Maybe it's the high pollen count that's making me feel so drowsy at the moment, or perhaps it's the claustrophobically high pollution levels that are blighting London now that the summer heat has kicked in.
Whatever the reason, my body feels like a lead balloon, even though I've been drinking plenty of water and I think eating well (which isn't difficult when faced with an array of succulent summer fruits, and vegetables that only need steaming, drizzling with olive oil and sprinkling with fresh herbs and a little Maldon sea salt).
I've therefore resorted to taking ginseng, which has been used as a general tonic for at least seven-thousand years.
You'll usually find two types of ginseng supplement in the shops: Eleuthrococcussenticosus, or Siberian ginseng, and Panax ginseng, Korean or Chinese ginseng, both members of the Aralia genus of plants.
Although both are described as being adaptogens, meaning that they can help the body either to fight against or adapt to whatever problem is besetting it, there are a few subtle differences between the two.
Siberian ginseng, which I tend to take, acts as a stimulant and anti-stress tonic that also offers certain physical benefits (some athletes notice an improvement in their performance after taking it, while Russian cosmonauts are said to have enlisted its aid to cope with their gruelling training regime and the rigours of working in space). Siberian ginseng blocks the immuno-suppressant action of stress hormones like adrenaline, too, making it a good remedy to take for a few weeks when you're feeling stressed and run down.
In the East, men, old people and athletes have, on the other hand, traditionally found the ginsenoside compounds in Panax ginseng helpful in combating physical and emotional stress. And although researchers don't know how either type of ginseng works, it is generally agreed that they have a positive effect on the body, to which I can personally attest from my experience of taking Siberian ginseng.
How can I reduce my stress levels naturally?
Emotional stress can take its toll on the physical body and cause a variety of health problems including fatigue, susceptibility to infection and insomnia. The world of natural medicine offers a variety of 'tonics' which may help to strengthen the body's capacity to deal with stress, and reduce the impact stress has on our health.
One agent which may help you is Panax (Korean) ginseng. Panax ginseng not only appears to help the body withstand stress, it has also been shown to improve physical and mental energy. It is these qualities which have led to its immense popularity as a general tonic.
The normal dose is 100 - 200 mg of standardised extract containing 4 - 7 per cent ginsenosides per day. The dose for non-standardised preparations is 1 - 2 grams per day or 2 - 3 ml of herbal tincture, three times a day.
It is generally recommended that Panax ginseng be used on a cyclical basis with treatment periods of 2 - 3 weeks interspersed with supplement-free periods of 1 - 2 weeks. While Panax ginseng is generally regarded as safe at the recommended dosage, it may cause insomnia if taken close to bedtime.