7 Herbs That Enhance Autophagy and Cellular Healing

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herbs that enhance autophagy7 Herbs That Enhance Autophagy and Cellular Healing

The desire to reduce pain, increase energy, lose fat, and improve mental clarity are some of the main reasons people visit us at DrJockers.com. Chances are, your health goals include some or all of these desires as well. In order to achieve these goals, you need to enhance autophagy and cellular healing in your body.

Autophagy is your body’s natural method of detoxification. It happens when your body recycles and gets rid of old and unhealthy cells allowing the creation of new and healthy cells to replace them. While fasting, fasted exercise, and eating a ketogenic diet are three of the most powerful ways to enhance autophagy, we can’t forget about the importance of anti-inflammatory herbs and compounds to enhance autophagy and improve your health.

In this article, you will learn what autophagy is, its benefits, and the power of fasting when it comes to enhanced autophagy. I will share with you my favorite anti-inflammatory herbs and compounds that enhance autophagy and cellular healing.

autophagy, Autophagy: What is It and 8 Ways to Enhance It

What Is Autophagy 

Autophagy is an essential part of your immune system. It is a process that happens when your body recycles and expels old or excess cells that don’t benefit or potentially harm your health. It is also referred to as a process of self-eating. Autophagy happens as a result of cellular stressors, such as nutrient deprivation from fasting, exercise, or significant temperature change.

Within each of your cells, there are a number of essential components called organelles. They serve as organs in your body but within your cells.

When your cells are exposed to the stressors I mentioned earlier, it creates a phagophore, a transient double membrane structure. This phagophore has a great level of flexibility. As it expands, it’s able to surround and sequester cellular components, including lipids, proteins, and entire organelles (1).

Once the phagophore surrounds and encloses these components, it takes them to the lysosomes, which are unique organelles that contain degrading enzymes. Lysosomes are able to degrade the components that they are released upon.

How Do We Enhance Autophagy Processes In The Body?

So how does cellular stress drives autophagy? Your body is constantly striving for homeostasis or physiological balance for survival. Stress, on the other hand, refers to an environment that demands change.

When your body is exposed to cellular stressors, such as nutrient deprivation from fasting, or high-intensity exercise, it needs fuel to produce the necessary energy for survival. To accomplish this, your body signals the break down of older and less efficient cells and cellular organelles, allowing room for the creation of new, healthier, and more efficient cells to produce more energy (2)

As a result, autophagy helps your body to function better. With the help of new mitochondria and healthy cells, your body becomes stronger. It also becomes more resilient to chronic stress, inflammation, chronic pain, and disease (3).  ‘To learn more about autophagy, I recommend this article.

autophagy, Autophagy: What is It and 8 Ways to Enhance It

Benefits of Autophagy

Autophagy has several health benefits. Let’s look at them one by one.

Getting Rid of Senescent Cells

Senescent cells are older cells that don’t function at a high level anymore. They are also called “Zombie cells” because they aren’t performing their normal function but aren’t dead either.  They are basically just taking up space and often times they are increasing the level of oxidative stress and inflammation within the body.   

While it is normal for your cells to age, it is also important to replace these senescent cells with new ones. Autophagy helps to remove old cells with new and healthy cells (4).


Improving Mitochondrial Health

The mitochondria are the powerhouse of your cell that is essential for energy production and overall health.  But the mitochondria are constantly facing oxidative stress and have to adapt and buffer this oxidation through intracellular antioxidants such as catalase, superoxide dismutase and glutathione peroxidase.  

With that said, all mitochondria get damaged and need to be repaired or replaced or they become dysfunctional.  Unless regular bouts of autophagy are stimulated, you end up with dysfunctional and metabolically inflexible mitochondria. Autophagy may help to degrade dysfunctional mitochondria and replace it with new ones (5).

Eliminating Viral Infected Cells

As opposed to bacteria, yeast, and parasites, viruses are intracellular pathogens that get into the cell and impact the functions of the cell.   All of us are exposed to viruses and we have a number of viral infected cells at any given time.

A strong immune system can put viruses into a dormant state; however, it doesn’t actually get rid of them.  Autophagy is your body’s natural way of removing infected cells and replacing them with healthy ones (6).

