The Up Side

Complementary therapists are always going on about the need to relax, to de-stress, to take things slowly, but what about when you really need to pull out all the stops? For an athletic event, an important exam, a crucial interview; those times when you need to do your best.
There’s no doubt that we seriously overuse caffeine these days. What would the world be like if coffee had never been discovered? But there are plenty of other stimulants – some more legal than others – and they are valued in every culture, not just the 24/7 West.
Some are more useful than others, too. Take Korean ginseng (Panax ginseng) for too long, and you will burn yourself out, unless you are over seventy and using it to keep the vital flame alight; but in the short term it is a godsend. Others are more sustaining, less pushy, like Ashwagandha (Withania somniferum) or Chinese Angelica (Angelica sinensis), and can be taken for long periods. Some will aid mental clarity, like Bacopa monieri or Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), while others will stimulate your metabolism, like Nettles (Urtica dioica). It’s a mistake, in the long term, to use caffeine as a pick-me-up, because it partly works by causing the release of adrenaline, and in the end your system begins to decompensate, resulting in high blood pressure, insomnia and other problems, but there are better and more sustainable solutions.

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