Maybe you experience low energy as a constant battle overcoming fatigue every single day. Low energy can cause extreme tiredness and fatigue, brain fog, memory loss, irritability, junk food cravings, addiction to stimulants, and the inability to perform at a high level and reach our full potential.
Without energy, we feel unsuccessful in the world.
It can be very frustrating, especially if it’s an ongoing battle. It becomes a more vicious cycle when we start to rely on excessive stimulants to help us get through the day- coffee and caffeine, unnatural energy drinks, refined carbohydrates, and sugar-loaded processed foods that all promote short-term energy (fast-burning energy like paper on a fire) but ultimately damage the body’s ability to produce energy efficiently, and deplete our systems in the long term.
The modern mentality of quick-fix pills and one-directional stimulants to gain “temporary" energy is unsustainable. We always require some level of balance. There is a saying in Chinese medicine - “it is OK to become tired, but never to become exhausted.” Feelings of tiredness (Chi depletion) suggest that you’re hard working while feelings of exhaustion (Chi and Jing depletion) suggest you’re unbalanced and burning the candle at both ends. This is where sickness and disease can manifest if we’re not too careful and more self-aware.
Let's be honest, you probably don't have as much energy as you used to. I know you're sick and tired of being drained all the time. I know you want to jump out of bed feeling more energized and ready to face the day ahead with more passion and vibrancy. I know you want more quality time with your family and to feel more love and presence with those you care about most. The best news is, all of this is very possible! How do we do it?
Let’s look at the ancient Chinese masters and how they were able to accomplish a long life full of energy and vibrancy.
Table of Contents
The Three Treasures of Chinese Tonic Herbalism
In Taoist tradition, there is said to be "Three Treasures" that effectively constitute the health and energy of one’s life. These treasures are known as Jing, Qi, and Shen.
The closest translation in English is - Essence (Jing), Vitality (Chi), and Spirit (Shen). The three treasures correspond and nurture three basic levels of life - the reproductive, the metabolic and the spiritual.
Jing is the most precious treasure that must be nurtured and protected. It is the most solid and substantial energy in the body. It can be likened to the battery pack of the body but it is much more than that as it forms the essence of who and what we are. Jing is the primal energy of our life that determines one’s ultimate vitality and the quantity and quality of one’s life span. We cannot have abundant energy and a long healthy life without strong Jing.
The most comprehensive guide to learning more about- What is Jing?
If you’re experiencing an ongoing cycle of high and low energy levels or waking up feeling tired in the morning, you may be dealing with a "Jing deficiency”. There are many ways you may be leaking your Jing. Leaking in this instance can be defined as any loss of energy that should be stored in the body’s primary organs. You can learn more about leaking Jing here.
When we ask “I want more energy", what we’re really saying is "I need more Qi.”
What is Qi?
Qi, or Chi, is the second treasure which represents the aspect of our life that involves our action, our function, and our thought. It's the source of our vitality that nourishes and protects us.
Chi is best translated as the day to day energy and vitality derived from the air we breathe and the foods we eat. In other words, Chi is the flowing force or the electric currents, that drive our metabolism of food into energy and blood. The closest equivalent to Chi in Western biology is the Krebs cycle. This complex chemical process describes the transformation of food into energy which results in adenosine triphosphate (ATP), our cellular energy source.
From the Chinese perspective, everything is a manifestation of Chi. Chi is the foundational energy or life force of the universe that permeates and flows through everything, giving life, and influencing life. Modern physics expresses the same idea which understands that mass and energy are one and the same.
Chi may be defined as all energy. The first treasure Jing, our ancient primordial essence that we discussed above, is also known as “original Chi”. This represents our reproductive, creative, bodily and genetic potential. We can view Jing as basically saved Chi held for later use. If we accumulate more Chi energy than we use on a daily basis, the remainder of that energy can help further supplement Jing. This is an important principle of understanding how we can protect and preserve of our precious Jing reserves (held in the Kidneys). The more abundance of Chi you acquire, the stronger your Jing will be. With strong Chi and Jing, our health is robust, our creativity blossoms, our adventurous spirits lift, and we can enjoy youthful vitality in our older years.
