Now that summer is almost here and things are heating up all over, we are all busy getting busy all the time. Aren’t there just about a million things you want to do? A million dreams to be fulfilled before the cold comes back, dreams to be managed around the things you have to do and those things that pop up out of the blue every day. So what do you need more than anything right now? Energy! Energy is one of the biggest selling concepts in America today. Energy drinks are just the tip of the iceberg with a huge legal market for various “boosts” and a growing illegal drug culture devoted to energy drugs like Cocaine, Crack and Meth. No matter how you shake it out, everybody is looking for some zip.
So how is it going for you? Are you barely dragging out of bed every day, driven by the need to make some money and to have some fun.. but you’re not sure you can do it all? Do you crash out in the afternoon, nodding over your desk or behind the wheel, dreaming about a big, hot cup of java? Or are you just feeling tired all the time, the entire day crawling by in an agonizing anticipation of a good nights sleep, which you never seem able to attain? If any of this is true for you, you are not alone. Fatigue is the second most common complaint to doctors in North America. Everybody else is just as tired as you are, so don’t feel bad.
If you are like the most of us, you drink lots of coffee, smoke cigarettes, eat candy or gulp down energy drinks to get the boost you need to make it. You may do any or all of the above several times a day, kicking your butt to get going. This is short lived energy that is actually hard on your body and of the worst are candy and cigarettes. Candy gives you a lift but lets you down hard very shortly afterward and cigarettes will kill you over time. Caffeine addiction is just like addiction to cocaine or meth, the boost is great at first but over time it fades and you end up gulping gallons of the stuff just to stay awake. I know heavy coffee drinkers who drink a cup and fall asleep!
These practices lead to blood sugar fluctuations that can lead to diabete, hypoglycemia or adrenal gland depletion. Adrenal gland depletion makes your body even more vulnerable to stress and over time it is always in the “fight or flight mode”. You become inured to it over time and your body no longer responds to danger. You just don’t have the “umph”. Since caffeine works for about 12 hours in the body it can disrupt sleep cycles, making it hard to get a full night’s sleep and this lack of rest leads to more exhaustion. You are on a merry go round but it isn’t all that merry, is it?
There are many reasons you are exhausted. Far too many to address in this post. From the food you eat, how you manage time, your sleep cycle to your emotional nature, personality and your overall health, there are many dimensions of influence on your energy level. But I am thinking it would be a good idea to get off the coffee tit and use some more natural energy enhancing herbs, foods and spices. There are natural help mates for this but they won’t help you until you detox. That means quitting the artificial energy sources you currently rely on. Of all of them, caffeine is the most natural and it can be valuable if used properly. But you have to get off the merry go round for the natural energy boosters to work. Otherwise, you won’t even feel the benefits they offer. Detoxing is hard and no fun. Getting off candy, caffeine and cola leads to a lifestyle change and they are never pleasant. But if you are ready to try it, I have some ideas for you.
I know you’ve heard a hundred different claims about bee pollen. If it were up to the hawkers, it would cure just about anything. But it is a tried and true beleif that bee pollen increases strength and vitality, both of which are core components of natural energy. Research has proven that bee pollen is packed with 22 amino acids, natural antibiotic factors, DNA/RNA, 18 enzymes, glucosides, plant hormones, 27 minerals and at least 16 vitamins! Now, if that doesn’t sound like a powerful source of health and vitality to you, I don’t know what is.
You can get bee pollen in granules, tablets or capsules. You can consume bee pollen at any time of the day or night and with any sort of food or beverage. Bee pollen is not a drug so there are no interactions or side effects. If you choose to take tablets or capsules you can follow the instructions on the bottle or take as many as you choose to over time. Start with one a day and move up from there. If you choose to use granules, you can consume bee pollen in any dosage you desire in many different ways. Mix it into food or drinks. Eat it in yogurt, smoothies, ice cream, mashed potatoes, even soda pop. Whatever you like. If you pass the reaction test below it cannot hurt you. And it will give you the energy you need to enjoy your life from day to day. So dig in!
