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Trying A Paleo Diet? These 7 Herbs May Help

Published on March 29, 2023


By Kristen Boye BS, Natural Health

Kristen Boye

Kristen Boye is a natural health expert, writer, copywriter, and editor. Kristen was raised on an organic farm in British Columbia which inspired her life’s work. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Natural Health, is a Certified Natural Foods Chef, co-owner of a medicinal herb farm, and is a natural foods and children’s health advocate. Kristen lives with her husband and two children on their medicinal herb farm in Western North Carolina.

https://www.holisticwritingconcepts.com

The paleo diet has become popular for gut health, inflammation, mystery symptoms, weight management, digestive issues, mental/emotional well-being, and more.

There have been dozens of best-selling books written about variations of paleo diets, and there is no shortage of bloggers, influencers, medical doctors, and everyday people sharing this unconventional approach to eating.

However, few people talk about how herbs can help support the transition to paleo eating and even help improve results long-term.

In this article, you’ll discover seven traditional herbs that may help support various aspects of the paleo diet, including:

  • Energy
  • Sugar cravings
  • Inflammatory response
  • Weight management
  • Digestion and gut health

Whether you’re new to paleo or looking for some extra support to keep you going, these herbs can help you on your journey.

What is The Paleo Diet?

The paleo diet, also called the paleolithic diet, caveman diet, stone age diet, or modified paleo diet, is designed to replicate the eating habits of our hunter-gatherer ancestors.

The theory is by returning to a wild, primitive diet—the type everyone ate before the industrial revolution, modern agriculture, and processed foods—we can optimize our health, prevent disease, and address modern ailments.

So, what did our caveman ancestors eat?

The diets of hunter-gatherers varied depending on their location and what was available.

For example, those living in harsh, cold climates consumed mostly animal proteins and fats, while those in tropical areas ate more plants, tubers (like potatoes), fish, and seafood.

The modern paleo diet (which varies based on the variation you choose) is a fusion of all these foods.

Foods allowed on a traditional paleo diet include:

  • Fruits: Some variations of paleo may limit fruits to reduce sugar, while others do not. Coconut products, such as coconut oil, flour, and water, are a staple on the paleo diet
  • Vegetables: Leafy greens, broccoli, carrots, onions, garlic, and more
  • Tubers: Such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, and cassava
  • Whole nuts and seeds: Almonds, walnuts, pecans, hemp seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and nut or seed flours
  • Fish and seafood: Wild-caught varieties are preferable
  • Eggs: Pasture-raised eggs are preferable
  • Unprocessed cooked meats, preferably pasture-raised organic: Beef, bison, poultry, pork, venison, elk, and more
  • Unrefined, unprocessed oils: Coconut oil, avocado oil, and extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt, herbs, and spices: Including culinary and traditional herbs and spices

    Some paleo diet variations, such as modified paleo, allow:

    • Natural sweeteners: Such as raw honey, maple syrup, or coconut sugar
    • Full-fat dairy: Such as pastured-raised butter, cream, and cultured dairy products
    • Legumes: Like lentils, black beans, fava beans, etc.
    • Grains: Typically gluten-free grains such as rice, quinoa, or millet
    • Protein powders: Such as collagen, gelatin, or grass-fed-based meat protein powders

    The paleo diet also allows wine and low-sugar dark chocolate in limited amounts.

    Coffee and tea aren’t traditional to paleolithic cultures. However, most people do continue consuming them while on paleo.

    Foods to avoid on a paleo diet include:

    • Artificial sweeteners: Such as saccharin, sucralose, aspartame, and others
    • Dairy: Some variations allow full-fat and/or cultured dairy products such as butter, ghee, cream, yogurt, and kefir
    • Grains: The traditional paleo diet does not include grains, but modified versions allow gluten-free grains in small quantities
    • Highly processed foods: Such as chips, granola bars, chocolate bars, candy, instant potatoes, etc.
    • Legumes: Traditional paleo does not include legumes, but modified paleo diets may
    • Refined, processed sugars: Including white sugar, corn syrup, cane sugar, molasses, etc
    • Refined, pro-inflammatory fats and seed oils: Such as canola, corn, cottonseed, safflower, sunflower, grapeseed, rapeseed

    Your doctor or healthcare practitioner may offer a variation of these guidelines based on your health and goals, food allergies or sensitivities, and/or their clinical experience.