Reduces Cellular Apoptosis

Older cells undergo programmed cell death called apoptosis. However, this process is very stressful on your body and may lead to inflammation. Autophagy, on the other hand, is a much more energy-efficient process that helps to get rid of old cells and create new ones (7).

Autophagy Creates a Stronger and More Stress Resilient Body and Mind

Autophagy helps your cells to become stronger and healthier, and your body to become more resilient to stress. It may help to reduce inflammation, including gut inflammation and the risk of leaky gut syndrome, and may help your brain health, mood, memory, and mental processing (8, 9).

feast famine, Feast Famine Cycling: Autophagy, Cleansing and Muscle Growth

Fasting To Enhance Autophagy

Fasting is a healing practice that has been used for thousands of years for both health and spiritual reasons. Fasting simply refers to a practice of not consuming food for a certain period of time but consuming nothing or only non-caloric beverages, such as water and herbal tea.

There are a variety of fasting methods out there. While extended fasting that lasts for several days or even longer may be beneficial in some cases, it’s not always practical. Intermittent fasting is more practical because you may practice it daily. Intermittent fasting is a fasting method that involves fasting for part of the day and eating only during a certain period of time. 

There are a variety of intermittent fasting strategies you may try. To find what may be the best strategy for you, I recommend that you read this article. If you are a woman, read this article about Crescendo Fasting, an intermittent fasting strategy that may be the best for certain women.

Fasting, including intermittent fasting, has many benefits to offer, including reducing inflammation, improving hormone sensitivity, increasing growth hormone, repairing your gut, and enhancing fat burning. One of the key benefits of fasting, however, is stimulating your body’s inherent autophagy process (10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19)

autophagy, Autophagy: What is It and 8 Ways to Enhance It

Fasting and Ketones

When you are fasting, your body has to turn to alternative fuel sources. Once it burns up all the stored sugar (glycogen) in your body, it starts to burn fat instead. This process produces ketones. Ketones are three water-soluble molecules produced by your liver from fatty acids during fasting, prolonged intense exercise, food restriction, carbohydrate-restricted diet, untreated type 1 diabetes, and alcoholism.

Ketones convert into acetyl-CoA and enter the Krebs cycle to help your mitochondria’s energy production. As a result, they enhance autophagy, metabolic flexibility, and fat burning (20).  

Top 7 Herbs That Enhance Autophagy and Cellular Healing 

One way to enhance autophagy and cellular healing is by using specific herbs. Many herbs contain polyphenols that help to suppress the mTOR pathway and activate the AMPk pathway to introduce autophagy.

Used in conjunction with fasting and other strategies, anti-inflammatory herbs are a fantastic way to optimize and enhance autophagy mechanisms in your body (21, 22, 23)Let’s look at the top 7 herbs that enhance autophagy and cellular healing.

Matcha Green Tea

Matcha green tea is an increasingly popular tea. Though it comes from the same plant, Camellia sinensis, as green tea, it is grown differently. Farmers cover the tea plant for 20 to 30 days before harvesting. This technique increases chlorophyll production and amino acid content. After harvesting, they remove the stems and veins to create a fine powder from the ground up leaves resulting in a tea that’s higher in antioxidants than green tea.

Matcha green tea is rich in the polyphenol EGCG and has a number of health benefits. One of its benefits is enhancing autophagy by mimicking the effects of calorie restriction. Some even refer to matcha as the autophagy-tea. Other benefits include boosting brain function, supporting your liver, protecting your heart, and helping weight loss (24)

Use Ginger To Enhance Autophagy

Ginger is one of the most potent anti-inflammatory herbs out there. It belongs to the rhizome family, which means that its stem grows horizontally grows underground forming roots downwards and stems and leaves above ground. It has been used for over 5,000 years in China and India as a natural remedy. Since the Roman Empire, it has also been popular in Europe and in the past several hundred years around the world, including the United States. It can be used in dishes, teas, and juices, and as a supplement.

Ginger has over one hundred chemical compounds. Gingerol is its most powerful active compound with a variety of powerful health benefits. Ginger may enhance autophagy, decrease inflammation, and lower pain levels. It has been shown to reduce inflammation and pain related to exercise, osteoarthritis, intestinal issues, metabolic syndrome, and obesity (25, 26, 27, 28 29).


