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A Fighters Friend: Traditional Thai Medicinal Herbs for Martial Artists

by Alex Eriksson

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Want to perform better in martial arts? Well, there’s an effective way to do so – and no, I’m not talking about busting your ass for hours on end studying new techniques. I’m talking about how you can help to push your performance to a higher level by using herbal supplements.

Don’t worry, I am not about to suggest taking any illegal synthetic steroid or performance-enhancing drug.

In this post, I’ll be sharing with you some information and useful insights about Butea superba and Krachaidam, two plants indigenous to Asia, that have traditionally been used by practitioners of martial arts such as Muay Thai fighters for centuries.


What is Butea Superba?


Butea Superba is indigenous to Thailand

The local name for Butea superba is Red Kwao Krua or Kwao Kreu Dang. This is a native plant to Thailand, with a long history of use in Thai traditional medicine. The plant is a long, tuberous root that grows abundantly all over the rain forests of Thailand.

The red sap has been popular among Thai men for hundreds of years as it is believed to increase sexual vigor. And science has recently found that this traditional use is not all fiction and placebo effects. 

Red Kwao Krua contains flavonoids and flavonoid glycosides. The flavonoid glycosides in the tuberous roots have cAMP phosphodiesterase inhibitor actions. There are also sterol compounds present, such as stigmasterol, beta-sitosterol and campesterol.

These compounds in Butea superba are so powerful that the herb is used as one of the major ingredients in a Thai herbal medicine that is already accepted as one of the most effective treatments for physical conditions such as erectile dysfunction (ED).

There is a clinical trial on the effectiveness of Butea superba in ED. The result showed that it brought about noticeable improvements without any apparent negative side effect.

Butea also has the following benefits:

  • Promotes high testosterone levels
  • Prevents hair loss
  • Slows down greying of hair
  • Lowers risk for certain cancer
  • Protects against Alzheimer’s disease (by inhibiting activity of acetylcholinesterase enzyme to promote prolonged presence of Ach within the neurons)


Butea and its active compounds


Its root is rich in several active compounds – flavonoids present include butin and butenin. There are also sterols and isoflavonoids, including prunetin 7,4-dimethoxyisoflavone and formononetin.

These compounds have actions similar to testosterone and GnRH (gonadotropin releasing hormone). GnRH stimulates the hormonal cascade involved in the production of testosterone.

This action classifies Butea as a phyto-androgen, helping to increase testosterone levels. It helps boost DHT levels as well as increase the amount of free testosterone in the body. Free testosterone is the bioavailable type of testosterone and the only one that really matters. It binds with androgen receptors and produces the many benefits of testosterone, some of which are more lean muscle mass, improved athletic performance and improved mood and focus. Butea also helps control estrogen levels, which maintain a low percentage of body fat.

The flavonoid glycosides and flavonoids in Butea are potent antioxidants. They can protect the body from the development of cancers, being especially beneficial for the health and normal functioning of blood vessels. Butea promotes vasodilation and increased blood flow through the arteries, which is another reason why it is so good for high intensity sports such as some martial arts disciplines like Mixed Martial Arts (MMA).

Increased blood flow will greatly improve various functions in the body and can help lower blood pressure. It promotes better oxygen and nutrient delivery to the different tissues of the body, this can greatly increase reaction time in fights. Improved blood flow also means more nutrition to the sex organs, normalizing hormone production.

The increased blood flow and hormonal effects of Butea can improve your performance immensely and take your martial arts skills to a whole new level. 


And What About Krachai Dum?


Krachai Dum also brings immense benefits for martial artists

This is another herb also known as Kaempferia parviflora, or Black Ginger. This is a root bulb herb native to northern Thailand and has also been used for generations as a natural male aphrodisiac.

This particular herb has the following benefits:

  • Improved overall health
  • Increased memory span
  • Even skin tone
  • High energy levels
  • Increased stamina
  • Better performance
  • Increased endurance
  • A strong cardiovascular system


But How Do These Thai Herbs Help with Improving Fight Performance?


Herbs have been a Thai fighter's friend for centuries

These herbs are, of course, more than just supplements for “making love.” You’d be interested to know that they are in fact considered a fighter’s friends in Asia.

The improved blood flow promoted by both Butea and Krachaidam has immense benefits, as muscle tissues receive better oxygenation and nutrient delivery. That means better functioning and faster muscle recovery from blows.

Endurance is a result of higher oxygen and nutrient supply. Better blood flow also means less lactic acid buildup in the muscle, which help prevent muscle cramps, something you do not want to strike you mid fight.

But wait, there’s more. Better blood flow helps the tissues to recover faster. The dilated vessels allow more blood to enter the muscle tissues which is crucial to the healing process. As more blood flows to the tissues, there is more nourishment available. Faster recovery means you can get to the next training session or next fight with less down time. Remember, the more fights you do, the faster you will improve your skill level.

Aside from the benefits of better blood flow, some of the mentioned compounds in these herbs are potent antioxidants. The cells need to be protected from oxidative damage that can increase when your body is weak and repairing itself form a recent fight. Antioxidants help with this, and without them tissues and the cells age faster. 




Incorporate these herbs to your diet to optimize your martial arts performance

Butea superba and Kranchaidam are effective ancient Thai herbs, perfect for those wanting to improve their performance, strength and endurance in martial arts such as boxing. They are available as teas or as ingredients in many supplements.

Aside from these two herbs, there are also other foods worth trying for performance and endurance. There are regular, everyday foods that can improve blood flow, helping in vasodilation and oxygenation. Be sure to give them a try!


Looking to learn more about Thai herbs and Thailand’s unique and rich culture that includes Muay Thai? Head on over to BookMartialArts.com for a wide selection of martial arts training camps in Thailand!  Want to read more of Alex’s content? Check out his blog as well as Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook.

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