Yes, there are some effective tonics and supplements that can help seniors whose energy is flagging. Here are my suggestions:
- Cordyceps (Cordyceps sinensis): This Chinese fungus is a tonic that can help overcome general weakness and fatigue and increase physical stamina, mental energy, sexual vigor and longevity. You can get it at the health food store in the form of tincture, extracts or powder or order it from Fungi Perfecti (www.fungi.com). The recommended dosage for general weakness is one to two capsules daily.
- Eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus): Tinctures or capsules from the root of this woody Siberian plant work as a tonic to combat lethargy, fatigue and low stamina. Look for Eleuthero (aka eleuthero ginseng) products standardized to .08 percent of eleutherosides. Most Siberian ginseng products vary in concentration and potency, so pay extra attention to the label instructions. The usual recommended dose is two capsules or one dropperful of tincture twice a day unless the product directs otherwise.
- Rhodiola (R. rosea): Sometimes called arctic root or rose root, rhodiola rosea grows at high altitudes in the Arctic areas of Europe and Asia. It is used in Russia as a tonic and remedy for fatigue, poor attention span and decreased memory, and in the Scandinavian countries as a general strengthener and to increase the capacity for mental work. A recent review in HerbalGram, the Journal of the American Botanical Council, reported that over the years, numerous studies of R. rosea in humans, in animals and in cells have shown that rhodiola helps prevent fatigue, stress and the damaging effects of oxygen deprivation. Evidence suggests that it has an antioxidant effect and enhances immune system function.
Another approach to combating age-related weakness is strength training. After age 40, we lose one quarter to one-third of a pound of muscle each year (it is replaced by fat). This leads to a loss of strength of one to two percent per year. Fortunately, these changes can be slowed, even reversed. Evidence from a number of studies has shown that even the frail elderly can benefit from strength training. The payoff can include stronger muscles, improved walking speed and an increase in overall strength.
Andrew Weil, M.D.