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Instep Dance Magazine Articles

Reprints of monthly column as first appearing in Instep Dance Magazine.

October 1999

Natural Remedies - Part 2: Adaptogens - Herbs for Additional Energy

By Rick Allen, DC

"Better health leads to better dancing."


This month let's briefly review three natural adaptogens -- herbs that help the body adapt to stress. These herbs boost your energy, promote wellness, enhance resistance, and aid in quicker recovery. They are used most frequently in athletic competition, such as marathons and triathlons. Personally, I haven't heard of their use in the dance world, although one might consider them for the competitive world of dancesport.

Ginseng

Ginseng comes in several forms. The most popular is Siberian ginseng or eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus), referred to as ci wu ju in Chinese medicine. Eleuthero acts as an adaptogen by encouraging normal functioning of the adrenal glands, allowing them to function optimally when challenged by stress. Eleuthero has been shown to enhance mental acuity and physical endurance without the letdown that comes with caffeinated products. Research has shown that eleuthero improves the use of oxygen by the exercising muscle. This means that a person is able to maintain aerobic exercise longer and recovery from workouts is much quicker.

For optimum results, eleuthero is taken continuously for six to eight weeks, followed by a one- to two-week break before resuming. Reported side effects have been minimal with the use of eleuthero. Eleuthero can cause insomnia in some people if taken too close to bedtime. Eleuthero is not recommended for individuals with uncontrolled high blood pressure.

Tribulus Terrestris

Tribulus Terrestris builds both strength and muscle mass by raising testosterone production in men and estradiol production in women naturally, without harming the kidneys or liver. Both men and woman have used Tribulus Terrestris to increase their sex drive and improve their well being. However, there have been warnings that women should avoid the use of this herb, for male attributes like facial hair could occur.

Yohimbe

Yohimbe bark extract, grown on the west coast of Africa, is also similar to Tribulus Terrestris in that it increases testosterone levels, thus increasing the body's ability to build muscle, increasing strength and endurance. These herbs are natural alternatives to anabolic drugs. For the older athlete looking for more strength and endurance, Tribulus Terrestris or Yohimbe can naturally raise decreasing testosterone levels.

Like Tribulus Terrestris, Yohimbe should also be used cautiously by women. Patients with kidney disease or peptic ulcer and pregnant or lactating women should not use Yohimbe. At typical does this herb may sometimes cause dizziness, nausea, insomnia, or anxiety. The Natural Pharmacy (referenced below) lists additional cautions, so I suggest you research this further before considering taking this herb.

Resources: An herb specialist or naturopathic or chiropractic doctor will be good local sources of information. An excellent resource book is The Natural Pharmacy by well-known authorities Skye Lininger, D.C., Jonathan Wright, M.D., Steve Austin, N.D., Donald Brown, N.D., and Alan Gaby, M.D. This book is available from Prima Publishing, PO Box 1260BK, Rocklin, CA 95677; telephone (916) 632-4400.

Caution While these herbs are easily available without a prescription, I suggest you check with a knowledgeable local health care provider about the appropriate use in your specific case. I have intentionally omitted doses in this overview article. Even natural herbs need to be used with appropriate caution.

Note: Following up on my previous column about the herbs used to bring down pain, swelling and inflammation, I suggest you also consult two of my prior articles for additional information:

Next article: Let's continue with more natural supplements and herbs.

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