Metabolism is most often associated with weight gain or loss, but it's really tied to many aspects of your overall health.
Having a healthy metabolism can definitely help you with weight loss or management, but it's also important for proper immune function, energy levels, brain function, a healthy sex drive, and much more.
There's no magic formula that will "fix" metabolism for you (and it may not even need to be fixed!), but there are several herbs and spices that can boost metabolism and support your overall health.
What is Metabolism?
The quick definition of metabolism is a series of chemical reactions that take place in your body to provide energy that supports life. This includes breaking down food into a form of energy that can be used by your body and storing it as well as utilizing that stored form of energy (in the form of fat) for cells, muscles, etc.
You need the energy you get from food to exercise, grow and develop, reproduce, and much more.
However, if metabolism gets bogged down, your body can't utilize its energy source very effectively, which can have all kinds of health effects. It can also impact your weight if your body isn't "burning up" fat and calories very quickly.
Many different things affect your metabolism, including genetics, hormones, physical activity (or lack thereof), and your overall diet.
This means there's no magic bullet for boosting metabolism or for weight loss, either. However, there are some natural ways to help your metabolism get to the level it should be at, including specific herbs.
A Word on Weight Loss
Too often, weight loss is about conforming to a certain image promoted by the media rather than about health. But if you do want to lose some weight as part of a health goal, the best thing you can do is help your body get healthy in other ways.
There are many aspects to reaching a good weight, and metabolism is just one of them.
Nourishing your adrenals and lowering stress is another key to keep in mind. Overtaxed adrenals can produce too much cortisol (the stress hormone), which has the effect of hindering both metabolism and weight loss.
(Try this Adrenal Love tea for natural, herbal support.)
Detoxifying your body (particularly by supporting your liver and digestion) is also important because many toxins impact hormone health, which is again connected to metabolism and weight loss.
Top Herbs to Boost Metabolism
Cayenne peppers contain a compound know as capsaicin that gives them their heat. Capsaicin has many benefits (including acting as a natural pain reliever) and can also improve metabolism.
Studies have shown that it boosts metabolism in part by raising the heat level in your body and can also help you burn more calories throughout the day. (1)
Of course, capsaicin is found in a range of hot peppers, so you aren't limited to just cayenne.
Ginger is another spicy herb that has many benefits for your body, including an ability to stimulate digestion and relieve nausea. Its main active compound, gingerol, gives it heat as well as an anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting effect.
Because of its spiciness, ginger can also boost metabolism and increase fat burning. Use the fresh root to make tea or add to food for the greatest impact. (2)
Turmeric isn't as spicy as ginger, but the two are closely related in the plant world. This bright orange root has a warming quality to it and contains a powerful compound known as curcumin.
Studies show that curcumin can have a powerful effect on metabolism, boosting it and also decreasing belly fat and overall weight. (3)
Ginseng is an adaptogen that has long been used in traditional Chinese medicine. It contains compounds known as ginsenosides that have antioxidant power and many other properties.
Cumin is a warming herb and one of the most popular spices that's used around the world. You'll find it in Indian, Latin American, and Middle Eastern cooking, and it also has its own health benefits.
In studies, cumin has shown an ability to increase metabolism and accelerate fat burning. And the good news is you only need to use about a teaspoon or so of cumin a day to get its effects. (6)
Black pepper (no relation to chili peppers) contains a compound known as piperine that gives it spiciness, plus health benefits like lowering inflammation and improving nutrient absorption.
The piperine in black pepper also appears to boost metabolism and block the formation of new fat cells (which may prevent weight gain). To get the most out of it, buy whole peppercorns and grind them straight onto your food. (6)
Garlic may just be one of the most powerful herbs or spices you can eat. It can do just about anything, from supporting immune health to potentially fighting cancer.
The spiciness of garlic also gives it an ability to boost metabolism and improve fat burning. Just like with cayenne, this most likely comes from its ability to add heat to the body. Use it raw if you dare, or try a garlic extract. (7)
Cinnamon is a delicious warming spice that is highly popular around the world. It contains active compounds, like cinnamaldehyde, that give it a little bit of heat and boost circulation.
This warming quality of cinnamon is what makes it a natural booster for metabolism. As a bonus, cinnamon can also help improve digestion and stabilize blood sugar, which makes it a great herb for diabetes support.
Cardamom has been nicknamed "the Queen of the spices" and has a warm, slightly spicy flavor. It's related to both ginger and turmeric and is often used alongside cinnamon.
Like many other spices on this list, cardamom adds a bit of heat to your body and has a metabolism-boosting effect. It also appears to improve fat burning. (8)
For a warming drink that supports metabolism, try combining cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, and other spices to make herbal chai tea.
Green tea has a multitude of health benefits and is a well-known booster of metabolism.
Some studies have even shown that green tea may have a long-term effect on metabolism, which means it could support metabolism even when you aren't drinking it. It also improves fat burning and is loaded with antioxidants that help your body to detox. (9)(10)
The greatest benefits of green tea come when you drink it regularly. For the most concentrated source, try using matcha powder.
Other Natural Metabolism Boosters
Herbs and spices can be great natural support for your metabolism, but there are many other factors you can also work on.
Managing and/or lowering stress is a big deal for metabolic health and so is naturally supporting your adrenals (as mentioned earlier).
Getting enough good quality sleep is also key to a healthy metabolism but something many people struggle with. If that's the case for you, commit to getting more rest and consider using some natural remedies and herbs for sleep.
Finally, your overall diet and gut health both have a big impact on metabolism. That doesn't mean you to need to go on a diet, but it does mean eating more whole foods and fewer processed/high sugar foods. Recent research also shows that a healthy microbiome is key to good metabolism, and probiotics may act as a natural metabolism booster. (11)
Basically, if you focus on improving your overall health, your metabolism will naturally improve along with it!
Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute medical advice and should not be substituted for medical advice. Please consult your health care provider, herbalist, midwife, or naturopathic physician before taking herbs, supplements, etc. Here's the link to our full disclaimer.