Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Herbs to Increase Energy

Astragalus membranaceusImage via Wikipedia

The body’s ability to produce and utilize energy properly depends on many factors. Biochemically, energy is produced within the mitochondria of body cells as part of a complex process, where glucose from food is converted to adenosine triphosphate (ATP).

Certain herbs can activate and economize energy production and utilization. Herbs with this ability are known as ‘adaptogens’. Adaptogens increase the body’s ‘adaptive energy’, which economizes biochemical and physiological responses to ‘stress’ (physical, chemical and biological) and increases disease resistance.

The concept of ‘adaptive energy’, traditionally called ‘vital force’, has its equivalent in Chinese medicine, namely Qi (pronounced ‘chee’). Theory states that adequate production and utilization of Qi is underpinned by the body’s genetic or inherited energy, called Jing. Herbs that increase Qi are called Qi tonics and those that supplement Jing are called Kidney-meridian tonics.

The best known Qi tonics are Panax ginseng (Korean Ginseng) and Astragalus membranaceus (Astragalus). Both are defined in the West as adaptogens as well as immune modulators, cardiac tonics and antioxidants. In scientific trials, Korean Ginseng consistently demonstrates an ability to improve muscular strength, maximal oxygen uptake, work capacity, fuel homeostasis, serum lactate, heart rate, visual and auditory reaction times, alertness, and psychomotor skills. In layman terms, this equates with enhanced energy production and utilization resulting in increased physical performance.

Traditionally, Korean Ginseng is combined with Astragalus and modern research demonstrated that this combination has profound anti-fatigue effects, due in part to improved energy metabolism.

As indicated above, herbs with Kidney tonifying properties are essential to the success of any formula treating insufficient or deficient energy. The best known herbs for this purpose are Cordyceps sinensis, commonly called caterpillar mushroom and Withania somnifera or Ashwagandha.

Cordyceps is a highly valued medicinal mushroom in both Chinese medicine and modern clinical practice. Cordyceps helps increase stamina and endurance by enhancing mitochondrial energy production and is one of the top selling sports supplements amongst the worlds' elite competitive athletes.

Withania is also known as Indian Ginseng due to its many therapeutic similarities with Korean Ginseng. It is a highly respected adaptogen and Kidney-meridian tonic with anti-fatigue, anabolic, antiinflammatory, immune modulating, anti-anaemic, cognitive enhancing and aphrodisiac properties.

Three other herbs reinforce the energy enhancing effects of these principle ingredients. Interestingly, all three herbs are commonly known as Ginsengs. That is, Tienchi Ginseng (Panax notoginseng), American Ginseng (Panax pseudoginseng) and Siberian Ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosis).

Siberian Ginseng rose to fame in 1984 after publication of a study into its effects on Soviet Olympic athletes during challenging training and competition. Athletes using Siberian Ginseng were found to have improved stamina and recovery, increased oxygen uptake and better performance.

By helping economize the body’s energy production and utilization, this combination of herbs can provide balanced support, whatever your level of physical activity.


Author: PaulKeogh
Paul Keogh ND, DMH is a qualified Naturopath and medical herbalist with 20 years combined experience in clinical practice and the development of medicinal-grade, integrated Chinese and western herbal medicines. Paul regularly reviews the benefits of vitamins, supplements and vitamin tablets for different goals and conditions.



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