Everyone can use a little extra energy from time to time, what are effective energy boosting herbs? With the rigorous schedules and obligations healthcare providers (HCPs) have, not to mention their commitments to family, energy can get used up quickly. Coffee may offer a quick pick-me-up, but too much of it and the jitters and a crash follow.
Fortunately, natural alternatives do exist. Unlike caffeine, many also support overall health and well-being. This makes them ideal for HCPs who need to power through their days. They’re also great alternatives for patients who may struggle with low energy.
We’ve put together a list of 6 incredible energy boosting herbs from around the world. Three of them are featured in Energy Power Plus [LINK TO PRODUCT], an Innovative Chinese Medicine formulation featuring two ancient herbs and one relative new-comer to the Chinese Herbal Medicine pharmacopeia.
The great thing about all 6 of these is the absence of side effects. Where the caffeine in coffee and tea can cause that jittery feeling and, if taken in the afternoon, prompt insomnia, these come side effect free and provide all-day support.
This one is a treasure of Chinese Herbal Medicine. Flavonoids and glycosides, especially salidroside, power this herb and its adaptogenic properties. It grows around the world and has been used to overcome both physical and mental fatigue. It’s one of the go-to herbs for Sherpas who live and work in the harsh, high-altitude conditions of the Himalayas.
For Rhodiola, there’s tradition and there’s research. Through the centuries, people have turned to it because it works. Research has sought to isolate what it does and how. While research is ongoing, studies have found:
- Rhodiola does positively affect physical performance[i],[ii]
- It Eases stress and corresponding fatigue by regulating cortisol levels[iii],[iv]
- The herb lifts the mood and helps preserve a state of calm[v]
This energy-booster has become wildly popular in recent years. Yet, like Rhodiola and others on this list, it’s been a staple for centuries. It’s scientific name is Lepidium meyenii and is commonly known as Peruvian Ginseng. Regardless of its name, maca root has been an integral part of the diet for the indigenous peoples in the Andes mountains.
Maca’s nutrient density qualifies it as a superfood. It’s loaded with vitamin C, niacin and vitamin B6 as well as dietary copper, potassium, iron and calcium.[vi] It also supplies iodine, a mineral everyone needs but many often don’t get enough of.[vii]
Maca became popular in the West for its positive affect on libido and its support of a woman’s sexual health. People familiar with maca have known it also possesses powerful anti-fatigue properties. Research so far has observed:
- Maca contains two polysaccharides that boost energy[viii]
- In people, both red and black, though red moreso, improves sexual desire, supports a positive mood and enhances energy[ix]
- Athletes enjoyed better physical performance after taking maca root[x]
Ok, this herb is really a fungus. And the nature of it’s fungus may contribute as much to its notoriety as its powerful energy supporting effects! Also known as the caterpillar fungus, Cordyceps is another of those herbs popular with the Sherpas and others who live in the Himalayas. It’s also a rare herb with wild-harvested Cordyceps going for the thousands of dollars per pound!
The price makes the native herb inaccessible to many. However, research and advances in technology have revealed where the active compounds come from in the fungus. This has made it possible to mass produce the mycelium to make its energy enhancing and health benefits available to a wider audience!
How does Cordyceps boost energy? Researchers have found:
- Cordyceps enhances ATP production[xi]
- Improves lactic acid metabolism for better recovery and physical performance[xii]
- Helps promote sugar metabolism through increased insulin sensitivity[xiii],[xiv]
Native to Northern China and Northeast Asia, the berries of this creeping vine have been popular in Chinese Herbal Medicine for its adaptogenic properties. It’s known as omija in Korean. Traditional practitioners have used it to promote liver function, increase energy, promote relaxation and support libido. The berries can be blended in juices and smoothies, although their taste includes all five flavors – salty, sweet, bitter, sour and pungent, so they’re rarely eaten on their own.