    What Are The Benefits Of The Paleo Diet?

    As previously mentioned, people try the paleo diet for various reasons, including health issues.

    But what does the research say about this new trend?

    Preliminary studies have shown the paleo diet may help with: REF#1073 REF#1074 REF#1075 REF#1076 REF#1077

    • Cardiovascular health
    • Weight loss
    • Blood sugar imbalances
    • Metabolic conditions
    • Oxidative stress/inflammatory response
    • Longevity

    Some experts warn the paleo diet may not be appropriate for everyone due to the exclusion of food groups and the potential for higher fat intake.

    While others sing its praises as an excellent tool for promoting good health, addressing various health conditions, and supporting longevity.

    More research is needed to draw definitive conclusions. Always check with your doctor before starting a new diet regime.

    Seven Awesome Herbs To Support A Paleo Diet

    Switching to a new diet can be empowering, exciting, and challenging, especially when it means giving up some of your favorite comfort foods.

    Fortunately, mother nature has you covered with these seven herbs for support.

    1. Maca For Energy and Endurance

    Maca Root, also known as Peruvian Ginseng or Lepidium meyenii, has been used as a source of nourishment, currency, and herbal support for thousands of years. 

    Natives of the high-altitude Peruvian mountains used Maca for fertility, libido, stress, energy, stamina, immunity, endurance, brain health, and to treat various ailments.*REF#1080

    It also sustained them in the winters when they had very little food to rely on.

    As discussed in previous articles, Maca has demonstrated many health benefits in clinical studies.*

    However, its greatest asset to a paleo dieter may be its effects on energy and endurance.*

    Maca is an adaptogen, a type of plant that helps regulate your stress response.REF#1078

    Adaptogens may support hormonal health, blood sugar, sleep cycle, stamina, and cortisol levels, the body’s master stress hormone.REF#1079

    Maca is a superfood, providing essential nutrients that support energy, such as iron, vitamin C, zinc, iodine, and amino acids. REF#1081

    Maca can boost exercise performance and stamina by supporting mitochondria function (mitochondria are the energy-producing powerhouses of our cells), and its antioxidants protect against oxidative damage that can occur during intense exercise.REF#1082

    It’s also been shown effective in supporting physical endurance and speed in athletes.*REF#1083 Perhaps this is why the Spanish conquistadors used it to prepare for battle.

    Maca contains unique plant compounds called macamides, which have been shown to inhibit fatigue.REF#1084

    This is why Maca is often used as a coffee substitute on the paleo diet or other caffeine-free health regimes.

    Gaia Herbs offers several varieties of Maca, including:

    Be sure to check out our paleo-friendly Maca recipes, like Maca Matcha Latte With Maca Powder and Macamole.

    2. Turmeric For Inflammatory Response, Heart Health, Digestion, And More

    Turmeric, also known as the “Golden Spice,” is one of the most-studied herbs on the planet.REF#1085

    Turmeric is revered in Ayurveda and Indian culture, where it is used for various health issues, as a beauty aid, and in traditional recipes like curries.REF#1086

    Likewise, Turmeric can complement a paleo diet in many ways—from adding flavor and color in new recipes to providing impressive health benefits.*

    For example, research has shown that the plant compounds in Turmeric, known collectively as curcuminoids, have powerful antioxidant properties.*

    The most-studied of these is Curcumin.REF#1085

    The antioxidant properties of Turmeric and Curcumin have been shown to support many of the same health concerns as the paleo diet, including: REF#1087 REF#1088 REF#1089 REF#1090 REF#1091

    • Balanced inflammation
    • Cardiovascular health
    • Digestion
    • Immunity
    • Gut microbiome health
    • Liver function
    • Skin health
    • Normal sugar metabolism
    • And healthy aging

    Using curry powder or Turmeric in recipes is an easy way to get more of the golden spice into your diet.

    Meat and vegetable-based curries made with coconut milk over cauliflower rice, zucchini noodles, or potatoes are a delicious way to stick to your diet and reap the benefits of Turmeric.