Just like ginger, turmeric is an anti-inflammatory herb that belongs to the rhizome family. It is a warming spice that provides flavor and color to various foods, condiments, and teas. It has been used for thousands of years in traditional Ayurvedic, Indian, and Chinese medicine, and more recently as an anti-inflammatory supplement around the world (30).

Turmeric is one of the most researched spices. The US National Center for Biotechnology alone has over 6,000 studies on its benefits. It is a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant herb with a potent active compound, curcumin. Turmeric may enhance autophagy, decrease inflammation, and lower pain levels. Research has shown that turmeric may benefit inflammation related to ulcerative colitis, diabetes, osteoarthritis, and lupus (31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36)


Use Resveratrol to Enhance Autophagy

Resveratrol is a powerful plant compound that can be found in red wine, grapes, berries, and peanuts. It is mainly concentrated in the skins and seeds of grapes and berries, which explains that the fermented grapes in red wine are particularly high in resveratrol.

Resveratrol acts as an antioxidant with countless health benefits for your health. Research has shown that by directly inhibiting mTOR through ATP competition, resveratrol may enhance autophagy. It may also be beneficial for brain health, insulin sensitivity, blood pressure, and joint pain (37, 38).

enhance autophagy

Citrus Bergamont

Citrus bergamot is a unique orange-sized fruit. It’s yellow-green and bitter. It has been used as an aromatic essential oil for a long time, and it’s an ingredient of Earl Grey tea, traditional colognes, and other things.

Citrus bergamot is rich in antioxidant flavonoids that offer fantastic benefits for your health, heart health, and cholesterol. It may enhance autophagy, especially skin autophagy that I’ve written about in this article. As aromatherapy, it may benefit pain, anxiety, nausea, and vomiting (39, 40).

Oregano, Sage, and Rosemary

Oregano, sage, and rosemary are three fragrant, delicious, anti-inflammatory herbs native to the Mediterranean. They are popular all over the world. They belong to the same herb-family as thyme, basil, and lavender. 

Oregano, sage, and rosemary are not only popular in the kitchen but also possess potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds that may enhance autophagy. No wonder they have been used as natural remedies for centuries. Research has shown their potent anti-inflammatory properties as well. Rosemary, for example, may reduce pain and inflammation in those with rheumatoid arthritis (41, 42)


Quercetin To Enhance Autophagy

Bioflavonoids, or flavonoids, are a group of pigments that may help to protect you against various diseases. They possess anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-viral, anti-allergic, and anti-carcinogenic properties, and may enhance autophagy.

While there are over 4000 known bioflavonoids, quercetin is one of my favorites. Quercetin can be found in onions, leafy greens, tomatoes, broccoli, and berries. It may enhance autophagy, fight inflammation, improve immunity, and fight free radical damage (43).

Use Inflam Defense™ To Enhance Autophagy

Inflam Defense™ is one of my favorite supplements to enhance autophagy and cellular healing. It uses the powerful combination of anti-inflammatory herbs, such as turmeric, boswellia, ginger, and rosemary extracts, as well as nutrients from quercetin, rutin, and proteolytic enzymes. Inflam Defense™ helps to enhance autophagy, support your immune system, protect you against oxidative stress, support healthy circulation and circular function, and boost your health with antioxidants.

If you are looking to enhance autophagy, keep your inflammation and pain levels under control, boost your immune system, and support your overall health, I recommend Inflam Defense™. Take one capsule twice a day between meals. For advanced protection, take two or more capsules between meals or as directed by your healthcare practitioner.

Final Thoughts on Herbs to Enhance Autophagy

Autophagy is part of your body’s innate immune system. Enhanced autophagy is essential for increasing energy, losing fat, improving mental clarity, lowering pain, reducing inflammation, and improving your health. Autophagy happens when your body recycles and discards old cells allowing the creation of new cells to replace them.

While fasting, practicing fasted exercise, and eating a ketogenic diet are three of the most powerful ways to enhance autophagy, it is important that you support this process with anti-inflammatory herbs to enhance autophagy and improve your health.  Follow my tips and try these fantastic herbs I recommend to enhance autophagy, decrease inflammation, lose fat, and improve your overall health. If you want to learn about my fasting protocol to reduce pain, read this article

You can also check out my Fasting Transformation book which goes into the most recent scientific research and strategies for implementing intermittent and extended fasting into your life.  It is, by far, the best book on fasting the world has ever seen!  It is now, my great honor to present this to you and I am deeply appreciative of your support!

autoimmune diseases, 3 Ways Fasting Improves AutoImmune Diseases

Metabolic Autophagy & Cellular Healing Masterclass

Autophagy is the body’s innate mechanism for deep cellular healing and repair and it helps us reduce the effects of aging, inflammation and cellular damage.

