Herbs & Supplements
Some of the best energy-boosting herbs are called adaptogens, or "smart herbs," says Suzy Cohen, author of the all-natural remedy book The 24-Hour Pharmacist (Collins, 2007) and of the syndicated column "Dear Pharmacist." Adaptogens protect the body from stress and automatically correct whatever is too high or low, she says, without affecting anything that doesn't need fixing. (See rhodiola, panax ginseng, and ashwagandha, below, which are all considered adaptogens.) To improve your body's absorption of any supplement, Cohen suggests choosing liquids, powders, or capsules over tablets, but be careful to follow dosage instructions on the package.
Rhodiola root is a popular antistress herb in Russia, parts of Europe, and Asia. A Russian study, published in Phytomedicine in 2003, found that the herb produced a significant anti-fatigue effect in a group of 161 cadets, aged 19-21. Cohen advises trying 50 to 100 milligrams of a standardized extract three times a day.
- Panax ginseng
If you're under stress, your hormone levels are likely out of equilibrium. Panax ginseng, also known as Asian ginseng, can help stabilize blood pressure and balance cortisol and DHEA hormones, says Cohen, who suggests taking about 600 to 2,000 mg of dried root or 200 to 600 mg of liquid extract a day.
Heart health is essential to feeling energetic, and ashwagandha can enhance heart function, says Cohen. A May 2007 United Arab Emirates University study using lab rats found that the herb, also known as Withania somnifera or Indian ginseng, had antiinflammatory qualities and that it protected the animals' hearts from toxicity. Cohen suggests taking 400 to 500 mg three times a day.
- L-carnitine and Coenzyme Q10
Consider supplementing your diet with a combination of acetyl L-carnitine, an amino acid found in red meat and animal products, and Coenzyme Q10, an antioxidant enzyme-two naturally occurring substances that can be depleted by stress. They work together to help build lasting energy, Schwartz explains. Your suggested daily dose: 500 to 1,000 mg.
- Calcium, magnesium & zinc
Schwartz's "restful night" formula-designed to help the body relax-includes 500 mg calcium, 200 mg magnesium, and 30 mg zinc. (See drerika.com for more info.) "Calcium is good for your bones, magnesium has a calming effect, and zinc is important for the immune system," she says. "Many try this combo and never take a sleeping pill again."
Are your adrenal glands getting fatigued? Cohen offers a quick trick to find out: Sit in a dark room in front of a mirror and shine a flashlight into your eyes for about a minute. Your pupils should shrink and stay about the size of a pinpoint. If your adrenal glands are tired, the pupils will fluctuate a few times before resuming their dilated size. If that happens, Cohen suggests adding adaptogenic herbs to your diet.
Massage can help improve blood flow, allowing oxygen, nutrients, and hormones to travel more effectively. "We know that massage slows down heart rate, blood pressure, and the production of stress hormones," says Tiffany Field, Ph.D., founder and director of the Touch Research Institute at the University of Miami School of Medicine and author of the forthcoming Complementary and Alternative Therapies (APA Books, 2007). Here are two types that can fortify energy-depleted bodies:
- Shiatsu and acupuncture
Two forms of bodywork that target the Chinese meridian system, or the 12 main channels through which energy circulates in the body, are shiatsu and acupuncture. Meridians are said to relate to major organs, and blockages in them are thought to lead to disease, emotional disorders, and fatigue, says Ted Thomas, a shiatsu therapist in Vancouver, Canada, and member of the American Organization for Bodywork Therapies of Asia (aobta.org). With shiatsu, a Japanese therapy, practitioners apply pressure-using hands, thumbs, fingers, and sometimes elbows and knees-to open blocked meridians. Acupuncture, which uses fine needles to target meridians, also fights fatigue. A 2006 Mayo Clinic study found that it significantly reduced fatigue and anxiety in patients with fibromyalgia.
Rub both ears between the thumb and first finger for 20 to 30 seconds for instant energy. "All meridians go through the ears, so rubbing the ears stimulates the whole body," says Kona, Hawaii-based Jacob Teitelbaum, M.D., medical director of Fibromyalgia & Fatigue Centers, Inc. A foot rub can have the same effect, he adds.
"A strong, loving relationship is a powerful way to feel more energized in general," says Richard Nicastro, a clinical psychologist in private practice in Glastonbury, Conn., and cofounder of LifeTalk Coaching (strengthenyourrelationship.com), a couples therapy program. "If you're feeling low and your partner or friend is radiating positive energy, it can pick you up," he says. Conversely, negative relationships can be energy thieves. Follow these tips to fine-tune your habits at both ends of the spectrum:
- Nurture intimacy
The development of shared interests is one of the most powerful ways to strengthen your relationships, says Nicastro. "For couples especially, sharing at least one mutually satisfying activity is vital to maintaining a robust connection." Start by carving out time for simple routines, like daily walks after dinner.
- Draw a line
For dealing with those friends who drain your energy, Judith Orloff, M.D., assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California at Los Angeles, and author of Positive Energy (Three Rivers Press, 2005), has a plan: "Take a deep breath, get very grounded, and say, 'I love you, and you're my friend. If you'd like to talk about solutions, I'm here. If not, I'd like to limit our conversation to about five minutes.'" Be kind but firm, says Orloff, and you'll set healthy boundaries.
Weave kind acts into your daily routine with those around you. "Don't make a thoughtful gesture a onetime event. Make it a regular part of your relationships," says Nicastro. "Not only will your compassionate gestures make the recipients feel better, but you'll get a mental boost as well."