Thousands of years ago, ancient civilizations relied on herbal medicine, including the use of various functional roots, to promote health and healing. Since then, scientific studies have uncovered the legitimacy of these natural ingredients and the myriad of health benefits they have to offer, such as improved immunity, enhanced athletic performance, and increased energy and vitality.
In this article, we’ll be talking about our five favourite functional roots and their benefits, backed by scientific research.
Turmeric root has been used as a medicinal herb in India for thousands of years. Now, many studies show that turmeric contains compounds with several important benefits for the body and brain. One of these medicinal compounds is curcumin, which is a powerful antioxidant with an anti-inflammatory effect on the body (1). It can help reduce joint inflammation and contribute to better overall health by fighting off common diseases linked to chronic systemic inflammation (2)(3). Curcumin can also contribute to the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a growth hormone that acts on the brain and helps neurons multiply, thus improving brain function (4).
Closely related to turmeric, ginger root also has a history of extensive use in traditional medicine in fighting off the common cold and the flu, in helping with digestion, and in reducing nausea and menstrual pain, and so on. We now know that ginger’s primary bioactive compound is gingerol, which has significant anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties (5).
It has also been suggested that ginger may have anti-diabetic properties (6). A 2015 study found that 2 grams of ginger powder a day meaningfully lowered blood sugar over the short and long-term while at the same time reducing markers for oxidized lipoproteins—both being important risk factors for heart disease (7).
Finally, a study on middle-aged women found that the consumption of ginger extract improved working memory and reaction time—in other words, brain function (8).
A small shrub with yellow flowers, ashwagandha’s roots are used to make extracts or powders that have been shown to improve a variety of conditions. The medicinal properties associated with ashwagandha are believed to be attributed to its active ingredient, withanolides. Traditionally, ashwagandha root has been used to reduce stress and anxiety, and recent research has shown that this could be due to the root’s ability to lower cortisol levels (9).
Beyond its traditional use, ashwagandha root has also been shown to help minimize inflammation by increasing the activity of natural killer and T cells, which help protect the body from viruses and bacteria (10). In one clinical study, five participants experienced increases in natural killer cells and T cells after consuming ashwagandha root twice daily for four days (10). It may also be beneficial to heart health, as some studies have suggested that the consumption of ashwagandha can help to lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels (9)(11).
The maca plant is a cruciferous vegetable (like broccoli, kale and cauliflower) that was first cultivated in the Andes of central Peru, hence its alternate name, peruvian ginseng. Its roots are used to make maca powder, which has a nutty and earthy flavour and is a good source of many vitamins and minerals—vitamin C, iron and potassium to name a few.
Traditionally, maca has been known to support hormone health, enhance fertility and improve energy and vitality. Although research is still limited, some studies have shown promising results. In a pilot study in 2009, male cyclists experienced significantly improved performance after supplementing maca extract for 14 days (12).
Maca’s ability to improve energy and reduce fatigue may be due to its ability to support red blood cell production, which requires iron and vitamin C—all found in maca root powder. Low levels of red blood cells can result in anemia, which can cause fatigue, decreased productivity and other adverse outcomes. Maca’s nutrient-dense profile can help to combat fatigue by supporting a healthy circulation of well oxygenated blood.
You’ve probably heard that beets are an excellent source of key nutrients, including iron, folate, potassium, magnesium and vitamin C, as well as other antioxidants. But you might not know that many of the health benefits associated with beets are attributed to their high nitrate concentration, which the body converts to nitric oxide. This vital molecule has many health benefits, including improved exercise performance, lower blood pressure and enhanced brain function (13). According to a study of 38 participants, nitric oxide levels increased by 21 percent 45 minutes after consuming a beetroot juice supplement (14). In another study, 9 amateur cyclists experienced significantly faster times after consuming beetroot juice, suggesting its efficacy as a performance enhancing supplement (15). Much like maca root, beets are also a good source of iron and can be effective in reducing fatigue by facilitating the production of red blood cells (16).
As you can see, the body of research is quite interesting and, here at Landish, we’re excited to see it grow as science continues to legitimize the effectiveness of these natural functional ingredients.
For an anti-inflammatory, de-stressing and relaxing beverage, try our Turmeric Ginger Latte Mix, made with turmeric, ginger and ashwagandha roots. With a rich, creamy texture and slightly sweet and spicy taste, this latte feels as comforting and delicious as it is wholesome. Order it now!