|Heidi Moretti, MS, RD|
Functional Medicine Nutritionist
Herbal Medicine Expert
When seeking natural herbs for energy to fuel my day, I like to think beyond coffee. Don’t get me wrong. Coffee has its benefits and can offer a quick boost. The problem is that ongoing caffeine use takes its toll on our body’s sleep-wake cycle.
Eventually we end up feeling stressed out, exhausted and fatigued. Then we need to drink more coffee. It’s that famous caffeine vicious cycle so many people fall into.
Time to take a deeper dive into one of my favorite topics: natural herbs that promotes clean energy that lasts. No caffeine, no jitters, no crashes.
Adaptogenic Herbs for Energy
The herbs I’m going to mention here are adaptogenic herbs, meaning they can naturally help the body adapt to stress.
Adaptogenic herbs regulate energy in the body and improve the cellular energy transfer. Simply put, they allow the body better utilize oxygen, glucose, lipids and proteins to provide us with a steady supply of energy.
The amount of research on these herbs is very impressive. It’s exciting how natural herbs have so much to offer to improve our energy, quality of life, health and wellbeing.
Last thing before we get started: while all the herbs I will mention are found to be both safe and effective, as with any nutritional changes, always check before use with your healthcare provider.
The King of Herbs for Energy: Ginseng
I’m so impressed by ginseng health potential, I think it deserves a separate article, one article for each benefit. And there are many of them.
To summarize the evidence, ginseng has a long traditional use with thousands of studies that evaluated its different capabilities. In this article, we’ll focus on its benefits for energy, physical, and mental performance.
Known as a general tonic, ginseng has been used to boost physical performance, enhance sexual function, encourage general vitality, and promote longevity.
According to research, ginseng and its active constituents, ginsenosides, can increase energy production and improve physical and mental performance. In In addition. ginseng has been extensively studied for its ability to promote healthy immune system function, support central nervous system health, control diabetes, and even benefit neurological disorders.
The Three Types of Ginseng You Need to Know
Ginseng is a powerhouse herb for energy. Most people who try ginseng really love how it improves energy, stamina, and mental performance.
And the best part? Ginseng doesn’t have any caffeine. It won’t disrupt your sleep. In fact, according to some studies, ginseng can actually improve sleep.
In this article I will discuss the three most popular types of ginseng and their pronteital benefits for energy. All types are so common, chances are you see them under different names every day:
- Korean Ginseng also known as asian ginseng, red ginseng, or panax ginseng
- Ashwagandha also known as indian ginseng
- Maca also known as peruvian ginseng.
While all these types are known to support energy, each have additional different capabilities. You can try each type by itself, or combine them together, as they tend to complement each other.
Ginseng Fuzion which includes all the three types of ginseng is a great example. The liquid drops make it really easy to use, so you can add it to your water, teas or other drinks while on the go.
See the recipes section in the end of the article for some easy to do recipes. No blender is required.
One more thing. Make sure to give ginseng some time to work. As in any natural herbs for energy, not everyone responds the same or need the same serving size. Start low, see how your body responds, and go from there. Especially if you are trying to reduce your coffee intake.
Korean Ginseng: Herb for Energy & Fatigue
The most common ginseng type used for energy is korean ginseng, also known as asian ginseng, red ginseng, or panax ginseng.
Several studies found that korean ginseng stimulates energy consumption in skeletal muscle and liver. In fact, due to its potent yet gentle effect on energy, the medical community considers korean ginseng as a promising treatment for fatigue in people with chronic illness.[3,4].
In addition to its ability to increase energy levels and reduce fatigue, ginseng may also support healthy weight loss. According to research, ginseng can promote fat metabolism, regulate blood sugar and reduce appetite.
Ashwagandha: Herb for Energy, Endurance & Stress
My personal favorite of the adaptogen herbs is ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) also known as indian ginseng.
I often encourage my clients who battle with stress and fatigue to try this herb as a natural way to support their energy and calm their stress levels. They usually come back and report a resounding love for this wonderful plant.
Ashwagandha is a traditional ayurvedic medicine that has become very popular nowadays as a natural supplement for our stressful lifestyle.
Most people who try ashwagandha like its balancing effects. It can relax you and at the same time give you energy.
Due to its potential as a natural herb for energy, ashwagandha is a well studied herb as well. Several studies found that ashwagandha can improve endurance, cardiorespiratory fitness and sense of wellbeing. [5,6].
The benefits of ashwagandha go above and beyond energy. Additional human studies showed that ashwagandha was able to normalize the stress hormone cortisol, improve quality of sleep, reduce food cravings, and even strengthen the muscles.[7,8]
You can supplement ashwagandha as a whole root or in an extract form. I personally like to have ashwagandha powder added to my tea or as a part of my coffee substitute recipes. You can also mix ashwagandha into your smoothies or foods.
Ashwagandha is a very clean and safe herb with very few side effects reported. With that said, there were a few individual cases of hyperthyroid. While it wasn’t clear if these were actually related to its use, it is always best to speak with your doctor before. Especially if you have hyperthyroid concerns.
