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shutterstock_125340167Feeling tired, lethargic and generally washed-out? In this column from the Health Products Association of South Africa, Suzanne Ellis suggests some vitality-enhancing options.

What is chi?
Chi is the Chinese Taoist term for the body’s vital energy/ life-force. It can be likened to an electric charge which activates and sustains the body. Although not visible – or acknowledged by allopathic medicine – chi has long been recognised by ancient cultures as the force that permeates and energises all living things.
According to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), the human body is a vast electrical-energy system consisting of 12 bilateral meridians – the energy channels along which chi travels – with more than 800 acupuncture points. If chi is depleted, energy levels decrease and the body weakens, becoming more susceptible to disease, but when chi is balanced and vitalised, the body maintains itself.

What depletes chi?
We derive chi from food, air and cosmic radiation. Chi is depleted by excessive mental stimulation and physical exercise, emotional imbalance, stress, poor diet, denatured food, sedentary living, and aging, electrical and environmental toxins.

How can chi be increased?
This can be achieved through specific internal exercises, dietary supplements, restful sleep, organic foods, meditation, acupuncture and acupressure. Exercises designed to enhance chi include tai ch’i and ch’i kung. A wide variety of herbs can strengthen chi and revitalise the meridians: one of the best known and used in TCM for centuries is astragalus. Also known as huang qi, it strengthens the spleen and digestion, stimulates the immune system and aids adrenal gland function.

Another powerful plant long treasured by Asian cultures is schizandra berry, reputed to combat many conditions that range from aging and nervous exhaustion to poor libido. It is also used to foster mental acuity and agelessness, and to balance the meridians.
Other chi-charging substances include gynostemma, which feeds the adrenal glands; liquorice root, which is a tonic for the pituitary and adrenal glands; eleuthero, which is an energiser and tonic for the adrenal gland; reishi mushrooms, which support the body when under stress; and ginkgo biloba, which builds mental energy, alertness, clarity and focus.

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