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Refuel your energy tank

Feeling lethargic? Medical herbalist Gabriella Clarke looks at some natural remedies to help lift our energy.

For many of us in the winter, the reduction in natural sunlight and the cold can make us feel apathetic and uninspired and can even lead to feelings of low mood and significant dips in energy.

So what can we do to increase our energy levels not just in the winter but all year round? As always, nature has a few answers.

VITAMIN D

Also known as the sunshine vitamin, we synthesise this essential nutrient through our skin’s natural reaction to UV from the sunlight. Unfortunately, for people living in the northern hemisphere, the winter sun is simply not strong enough for us to make the level of vitamin D that we need to stay healthy.

Vitamin D is needed for healthy bones, but less well known are the effects is has on our immune system and its vital role in keeping our mood elevated. Most of us would benefit from taking a supplement throughout the winter months. If in doubt, a simple blood test will show if your vitamin D levels need topping up. Around 10ug a day is the recommended dose.

VITAMIN B12

The B vitamins have many important roles including maintaining a healthy nervous system, supporting the hormonal system and aiding metabolism. Vitamin B12 in particular is responsible for maintaining healthy energy levels. If you are finding it hard to find your get-up-and- go, taking a supplement of B12 each morning will help combat fatigue.

IRON

Women are especially prone to anaemia, which can lead to feelings of exhaustion and fatigue. Other symptoms include breathlessness, hair loss and aching or heavy limbs. All women of childbearing age should make sure they are getting sufficient iron from their diets in the form of green leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds and red meat.

If you are low in iron, supplements can help. Taking vitamin C along side iron will help you to absorb it better. Black tea can actually inhibit iron absorption from dietary sources so make sure you drink it away from meals and don’t take it at the same time as iron supplements.

SIBERIAN GINSENG

This wonderful adaptogenic herb helps us to combat stress and anxiety and can help to support healthy adrenal function. This herb can be used long term to help gently increase energy levels and combat fatigue.

GREEN TEA

This fantastic cleansing tea is a rich source of antioxidants and provides a source of caffeine, which can give us a well needed lift throughout the day and help combat the mid-afternoon slump. Avoid drinking it after 3pm as its stimulant effect may interfere with a good night’s sleep.

PANAX GINSENG 

This herb packs a powerful punch and its effects can be felt almost immediately. It is specifically indicated for increasing energy in the short term, especially when getting over viruses and times when we need that extra boost. It should be avoided if you suffer from high blood pressure and should not be taken in the evening as it can interfere with sleep.

CUT DOWN ON SUGAR

A couple of biscuits washed down with our afternoon coffee may well help combat fatigue in the short term, but what actually happens is a short term energy increase owing to a spike in our blood sugar levels, which is then invariably followed by a slump when blood sugar rapidly drops.

This habit can predispose us to type 2 diabetes, obesity and other health issues. When you feel the afternoon slump, choose green tea and a handful of almonds and a piece of fruit for more sustained energy.