FYI: If you are allergic to bee stings, you cannot consume bee pollen. To test for sensitivity, place a granule under your tongue and let it dissolve. Wait a few minutes to see if you have any reaction. If not, do it again with two granules. And then again with three. If no reaction occurs during the entire process it is likely you will not have a reaction.
Areca Nuts and Betal Leaf
This is a natural folk medicine practiced by the indigenous people of South America. If you chew the two together, you will get a rise in body temperature that generates a warm throughout your center and sudden rush of energy, quite like caffiene. I will not pretend that this is healthier than coffee. It is a natural alternative, that’s all. Both the nuts and the leaf are legal so it’s not going to get you in trouble. The Areca nut is not actually a nut, it is, in fact, a sort of fruit called a drupe. In this matter, it is similar to the coffee bean. You can buy areca nuts dried, cured or fresh. If you have access to Areca Palms, the tree from which the nut emerges, then you can gather them fresh. If you gather them fresh, get them while they are still green and cut them open at that stage to retrieve the “nut” inside. If you wait for the fruit to dry or cure it will be very hard and require special tools.
The Betel Leaf is gathered from a vine. This vine is grown in Asia mostly but has been cultivated in South America as well. You can buy betel leaves and areca nuts online. They are available from many different garden sites. You can also get them at Amazon.com.
If you do choose to try areca and betel, be careful not to overdo it. You can chew the combination many times during the day as the need for the “boost” arises but in effect it is not much better for you than coffee or energy drinks. Use it when you really need a lift.
You have heard as much about Royal Jelly as you have about Bee Pollen. It is a natural product of the beehive, occuring when the bees combine the honey with the pollen.
Royal Jelly is a powerhouse of B-complex vitamins and it is a fact that deficiency in B vitamins causes anemia beriberi and general poor health. Royal Jelly also contains other vitamins, minerals, hormones, enzymes, 18 amino acids, and natural antibacterial and antibiotic substances. It is also high in protein, which makes it useful to vegetarians. It has a long history in natural healing.
Take Royal Jelly first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. Do not eat it with food. Keep your supply at cool temperatures and out of bright sunlit areas or the heat and light will destroy it. You can tell when it’s rotten because it smells really bad. The best way to keep it is in the freezer. It lasts the longest in a frozen state. You eat it right out of the container and it would be a good idea to follow the manufacturers instructions.
This is a traditional energy tonic that is also used to boost the immune system. You can buy the root in bulk at health food stores or on the net. It is long and flat like a popsicle stick. You add the root stick directly to soups, stews, rice, or any other food that simmers for at least 30 minutes. When the food is ready you toss out the stick and just eat. The good stuff from the root has been simmered into the food. The herb has a neutral, pleasant taste so don’t worry about it ruining your favorite nosh. You can also make a tea or tincture. Astralagus can be bought over the counter in capsules. Take up to 500mg a day.
You have probably heard of ginseng. There are many kinds of ginseng, including red, panax, white, siberian and chinese. Siberian sinseng has been used medicinally for at least two thousand years. The root, when eaten, inhibits the adrenal stress response, acts as an immune stimulant, fights off stress and depression, aids the liver in detox and stimulates the activity of several immune system components. As a supporter of your bodies B and T cells, it is excellent for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and other viral infections. It is also useful in protecting the immune system during radiation and chemotherapy. Athletes around the world use Siberian ginseng as a training aid because of its reputed ability to increase performance and resistance to stress. It helps reduce fatigue and adds to energy levels over a period of time, making the effects more long lasting and natural.
Siberian ginseng is not the same as panax or red ginseng. Red ginseng is similar to ephedra in it’s effects and can be very damaging to the body over time. Siberian ginseng is less intense and more natural in it’s delivery, supporting the energy systems of the body in the face of stress and hard work. It is more subtle, lasts longer and feels more natural. You use it the same way as you do any other ginseng. Drink it in tea, take it in capsules or eat the root fresh. Ginseng can be taken as needed.
