Herbs that improve constitutional strength and energy
If we look at all forms of traditional medicine, life is viewed in terms of energy and how energy flows and is conserved. Herbs were applied to conditions not just on the basis of the herb containing this chemical or that chemical but on the basis of restoring energy levels or improving the flow of energy around the body. Ultimately, the amount of energy we have derives from the energy imparted to the Universe at its creation. Our body and life represents a finite packet of that energy if you like, and we can maintain that energy or abuse it and run it down even faster than it should. All the energy in the Universe is running down and all energetic systems, just like batteries, eventually run down. Life itself, from conception to growth runs counter to this normal 'run-down' in that all life-forms have to obtain energy from food, air, light and water etc in order to build-up rather than run-down. In Ayurveda, the Universe and all its inhabitants came into creation when 'desire' spontaneously arose thereby giving rise to animals such as humans that were able to know the creator and provide a way for the Universe and creation to know itself. Sexual desire in humans is the result of that original creative energy and it imparted enough energy for us to overcome, albeit for a short time, the normal process of energy run-down and create new life ourselves. In Ayurveda, the process of restoring this basic creative energy and thereby enhancing our sexual function and fertility is called 'rasayana therapy' which literally translated means the 'path of juice'. It is designed to replace our 'juice'. As we age we dry out and lose our 'juice'. This juice in Ayurveda is called 'ojas' and refers to the vital, energetic substance that is produced from good food, clean water etc. It can be lost by poor diet, overindulgence in alcohol, bad food etc. Many herbs therefore are used as 'rasayana' herbs, used to restore this vital substance with the knock-on effect of improving sexual health and function.
Chinese medicine also revolves around the maintenance of certain vital substances, i.e., Qi, blood, body fluids and essence. In terms of sexual function and conception etc it is the 'essence' that is important. 'Essence' is stored in the kidney and is the fundamental substance promoting basic constitutional strength, sexual health and reproductive capacity. Again 'essence' can be depleted by poor diet, lack of exercise, illness, old-age and even excessive sexual activity. It can also be restored using specific herbs, 'the kidney yang tonic' herbs to be exact. It is, in fact, from this group of herbs that we get some of the most expensive and commercially successful so-called 'aphrodisiac' herbs.
Another group of herbs particularly useful for improving basic constitutional strength are the medicinal mushrooms. Please click here to read about the medicinal mushrooms.
It is important to realise that this group of herbs can be used broadly, in many situations, where an individual is suffering any long-term, debilitating illness that has drained their batteries and led to a severe drop in energy and general health and physical resistance levels.
Herbs that would be included in these categories include:
Asparagus racemosus (Shatavari)
Shatavari is a Sanskrit word meaning 'hundred husbands' which refers to its traditional use in improving the reproductive and sexual function of women. It is yet another herb containing steroidal saponins and isoflavones and it has been found to have a number of beneficial effects including being an adaptogen (anti-stress agent), an anti-inflammatory, antidepressant, memory enhancer, diuretic, antioxidant, immune system stimulant, fertility enhancer and sexual stimulant with a potential testosterone like effect!
Tribulus, Mucuna and Ashwagandha
The combination of these is a classic Ayurvedic rasayana formulation. Go to the 'herbs that optimise testosterone levels' page.
Horny Goat Weed (Epimedium grandiflorum)
This herb was also mentioned in the 'Circulatory herbs' section because of its PDE inhibition effect. This herb was, and still is, one of the most sought after and commercially successful herbs used in the treatment of sexual dysfunction. Even its name tells you what it does! Apart from the effect in improving blood flow it has been observed that people taking this herb appear to have a heightened sensitivity of nerve endings in the skin. This would obviously help to reinforce sexual stimulation. It has also been shown to increase tone in some of the pelvic floor muscles that are involved in sexual stimulation and activity.
Cordyceps (Ophiocordyceps) sinensis (winter bug summer herb)
This herb is probably the most expensive and sought after aphrodisiacs in history. It is a mushroom that grows on the larva/caterpillar of the Himalayan ghost moth, and the economy of Tibet relies upon vast quantities being shipped into the Chinese market! At various times it has been more valuable than gold. This herb has always been used for its pro-sexual effect but as a medicinal mushroom it is also used as a major immune system stimulant and physical restorative. This herb is particularly useful if long term, debilitating, chronic illness is causing sexual dysfunction.
Eucommia ulmoides (Eucommia bark)
This herb is an extremely interesting plant as it produces a latex that can be used to manufacture rubber and latex products. In its natural state this latex is exuded by a cut edge of a leaf if it is damaged, thus binding it together! In other words it produces elastic fibres to heal itself. This is particularly interesting when we discover that research has shown that taking this herb stimulates collagen production. Collagen, as we have discussed, is vital in the maintenance of elastic tissues such as collagen under the skin and in blood vessels. It's like the cement that holds us together! More than this it is essential in bone repair as well, and therefore will be of great use during the menopause in terms of bone loss and vaginal membrane thinning. It is used in Chinese medicine as a main herb for strengthening, bones, ligaments and tendons as well as for erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation. It also has a blood pressure lowering effect.
Finally, also remember that all the adaptogenic herbs such as Rhodiola rosea (golden root), Eleutherococcus sentiocosus (Siberian ginseng) and Panax ginseng (Korean ginseng) are great physical tonics when the body is severely run down.
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The information is made available with the understanding that the author and publisher are not providing medical, psychological, or nutritional counseling services on this site. The information should not be used in place of a consultation with a competent health care or nutrition professional.
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Stuart FitzSimons MNIMH Dip. phyt. MORE →