How to Increase Energy Naturally

Energize with these herbal and lifestyle suggestions.


| May/June 2002



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Central nervous system stimulants, including coffee and chocolate, are quick-fix herbal energy alternatives.


When it comes to energy, it doesn’t matter whether you are male or female or whether you work as an executive, a farmer, a gardener, an athlete or a writer—we all would like to have a little (or a lot) more energy. When taking any herbal products, our ultimate aim is to feel better. So it is with using herbs to maintain or increase our energy level.

Taking herbs to help manage one’s energy is a pharmacological approach. Paying attention to routines and lifestyle choices is perhaps the best way to increase energy, supplemented with herbs to help give you that extra edge. The key here, however, is to get that increased edge without making yourself edgy or, worse yet, putting yourself over the edge. It is important to understand what herbal energizers will and will not do.

Using herbs for energy

Basically, herbal energizers fall into two categories. The first and best choice is adaptogenic herbs—substances that help one “adapt” to the normal stresses of life, hence enhance mental and physical capacity, performance, or endurance. This list of herbs includes the well-known ginseng category, such as American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius), Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng), and eleuthero or Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus), along with less famous herbs, such as schisandra (Schisandra chinensis) and rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea).

The second category of energy herbs is central nervous system (CNS) stimulants that act in much the same way as coffee—by stimulating the nervous system itself. CNS stimulants include common and well-known alkaloid-containing “foods” such as coffee, tea and chocolate, along with herbs such as guarana (Paullinia cupana), yerba maté (Ilex paraguariensis), and in my opinion the most-abused herb by association with its alkaloids, ephedra (Ephedra sinica). Inappropriate use of CNS stimulants can make you edgy and, if abused, may produce serious side effects. These are quick-fix herbal energy alternatives. They are not bad things, per se—they just fall under the axiom of “everything in moderation.” Few among us have not at some time in our lives, and perhaps even this morning, taken a cup (or pot) of coffee or tea to get us going—in essence to give us that elusive benefit, energy.

One of the most overlooked and important aspects of using herbs is that of compliance. An important difference between the use of herbs and conventional drugs is that generally speaking, for herbs to be of predictable benefit, they must be used over a much longer period of time, often for at least a month (and sometimes much longer) before any results are attained. Therefore, it is important for the herb user to realize that one must be vigilant in establishing a routine to take the herb on a daily, twice-daily, or even three-times-daily regime, depending on the herb, product form, delivery form, dosage, and other variables.

Lifestyle first, energy herbs for help

You can incorporate appropriate use of herbs for energy into a rational routine for maintaining health. Herbs can help, but they are not the end-all solution. I know that if I have a normal routine, I can maintain high levels of energy during the day and into the evening hours. That means exercise, rest, proper diet, time for myself and remembering to take my ginseng every day. The first step in the routine means getting a good night’s sleep. Some people can get away with four hours of sleep and function with boundless energy. Others, like me, require a good eight hours’ sleep to maintain a normal routine during the day.





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