Chinese White Ginseng
This is the dried root of the panax ginseng, or red ginseng, previously discussed. The steamed root of this plant (referred to as “red ginseng”), is very intense and can often be too strong. It can throw your energy levels off kilter. If you do choose to use red ginseng for a quick lift, don’t use it for long periods. It can be hard on the heart and the liver. But the dried root (referred to as “white ginseng”) is more subtle and less stimulating, allowing your body to create it’s own energy rather than be forcibly stimulated from the outside. So remember, for natural energy you will enjoy, take the DRIED root of panax ginseng and not the STEAMED root. Take up to 600mg a day in capsule form. Start with the lowest dose and work you way up according to your own tolerance.
You’ve heard of spirulina. It is a single-celled algae that is high in usable protein, a great source of Vitamin B12, 8 minerals and 7 types of vitamin A precursors known as “carotenoids”. Spirulina contains high levels of chlorophyll which is known for purifying the blood. Spirulina will literally reverse anemia. I wish I had taken it when I had my bout with anemia, as it was, it went on and on for years! Spirulina is good for the liver and helps with detox, too. I know it looks gross, like green seaweed (which is also very good for you!) and doesn’t stimulate the appetite. But you can buy it as a powder which is basically sort of tasteless and add it to drinks, shakes and any other food you blend or you can get it in capsules. Buy the organic kind. Take from 20 to 20 500mg tablets a day for adults.
FYI: On occassion, there are some side effects with Spirulina. These usually occur when the dosage exceeds 50 grams a day. Dizziness, nausea, thirst and constipation have been noted but drinking more water helps with these issues. You will have a rise in body temperature which you may think is a fever. It is not. Your body is simply running at a higher speed because it has to digest all that extra protein! Just don’t overdo it. High dosages have been known to cause liver damage so play it safe and stay under 50 grams a day.
This is not the “licorice” candy you buy in the store, which is sugar and food coloring and anise flavoring. True licorice is actually a herb. It is a known adrenal tonic and noticably increases energy. It adds a lovely taste to any tea and can be taken as a tincture. Buy the dried root at a health food store or herbalist. Make up a tea with 1-2 tsps of dried root per 1 cup of hot water. Take 1/8 – 1/2 tsp of tincture up to 3 times day. But do not use for longer than six weeks at a time. Do not use licorice is you are pregnant or have high blood pressure, heart or liver disease, diabetes or kidney disease. If you take it for too long or overdo it, the stimulation of the adrenal gland will lead to adrenal fatigue which will only make your fatigue worse.
Gotu Kola is a herb that lessens fatigue and depression without the effects of caffeine. Orginally marketed as a “natural cocaine”, gotu kola is not anything like the drug. Unlike caffeine, ephedra and illegal drugs like coke, gotu kola gives natural energy that ends in easy sleep at night. It is also known to be a sleep aide, which gives it the overall natural effects that our own bodies would provide. Energy for a long hard day and ease of sleep at night. Lovely. You can buy gotu kola in capsules, liquid form, bulk dried herb or as fresh leaf. It will be up to you how you choose to administer it.
Gotu Kola is a rejuvenative nervine. It is often recommended for nervous disorders, epilepsy, senility and premature aging. It is also a brain tonic, strengthens the adrenal glands and cleanses the blood . It is said to combat stress and depression, the most common culprits when it comes to fatigue. Buy Gotu Kola in capsules, liquid or dried herb form and take as per package instructions.
Codonopsis is a twining perennial. It reaches a length of five feet, and has oval leaves and distinct bell shaped greenish purple flowers. It is native to Asia and China, but now cultivated worldwide, sometimes only for its ornamental value. These is probably some of it growing in your area. Also called Bastard Ginseng, Bellflower or Bonnet Bellflower, it is a vine used for landscaping in the US. It is a traditional chinese remedy for fatigue, a gentle energy tonic consumed as a tea or as a tincture. Codonopsis root extract can be purchased on the web.
This is actually a group of herb products. These are herbal tinctures of a sort that a pack a bitter taste, and can be made from gentian, wormwood, mugwort and others. Each herb in bitters form has the noticable effect of boosting energy. They increase endocrine function and improve digestion and many people experience a big energy boost after consumption. Bitters preparations are available in various forms and combinations. Each bitter mix is offered as a liquid tincture and must be taken that way. Look for names like “bitter gentian” or “wormwood bitters”. Any variation will do the trick.