    You could also try the traditional Ayurvedic Golden Milk (made with plant milk) as a coffee alternative or a satisfying after-meal beverage.

    Turmeric and Curcumin are best absorbed with fat and/or black pepper. So add healthy fats and pepper to your recipes and look for supplements containing Black Pepper.

    To learn more about Turmeric and Curcumin, check out: Curcumin versus Turmeric: What’s The Difference? 

    You can find Turmeric in these Gaia Herbs products:


      3. Ginger For Digestive Issues

      Many people try a paleo diet to help ease digestive complaints such as bloating, indigestion, stomach pain, and gas.

      Paleo advocates believe this approach provides multi-level support for digestive health. 

      Eliminating grains, gluten, or dairy, for example, can dramatically affect bloating in some people while increasing in fruits and vegetables can positively impact elimination and gut health.

      In addition, herbs like Ginger can further support digestive function.*

      Ginger has been shown to promote healthy digestion in numerous ways, including:REF#1092

      • Acting as a carminative, which reduces gas and bloating
      • Supporting esophageal function
      • Promoting gastrointestinal motility (the process in which food moves through your digestive system)
      • Supporting gastric emptying
      • Reducing occasional nausea
      • Supporting liver health (the liver plays a role in digestion via the production of bile and other enzymes)

      Ginger is easy to find fresh, as a powder, or tea, and can be added to foods and beverages to support digestion.

      You can also take Ginger as a supplement, such as Gaia Herbs Ginger Supreme, before or after meals.

      4. Licorice And Cinnamon For Sugar Cravings

      Giving up sugar can be a formidable challenge when embarking on a paleo diet.

      Sugar is tasty, comforting, and provides a quick source of energy. 

      However, it’s also been shown to be highly addictive and may contribute to various health issues.REF#1093

      Whether going cold turkey or easing yourself off sweets, Licorice and Cinnamon may help.

      Licorice and Cinnamon are naturally sweet and contain various plant compounds that have been shown to support normal blood sugar balance.REF#1095 REF#1096 

      Additionally, Licorice has been traditionally used to support adrenal health and digestive function—both of which can affect food cravings.*

      You can find Licorice and Cinnamon in these Gaia Herbs products:


        5. Hibiscus Or Hawthorne For Heart Health

        Research has shown the paleo diet can support normal blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, and other aspects of heart health.REF#1075

        This contradicts much of the research showing a low-fat diet's role in heart health.

        Opinions on whether the paleo diet is appropriate for heart health vary from expert to expert. 

        Always check with your doctor for their recommendations before changing your diet.

        However, if you get the green light from your doctor to try paleo for heart health, consider adding Hibiscus or Hawthorne.

        Ruby red, antioxidant-rich Hibiscus tea or extract, has been shown to support normal blood pressure and overall cardiovascular health.REF#1096REF#1097

        Plus, it makes a delicious paleo-friendly beverage to enjoy cold or hot with raw honey, stevia, or a bit of lemon.

        Traditional herbalists have used Hawthorne as a heart tonic since the days of ancient Rome.* 

        Research has shown the flavonoids, and antioxidant oligomeric procyanidins in Hawthorne’s leaves and berries may support normal blood pressure and help reduce anxiety. REF#1098REF#1099

        You can find Hibiscus and Hawthorn in these Gaia Herbs products:


          How to Start Using Herbs With The Paleo Diet

          Herbs have offered human beings sustenance, support, and solace since the beginning of time, which makes them a perfect addition to a paleo diet.

          Whether you add herbs to your paleo recipes and/or take a supplement, you’ll support your dieting efforts and overall health.

          The question is, which herbs should you start with?

          Always check with your doctor or healthcare practitioner before adding herbs to your regime.

          From there, choose the herbs that support your health goals, lifestyle, or whatever challenges you may be facing on your paleo journey.

          Feeling low on energy as you transition from caffeine and/or processed foods? 

          Try Maca or another adaptogen to support your adrenals and help boost energy levels.*

          Are sugar cravings driving you crazy? 

          Cinnamon or Licorice may help take the edge off.

          Eager to get your digestion back on track? 

          Turn to Ginger to rev up that digestive fire and support healthy gastrointestinal and liver function.*

          Want to learn more about herbs and nutrition? Check out the following resources:

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