Some days you just need an extra boost of energy. You could brew another pot of coffee, but after a couple of cups, the jitters will set in. And who wants to go through that 2 p.m. crash? Instead of reaching for another cup of joe, try adding some energy-boosting herbs and spices into your daily routine.
You can use herbs in the form of a tincture, supplement, herbal tea, or add them to a smoothie. The best part is that you won’t experience any coffee jitters or caffeine withdrawals. Fight fatigue with a mixture of adaptogenic herbs, many of which have been used throughout thousands of years in both Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine.
What Are Adaptogenic Herbs?
When you hear nutritionists and herbalists talk about herbs that help fight fatigue and boost energy, you’ll hear the word "adaptogen" thrown around. Adaptogenic herbs help improve the health of your adrenal system, which manages the body’s stress response.
Adaptogens help you cope with feelings of stress and anxiety and fight off fatigue without the sudden burst and crash of energy. The term "adaptogen" refers to their unique ability to adapt to what your body currently needs. While you won’t feel the instant jolt of caffeine that a cup of coffee will give you, with time you’ll notice adaptogens giving you natural energy without any of the side effects of coffee. The majority of the best herbs for energy are considered adaptogens.
While adaptogens aren’t nearly as popular in Western cultures, they have been used in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years. Adaptogens have the unique ability to either stimulate or sedate you, depending on what the body requires at that moment. If you’re feeling fatigued, adaptogens will give you a natural boost of energy. If you’re feeling high-strung and anxious, adaptogens can ease those feelings. 1
Some of the best known adaptogenic herbs are highlighted below.
In a 2009 study published in Planta Medica, the effects of Rhodiola rosea were tested on subjects with stress-related fatigue. The study consisted of 60 individuals between the ages of 20 and 55. One group received four Rhodiola rosea tablets daily while the other group took a placebo. After 28 days, the results showed that those who took the Rhodiola rosea tablets showed less fatigue, increased mental performance, improved concentration, and decreased cortisol response to stress. 2
You can take Rhodiola in the form of a tincture, tea, or capsule. Particular tinctures will tell you how much to take at a time and can be added to a mug of tea or a glass of water.
Maca root is native to Peru and is often used to reduce fatigue and increase vitality. It is also used to boost libido, strengthen the immune system, promote fertility, regulate the menstrual cycle, and ease symptoms of menopause. Maca is known as an adaptogen and can help balance hormones. 3
There have not been a lot of human studies on the effects of maca on fatigue, but one study looked at the effects of maca extract on mice. The 160 mice were split into different groups—control, low-dose maca, and high-dose maca. They were then subjected to a swimming test which tested levels of endurance and fatigue. The results showed that the mice who were given high doses of maca were able to swim for longer periods of time before getting exhausted. 4
Maca has a bitter, nutty taste and is a great addition to smoothies. If you are averse to the taste, it can also be taken in capsule form.
Ashwagandha is native to India and Northern Africa and is widely used in Ayurvedic medicine. It helps stabilize mood, improve memory and focus, and boost endurance. It is also used to reduce the negative effects of stress on the body.
In a 2013 study published in Integrative Cancer Therapies, the effects of ashwagandha were studied on levels of fatigue in breast cancer patients. The study consisted of 100 patients in two groups, with one group receiving an ashwagandha extract with chemotherapy and one group just getting chemotherapy. The results of the study showed that after 24 months, those who were taking the ashwagandha extract showed significantly lower levels of fatigue than those who did not receive the extract. 5
Ashwagandha is most easily found in powder or supplement form.
Panax ginseng is known as an adaptogen, aphrodisiac, and stimulant. It is often used to promote overall well-being, boost endurance, reduce stress, and increase energy.
A 2013 study published in PLoS One studied the anti-fatigue effects of Panax ginseng on 90 subjects suffering from idiopathic chronic fatigue. The subjects were split up into two groups for four weeks, with one group taking a placebo and one group taking an extract of Panax ginseng. The results showed that those who took the ginseng extract reported reduced levels of fatigue and increased concentration. 6
Panax ginseng can be drunk as an herbal tea or taken in supplement form.
Ginkgo Biloba has been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years and is commonly used for its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and circulation-boosting effects. It is also known to improve cognitive function, increase energy levels, improve mood, and boost memory and focus.
A 2011 study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that an extract of Ginkgo Biloba improved cognitive function in 19 healthy middle-aged male subjects. 7 Ginkgo Biloba promotes circulation in the brain, which can assist in keeping people more alert and focused.
Ginkgo Biloba is most easily found in supplement form and can also be found in herbal tea blends formulated for focus and memory.
Aside from adding herbal supplements to your diet, essential oils derived from popular herbs and spices can also give you the boost you need to get through your day. Try diffusing cinnamon leaf, peppermint, ginger, basil, or black pepper essential oils throughout your home to stimulate your mind and reduce fatigue.
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