Imagine Jing is like your body’s “savings account” of long-term energy, while Chi can be likened to your “checking account” of immediate energy. We require regular deposits and withdrawals of Chi to fulfill our daily energy requirements. We achieve this through gathering Chi by breathing oxygen into our Lungs, and nutritive Chi, the ingestion, and extraction of Chi from food and water. The more energy, or Chi, that the human body can accumulate and utilize from the air, water, and food, the more success we will experience as a living being. If we can build our Chi sufficiently through supplementing our diet, breath, and lifestyle, our well-being and vitality will be supported. Our bodily processes- metabolism, endocrine system, and immunity will all be healthy and functioning optimally. With this abundance, we can thrive and be well equipped with enough energy to fulfill our everyday needs. We can successfully apply ourselves in the world to achieve our goals and dreams.
If the body is weak and unable to effectively extract Chi from one’s environment and/or utilize it efficiently, this inability can cause one to start dipping into their reserves of Jing to get through the day. Once you have drained the body’s energetic “checking account” (Chi) and begun dipping into your “savings account” (Jing), you are chipping away at your future security of vitality. When we start tapping into our adrenal reserves (Jing) for our daily energy requirements (also called "false fire"), accelerated aging sets in and starts to cause a chronic lack of vitality at our root. From here we start to feel devitalized and can show signs of premature aging- back pain, joint pain, a lack of libido, creativity, poor metabolism, and mental alertness.
It’s important that we learn to cultivate Chi every day through movement and exercise, meditation practices such as yoga, Qi Gong, Tai Chi, deep breathing exercises, using a herb that can help with gym performance, and by further optimising our diet with the best Chi nourishing whole foods and tonic herbs to avoid using our precious reserves of Jing essence for our daily energy.
Blood and Qi
Blood is an important component of Qi. The Chinese masters recognized that blood needs to be vitalized and plentiful. The movement of blood needs to be promoted to nourish all the tissues and organs, keep the immune system strong, and prevent Chi stagnation and the downward trickling of blood, especially for women during their menstrual period.
The blood Chi tonics increase the amount and improve the quality of the blood flowing through our system. They help clean and build highly charged and healthy blood that can nourish the body, promote optimal digestion, blood circulation, nutrient assimilation, healthy skin, and an overall highly functioning body. Both men and women will benefit greatly from the blood Chi tonics, especially women considering that they lose blood every month. It's important for women to replenish their lost blood, while men need to cleanse and purify their blood.
Chi is said to be the holder and carrier of blood. When the blood is infused with enough Chi, blood circulates efficiently and flows upright to the hands, feet, head, and back around. The body will remain warm and nourished. Blood that's insufficient in Chi will be thicker, darker, and will move more sluggishly. Women may experience cramping and excessive bleeding during menstrual periods when their blood is lacking in sufficient Chi.
The two primary organ systems that produce and regulate Chi in the body are the Lung system (gathering Chi from breathing) and the Splenic system (nutritive Chi from food).
Lungs and Chi
The Lungs govern a big part of how we accumulate and cultivate Chi.
The Lungs control Chi and our physical energy. Deep breathing helps raising energy levels so if we can control our rate and depth of respiration, we can control our energy. If the Lungs are weak, breathing is shallow and constricted, and this provides less available energy to the body. If the Lungs are strong, the breathing is long, quiet, and deep, and the body fills with energy. It’s important to develop strong respiratory power if we want to live a long and healthy life. In one way or another, insufficient breathing is believed to be to sickness. Many meditative practices such as yoga and qi gong, focus on the development of the breath because through the breath we extract Chi and gain energy.
There's also a close connection between the breath and controlling and mastering our emotions. If we can develop the power to control our breathing, keeping it long and calm, in those overwhelming times when we're feeling stressed, angry, fearful, depressed, and sad, we can more effectively let go of those strong feelings. Through the breath, we can control and influence our emotions so we do not remain at the mercy of our lower selves.
The Lungs also play an important role in maintaining the health of the skin. Any skin disorders including blemishes or dry skin can be improved by supporting the Lung function and by improving breathing. When there is an abundance of Chi flowing in the body, the pores in the skin can be more effective in opening and closing and adapt faster to changes in the environment.
Boost your defences by supplementing “Wei Qi”.
"Wei Qi" is an important defensive Chi energy produced by the Lungs. "Wei Qi" is a subtle energy that circulates just below the surface of the skin, kind of like a force field that provides protection against any kind of foreign pathogen or environmental toxin entering the body and causing harm. If our “Wei Qi" is working effectively and charged up enough after using the right foods, herbs, and water, any harmful pathogenic organisms that are airborne will simply be repelled, and bounce off of us. It’s clear that the Lungs play an important role in regulating the defensive mechanisms of the body.
