In very basic terms, metabolism is the process in which our cells turn what we eat and drink into energy.
Despite this simplified definition, metabolism is a complex process involving many organs and systems, including your thyroid, hypothalamus, pancreas, liver, chemical messengers within the digestive system, and cardiovascular system.
The idea behind a “slow” or “aging” metabolism contributing to weight/BMI is a bit confusing and misleading, because it doesn’t exactly relate to our cell’s ability to convert food into energy (because if our cells stopped doing that, we’d die!).
Rather, it’s more about how the key players in our metabolic system (those organs mentioned above, along with other hormonal and chemical processes) are functioning—individually and as a holistic system.
Ayurveda views metabolic deficiencies a little different than the West, characterizing them under the syndrome: “Prameha”. Which includes conditions involved in obesity, prediabetes, diabetes mellitus, and metabolic syndrome.
Lifestyle factors into this, as does toxic load, age, stress levels, dietary choices, sleep quality, etc.
Fortunately, we can use specific herbs to help nourish and balance the organs that govern our metabolic system. This, combined with specific lifestyle changes, can often help favorably “tip the scale” when other efforts have failed.
Ways To Boost Metabolism Naturally
Before we get into the herbs, it’s important we look at lifestyle changes that can positively impact metabolism.
Getting enough sleep (7.5-9 hours a night for adults) has been shown to lower your risk of metabolic disease while helping optimize metabolic function.
Regular exercise, specifically High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) has been associated with a lower risk of metabolic syndrome, better metabolic markers, balanced blood sugar, and a reduced risk of many metabolic diseases.
Stress management is one of the great keys to healthy metabolism. Chronic stress interferes with all our organs and systems, including our sleep cycle, our digestion, and our body’s ability to maintain balanced blood sugar.
Yoga has been proven to lower a variety of metabolic syndrome risk factors in obese postmenopausal women. It’s also been shown effective in regulating lipid metabolism and total body energy expenditure. This is in line with Ayurvedic principles that utilize yoga as a stress-reliever, spiritual practice, and full body workout that helps rebalance Doshas, organs, and systems.
Eating sensible portions. It should come as no surprise that lower caloric intake is associated with a positive effect on metabolism and insulin secretion. Many experts also recommend lowering your intake of sugar and refined carbohydrates, which can contribute to pre-fatty or fatty liver disease and interfere with healthy glucose metabolism.
Focusing on a plant-based diethas also been shown effective in helping people achieve and maintain a lower BMI. Although more research is needed, a plant-based-diet is considered beneficial for improving metabolism and supporting weight loss. This is also in-line with Ayurvedic dietary principles, which focus largely on plant-based eating.
6 Herbs For Metabolism
For centuries, Ayurveda and other traditional systems have combined herbs with lifestyle changes to positively impact metabolism and weight management. Here are a few of the time-tested favorites.
As one of the most studied herbs on the planet, it should come as no surprise that turmeric can positively impact metabolism.
Its benefits are multi-faceted, with research showing it supports normal glucose metabolism, inflammatory levels, liver function, pancreatic cell function, BMI, leptin levels, insulin secretion, and overall metabolic health.
In Ayurveda, healthy metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and protein is very much connected to the health of the liver and kidneys.
Your liver is your #1 fat burning and toxin-neutralizing organ. And your kidneys are responsible for flushing waste from the body and maintaining fluid homeostasis. This makes them a natural team for keeping your detox pathways strong.
Therefore, Katuki (found in our Liver Kidney Supplement) is often recommended as a broad-spectrum support that detoxifies, nourishes, and rejuvenates these hard-working organs.
Ginger is one of the most widely used herbs in Ayurveda. With many practitioners using it several times a day to support digestive fire, bolster immunity, and for flavor in cooking.
With regards to metabolism, ginger’s naturally “hot” flavor is believed to help stoke digestive fire and assist with proper transport of nutrients. It’s also a go-to staple for supporting cardiovascular health, fat metabolism, and blood sugar balance.
Risk factors for metabolic imbalance include cardiovascular issues such as imbalanced cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, and inflammatory response.
Madagascar Periwinkle, also known as Sadabahar, has been shown to be effective in supporting balance of all these functions.
In Ayurveda, it is believed that its supportive effects on blood sugar and normal inflammatory response have downstream benefits to the heart and cardiovascular system.
Research has shown the combination of antioxidant flavonoids and vinpocetine-like compounds are likely responsible for many of these benefits. The plant alkaloid, reserpine, also has shown a positive effect on supporting normal blood pressure.
You can find Madagascar Periwinkle/Sadabahar in our Sugar Balance formula.
Thyroid health is at the core of metabolic function. And thyroid imbalances are extremely common these days, especially in women.
Thus, when we support the thyroid we naturally give our metabolic system a much-needed boost.
Ashwaghanda, also known as Indian Ginseng, is a powerful adaptogen that supports your body’s response to stress while protecting and supporting healthy thyroid function.
Research confirms this, as Ashwagandha extract has been shown to promote normal thyroid function and production of thyroid hormone.
Like ginger, cinnamon has a warming effect on our organs and systems. In Ayurveda, and other traditional systems, ceylon cinnamon (a gentler form of the spice) is the gold-standard when it comes to supporting health long-term.
Research has found that ceylon cinnamon helps promote normal glucose metabolism in the liver and insulin response in the bloodstream. When combined with ginger (as mentioned previously), it also supports a healthy weight, inflammatory response, glucose and leptin levels.
The slow-metabolism theory of weight gain has some truth to it. But, it really has more to do with the health of your entire metabolic system, than your cell’s ability to make energy from food and drink.
So, if you’re struggling to achieve a healthy weight and/or burn fat, try some of these proven lifestyle changes coupled with the herbs that fit your needs.
As always, if you’re unsure of which herbs would be of benefit to you, consult a skilled Ayurvedic practitioner.