9 Best Herbs for Energy [with Infographic]
If you have trouble getting a good night’s sleep and feel fatigued throughout the day, you’re not alone. Nearly half of Americans admit that they are too sleep deprived to function properly on the roads and at work.1
Many modern-day factors play a role in the fatigue that we all experience to one degree or another. Some of these key factors include:
- Poor diet
- Too little or too much exercise
- Exposure to artificial and blue light
- Alcohol and stimulant use
- Busy work schedules
- Emotional stress
Stress and energy production
The main factors of energy production are our total stress load and the body’s ability to resist stressors such as those listed above. When we have excessive stress that we are unable to manage, the body’s mitochondria switch from energy production mode to defense mode. This is a phenomenon that metabolic expert Dr. Roberk Naviaux refers to as cell danger response.2
Symptoms of low energy
Beyond the obvious symptoms of frequently feeling tired and sleepy, there are a several other symptoms that may indicate that you are fatigued. These include:
- Muscle weakness
- Poor concentration
- Low motivation
- Loss of appetite
- Slow reflexes
- Reduced immunity
Eventually, chronic fatigue and its associated symptoms can lead to serious conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, depression, and cancer.
Why turn to herbs for energy?
Millions of people around the world consume caffeinated drinks such as coffee, soda, or unhealthy energy drinks to deal with the fatigue they are experiencing. Similarly, many turn to sugary foods for some quick energy. While these substances can certainly give you an immediate boost, they will eventually make your energy levels worse over time.
Herbs, on the other hand, work to balance the body so it can switch from preservation mode to producing sustainable energy. So if you are looking for a natural solution to your fatigue problems, consider the following 9 herbs for energy.
Also referred to as Asian or Korean ginseng, Panax ginseng has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years. Ginsenosides are the key component in Panax ginseng, as they have been found to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anticancer effects. Research shows that ginsenosides can also benefit psychologic and immune function, as well as conditions associated with diabetes.3
Along with these benefits, Panax ginseng shows potential for protecting mitochondria and improving energy metabolism. One study found that a daily oral dose of Panax ginseng polysaccharide (PGP) increased production of ATP in rats, which is a key energy-carrying molecule produced in the mitochondria.4 Another study found that Panax ginseng had antifatigue effects of patients with idiopathic chronic fatigue (ICF).5
Cordyceps is a parasitic fungus that infects insects and spiders. After the fungus consumes the host’s body from the inside, a long thin mushroom grows out from its head. While the process sounds grotesque, the result is a special type of fungi that can offer a number of health benefits.
Cordyceps not only have anti-inflammatory and immunity properties, but have also been found to increase cellular energy and slow the aging process in rats.6 7 Cordyceps sinensis and cordyceps militaris are the two most well-known cordyceps. The natural form of these cordyceps is extremely expensive, so the fungus is typically grown in a lab.
Curcumin is the key bioactive ingredient in turmeric, a spice that is well-known for its medicinal properties. Some common ailments that curcumin is used to treat include digestive disorders, inflammation, and pain. This popular spice may also work to prevent diseases such as Alzheimer’s, arthritis, and metabolic syndrome.8
More importantly if you are looking to improve your energy, research shows that curcumin has the potential to decrease lipid peroxidation and restore mitochondrial function.9 This is important because the body needs to have healthy mitochondria to produce energy.
While you can get an instant energy boost from a cup of coffee, green tea is a better beverage choice if you’re looking for sustained energy without the side effects that often result from excessive caffeine. Green tea has much less caffeine than coffee and contains L-theanine, which helps the body absorb the caffeine more slowly.10
Green tea is also effective at boosting your metabolism, which is great for energy as well as burning fat.11 It contains more antioxidants than coffee as well, which is another good reason to substitute green tea for your morning cup of Joe.
Moringa leaves come from the Moringa tree, which originated in India and also grows in Africa, Asia, and South America. Considered a superfood, moringa leaves contain a variety of vitamins and minerals that are known to increase energy and reduce fatigue. These include:
- Vitamin A
- B Vitamins
The moringa leaf also contains abundant essential amino acids. These help to prevent things like weakness, lethargy, difficulty sleeping, depression, and lack of energy.12 Two of your best options for moringa are using the leaves in a tea or buying moringa powder.
Like many of the herbs on this list, Rhodiola rosea is a powerful adaptogen. An adaptogen is able to adapt according to the body’s specific needs and can be especially beneficial for stress. Adaptogens like Rhodiola rosea can also benefit energy production and stamina, which are closely tied to the stress response.
One study found Rhodiola rosea to be an effective treatment for those with chronic fatigue. Test subjects who took 400 mg of this herb daily not only noticed a decrease in fatigue, but also related symptoms such as stress, mood, and concentration.13 Another study found that this herb reduced perceived exertion while increasing mood during and after exercise.14
Ginkgo biloba is an herb that has a long history of use in China. In addition to being used to treat dementia, Alzheimer’s, and blood pressure issues, this herb is also well-known for its ability to fight fatigue.
More specifically, ginkgo biloba has been found to prevent the release of stress-induced nitric oxide in the body as well as the associated decrease in ATP production. This not only leads to increased stress resistance, but a subsequent increase in performance and endurance. And along with enhanced physical performance, this herb also impacts mental performance by reducing mental fatigue.15
It’s no coincidence that some of the best herbs for energy are adaptogenic and work to control the body’s stress response. Chronic stress saps our energy and can easily lead to insomnia and anxiety. Ashwagandha is an adaptogen that works to reduce excessive stress, thereby restoring the body’s natural energy production.