The Nobel Prize in 2016 was awarded to the Japanese researcher Yoshinori Ohsumi for his breakthrough work in helping us understand the process of autophagy and how it works.  If you are struggling with your health or desire to optimize your health, activating the appropriate amount of autophagy is a critical component.

This masterclass will give you in-depth video trainings along with image-rich, research-based guides to help you understand the tools and strategies to unlock your body’s dormant healing potential.  You will also learn my signature 6-week Metabolic Reset Cycle that will show you how to utilize advanced nutrition strategies for deep cellular healing!

This Masterclass is Designed to Help You with the Following:

  • Burn Fat & Improve Your Metabolic Flexibility
  • Support Optimal Energy Levels & Mitochondrial Function
  • Reduce the Effects of Inflammation & Oxidative Stress
  • Regenerate Your Cells, Tissues & Organs
  • Age Slower and More Gracefully
  • Improve Your Mood, Memory & Brain Health

Check out the masterclass here where you will learn my best action steps for optimal healing!

Enhance autophagy, 7 Herbs That Enhance Autophagy and Cellular Healing

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29. Mansour, MS, Ni, YM, Roberts, AL, Kelleman, M, Roychoudhury A, St-Onge, MP. Ginger consumption enhances the thermic effect of food and promotes feelings of satiety without affecting metabolic and hormonal parameters in overweight men: a pilot study. Metabolism. PMID:22538118
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32. Kuptniratsaikul, V, Thanakhumtorn, S, Chinswangwatanakul, P, Wattanamongkonsil, L, Thamlikitkul, V. Efficacy and safety of Curcuma domestica extracts in patients with knee osteoarthritis. J Altern Complement Med. PMID: 19678780
33. Hanai, H, Iida, T, Takeuchi, K, Watanabe, F, Maruyama, Y, Andoh, A, Tsujikawa, T, Fujiyama, Y, Mitsuyama, K, Sata, M, Yamada, M, Iwaoka, Y, Kanke, K, Hiraishi, H, Hirayama, K, Arai, H, Yoshii, S, Uchijima, M, Nagata, T, Koide, Y. Curcumin maintenance therapy for ulcerative colitis: randomized, multicenter, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. PMID: 17101300
34. Khajehdehi, P, Pakfetrat, M, Javidnia, K, Azad, F, Malekmakan, L, Nasab, MH, Dehghanzadeh, G. Oral supplementation of turmeric attenuates proteinuria, transforming growth factor-β and interleukin-8 levels in patients with overt type 2 diabetic nephropathy: a randomized, double-blind and placebo-controlled study. Scand J Urol Nephrol. PMID: 21627399
35. Belcaro, G, Cesarone, MR, Dugall, M, Pellegrini, L, Ledda, A, Grossi, MG, Togni, S, Appendino, G.Efficacy and safety of Meriva®, a curcumin-phosphatidylcholine complex, during extended administration in osteoarthritis patients. Altern Med Rev. PMID: 21194249
36. Khajehdehi, P, Zanjaninejad, B, Aflaki, E, Nazarinia, M, Azad, F, Malekmakan, L, Dehghanzadeh, GR. Oral supplementation of turmeric decreases proteinuria, hematuria, and systolic blood pressure in patients suffering from relapsing or refractory lupus nephritis: a randomized and placebo-controlled study. J Ren Nutr. PMID: 21742514
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  1. Does fasting make your hair fall out? Since I have been fasting my hair is falling out. How can I stop that?

  2. My daughter, 40, just developed psoriasis. We fast seven days a week 12 to 14 hours so this is really catching me off guard as I thought fasting would have prevented something like this from happening.