Spleen / Digestive System and Qi
The Spleen is important for generating Chi, blood, and fluids in the body. The Spleen supports the immune system, controls the gastrointestinal functions, and helps maintain the organs in their proper position (preventing prolapse as we age), also known as “upright Chi."
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the function of the Spleen includes the various digestive and assimilative actions of the pancreas, stomach, duodenum, and small intestine. The Spleen is responsible for transforming energy in the body from the air, food, and water we ingest. The quality of the food and water we consume is vitally important in today’s modern world. If we do not feed our bodies with the right fuel sources, the Spleen Chi becomes deficient and causes a sluggish metabolism. Genetically modified and chemically laden foods lack Chi, and foods without Chi, cause our engines to slow down. The Spleen always needs to be kept warm and nourished to operate efficiently.
If the Spleen is weak, a whole host of symptoms can manifest such as congestion, bloating, anemia due to poor blood production, and a weakened immune system. Spleen Chi deficiency can also cause water retention in the body which shows up as signs of the widening of the hips in women, stomach bloating, increased belly fat, and other metabolic problems in men. This is due to the depressed Spleens inability to remove water from the digestive tract and distribute it to the various tissues that require nourishment. Today, weak Spleen Chi is prevalent in our society due to the devitalized (Chi-less) nature of the foods we’re consuming. We need to fuel our bodies with organic foods rich in vitamins, minerals, enzymes, or the spleen system will not be able to function at the necessary pace it is required to manufacture food into energy (ATP) and blood.
When the Spleen Chi is strong, blood will be properly regulated and distributed to all the tissues of the body. The muscles and flesh will be full and well toned, and the immune cells will be strong and well able to protect the body against any invading microbes or pathogens. The Spleen must be strengthened in order to overcome any digestive weaknesses and extreme chronic fatigue.
It’s important to keep the Spleen system (pancreas, stomach, duodenum, and small intestine) and digestive fire burning to fortify the red and white blood cells and control the metabolism of food.
Listen up raw foodists, this one is for you
Following a raw food diet is vital and can be highly beneficial but it can also pose some detrimental effects to the body that need to be addressed. Raw, uncooked foods are classified as “Yin” meaning that they are cooling and "watery" to the system. They exert a dampening effect on the metabolic functions of the body.
From the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) perspective, a diet in excess of raw foods is generally not recommended. Most practitioners follow the line of thought that “raw food is too cold for the body”, and most fruits and vegetable are "too cooling and watery." Too much of these “Yin” foods in the diet can promote sluggish digestion, a damp spleen, and water retention, especially in women and individuals with a Yin constitution. They can cause edema around the "middle jiao” (abdomen) which can manifest into physical symptoms such as the widening of the hips in women and increased belly fat in men. The primary argument is that too many “cold” raw foods "put out” the body's digestive fire and inhibits the function of the spleen. To properly digest raw foods, the digestive organs must produce extra enzymes and hormones, making them work harder to extracts nutrients for the body’s daily energy requirements. As we mentioned above, our digestive system which includes the spleen, stomach, pancreas, duodenum, and small intestine needs to be kept warm and nourished in order to properly digest food and from which to derive sufficient Chi.
Even though it may not be ideal from the TCM perspective, it is still possible to thrive and get even more out of your raw food diet when you supplement with the right Chi-boosting foods and tonic herbs to support your spleen and digestive system.
The Best Chi Tonic Herbs (in no particular order)
Tonic herbalism can help us improve the absorption and utilization of Chi. Through the consumption of specific tonic herbs, we can influence the certain aspects of Chi within our systems and establish harmonious functioning within the body.
Astragalus root is an important “Qi tonifying” and adaptogenic herb that is famed for its powerful energising and strengthening effects. It is highly valued for its ability to strengthen the primary energy of the body, the immune system, and all metabolic, respiratory, and eliminative functions. Astragalus has traditionally been called "The Great Protector" for its ability to function as an immune stimulator that supports and enhances the body’s defence system. Astragalus extract has the important effect of increasing “upright Qi” in the body which helps maintain good posture and prevents the prolapse of organs due to illness, chronic fatigue and extreme exhaustion. This rejuvenating quality is essential to a long healthy life.
Panax Ginseng is by far the most famous tonic herb on the planet. Almost everyone has heard of this herb, even those with limited herbal knowledge. Ginseng is a premier Chi tonic and adaptogen that has been held in the highest esteem throughout Asia for centuries. Its powerful adaptogenic qualities promote stress relief, anti-fatigue effects, and increased endurance. Its dual-directional activity provides a stimulating effect to the body without excessively stimulating the nervous system like other one-directional stimulants such as coffee, caffeine, soda, drugs, and alcohol. Ginseng increases physical and mental power, boosts libido, and improves concentration, and alertness. It helps promote fast recovery from illness and surgery and has the ability to balance and strengthen the organs that regulate Chi, the Lungs, and Splenic system.
