Herbs and Plants for Energy, Focus, and Fighting Stress
Lack of energy seems to be one of the biggest problems adults have today. Whether it is a result of not getting enough sleep (an even bigger problem), being stressed, mildly depressed, or just lacking vibrancy, increasing your energy level can make everything in your life easier, and more enjoyable.
There are many herbs and plants that can have a profound affect on your energy level, with little to no side effects. Here are some of our favorites:
Rhodiola Rosea – Rhodiola is an adaptogenic herb that grows in the cold mountainous regions of Europe and Asia. Adaptogens are herbs that help the body absorb and adapt to stress, helping the body return to stability. Research has shown some promising results using rhodiola to fight stress, lower anxiety, relieve symptoms of mild depression, improve brain function, and lessen the effects of fatigue.
How to use it: We recommend that you take 400-600mg of rhodiola daily, earlier in the day. You may start to see results after as few as 3 days. Some people find rhodiola overstimulating. If that is the case for you, try taking it on alternating days only, or lower your dosage. Be sure to look for supplements that contain at least 3% of rosavins, and 1% of salidrosides, the naturally occurring active ingredients in the rhodioloa plant.
EGCG/Green Tea – Green tea provides energy because it contains caffeine (50-70mg a cup vs. about 90mg for a cup of coffee), but it also contains other important compounds that are great for your health. Green tea contains EGCG, a catechin which is a natural antioxidant, meaning it helps to prevent cell damage and reduce free radicals in the body. Green tea also contains L-theanine, which is known to increase neurotransmitter activity, and may have anti-anxiety effects. L-theanine also increases dopamine and the production of alpha waves in the body, leading to improved mood, memory and concentration. Green tea also boosts your metabolism and increases fat burning in the body. Generally, green tea will give you a milder and more sustained “buzz” than coffee, along with some additional anti-oxidant and brain boosting benefits.
How to use: A great way to drink green tea is to drink matcha, which is finely ground whole green tea leaves. Drinking it in this form allows you to retain all of the benefits of the tea leaves, that can be lost when only steeping the tea leaves. Matcha also provides a higher concentration of EGCG, but can be slightly bitter, so is often consumed with a bit of natural sweetener or milk. Start with ½ teaspoon of high quality matcha in 8oz of hot water, and increase to 1 tsp as your tastes adjust.
Maca – Maca is a root native to Peru, and has been traditionally used to boost fertility and libido. It is sometimes referred to as Peruvian Ginseng. Maca root has been shown to reduce anxiety and symptoms of depressions, particularly in menopausal women. It has also been claimed to help gain muscle, increase strength, and boost energy.
How to use: Maca root powder can be added to smoothies, oatmeal or in baked goods. It has an earthy, nutty flavor. Add up to 5mg maca in powder form, or take a 500mg capsule.
Cordyceps – Cordyceps is a fungi that has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for centuries. It is thought to increase the body’s ATP production, which helps the cells with energy delivery. It may also help the way the body uses oxygen, and has been shown to increase VO2Max. It is also said to help fight fatigue, boost strength, and fight inflammation.
How to use it: Naturally grown cordyceps is very difficult to harvest, thus many supplements contain a synthetic version called cordyceps CS-4. The recommended dosage is 1-3 grams per day.
Ashwaganda – Ashwaganda is a medicinal herb used frequently in Ayruveda. Ashwaganda is an adaptogen, and is known to increase energy by helping the body to react to stress and fatigue. Research has shown that people who use ashwaganda have significant improvements in measures of stress and anxiety, compared to those who were given a placebo, and had 28% lower levels of cortisol, a stress hormone. Ashwaganda may also increase muscle strength, reduce inflammation, aid male fertility and testosterone levels, and lower blood sugar levels.
How to use it: Take 500mg once or twice per day. If you have an autoimmune disease or are taking thyroid medication, please consult your doctor before taking ashwaganda.
Ginseng – Ginseng has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for centuries. There are many types of ginseng (fresh, white, red, American, Asian) with American supposed to have a relaxing effect, and Asian having an energizing effect. Ginseng has been shown to promote energy and fight fatigue. Ginseng is also an anti-oxidant, and has anti-inflammatory properties.
How to use it: Ginseng can be consumed raw, taken in a capsule, steeped into a tea, or added to food in powdered form. In raw form, 1 -2 g a day can be taken. In capsules or extracts, stick to 100 – 400 mg a day. You should only take ginseng for 2-3 weeks, with a 2 week break in between cycles for best effects.
CoQ10 – Coenzyme Q10 or ubiquinone is made naturally in the body and is found in all cells, stored in the mitochondria. The mitochondria are the energy makers in the cells, making adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which helps energy transfer. CoQ10 and the mitochondria also help protect the cells from oxidative damage. CoQ10 levels decrease with age, and some disease, so supplementation can help the body fight oxidation, and increase energy.
How to use it: CoQ10 supplements come in 2 forms – ubiquinol and ubiquinone. Be sure to choose the ubiquinol which has better absorption. It is recommended to take 100-200 mg per day, but you can usually go up to 500mg without any side effects. Taking it with food can help increase absorption, as can taking it in a liquid form with oil, since it is fat soluble.
Disclaimer: This information is intended to be educational and is not a prescription or guarantee of health outcome.