Herbal Medicines for Fatigue
Okay. Well, I want to welcome everyone to tonight’s webinar. This is Dr. Nik Hedberg and tonight we’re going to be talking about herbal medicines for fatigue. Fatigue is just one of those big issues that so many people suffer with. Tonight I’m hoping I’ll be able to give you some good ideas as far as what herbal medicines you can take that will really help you not only boost your energy but also may significantly help you improve your energy, help your body adapt to stress and things like that. Let’s go ahead and jump right in.
What we’re going to do is I’m just going to talk for a little bit and at the end we’ll open it up for questions. You’ll see your little chat box on the right corner of your screen and you’ll be able to type in your question there.
Causes of Fatigue
First let’s just talk about the causes of fatigue. Of course, the first one is going to be stress. That’s really one of the big ones in today’s society. Hypothyroidism–of course low thyroid hormone levels can lead to fatigue. Not enough protein and calories in your diet, not enough sleep. And then different types of anemia like Vitamin B12, iron deficiency anemias, folic acid, copper, etc., etc.. Adrenal fatigue–the adrenal glands in today’s society are pretty heavily taxed for a variety of reasons.
We’re under a tremendous amount of stress. Americans, we work more than anyone. There are a lot of single parents out there. People are working a lot more hours these days. The adrenals get pretty hammered. Plus, technology keeps us up later at night than we’re supposed to be. The food quality is not always good. Lack of exercise, losing muscle mass, one of the biggest issues in society today. Chronic inflammation. Insulin resistance, a big, big problem in society. The cells are no longer able to metabolize sugar the way that they should. Having an abnormal carbohydrate to protein ratio, meaning that your carbohydrate intake is much higher than your protein intake. Having an acidic pH. I’ve talked a lot about that in the past. Chronic infections like viruses, Epstein-Barr virus, Lyme disease, gut infections, etc., etc. Food sensitivities like gluten, dairy, soy, corn, eggs, to name the big five. Toxic metals such as mercury, leaky gut syndrome. And there are a lot more than this, but these are kind of the top causes of fatigue in our society today.
Let’s start with our first herb that really helps with fatigue, ashwagandha, also known as Indian Ginseng and its other name is Withania somnifera. Ashwagandha is one of my favorite adrenal adaptogens.
It does many things to help you improve your energy. The first thing that ashwagandha does is it enhances the conversion of the inactive form of thyroid hormone T-4 into the active form T-3 and therefore increasing energy levels. It does help the body deal with stress and that’s basically what an adaptogen does. No matter what kind of stress it is, whether it’s physical or emotional, chemical stress, adrenal adaptogens will help you deal with that. It increases strength and stamina, improves memory. It is an aphrodisiac so if you’re libido is low, if your sex drive is low ashwagandha can really help with that.
It does provide deep and restful sleep. Some people are taking high doses just before bed, like a 2,000 mg dose, and that does help some people sleep. Although ashwagandha, in some people, it can disrupt their sleep. It just depends on how their body responds to it.
It is an antioxidant. It does enhance the immune system. It is in the nightshade family, so if you have issues with nightshades like tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes, paprika, etc., you might have an issue with ashwagandha.
I recommend about 500 to 2,000 mg a day in divided doses. It can be taken with breakfast, with lunch, with dinner or something like that. It’s okay if it’s with or without food. That’s our first herb that can really help with fatigue. Usually you’ll notice improvements right away when you start taking it.
Let’s talk about our second herb, rhodiola rosea. Rhodiola, not as popular as ashwagandha and some of the other ginsengs, but Rhodiola has become more and more popular over the last five or so years. Rhodiola is also known as the golden root. It has been used for centuries in Europe and Asia.
It has a number of excellent properties. It does enhance the utilization of glucose, meaning that it will help your body burn sugar. It is an adaptogen just like ashwagandha. Rhodiola will increase serotonin levels in the brain. It does this by enhancing tryptophan’s transport across the blood-brain barrier into the brain. Serotonin, it is one of the so-called feel-good neurotransmitters. It tends to be low in people who are depressed so it can help with mood. Rhodiola improves energy and stamina, balances norepinephrine, also known as adrenalin. It improves dopamine levels. Dopamine is another feel-good neurotransmitter. It reduces anxiety, enhances memory and brain function. It is an antioxidant. It does stimulate healing.
Rhodiola is an excellent choice as an adaptogen by itself or in combination with other adrenal adaptogens, and I recommend about 200 mg two to three times a day. Same thing with Ashwagandha, it doesn’t matter if it’s with or without food. The Ashwagandha, I forgot to mention, you can just take capsules or you can take it as an herbal tincture and alcohol base, the same thing with Rhodiola. With Rhodiola you’ll see in the capsules, you’ll see that it’s standardized to contain a certain percentage of rosiridins and some other chemical compounds, so that can tell you how much is in it. 200 mg two or three times a day Rhodiola can cause insomnia in some people if taken later in the day so just use caution with that. I usually like, if I’m going to take it myself, I’ll do 200 mg with breakfast, lunch and dinner spread out. That’s Rhodiola, our second herb to help with fatigue.
Then our third herb is eleutherococcus senticosus, also known as eleuthero, and previously known as Siberian ginseng. This was heavily studied by the Russians in the late 20th century when they were looking for anything they could do to enhance the performance of their Olympic athletes. There was a lot of research done on it by them.
