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Ask a Herbalist - May 2023

We fell a bit behind last month while planning our fun Herb Day celebration and our upcoming classes and didn't get a chance to prepare our April Q & A. We're happy to share this month on a question we received that we feel deserved one post of its own as we feel the answer is always complex.

To participate in our monthly "Ask a Herbalist" Blog simply share your question with us by email: or PM us on Facebook or Instagram. We'll do our best to answer on the final Monday each month. We ask that you keep your questions fairly general so they will be of interest to most readers. You will remain anonymous in our posts and if your question didn't make it into the current month's post we'll be answering it in a future month. Thank you to all of you who have participated so far!

We received a question on weight loss that we have actually been asked multiple times so we are more than happy to answer here.

I’m wondering if there are herbs that assist with weight loss or that help boost metabolism. I’ve been exercising and have been strict with my healthy diet but am still struggling to lose weight.

This is an excellent question and you are certainly not alone in this struggle. We have had several clients asking the same question over the years and unfortunately we have never found one simple answer.

While we have not discovered the “miracle herb” that we can take to magically melt off the pounds there are various herbs that can assist in enhancing the body’s ability to lose weight. When it comes to boosting metabolism we look at the effects certain herbs have on the body at a cellular level. Research on increasing the body’s metabolism by raising the core temperature supports the use of warming herbs such as ginger, cinnamon, rosemary, black pepper or cayenne pepper. These spices can be added while cooking for an extra boost towards our body’s temperature and circulation.

Other herbs that have been studied for their effects on metabolism are roots of plants in the ginseng family, including Korean ginseng (Panax ginseng), American ginseng (Panax quinquefolium) or South China ginseng (Panax notoginseng). Studies have demonstrated ginseng’s ability to help fight fatigue and enhance the body’s physical performance as it increases energy production in the cells and reduces oxidative stress. Ginseng root can be supplemented in the form of tea, plant extract or powder. This family can be quite stimulating on the body and it is important to ensure there are no pre-existing health conditions in which ginseng is contraindicated before use. Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus) is not technically in this family of herbs and it is gentler on the body while still helping to improve energy and increase resistance to stress.

Panax quinquefolium Eleutherococcus senticosus

Specific herbs that have received publicity for their metabolism-boosting effects include mangosteen fruit (Garcinia mangostana) or Malabar tamarind (Garcinia cambogia). Studies have supported evidence that the extracts of these fruits can regulate energy metabolism and encourage the body to burn fat. Extracts of the plant, kudzu (Pueraria montana) have also been demonstrated via testing to assist in weight loss by increasing glucose metabolism.

Garcinia mangostana Garcinia cambogia Pueraria montana

We have reviewed these studies ourselves and have spoken to clients who have tried varieties of these supplements. As each individual is different we have seen diverse results and there may be other underlying issues to consider. Sadly, many times we have found in our clients struggling with weight loss that they have been experiencing effects of extended stress. It is difficult to find anyone who hasn’t been functioning under some form of long-term stress!

Our stress hormones play an important role in managing our survival response. While we are in a state of anxiety which our nervous system perceives as danger, cortisol is steadily released into our bloodstream. The hormone, cortisol is wonderful for protecting us when real danger is present or to keep us functioning through stressful situations but can have lasting effects on our body when it’s constantly circulating. Fat accumulation is one survival mechanism encouraged by cortisol as it is ensuring we will survive famine under harsh conditions we must be facing. At a certain age we all experience changes and decline in hormones including oestrogens and testosterone to hinder our body’s ability to lose weight. By working with herbs to balance hormones we have seen the most success in finally supporting our clients in their weight loss journey. Again, each individual is different and we have given different combinations based on the client’s conditions. Herbs such as coleus (Coleus forskohlii), devil’s club (Oplopanax horridus), chaste berry (Vitex agnus-castus), wild yam (Dioscorea villosa) and black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa) are just a few of our favourite herbs to use in combinations for hormone balancing and combating effects of stress hormones.

Oplopanax horridus Vitex agnus-castus Cimicifuga racemosa

If you are have been struggling with weight loss for quite a while it is also a good idea to speak to your doctor. There may be an underlying condition such as thyroid disfunction that could be preventing you from losing weight. We hope this provides some encouragement and we commend you for all of the hard work you’ve done for your health thus far!

All material contained herein is provided for general information purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or consultation. Contact a reputable healthcare practitioner if you are in need of medical care.

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