Also known as fo-ti or ho she wu, this is the root of a native Chinese vine. Like gotu kola, it is a powerful tonic to increase energy and vigor, while still having a calming effect that lets you sleep at the end of the day. It also contains a natural form of lecithin that helps lessen arterial plaque and lower blood pressure. This is a fantastic combination for overall health. Energy creation combined with the beneficial effects of Lecithin recreates the natural health of athletes. Athletes have lower blood pressure combined with higher energy levels and less arterial plaque. A herb that can create this in the rest of us is very valuable. It appears to be capable of improving heart efficiency and circulation while calming the reactions to stress and hardship.
In laboratory studies, ho shou wu effectively reduced blood cholesterol and triglycerides, and even prevented cholesterol from forming in test animals. This is a fantastic tool for anyone looking to not only increase their energy levels but to restore their vivacity and well being. If you wish to take ho shu wu, you can find it online. Take it per package instructions.
This is another mild tonic herb used in traditional Chinese medicine. It is beleived to help maintain energy and strengthen body tissues. It also has an overall calming effect which improves sleep. It also balances blood sugar, is good for the liver and increase memory retention. Also called “five flavor berry”, this is a deciduous woody vine native to forests of Northern China and the Russian Far East. The berries are used. They are dried and ground into a powder, from which a tea is made. Drink a cup or two a day to reap the benefits of this lovely vine.
This is another herb that creates gentle stimulation. It stimulates circulation while calming the nerves, making you feel refreshed. It tends to lift the spirits so it is useful when depression is behind the fatigue. It will also calm a nervous stomach and over stimulated brain. In this regard, it improves energy and alertness. You can make a tea with 1 tsp of dried leaves per cup of hot water and drink it several times a day as needed. You can also eat rosemary. I eat dried rosemary all the time, mixed with olive oil and garlic. It makes a great dip for a high fiber bread and altogether the treat is great for the body and mind.
I have used cayenne myself for many reasons. I’ve made it into a homemade gel similar to Ben Gay and rubbed my aching muscles with it. I have also made cayenne tea and gulped it down to increase my energy through heat and circulation. It works really well. But Cayenne isn’t the only heated spice that will do this. Ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, hot peppers, mustard and horseradish also do the same thing. They get your body fired up by generating heat and improving circulation. These hot spices counteract feelings of fatigue and coldness. You can simply add them to your foods but you should use doses that make a difference, not just a sprinkle or two. I use hot peppers frequently to stimulate digestion and when added to my lunch they get me past that post meal slump. If you want to ramp up the amount you are taking you can make them into teas and drink them several times a day. Ginger or cinnamon tea is especially delicious.
Long considered a “medical miracle”, I am sure you have heard of reishi. I have known of people using it as a treatment for MS. A friend of mine fermented reishi for her daughter, who was suffering with the disease. It improved her energy to a great degree, which says a lot about this mushroom. If it can help someone with the fatigue caused by MS, think of what it can do for you! You do not have to grow it and you can’t find it in the woods but you can buy it as an extract, which is really best.
Buy high quality reishi and use it daily for two weeks. If you do not notice a difference in your energy levels at that point then reishi may not work for you. Using it for a long period of time or in heavy doses has been known to cause stomach upset. Stick to the usual dosage for the best results. Reishi is best taken in the morning with an empty stomach. Drinking more water will also help enhance the effects of Reishi by helping the body get rid of poisonous waste.
It is also recommended to take Vitamin C with Reishi as this will assist the body in absorbing the active ingredients in Reishi. Studies have shown that Vitamin C helps break down the complex polysaccarides into smaller manageable pieces that the body can intake.
Here is another remedy I frequently use. I bought peppermint tea and I drink it often. It not only increases my energy, it aids my stomach. No more antacids for me! Anyways, the natural lift that peppermint confers is useful to combat overall fatigue. It can be very refreshing when taken in high doses. It works as a mild stimulant while also releiving tension and anxiety. You will like the stomach calming effect if stress is making you tired. Take it as a tea (my recommendation) and drink as many cups as you like as many days a week you wish! Enjoy.