    1. Hey Sunny, sorry to hear this. Unfortunately a daily 12-14 hour fast (although a good start) is not enough to stimulate autophagy (you need at least 16-18 hour fasts) and there are many other factors involved in the development of psoriasis. Here is a helpful article to support her healing journey: https://drjockers.com/psoriasis/

  3. Red wine contains 1 or 2mg of resveratrol per glass – but studies show that 500mg – 1000mg per day are required to have any effect. So wine is useless as a source of resveratrol. However the alcohol in wine breaks to form acetaldehyde, a toxic cemical which causes permanent damage to the DNA of stem cells in the blood, among others, and so causing cancer.

    1. Yes, dry farmed wine that is not irrigated and has roots that run extremely deep offers more resveratrol but not at the clinical dosages. This is why I recommend resveratrol supplementation.

    2. ? Do you have any reference to alcohol in therapeutic elixiers,
      like f.e. the red wines of Hildegard from Bingen?


  4. You’re brilliant! Thank you for all that you do Dr. Jockers. I’ve been guided to your articles lately while praying for answers and I’m seeing results already.

    One question about some of the herbs listed, can one obtain the same benefits by inhaling let’s say ginger or bergamot, boswellia or Rosmary essential oils? I’m preparing for my second 3-day water fast and I’d love to use Essential Oils strategically this time. Blessings to you and your loved ones!

  5. I have been practicing 16/8 intermittent fasting for about 2 years. It seems however that I have lost a considerable amount of muscle.
    At my age of 87 this is not good, so how can I regain it? I am now well-adapted to this lifestyle and I hate to lose its many advantages.

    1. Hello Ian, sorry to hear this. The muscle loss isn’t due to the 16:8 fasting, it is going to be due to lower levels of testosterone (which happens as you age) and possibly low stomach acid and poor amino acid absorption. I would make sure you are doing resistance training which is super key for maintaining muscle mass and using essential amino acid supplements and consuming a lot of protein. https://drjockers.com/fasted-exercise-autophagy-fat-burning-and-anti-aging/

  6. I checked this out today and a few wks ago too. I am 76 yrs old & have early Alzheimers.
    I need help with my diet. I live alone and don’t know if I can do the sauna thing or all that
    you recommended. I am allergic to coconut & lemon (but a little ok) I allergic to yellow in eggs, but I ate a few eggs and was ok. I don’t know how much I can do that you recommend re: using heat lamps? I’m allergic to dairy, cheese but I’m testing some of that out. I’m the youngest in the family with what I’ve self diagnosed as early Alzheimers. I don’t know how much cooking I can do or follow through with all you suggest, but I’ll check it out.

  7. Last week I did not eat from friday lunch time to monday breakfast about 66 hours, I felt great during that time fasting, but a hour or so after eating, I felt dizzy, should I just get over it, or is it the meaning of something worse?

  8. Hi doctor, I can’t seem to get my potassium levels up. If I had an absorption problem, what can rectify that if anything?

  9. I am looking to begin fasting to help with colitis and resetting my gut microbiome. I would really love a 3 day full fast but with the way I work (12 hour shifts) it just seems impossible to do without scheduling three days off. What is the best way to practice fasting for this result?

    1. Wondering if you might be able to do a juice fast – not sure how best to structure this, but might be the way to go for 3 days. Celery juice to start the day (one head of celery will make a pint) as doesn’t raise blood sugar. Then maybe carrot, apple and ginger??later on…?? If you are able to observe a good enough routine every day then you might not need do a 3 day fast in the immediate future, and could reserve it for when you’ve time off. See what you can effect with moderate good habits. I haven’t experience of a 3 day fast though, so am a little curious.
      I’ve always found that a fasting window of 14-16hours helps reset my digestion, but i don’t have colitis. And i have a very active life so, like you, am a bit concerned how i would manage. If i’m backed up at all doing 14-16 hr fasts sorts things out for me well ; negative issues i have observed to be related to having slipped into having a fasting window that creeps under 12 hours. Different gut bugs operate in our “rest” time. The probiotic Saccharomyces Boulardii might really be helpful to you too if you’ve not discovered this one. I have phases of using it to help myself – take it with water before i go to sleep (not having eaten for ideally 3 hours).

  10. Dr. Jockers
    Please help- I have (4) bladder tumors and have tried just about everything including a clean diet. Any suggestions or help would be greatly appreciated.

    Many Blessings Friend,

  11. I just wanted to say thank you so much for your beautiful articles. They make everything so digestible…and inspire me every time you post!

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