One hormone that has a strong correlation with energy production in men is testosterone. Several studies show that ashwagandha can increase testosterone, which is associated with improvements in sperm fertility as well as muscle strength and recovery.16 17 While you should always seek your practitioner’s advice first, this herb may be a viable alternative to hormone replacement therapy if you are suffering from low testosterone.
Maca is a root herb that boasts a number of health benefits. The herb’s growing popularity in recent years is due in part to the beneficial nutrients it contains. Some of these nutrients include:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin B6
- Amino acids
Like ashwagandha, maca is known to increase fertility in men. However, studies show that this root herb can increase libido in both men and women.18 It’s also effective for relieving fatigue, which can lead to improved physical performance.19
Add herbs for sustainable energy
Herbs are a healthy substitute for heavily caffeinated beverages such as coffee, soda, and energy drinks. However, you should consult with your practitioner before adding these herbs to your routine—especially if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or have chronic disorders such as high-blood pressure/cholesterol, depression, diabetes, or kidney or liver disease.
In addition to adding herbs for energy, it’s important to consider the lifestyle factors that are contributing to your fatigue as well. You may just need a one or two small diet tweaks to restore your energy, for example, or a more extensive plan that requires the assistance of a health professional.
For a more individualized approach, a ZYTO bioscan can help you discover the body’s unique preferences for herbal supplements as well as many other wellness products that can enhance energy and vitality. Plus, a ZYTO scan can also help you prioritize specific areas that may be related to your energy issues.
1. “43 Percent of Americans Admit They’re Too Tired to Function at Work.” 1105Media Inc. Ohsonline.com.
2. Naviaux, R.K. “Metabolic features of cell danger response.” Mitochondrian 16 (2014): 7-17.
3. Kiefer, D., & T. Pantuso. “Panax Ginseng.” American Family Physician 68, no. 8 (2003): 1539-1542.
4. Li, X.T, R. Chen, et al. “Regulation on Energy Metabolism and Protection of Mitochondria of Panax Ginseng Polysaccharide.” The American Journal of Chinese Medicine 37, no. 6 (2009): 1139-1152.
5. Kim, H.G., J.H. Cho, et al. “Antifatigue Effects of Panax ginseng C.A. Meyer: A Randomised, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial.” PLoS One 8, no. 4 (2013): e61271.
6. Manabe, N., M. Sugimoto, et al. “Effects of the Mycelial Extract of Cultured Cordyceps Sinensis on In Vivo Hepatic Energy Metabolism in the Mouse.” The Japanese Journal of Pharmacology 70 (1996).
7. Wang, Y.H., J. Ye, et al. “An experimental study on anti-aging action of Cordyceps extract.” Journal of Chinese Materia Medica 29, no. 8 (2004): 773-776.
8. Singletary, K. “Turmeric.” Nutrition Today 55, no. 1 (2020): 45-56.
9. Soto-Urquieta, M.G., S. Lopez-Briones, et al. “Curcumin restores mitochondrial functions and decreases lipid peroxidation in liver and kidneys of diabetic db/db mice.” Biological Research 47, no. 1 (2014): 74.
10. Dodd, F.L., D.O. Kennedy, et al. “A double-blind, placebo-controlled study evaluating the effects of caffeine and L-theanine both alone and in combination on cerebral blood flow, cognition and mood.” Psychopharmacology 232, no. 14 (2015): 2563-2576.
11. Diepvens, K., K.R. Westerterp, & M.S. Westerterp-Plantenga. “Obesity and thermogenesis related to the consumption of caffeine, ephedrine, capsaicin, and green tea.” American Journal of Physiology 292, no. 1 (2007): R77-R85.
12. Bey, Hakim. “All Things Moringa: The Story of the Amazing Tree of Life.” Allthingsmoringa.com.
13. Lekomtseva, Y., I. Zhukova, & A. Wacker. “Rhodiola rosea in Subjects with Prolonged or Chronic Fatigue Symptoms: Results of an Open-Label Clinical Trial.” Complementary Medicine Research 24, no. 1 (2017): 46-52.
14. Duncan, M.J., & N.D. Clarke. “The Effect of Acute Rhodiola rosea Ingestion on Exercise Heart Rate, Substrate Utilisation, Mood State, and Perceptions of Exertion, Arousal, and Pleasure/Displeasure in Active Men.” Journal of Sports Medicine (2014).
15. Panossian, A., & G. Wikman. “Evidence-Based Efficacy of Adaptogens in Fatigue, and Molecular Mechanisms Related to their Stress-Protective Activity.” Current Clinical Pharmacology 4, no. 3 (2009): 198-219.
16. Ahmad, M.K., A.A. Mahdi, et al. “Withania somnifera improves semen quality by regulating reproductive hormone levels and oxidative stress in seminal plasma of infertile males.” Fertility and Sterility 94, no. 3 (2009): 989-996.
17. Wankhede, S., D. Langade, et al. “Examining the effect of Withania somfera supplementation on muscle strength and recovery: a randomized controlled trial.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition (2015).
18. Gonzales, G.F., A Cordova, et al. “Effect of Lepidium meyenii (MACA) on sexual desire and its absent relationship with serum testosterone levels in healthy adult men.” Andrologia 34, no. 6 (2002): 367-372.
19. Shan, G., T. Ying, et al. “Experimentally Comparative Study of Maca and American Ginseng for Relieving Physical Fatigue.” Beijing Centres for Diseases Control and Prevention. CNKI. Cnki.com.cn.