Schisandra’s popularity is relatively new, but so far researchers report:
- The berry supports mitochondrial energy production through antioxidant protection[xv]
- Animal studies show it improves endurance and reduces muscle fatigue[xvi]
- It enhances metabolism, reduces inflammation and improves insulin response[xvii]
You probably expected to see this one here. One of Ayurveda’s most prominent herbs, Ashwagandha, aka Indian ginseng or Withania somnifera, has been used as a tonic for a variety of conditions. Traditionally, it has been used to ease stress and anxiety, lift the mood, and restore vigor to the patient.
Like other energy-enhancers, Ashwagandha is an adaptogen. It has been widely researched for a variety of conditions including brain, heart and nervous system health, with benefits observed in each of these areas. A general review of its effects identified it possesses antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-fatigue properties and helps to ease stress and improve immune response.[xviii]
For energy, the studies show Ashwagandha:
- Supports ATP metabolism[xix]
- Increases oxygen levels in the blood[xx]
- Improved circulation and improved cardiovascular health[xxi]
This herb’s popularity has led it to become endangered in the wild! Native to the Eastern U.S., it has long been used by Native Americans for a safe and quick energy boost.
Today, American Ginseng, or Panax quinquefolius, is used around the world. People take it for energy and to fight colds and viruses. It’s even been shown to support memory and improve blood sugar metabolism.
And the research shows American ginseng has proven anti-fatigue effects. In one study, cancer patients were given American ginseng during treatment. Those who received it had more energy and responded better to their therapy than those in the control group who did not receive it. [xxii]
Research continues into how American Ginseng promotes energy and reduces fatigue. Some studies have suggested:
- American ginseng supports metabolism[xxiii]
- Improves blood flow by stimulating nitric oxide production[xxiv]
- Provides antioxidants which support overall health[xxv]
[i] Noreen EE1, et al. The effects of an acute dose of Rhodiola rosea on endurance exercise performance. J Strength Cond Res. 2013 Mar;27(3):839-47. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e31825d9799.
[ii] Duncan MJ, Clarke ND. 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;2014:563043. doi:10.1155/2014/563043.
[iii] Panossian A1, et al. Rosenroot (Rhodiola rosea): traditional use, chemical composition, pharmacology and clinical efficacy. Phytomedicine. 2010 Jun;17(7):481-93. doi: 10.1016/j.phymed.2010.02.002. Epub 2010 Apr 7.
[iv] Anghelescu IG1, et al. Stress management and the role of Rhodiola rosea: a review. Int J Psychiatry Clin Pract. 2018 Jan 11:1-11. doi: 10.1080/13651501.2017.1417442. [Epub ahead of print]
[v] Cropley M1, et al. The Effects of Rhodiola rosea L. Extract on Anxiety, Stress, Cognition and Other Mood Symptoms. Phytother Res. 2015 Dec;29(12):1934-9. doi: 10.1002/ptr.5486. Epub 2015 Oct 27.
[viii] Li J1, et al. Anti-fatigue activity of polysaccharide fractions from Lepidium meyenii Walp. (maca). Int J Biol Macromol. 2017 Feb;95:1305-1311. doi: 10.1016/j.ijbiomac.2016.11.031. Epub 2016 Nov 10.
[ix] Gonzales-Arimborgo C, et al. Acceptability, Safety, and Efficacy of Oral Administration of Extracts of Black or Red Maca (Lepidium meyenii) in Adult Human Subjects: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study. Pharmaceuticals (Basel). 2016 Aug 18;9(3). pii: E49. doi: 10.3390/ph9030049.
[x] Stone M1, et al. A pilot investigation into the effect of maca supplementation on physical activity and sexual desire in sportsmen. J Ethnopharmacol. 2009 Dec 10;126(3):574-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2009.09.012. Epub 2009 Sep 23.
