Written by John Summerly
How difficult is it for us to achieve a work-life balance? How much more difficult is it to achieve a life-energy balance?
If you are constantly tired, or struggle with your energy levels through the day, a few ancient herbal formulas can help you achieve the balance you never thought possible.
Skip your daily sugar boost, coffee or red bull because in the long-term they will always let you down. Adaptogenic herbs will give you sustained energy and vitality while allowing your mind to think freely, calmly and without excessive stimulation.
What are Adaptogenic Herbs?
Adaptogenic herbs demonstrate a nonspecific enhancement of the body’s ability to resist a stressor, increasing your resistance overall against physical, chemical and biological stressors. Modern herbalists say adaptogenic herbs are plants with properties that exert a normalizing influence on the body, neither habit-forming, over-stimulating nor inhibiting normal body function, but rather exerting a generalized tonifying effect.
Herbal formulas found in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic medicine restore a healthy stress response typically using traditionally prepared formulas, however each herb can be taken on its own. Here are 12 of the best.
12 Herbs to Increase Energy and Vitality
1. GREEN TEA
Instead of reaching for a cola mid-day, try brewing a cup of green tea. Green tea drinkers experience an increase in the activation of the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain associated with working memory, which you need for problem solving and focus.
Green tea is made solely from the leaves of Camellia sinensis that have undergone minimal oxidation during processing. It has become the raw material for extracts which are used in various beverages, health foods, dietary supplements, and cosmetic items. Users should be aware the some sources of green tea may contain excess levels of fluoride so it’s important to purchase from companies that do not use irrigated sources of fluoridated water.
Rhodiola rosea (Golden Root, Roseroot, Aaron’s Rod) is effective for improving mood and alleviating depression. Its effects are potentially mediated by changes in serotonin and dopamine levels.
Used for centuries in Asia and Scandinavia, Rhodiola is still relatively new to the Western market, but its popularity is growing, in large part because of what an incredibly versatile — and relatively inexpensive.
Maca (Lepidium meyenii) is an annual plant native to the high Andes of Peru and Bolivia. It has been harvested and used by humans in the Andean Mountains for centuries.
Darker colored maca roots (red, purple, black) contain significant amounts of natural iodine, a 10-gram serving of dried maca generally containing 52 micrograms of iodine.
It is highly beneficial for reducing fatigue, enhancing energy and endurance, as well as being a superlatively effective adaptagen for everyday living. Maca contains 55 phytochemicals that are known to have vitality-enhancing effects in the body, in addition to being incredibly mineral dense and nutritious.
Maca has the ability to heighten libido and improve semen quality. Its favorable effects on mood, may decrease anxiety and improve sexual desire. The effects of Maca are due to the root’s unique nutritional profile, which provides optimum levels of nutrients utilized by the body’s endocrine system. It may even alleviate medication-induced sexual dysfunction caused by pharmaceutical antidepressants.
Ashwangandha (Withania somnifera) is one of the premier restorative herbs in Ayurvedic medicine. It is known to help stabilize mood and support optimal physical and emotional well-being. It is also known to improve memory and focus and endurance. It is believed to reduce the effects of stress on the body. The berries and leaves of ashwangandhaare locally applied to tumors, tubercular glands, carbuncles, and ulcers.
Schisandra (Schisandra chinensis) is a deciduous woody vine native to forests of Northern China and the Russian Far East. Its berries are used in traditional Chinese medicine, where it is considered one of the 50 fundamental herbs. They are most often used in dried form, and boiled to make a tea. Medicinally it is used as a tonic and restorative adaptogen with notable clinically documented liver protecting effects. It supports the immune system, relieves anxiety, increases energy, and it can improve mental clarity. It’s sometimes called the “five flavors berry,” because it tastes sour, bitter, sweet, salty and acrid all at once.
Considered the “ginseng of mushrooms”, Cordyceps (Cordyceps sinensis) are known to have a truly awesome effect on endurance and stamina. Research has shown that Cordyceps are highly effective in treating respiratory ailments, enhancing aerobic performance, increasing sex drive, strengthening the immune system, as well as having anti-stress properties. Researchers have also noted that a polysaccharide isolated from Cordyceps has a hypoglycemic effect and may be beneficial for people with insulin resistance.
Panax ginseng roots are taken orally as adaptogens, aphrodisiacs, nourishing stimulants. It is perhaps one of the most studied medicinal herbs in the world — and might be one of the most widely used. It is a proven anti-inflammatory, can regulate blood sugar and can even inhibit some characteristics associated with cancer.
8. HOLY BASIL
Holy Basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum) has been found in many studies to be equivalent to many modern painkillers. It is also know to protect from radiation poisoning. Within the tradition of Ayurvedic medicine, it is used to alleviate stress, headaches, colds, digestive problems and inflammation. Recent studies have also shown that it’s also a powerful antioxidant and may even be able to reduce blood glucose levels and cholesterol.
Astragalus has a history of use as a herbal medicine and is used in traditional Chinese medicine. Either alone or in combination with other herbs, has potential benefits for the immune system, heart, and liver, and as an adjunctive therapy for cancer.
Found to help restore compromised immune response due to excessive stress and toxicity from the environment. Cited as being extra beneficial for those with chronic immune deficiencies, it is recommended above Echinacea for its ability to provide deeper assistance to those who’ve consumed large quantities of antibiotics and have become susceptible to infections. Astragalus is consumed through capsules, tinctures, or in a tea. For best results, it is used for several weeks to several months at a time.
10. HE SHOU WU
He Shou Wu (Fallopia multiflora) is also known as polygonum multiflorum, and is predominantly referred to as such in Pubmed. It is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine as a tonic to slow down the aging process. It is a restorative herb, calming to the nervous system, and has also been shown topromote hair growth, alleviate insomnia, and may aid with learning and memory.
Traditional Chinese medicine uses reishi to “calm the spirit.” Reishi, (literally “supernatural” mushrooms) have been used for more than 2,000 years, making them perhaps the oldest mushroom to be used medicinally. They can be helpful to reduce anxiety, alleviate insomnia, combat fatigue, and lower blood pressure.
Especially when used in oil of oregano, this herb is an excellent for detox and vitality. Add a twice daily dose of oil of oregano (1-2 drops in 8oz of water–for a bonus healing infusion, add two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to the water for its healthy bacteria and its reputation for internal healing and detoxifying). Oil of oregano also has extremely high levels of antioxidants which help protect the body from chronic conditions. It boosts the immune system, aids in digestion (good digestion=higher energy as more nutrients are absorbed), and helps rid the body of parasites (yet another potentially hidden cause of chronic fatigue).