn’t necessarily equal muscle growth specifically.
Even so, those in ayurvedic medicine claim that jiaogulan can lower blood sugar and improve circulation.
If you’re interested in trying jiaogulan, buy from a reputable brand, such as NusaPure’s 9,000mg Jiaogulan.
2. Guarana (great for energy but NOT muscle growth)
Guarana (Paullinia cupana) is mainly used in energy drinks since it contains caffeine, with one of the effects being a stimulation of the muscles.
So, can we say that the knock-on effect of this is muscle growth?
Unfortunately not! There’s currently no evidence to confirm that products like the Alovitox Organic Guarana Seed Powder will do anything for your muscles.
But, it’s logical to assume that if you have more energy, you’re more likely to have more get-up-and-go to work out, and more energy while you’re working out. Cause and effect? Hmm…
3. Shatavari for muscle building
Shatavari is a popular ayurvedic herb that has many confirmed benefits, especially for women in supporting lactation, PCOS and infertility, but not for building muscle.
In fact, popular shatavari supplements, such as Organic India’s Shatavari, are marketed as a hormonal supplement rather than anything to do with muscle growth.
4. Echinacea (not for muscle growth, but good for an immunity boost)
I’m getting tired of content producers listing herbs as “good for muscle growth” without doing their research.
There is, currently, no substantive evidence to support that echinacea is beneficial for muscle growth, nor for aerobic fitness.
However, this doesn’t rule out that there’s no benefit of taking echinacea as a supplement. In fact, there’s evidence to suggest it can help strengthen the immune system.
How & when to take Echinacea
Don’t take echinacea for muscle growth, but a supplement like the Puritan’s Pride Echinacea is popular for that extra immune system boost. Most people take it with food but it’s best to follow your chosen product’s label guidance.
5. Tribulus terrestris for muscle growth (no conclusive evidence)
Tribulus terrestris (commonly referred to simply as “Tribulus”) is a perennial herb with many purported health benefits.
But, is Tribulus terrestris good for muscle growth?
Well, this study’s results didn’t directly show an increase in muscle mass (growth), but it did show a reduction in muscle damage and an increase in anaerobic capabilities for the boxers tested.
In addition, 22 elite rugby players took T. terrestris once per day for 5 weeks as part of their training program. The study concluded that the herb doesn’t have the muscle growth & strength claims of manufacturers.
Based on this alone, we can’t conclude that Tribulus is good for muscle growth; however, more studies are needed to decide either way.
Instead, you could consider taking this herb to control blood sugar levels, especially for women.
How & when to take Tribulus terrestris
Due to the studies not being conclusive, I can’t give you advice on when to take it for muscle growth. However, it’s still a highly popular product.
The Zolotus Tribulus Terrestris Extra Strength is a market-leader and should be taken as per the manufacturer’s instructions. Most people take it on an empty stomach, at the same time of day, 30 minutes before a meal.
6. Bitter orange (not actually a herb!)
I mean, it does extremely scream “herb”, does it?
There’s a lot of talk around the web about bitter orange being included with “herbs for muscle growth”. This is obviously not true, but it seems the confusion sits around bitter orange extracts being used in herbal medicine for various reasons.
Unfortunately, none of these have been proven by science, and health professionals advise you should consult your doctor before including bitter orange in your diet since it contains chemicals that could affect the heart.
What are the best herbs for muscle recovery & repair?
If you’re hunting for herbs for muscle repair, these might pique your interest:
- Rhodiola rosea
1. Rhodiola rosea (best herb for muscle recovery & repair)
Rhodiola rosea sounds like it’s going to be my new best friend. As you saw, while it’s an adaptogen, it’s also been studied for its ability to reduce musculoskeletal damage from exercise.
The 2010 study concluded that the herb reduces lactate levels and skeletal muscle damage, making it a kick-ass herb all-round.
Not only is ashwagandha helpful for muscular growth, but it also has muscular recovery properties.
In a study, 29 men were given 300mg of ashwagandha root twice a day for 8 weeks, with the results of their resistance exercises being monitored. The results from the subject group compared to the placebo group indicated that muscular recovery improved.
Now, you should know that the exact reason for this was unknown, and more in-depth studies are needed, but there is evidence to suggest that there’s a benefit, whether that’s as an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, analgesic or due to lactic acid reduction.
As usual, human studies are lacking, but a 2016 study on rats into fenugreek seeds’ petroleum ether extract found anti-arthritic and anti-inflammatory properties. This is due to the presence of linoleic and linolenic acids.
Any form of anti-inflammation is going to improve muscle recovery & repair, so we need to wait for the human studies to confirm this before we go too wild for the herb.
Fenugreek does have a confirmed testosterone benefit, so it’s worth checking out.
What are the best herbs for power and strength?
There is some evidence for herbs to be beneficial for muscular growth, recovery and repair.
However, any confirmed evidence for herbs for muscle strength is more alien than an alien in an alien spaceship.
You could argue that since there are herbs for muscle growth, this automatically means they’re good for power and strength, but the debate on muscle mass vs muscle strength is ongoing.
Best herbal supplements for muscle growth & repair: Key takeaways
There’s clearly a crossover with herbs to build muscle and aid with recovery and repair.
If I had to single out a few, it would be:
- Rhodiola rosea
Be sure to follow the guidance on your chosen product, though, since there are mixed reports on how and when to take herbal pre workout supplements, if you can call them that.
Also be very careful about what you read on the internet about claims on certain herbs. There’s an astounding amount of claims not backed up by any scientific evidence, and content on herbs that increase strength when they’re not even herbs!!
Now, go take your ‘erbs and pump some iron!
What herb acts as a steroid?
These are herbs that are thought to act as steroids:
What herb helps relax muscles?
Chamomile is a particular herb that helps to relax muscles. This is due to it containing over 30 flavonoids, which are known for anti-inflammatory properties. The most common method for muscle relaxation is to rub it directly onto the skin, but it can also be taken in tea form.
Is it best to take herbal supplements for muscle building, or the herb itself?
It’s best to take herbal supplements instead of the herb itself since some herbs can be toxic when taken in their natural form. Most commercial herbal supplements are regulated, but not all are, so be sure to consult a medical expert before taking the supplement.
What is the strongest anti-inflammatory herb?
Ginseng is thought to be the strongest anti-inflammatory herb due to its capabilities of suppressing nuclear factor kappa-light-chain-enhancer of activated B cells (Nf-kB). These cells signal for certain genes to increase inflammation.
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