[xi] Manabe N1, et al. Effects of the mycelial extract of cultured Cordyceps sinensis on in vivo hepatic energy metabolism and blood flow in dietary hypoferric anaemic mice. Br J Nutr. 2000 Feb;83(2):197-204.
[xii] Chen S, Li Z, Krochmal R, Abrazado M, Kim W, Cooper CB. Effect of Cs-4® (Cordyceps sinensis) on Exercise Performance in Healthy Older Subjects: A Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2010;16(5):585-590. doi:10.1089/acm.2009.0226.
[xiii] Balon TW1, et al. A fermentation product of Cordyceps sinensis increases whole-body insulin sensitivity in rats. J Altern Complement Med. 2002 Jun;8(3):315-23.
[xiv] Lin B, Li S. Cordyceps as an Herbal Drug. In: Benzie IFF, Wachtel-Galor S, editors. Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition. Boca Raton (FL): CRC Press/Taylor & Francis; 2011. Chapter 5.
[xv] Ko KM1, Chiu PY. Biochemical basis of the “Qi-invigorating” action of Schisandra berry (wu-wei-zi) in Chinese medicine. Am J Chin Med. 206;34(2):171-6.
[xvi] Kim YJ1, et al. Omija fruit extract improves endurance and energy metabolism by upregulating PGC-1? expression in the skeletal muscle of exercised rats. J Med Food. 2014 Jan;17(1):28-35. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2013.3071.
[xvii] Park HJ1, et al. Omija fruit ethanol extract improves adiposity and related metabolic disturbances in mice fed a high-fat diet. J Nutr Biochem. 2017 Mar;41:137-141. doi: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2016.12.016. Epub 2017 Jan 9.
[xviii] Mishra LC1, et al. Scientific basis for the therapeutic use of Withania somnifera (ashwagandha): a review. Altern Med Rev. 2000 Aug;5(4):334-46.
[xix] Singh N, Bhalla M, de Jager P, Gilca M. An Overview on Ashwagandha: A Rasayana (Rejuvenator) of Ayurveda. African Journal of Traditional, Complementary, and Alternative Medicines. 2011;8(5 Suppl):208-213. doi:10.4314/ajtcam.v8i5S.9.
[xx] Sandhu JS, Shah B, Shenoy S, Chauhan S, Lavekar GS, Padhi MM. Effects of Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha) and Terminalia arjuna (Arjuna) on physical performance and cardiorespiratory endurance in healthy young adults.International Journal of Ayurveda Research. 2010;1(3):144-149. doi:10.4103/0974-7788.72485.
[xxi] Thirunavukkarasu M1, et al. Enhanced cardiovascular function and energy level by a novel chromium (III)-supplement. Biofactors. 2006;27(1-4):53-67.
[xxii] Barton DL1, et al. Wisconsin Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) to improve cancer-related fatigue: a randomized, double-blind trial, N07C2. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2013 Aug 21;105(16):1230-8. doi: 10.1093/jnci/djt181. Epub 2013 Jul 13.
[xxiii] Singh RK1, et al. Alcohol extract of North American ginseng (Panaxquinquefolius) reduces fatty liver, dyslipidemia, and other complications of metabolic syndrome in a mouse model. Can J Physiol Pharmacol. 2017 Sep;95(9):1046-1057. doi: 10.1139/cjpp-2016-0510. Epub 2017 Jun 30.
[xxiv] Vuksan V, et al. Efficacy and safety of American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius L.) extract on glycemic control and cardiovascular risk factors in individuals with type 2 diabetes: a double-blind, randomized, cross-over clinical trial. Eur J Nutr. 2018 Feb 24. doi: 10.1007/s00394-018-1642-0. [Epub ahead of print]
[xxv] Szeto YT1,2, et al. American ginseng tea protects cellular DNA within 2?h from consumption: results of a pilot study in healthy human volunteers. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2015;66(7):815-8. doi: 10.3109/09637486.2015.1088937. Epub 2015 Sep 22.