All of us have days when we feel rundown and tired. Our fast-paced and busy culture doesn't always leave time for refreshment. And though energy drinks and coffee have become the norm, there are plenty of herbs out there that can naturally boost your energy levels.
Caffeine isn't necessarily bad for you, but drinking too much of it (think lots of coffee) will give you an energy spike that ends in a bad crash hours later. You also have to keep consuming it in order to keep feeling energized.
Herbs are a good alternative to surviving on caffeine or synthetic energy products. They work naturally with your body and can have long-lasting effects. Here's more about how they work and a list of the top herbs you can use for energy.
How Herbs Can Give You Energy
Before getting into the list of herbs, let's take a closer look at the ways they can interact with your body to improve energy. Also, keep in mind that some will provide more of a mental boost, while others help with physical vitality. Many do both.
Stimulants- You're most likely already familiar with stimulants because this is the category caffeine falls into. A stimulant has a specific and immediate action on your body, regardless of what state you're in. It provides a feeling of energy and can also increase heart rate, blood pressure, etc.
Stimulants, including caffeine, can be helpful at certain times. The main problem is that they have short-term effects, don't restore or balance your body, and can have negative side effects.
Tonics- In many ways, tonics are the opposite of stimulants. They don't give you a burst of energy but rather work to restore balance and health to your body so that your natural energy levels return.
The downside is that you need to take to take tonic herbs for a while to notice a difference. However, they have long-lasting effects and will actually restore energy rather than just stimulating your body.
Adaptogens- Most adaptogens are also tonic herbs (meaning they work over a period of time), but they differ in how each one works. Adaptogens have a non-specific action, meaning they work with the needs of your body at the present moment. They improve your resistance to stress, bring you back into balance, and naturally increase energy.
Top Herbs for Energy
Ginseng is probably one of the most well-known herbs for energy. There are two main types that you can use: Korean or Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng) and American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius). Both have adaptogenic properties and can lessen fatigue and stress.
Most herbalists recommend ginseng as a tonic, although it can have a mildly stimulating effect as well. Many of its benefits are thought to come from compounds called ginsenosides. (1) American ginseng may particularly help with adrenal fatigue.
Also known as Siberian ginseng, eleuthero root (Eleutherococcus senticosus) is another adaptogen that has long been used in Chinese medicine for energy and stamina. It can relieve both physical and mental fatigue, improve energy, and even boost athletic performance. (2)(3)
Eleuthero is especially beneficial after long-term sickness or stress. If you're dealing with daily stress, try it in this Adrenal Love tea to keep your nervous system supported.
Maca is an adaptogenic tonic herb that has grown a lot in popularity lately. It's a root that grows high up in the Andes mountain range and has a history of use for boosting energy, stamina, and overall vitality.
Maca root is a food, which means it can be consumed regularly, even in large amounts. You can easily find it in powdered form and mix it into smoothies, shakes, or oatmeal. It has a nutty taste on its own, and some suppliers combine it with cocoa powder for better flavor.
Peppermint is in a category all of its own. This herb is known as "a blast of green energy," but it's not a stimulant. The natural energy peppermint gives is refreshing and revitalizing without depleting energy reserves or giving you a crash later.
You may have already experienced the energizing nature of mint simply by inhaling the fragrance of crushed leaves. The essential oil has shown potential for improving athletic performance, but a cup of tea is great for everyday energy. (4) Peppermint also combines well with many other herbs for energy on this list.
Green tea is a much milder stimulant than something like coffee. It contains caffeine but in a much lower amount. Green tea also contains a natural compound called L-theanine. When L-theanine is combined with caffeine, it's been shown to decrease tiredness and mental fatigue, improve memory, and stop the normal "caffeine crash" from happening. (5)(6)(7)
Plus, green tea is packed with antioxidants that protect your body and mind from chronic diseases.
Also called golden root, rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea) is an adaptogenic herb that comes from arctic regions of Europe and Asia. It has been the subject of more studies than most adaptogens and has a confirmed ability to alleviate physical and mental fatigue. (8)
Rhodiola can also help to decrease cortisol (the stress hormone) in your body and may help with mood and depression. (9)
Schisandra (Schizandra chinensis) has been used in Chinese medicine for centuries. It's an adaptogen that can boost energy, relieve stress, and improve concentration. (10) Schisandra can also help with endurance and adrenal fatigue.
Ginkgo biloba is the oldest surviving species of tree and one of the best known herbal brain boosters. Its leaves are packed with antioxidants and support memory, brain function, focus, and clarity.
Ginkgo can also help with stamina and energy levels, although most people value it for its mind-boosting abilities. To notice a difference, you should take ginkgo for a period of time, since it's a tonic herb.
Yerba mate is a stimulant herb that contains caffeine and can have an instant effect on your energy levels. It's a traditional South American beverage made with the leaves and twigs of Ilex paraguariensis.
Many people find that drinking yerba mate boosts their mood and energy but without the jittery side effects that can come with coffee. Just keep in mind that drinking too much of it can wear out your nervous system like other caffeinated beverages. It also hasn't shown any long-term effects for improving energy but can make a good coffee substitute.
Nettle is a tonic herb that is a good plant source of easily assimilated iron. It also has many other nutrients that especially support the female body. For this reason, nettle is frequently used in iron-boosting blends to help with fatigue during pregnancy.
Taking nettle regularly will also help your mind and body recover from fatigue at any point in life. It won't have an immediate effect, but the long-term results are well worth a little patience.
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) has become a very popular adaptogenic supplement. It's been a staple herb in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years and will improve your resistance to stress. (11)
Ashwagandha is also unique in that it can help with both better sleep and increased energy. How it works in your body very much depends on what your needs are when you take it. The good news is that sleeping better will definitely improve your energy as well!
Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra) is a very unique herb. It can have stimulating effects that boost your energy and adrenal system right away. It's also frequently used in formulas with other herbs because it boosts and synergizes their effects.
Licorice can be taken for 4-6 weeks at a time to get the full effect, but it can have toxic side effects if taken for too long or in too high an amount. Read up on the potential precautions associated with licorice root before you start taking it.
It may surprise you that a mushroom can be considered an herb, but there are many fungi used for medicinal purposes. Cordyceps in one such mushroom that has powerful adaptogenic properties. It can reduce stress, boost endurance and energy, and even strengthen your immune system.
Holy basil, also frequently called tulsi, is yet another adaptogenic herb that can provide physical and mental energy. It can be taken as a daily tonic to increase your overall vitality and is thought of as an herb of longevity. If that wasn't enough, tulsi can also help with stress and anxiety.
Precautions When Taking Herbs for Energy
All of the herbs on this list are generally safe to use. Most rarely have side effects, but keep in mind that everyone reacts to herbs differently. It's best to start with small doses and work your way up once you see how you react.
Some herbs may be contraindicated during pregnancy or if you have a medical condition. Do your research and speak to a qualified herbalist before using if you have any concerns.
Certain herbs like ginseng, eleuthero, and yerba mate shouldn't be taken in the evening because they can make it more difficult to sleep.
Boost Energy Naturally With Herbs
Herbs are one of the best ways to naturally improve your energy levels. Most of us have gotten so used to the instant impact of caffeine that we aren't taking advantage of nature's way of providing energy.
You can still use caffeine to get a daily boost, but adding in adaptogens and tonic herbs will really help restore your vitality long term. Pick a few herbs to start with and give them a chance to do their work!