September Health Genie: Energy Support

Note: This article is not meant as a substitute for proper medical advice. Please consult with your medical practitioner before using any type of remedy, herbal or otherwise.

Licorice Root
Licorice Root

Dear Health Genie,

The summer has gotten the best of me.  After my vacations, long summer days, and outdoor activities, my energy is zapped.  I have a hard time waking up in the morning and am easily fatigued, both mentally and physically.  I want to refrain from multiple cups of coffee and energy drinks.  What are some natural remedies to increase my energy?

In need,
N.R.G. Boost

Dear N.R.G. Boost,

It is natural this time of year to feel fatigued.  Although some of us don’t want to admit it, the days are getting shorter, summer is coming to an end, and our bodies are using energy preparing for the approaching colder months.  Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to give our bodies an extra energy boost- for both immediate and sustaining relief. 

Let’s start with the basics.  First, get as much rest as possible.  If you are tired, it is the body’s way of telling you to slow down and rest.  In addition to sleeping, make sure that you eat balanced meals consisting of protein, fats, and carbohydrates, with plenty of vegetables, fruits and nuts . A balanced diet will help you maintain a balanced energy level.  Eating a decent sized breakfast with some protein before the day’s work will also help control your energy level, since protein slowly releases energy into the system.  On a similar note, sugary foods will deplete your energy over time.  Sugars burn quickly producing a momentary energy boost but eventually tax the system. Identifying and avoiding food allergies, as well as avoiding alcohol, intoxicants, and stress will put less pressure on your body and free up vital energy to be used elsewhere.  Incorporating these guidelines into daily life will be most effective for consistent vigor.

For times when you cannot follow this daily regimen, or when you need extra support, there are natural remedies that can do the trick.  Some key herbs to look for include Ginseng, Ashwagandha, Rhodiola, Schizandra, and Licorice.  All of these are classified as adaptogens,meaning they improve stamina, increase concentration and general cognitive function, regulate the immune system, regulate libido, and increase disease resistanceHere is a little more information on each:

Ginseng: There are many different varieties of ginseng.  The most popular and effective are the Korean Ginseng (AKA Chinese Ginseng), Siberian Ginseng (AKA Eluthero), and American Ginseng.  The Korean Ginseng has been widely used by the Chinese as an energy tonic and aphrodisiac. It was believed to lengthen the lifespan, combat fatigue, and improve poor memory.  Siberian Ginseng is almost identical to the Korean version and is used in the same way.  American Ginseng, although slightly less effective, has a similar action and is beneficial for the overworked and stressed-out American.

Rhodiola: It functions as an antioxidant, stimulant, and antidepressant.  It was used as a strengthening tonic by the Vikings.  There have been multiple studies showing that it will increase exercise endurance, reduce mental fatigue, and enhance cognitive function. 

Schisandra Berry: Normalizes blood sugar, blood pressure, and high cholesterol.

Ashwagandha:This herb originated in India and is a calming adaptogen. While most adaptogens fire up the central nervous system (think coffee), ashwagandha has a calming effect. Therefore, it is a great choice for those who tend to be anxious, depressed, and nervous.  It can uplift their mood, calm their nerves, and increase their stamina.  It is a great herb for elderly people who may be depleted, exhausted, underweight, and have an impaired memory. 

Licorice Root: Although Licorice is another great adaptogen, it gains recognition for its other uses as an expectorant and throat soother.  It is used in many tea blends for this reason and contributes a very pleasant sweet taste.  It is widely used in China to sooth coughs, expectorate mucus, control muscle spasms, and tone the stomach, spleen and liver.   

B12: Although not an herb, B12 is part of the B complex vitamins that are crucial for maintained energy levels.  It is a common deficiency in many people who seek increased stamina.  Some symptoms of B12 deficiency include lack of energy, moodiness, difficulty concentrating, tingling or numbness in the hands and feet, and a bright red, dry, cracked tongue.  B12 is needed to convert food material into a form the body can use for energy.  It is also used in neurological processes and in the formation of DNA.  B12, especially in the sublingual methylated form can have an immediate energy producing effect.  It is a good idea to check in with your health care provider to get a reading on your B levels and to help determine the supplemental dose.

You can find all these herbs and vitamins as single supplements as well as in energy complexes.  Some great complexes include Urban Moonshine’s Energy Tonic, consisting of Rhodiola, Eleuthero, American Ginseng, Hawthorn berry, Licorice root, Cinnamon, Schisandra berry and ginger. Urban Moonshine is a local company out of Burlington, Vermont, and uses organic, pure ingredients; Gaia’s Energy Vitality (another New England company), consisting of Green Tea leaf, Eleuthero root, Cola nut, Korean ginseng, Nettle seed, Schisandra berry, Licorice root, Ginkgo, and Prickly Ash bark; and New Chapter’s Stress Take Care, consisting of Schizandra berry, American Ginseng, Eleuthero, Rhodiola, Curcuma, Turmeric, Astragalus, Galangal, and Ginger.

City Market carries all of these complexes as well as many single extracts.  Additionally, we offer free herbal consultations by students and faculty from the Vermont Center for Integrative Herbalism.  Email info@vtherbcenter.org, or stop in to sign up and converse further on Energy Support.

Best of Luck,

The Health Genie

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