They found a number of wonderful properties of eleuthero, aka Siberian ginseng. Like the other two mentioned, it does increase energy and stamina. It creates and anabolic state, meaning that it helps to build muscle. It does that because it increases DHEA and lowers cortisol if it’s high. Cortisol is your stress hormone. Too much cortisol will break down muscle, break down gut lining, break down the skin, break down bone. Cortisol just kind of breaks you down. DHEA builds you up, so to speak. It’s more anabolic, so eleuthero works shifting that. Both of those hormones are made by the adrenal gland, DHEA and cortisol, and eleuthero will make your adrenals more DHEA dominant.
It is an anti-depressant. More specific, a monoamine oxidase inhibitor. It improves blood sugar metabolism. We talked about insulin resistance as an issue with fatigue. All three of these herbs will help with insulin resistance. It does improve focus and the ability to finish tasks. It enhances the immune system, so we’ll use eleuthero for, say, post-viral fatigue in Lyme disease, chronic infections, chronic immune system dysfunction. Eleuthero works really well to rebuild the immune system, so to speak. It provides mental clarity.
For a lot of people with chronic fatigue we’ll use the Russian protocol, and that’s one teaspoon of the eleuthero tincture in an alcohol base. One teaspoon in the morning, one teaspoon at noon and then one at 4:00 p.m. You don’t want to take it after 4:00 p.m. because it will cause insomnia. Some people can only do the dose just in the morning. Some people can only do the dose in the morning and at noon. You just have to titrate it to see what works best for you.
The 2:1 tincture is the best. That’s made by Herb Farm. That’s going to be the most potent out there on the market. Any of the other tinctures are just not going be as potent as a 2:1. It can also be taken as a capsule, about 500 to 1,500 mg a day. Usually you need to be on the higher end, up around 1,500, and that can be divided as well – breakfast, lunch, mid-afternoon. I found the tincture for eleuthero tends to work better.
With the Russian protocol, you only want to take it for about 30 to 60 days and then take a week or two off and then go back on it. Sometimes it’s good just to give your body a break from herbs. The capsules, some people it works well for them, but like I said I found the tincture tends to be a little bit more powerful, so to speak.
Okay. Adrenal adaptogens are safe and effective herbal medicines that can help your body adapt to stress and overcome fatigue. They may, as I mentioned, they may cause insomnia if taken too late in the day. They can be taken with or without food. These herbs can be taken in isolation, just as a single herb. So you can just take rhodiola, you can just take ashwagandha, you can just take eleuthero or you can use a combination product.
Then of course, you want to be sure to identify the underlying causes of your fatigue so you have a lasting effect. None of these are really going to completely reverse chronic fatigue but they will help with symptoms. They’ll help rebuild the immune system. They’ll help you adapt to stress. Indirectly, they’ll help the gut heal by managing stress. As you saw here, some of them will improve your mood and your stamina. Just overall a good adjunct piece of the pie so to speak when we’re working with people with chronic fatigue.
Questions and Answers
Let’s go ahead and open this up for questions. We talked about eleutherococcus senticosus, rhodiola, ashwagandha, the causes of fatigue. If you have a question, you can type it into the little chat box of the Start Meeting window, usually on your right. I’ll answer those as soon as possible. Let’s just wait a minute for those to queue up. Usually we have some really good questions on these webinars.
There are a number of other strategies you can take for fatigue depending on the causes of the fatigue. Again, these herbs will help mainly with the symptoms.
Okay. It looks like we have a question here coming through. Amy, did you have a question? Okay. So the question is, ‘Great information. How does American ginseng compare?’
I do really like American ginseng. I’ll usually use American ginseng when there are issues more with the immune system. It’s interesting because the Chinese are actually importing a lot of American ginseng because they like it better than the ginseng they have in their country. So the Asians do really love American ginseng. American ginseng is, it’s going to be just as effective as Chinese ginseng, Panax, Red, Korean ginseng, but it’s not going to be as stimulating. You can take a lot more of it and not cause insomnia or have too much stimulation or agitation.
I’ll combine American ginseng with Reishi mushroom, astragalus and ginger in a tincture and that particular formula is designed for chronic infections. Again, that’s American ginseng, Reishi mushroom, astragalus and ginger root. That really helps with chronic infections. A lot of people with fatigue, they have a chronic infection that’s just wearing them down. It’s wearing down the adrenals. That’s how we’ll use that combination.
Then American ginseng, all of the three I talked about tonight, it’s just going to be very similar in their properties. It enhances glucose utilization, increases energy and stamina, brain function, the immune system, etc., etc. Good question.
If you have a question just type it into the chat window. We’ll see if we have any questions coming in.
When you’re looking for these herbs, I did mention the specific brand for the eleuthero, the Herb Form tincture. There’s kind of a debate out there about using the whole herb versus the standardized extracts. There are cases where just taking the whole herb does work better because these herbs have a lot of properties in them.
The standardization is done so you’re guaranteed a certain amount of the so-called active components of the herb, but in some of those cases you lose some of the properties of the whole herb. It really just depends on who you talk to. The rhodiola that I use is a standardized extract. I use the one from Vital Nutrients. The Siberian ginseng capsules, Herb Farm also has Siberian ginseng capsules and Exodus Ethicals also has a good eleuthero capsule. The ashwagandha, Supreme Nutrition has a good ashwagandha. I haven’t had that great success with the standardized ashwagandha. Those are the main points about where to get them and the ones that I like. There are a lot of good products out there.
If we have any more questions, just type them into the chat window, and I’ll be happy to answer it.
Okay. All right. So it doesn’t look like we have any more questions coming in. I hope you enjoyed tonight’s webinar. It is recorded, so I will have it up on YouTube and on the website if you ever need to reference it again. I hope you enjoyed this information, and I’ll see you at our next webinar. Good night, everyone.