Boosting energy the natural way (continued!)

Summer is here! The days are longer and the nights are shorter and you want to feel as energetic as possible to make the best of them. If you aren’t feeling as full of zest as you know you should the chances are you’ll reach for a quick fix stimulant, like tea, coffee or a sugary snack, to give you a boost. But the long-term effects of stimulants are always bad because, as you’ll see below, they actually make you feel more tired in the long run:

Alcohol is made from yeast and has a similar effect to sugar in your body, giving you a temporary high followed by a long low.

Coffee is a diuretic which depletes your body of vital energy-boosting nutrients and it also contains caffeine which disturbs normal sleep patterns, making you feel even more tired.

Many fizzy drinks contain caffeine, as well as sugar and colourings, which act as stimulants that play havoc with your blood sugar levels causing short lived energy highs and prolonged energy lows.

Tea is a stimulant with similar but weaker effects to coffee, and it contains tannin which interferes with the absorption of energy boosting minerals.

Chocolate contains theobromine which has an action similar to, but not as strong as, caffeine.

Medications for the relief of headaches also contain caffeine.

Cigarettes contain cancerous chemicals and the stimulant nicotine which is a sedative in large amounts.


Stimulants are your body’s greatest energy drainer, so one of the most important steps you can take to boost your energy naturally is to give up, or cut down on, stimulants. Giving up all these stimulants at once would be impossible for most people, as well as being incredibly stressful. The first step, therefore, is to identify which stimulants you are using as pick-me-ups to get you going when your energy is flagging, and to cut down consumption of them gradually.


To cut down on stimulants without suffering try the following:


Sugar: When you crave something sweet, eat some fruit. Don’t replace sugar with sugar substitutes like artificial sweeteners as these do not help you re-educate your taste buds. Take the sugar bowl off the table and give yourself a month to gradually cut down. Read labels and find healthier alternatives. Stick with it and after a few weeks you will find that your taste buds adapt.

Coffee: Coffee is addictive and it takes about a week to break the habit. You may find yourself feeling groggy for a few days but this will remind you how addictive and bad for you too much coffee is. Instead of coffee, drink herbal teas or coffee alternatives, such as dandelion coffee. After a week you can go back to one or two cups of coffee a day, but as a treat not as an energy booster.

Tea: Tea isn’t as energy draining as coffee unless you drink gallons of it a day. Two or three cups a day is fine, but it’s still worth experimenting with herbal teas, green tea (which has less caffeine than black tea) or drinking your tea slightly weaker.

Chocolate: If you adore chocolate, you don’t need to give it up completely. Just eat it in moderation, for example four times a week rather than every day. Most important of all, don’t use it as a pick-me-up as it will have the opposite effect. Remember that good quality dark chocolate will have a stronger stimulant effect because it has higher cocoa solids. Go for fruit with a handful of nuts and seeds instead if you need something sweet and satisfying.

Alcohol: If you drink a lot, start by reminding yourself that you don’t actually need to have a glass in your hand to have a good time. Set yourself a weekly target of three to five drinks a week and stick to it. If you find this impossible, seek professional help.

Smoking: This is perhaps one of the hardest energy-draining habits to break and one for which you may need to seek advice if you want to quit. It really is worth persisting though, as many people who give up find that their energy levels soar. To reduce your cravings you need to boost your body’s ability to eliminate chemicals and a healthy diet, plenty of exercise and drinking lots of water can all help to detoxify your body.

And finally, try some herbal energy boosters instead. Last month we looked at how your daily multivitamin and mineral, along with additional vitamin supplements if you need them, can make a big difference to your energy levels. This month we’ll take a look at some of the most effective energy boosting herbs.

Energy boosting herbal helpers:


There are a number of herbs that you can add to your meals or take as supplements to replenish your energy levels.