Maca: Herb for Energy & Mood
Perhaps most popular for its purported sexual enhancing effects, maca (Lepidium meyenii) is also known as a potent herb for energy. I like to combine maca together with ashwagandha due to their synergistic effect.
According to research, maca contains a group of carbohydrate molecules called polysaccharides (MPS1 and MPS2) that have anti-fatigue effects.
A large clinical trial found that red and black maca enhanced energy and increased overall mood and sense of well-being.
Maca is available in both powder or extract form. If you consider using maca powder, make sure it is either boiled or gelatinized for best absorption.
Fun fact about maca: this herb is actually a cruciferous vegetable!
Rhodiola rosea: Herb for Energy & Stress & Brain Function
Any review of the best clean herbs for energy will never be complete without the adaptogen herb Rhodiola rosea. Originating in Russia and cold european climates, rhodiola has long been used to battle stress, reduce fatigue, boost energy and promote mental clarity.
On top of these traditional uses, rhodiola is another example of a natural herb for energy that is extensively studied. And I mean, a lot of studies. Rhodiola truly shines in its ability to boost energy, enhance exercise performance and improve cognitive function. Yes, we are talking about one herb that does all these together.
To give you an idea, here is a quick summary of some of the research:
Rhodiola supports natural energy by increasing AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), an enzyme that plays a role in cellular energy. In clinical studies, Rhodiola was able to effectively reduce fatigue related to stress.[12,13]
Improve exercise performance
Rhodiola rosea was able to improve exercise endurance performance as well as lung capacity in a clinical study. This includes an ability to reduce the perceived effort of exercise, making it seem easier.[14, 15]
In addition to its ability to boost exercise performance, Rhodiola can help the body better adapt to the exercise. Muscles had less damage and less lactate after exercise in male athletes who received Rhodiola.
Improve cognitive function
A meta-analysis of 36 studies found that Rhodiola was able to optimize key neurotransmitters and improve learning and memory function.
Schisandra: Tonic Herb for a Balanced Overall Energy
Next on the list of herbs for energy is one of chinese medicine famous tonic herbs, Schisandra. Also known as magnolia berry, this powerful adaptogen herb is recognized by its ability to promote a well balanced energy.
Several studies have suggested that schisandra can improve physical endurance and cognitive/behavioural functions, which can be linked to a general anti-aging potency. In fact, many researchers believe that schisandra can regulate mitochondrial biogenesis. Mitochondria are the parts in our cells responsible for making energy.
In general, schisandra is a great herb to add into your daily routine. Many people combine it with ashwagandha and rhodiola for a balancing overall effect. While schisandra is considered safe for most people, you may want to avoid if you have reflux, intracranial pressure, or epilepsy.
Fun fact: the name schisandra translates to five-flavor-fruit due to its unusual combination of five flavors.
Peppermint Essential Oil
If you haven’t noticed how peppermint awakens the senses, you should give it a try. Simply inhale its aroma and feel how it energizes you almost instantly!
Several studies actually explored the potential of this aromatic herb to boost energy. According to research, peppermint essential oil enhanced exercise performance and improved memory and focus.[19,20,21]
While a little bit of peppermint is good, more is not always better. You only need to inhale a little bit of the essential oil and see how you feel. While everyone may respond different, if you find that peppermint does give you more energy, then you definitely want to have a small bottle of peppermint in your gym bag!
Peppermint sensitivity can occur in some people, so always use caution.
Herbs for Energy – Recipes
You can combine all these herbs for energy in your water, drinks, teas, smoothies, juices and even meals.
Ginseng Fuzion which I mentioned earlier makes it easy due to its liquid form. Here are some easy recipes you can use while on the go.
Try to mix 1 ml of Ginseng Fuzion with:
- Pre workout:
Beet juice or pomegranate juice to enhance exercise performance, increase blood flow and improve focus
- Cutting down coffee?
Mix with green tea (hot or cold) to support your body as you reduce your coffee intake
- Coffee alternatives:
Mix with chicory root
- Post workout:
Mix with coconut water, a vegan protein powder and BCAAs to help balance cortisol levels, hydrate your body and support protein synthesis and recovery
- Gentle energy during cleansing:
Cleansing doesn’t mean low energy. Mix Ginseng fuzion with your favorite detox tea.
See: Candida Tea Recipe for an example of a detox antifungal tea recipe that includes green tea, coconut oil, cinnamon, ginger, and lemon.
Adaptogenic herbs offer a safe and effective natural way to power your day, improve your physical and mental performance, and help your body to better adapt to stress.
As in all herbs, the source matters. Make sure to choose reputable brands that stand behind the quality and purity of their herbs. Always check with your doctor before using. If you are pregnant, you should generally avoid herbs, since most herbs weren’t tested on pregnant women.
Heidi’s work and research is focused on helping people gain function and vitality by tackling the root causes of illness using evidence based natural medicine methods, including foods, herbs, supplements and personalized diet plans.
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