Siberian Ginseng, also known as Eleuthero root is one of the best adaptogenic herbs and Chi tonics in the world. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Siberian Ginseng is a superstar tonic herb that supports all three treasures- Jing, Chi, and Shen, and thereby supports and nourishes the Kidneys, Spleen, and Heart. It's also a powerful immune system modulator that effectively builds and supports our body’s defence system. Siberian Ginseng provides an abundance of immediate and long-term energy to the body. It helps increase endurance and stamina, builds physical strength, enhances mitochondrial activity, and promotes fast recovery from hard physical exercise and mental exertion.
As one of the best adaptogenic substances in the world, Siberian Ginseng can be beneficial for anyone under severe stress, working long hours, or facing a situation where they need to think clearly, make fast decisions, or perform at a high level.
Siberian Ginseng is excellent in increasing the body's adaptability in these high pressure and often stressful situations, by helping to improve mental alertness, boosting brain power and cognitive function. It's perfect for high performing athletes, entrepreneurs, physical workers, students and anyone who needs to be consistently on top of their game.
Codonopsis root is a popular Chi and blood tonic herb. It helps support the Spleen and Lung functions and promotes the production of fluids in the body. Codonopsis is known to be similar in action to Ginseng but much milder. However, it does not contain the same chemical profile or Chi building capacity as Ginseng. Codonopsis root contains a much smaller saponin content compared to Ginseng. It is, however, often used in place of Ginseng in Chi tonic formulas due to its similar action. Codonopsis is rich in polysaccharides that help boost and modulate the immune system. Codonopsis is a mild herb that is great for children’s health. It has powerful strengthening effects on the digestive, respiratory, and immune system.
White Atractylodes is one of the most powerful tonics for building and boosting Chi energy. It is a primary herb used by athletes to build muscles and to provide strength and endurance. White Atractylodes helps strengthen the Spleen, improves digestion efficiency, and nutrient assimilation. It is the most effective herb for drying moisture from the middle jiao and relieving symptoms of accumulated dampness in the stomach and spleen area. White Atractylodes helps tonify Spleen Chi and keeps the digestive system warm. This is most suitable for anyone following a raw food diet. White Atractylodes can effectively regulate appetite and is especially helpful for women battling fatigue and dealing with digestive issues.
Poria Mushroom is a powerful immune system and Chi tonic herb. It is a primary longevity and anti-stress herb that supports the Kidneys, Spleen, and Heart functions. Poria mushroom improves the movement and flow of water throughout the body and helps transform dampness into Chi. It is widely used in many Chi tonic formulas for this reason. Poria is also famed by Chinese women as an excellent aid in the maintenance of a good figure.
Dang Gui is one of the best blood building tonics. It’s an ideal herb to consume after illness, injury, or surgery to promote red blood cell production and increase blood volume. Dang Gui is well known as a women's herb but it is also highly beneficial for men. It is commonly used by women after their menstrual cycle to replenish lost blood. Dang Gui is also one of the best beauty tonics. It has shown to benefit the complexion by improving detoxification and circulation in the skin.
Gynostemma is widely believed to be an anti-aging and longevity tonic herb. It promotes broad overall health benefits and is known as a “cure-all” herb. It’s double-directional activity and powerful adaptogenic qualities work to bring all systems of the body into balance. Regular use of this "Magical Grass" provides increasing levels of protection to a person by increasing the adaptive capacity of the body. Gynostemma’s array of health benefits includes- slows aging, reduces fatigue, increases vigor, improves digestion, strengthens the mind, improves sex functions, calms the nerves and eases pain. Gynostemma treats inflammation and accelerates the body’s metabolism earning a great reputation in Asia for aiding in weight loss programs.
Bonus Tip: Fulvic Acid Increases the Qi Power of Your Food and Water.
Fulvic Acid is the important base component of soil (along with humic acid and other minerals) which make it possible for the plants to receive the essential vitamins and minerals in the soils they grow in. This same process works in the human body when we consume Fulvic Acid.
These essential Fulvic Acid compounds help increase the uptake and availability of nutrition from the foods we eat. This is important given the devitalized, over-processed, and Chi-less nature of the foods we’re consuming today.
What do you do to boost your energy levels? We would love to hear about it. Comment below.