Aloe Vera has been used for thousands of years as an immune booster and skin healer. It can also boost energy by improving digestion and blood sugar balance. Always read the labels, especially with aloe vera juice, and avoid preservatives such as benzoic acid or sodium benzoate. If you need help in which make to buy then call The Natural Health Practice who supplies the different brands that I use in the clinic on 01892 507598.


Ashwaganda is an Indian herb that seems to have potent immune-boosting and anti-stress properties. Ashwaganda has an earthy flavour that is an acquired taste and you can take it in capsule and tincture form.


Bee pollen is not strictly speaking a herb, but it is often recommended by herbalists because it’s one of nature’s superfoods – power-packed with nutrients, including amino acids, minerals, vitamins and enzymes. One or two teaspoons of fresh, raw pollen a day is suggested as an energy booster. Some people may be allergic so take a few grains first to make sure you are not.


Burdock root can be used like carrots, and boosts energy by increasing circulation.


Cinnamon is a herb widely used in cookery that can boost digestion and metabolism. Even just a little cinnamon, such as small amounts sprinkled on toast, can do the trick. A dash of cinnamon or half a teaspoon with every meal may help keep blood sugar levels in check and energy levels balanced.


Garlic may have a mild blood sugar lowering effect. And, like oily fish and oats, garlic is also linked with heart health because it can lower cholesterol. Optimal doses are not known but, taking your social life into account, try to consume reasonable amounts on a regular basis. You can grate it on your food, use it in cooking or take it as a one-a-day supplement (choose aged garlic where possible).


Ginger is a herb commonly used in cooking that can aid the digestive process and in turn increase your energy.


Ginkgo is great for those that tend to forget things very easily or have a hard time maintaining concentration levels. It helps improve memory and mental alertness throughout the day.


Ginseng is a very popular product with numerous different health benefits and is used by many people around the world. It is believed to help the body adapt to stress and can help balance blood sugar levels and boost mood. Siberian ginseng – rather than the more intense Asian ginseng – is generally recommended for energy boosting, and studies have shown that it can help combat fatigue.


Maca is marketed in some countries as an alternative to vinegar, and is suggested to have libido- and stamina-boosting effects. Studies have yet to confirm this, but there is no doubt that maca is power-packed with minerals that can boost energy, such as iron and calcium.


Nettle helps to balance and regulate blood sugar, which is vital for healthy energy levels. It is also mineral-rich and studies suggest that it can nourish the adrenal glands, which sit on top of the kidneys and release adrenaline and cortisol. You can eat nettles as a vegetable or you can make an infusion by putting 34 tablespoons of dried nettle leaves in a cup or mug of near-boiling water. Steep this for an hour, and then strain. You can use the infusion as a base for soup or stew or you can simply drink it.


Rosemary is believed to boost mental alertness and memory. To help you stay awake at your desk, put a few drops of the essential oil on a cotton ball and place the ball on your desk as you work.


Schisandra is a Chinese berry that is often used to boost mental and physical stamina. It is available at health food stores in powder or capsule form.


Spirulina is an algae and a concentrated source of high-quality, easily digestible, energy-boosting nutrients that can help balance blood sugar.


St John’s Wort has the ability to work as a mild antidepressant. There are many brands of St John’s Wort on the market and they can vary in strength and potency.


Turmeric is a powerful herb used in curry dishes that can aid the digestive process and, in turn, increase your energy.


Soak it up: Stress is exhausting and lavender, chamomile, lemon balm and passion flower are all herbs that can increase your energy by helping you relax and get more sleep. You can take any of these as a tea or a tincture any time you feel tense, or before bedtime to help you sleep. A soothing herbal bath can also aid sleep. Try adding lavender, rosemary or lemon to the water and let the soothing vapours relax and calm you.


Note: Remember, herbs are generally safe, but caution should always be taken when you ingest them. To be on the safe side, if you are pregnant or hoping to be, suffer from allergies, are on medication or have a pre-existing medical condition like high blood pressure or diabetes, you should not use any herbs without consulting a qualified practitioner or your doctor first.

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