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Running at Optimum – Jiaogulan for Athletes

Guest Post by nutritionist and freelance writer Lisa Peters

Over the past 20-30 years, the herbal pharmacy of Chinese medicine and wellbeing has gained much wider recognition and acceptance in the Occident. Ginseng has taken its place at the forefront of this change in public perception and now Jiaogulan is set to join it as a firm favorite for its health giving properties. Jiaogulan tea is made from the wild herbaceous vine, Gynostemma pentaphyllum. Used in China for many generations to increase longevity, boost energy levels and stave off illness; jiaogulan functions both as an antioxidant and an adaptogen.

Research and Medical Opinion

Research conducted during the last forty years has revealed a host of health-supporting properties to Jiaogulan and has led to a revolution in its use. Tea prepared from the herb contains trace minerals, vitamins, amino acids and proteins which the body needs for good health. Also containing saponins; these compounds have a significant effect on body function, helping to regulate many of our body systems: blood; digestive; and mental function.

Athletes today come under ever increasing pressure to perform at peak fitness without resorting to the growing number of banned substances which in former times have aided muscle growth, lung and heart function, stamina and blood circulation to name but a few. Many are finding that the herbal pharmacopeia of Chinese tradition is helping them to achieve their goals. Research conducted at Guiyang Medical College demonstrated that jiaogulan increases both strength and endurance. This study, conducted on 1,310 healthy participants, half of them 50+ years old, showed that regular use of jiaogulan over the period of one month increased the body’s production of Superoxide Dismutase (SOD), while reducing Malondialdehyde (MDA). SOD is a powerful antioxidant, possibly the most important one in the body as it is responsible for neutralizing the highly reactive superoxide radicals; these are the most damaging of the radicals to human health. Regular stimulation of the production of SOD helps to prevent cell and tissue damage and to lower cholesterol. In addition, SOD has been shown to improve heart function and stroke volume without increasing blood pressure or heart rate. MDA on the other hand is thought to be a biomarker for oxidative stress. The broad range of disorders and diseases which are able to be triggered by oxidative stress is quite startling. With the elevated levels of oxidative stress experienced by athletes, finding solutions to the damage caused by free radicals is critical. The heart for instance can be affected by: arrhythmia; angina; cardiovascular disease; congestive heart failure; and coronary obstructive pulmonary disease. These are just a few of the reasons why any athlete has to work really hard to keep their body in top condition for competition.

How to Take Jiaogulan

Jiaogulan tea making is very much a matter of personal preference, like any tea. Some people prefer to barely taste the tea, while others prefer to leave the leaves to infuse for much longer, producing a stronger flavored brew. There is some thought that jiaogulan tea should be treated in the same way you would treat green tea: using water that has not quite got to boiling point (140-160 degrees) and leaving it to infuse for around two minutes for optimum effect and flavor. Clearly, the longer brewing means the most efficient extraction of the elements which you are drinking the tea to obtain. Some people think that one cup a day is just the right amount to drink, while others will be quite decided in their views that you can't get too much and may drink 3-5 cups or more each day. Needless to say, just as how you make the tea is a matter of personal taste, so is the amount you drink.

Although you won’t feel the beneficial effects of jiaogulan tea from the very first cup, it won’t take that long, using it regularly, to start noticing the difference. One of the main changes you should notice is an increase in your energy levels; you will be far less likely to catch colds or suffer nasal irritation with conditions like sinusitis. As a relaxant, jiaogulan also assists in stress relief and sleep; and it helps to promote lean muscle and reduce fat, so making you fitter and feeling healthier and slimmer.

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