4 Tonic Herbs for Healthy Aging

Each Wednesday in April the Daily Tip will cover aspects of aging gracefully, courtesy of Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging.

Feeling rundown, stressed out, and always catching whatever cold is going around? You may want to consider taking a daily tonic. Also known as adaptogens, these nontoxic, plant-based substances help to bolster your body's natural defenses and increase its ability to cope with daily stress. When taken long term, tonics may help boost energy levels, strengthen immunity, and increase resistance to disease. Some popular tonics include:

  1. Ashwagandha. This traditional herb (Withania somnifera) from India is much used in Ayurvedic medicine, where it is valued as a general tonic and adaptogen.
  2. Eleuthro. Formerly called Siberian ginseng, eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus) is a distant relative of true ginseng.  It can be useful for alleviating exhaustion, fatigue from heavy workloads, and lack of energy. Look for products that are standardized for eleutheroside content.
  3. Reishi. This distinctive, woody mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum) is too bitter to be eaten, but can be taken in supplement form. Reishi is recommended in traditional Chinese medicine for increasing resistance and extending life, and has been studied for its ability to enhance immune function.
  4. Rhodiola. Also known as arctic root, rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea) contains a group of distinctive compounds that are at least partially responsible for the plant's remarkable properties - including anti-fatigue, anti-stress, anti-cancer, antioxidant, and immune-enhancing effects. It is useful for acute stress, mild depression and memory problems.

You should be able to find all these herbal products in health food stores - choose the one that best meets your needs, follow package directions, and give it about six to eight weeks to see how it helps. You can take tonics indefinitely, but some herbalists suggest taking a two-week-long break every three months to help maintain their effectiveness.

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