by Dan Ketchum
Using herbs for energy isn’t an uncommon practice, but most folks aren’t quite as familiar with Lion’s Mane, Bacopa Monnieri or even CBD as they are with a hot cup of black coffee — and it’s time that changed. While nothing steps up your energy like a night of uninterrupted deep sleep, a well-balanced diet and regular exercise can give anyone a little boost to get through the grind.
Why Herbal Energy
Supplementing a well-balanced routine with herbs for energy won’t be for everyone — our bodies often react to new supplements in their own unique ways, so boosts in energy levels may vary by person. But herbal ingredients do typically present a safe, low-risk option, especially in contrast with other mainstream (often unhealthy) energy boosters. While caffeine is a natural stimulant, it can also raise your heart rate and blood pressure, a real risk for those with heart issues.
More than that, caffeine is often found in sugary, high-calorie drinks. And let’s not even get started on energy drinks. Take it from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: “A growing body of scientific evidence shows that energy drinks can have serious health effects,” including “heart rhythm disturbances and increases in heart rate and blood pressure.”
On the flip side, caffeine in small amounts doesn’t present much harm as an effective energizer, and herbal supplements can’t be expected to deliver an immediate rush. Instead, expect more consistent, sustained energy levels over time.
Best Herbs for Energy
If you’re looking for a natural energy supplement, being up on your ingredients is key. Go for a tea or supplement that is transparent about what they include in their product (along with where it comes from - the more organic the better!) and includes at least one of the following ingredients for maximum energy-boosting effects.
CBD, or cannabidiol, is a hemp extract that lacks the psychoactive compound of THC, so there’s no high when taking it. And at certain levels, CBD can act as a stimulant that helps you feel calm and focused even if your to-do list is spiraling out of control. If you just can’t ditch that morning cup of coffee, because let’s be real it’s a delicious ritual, there’s thought that CBD can help balance out any caffeine-related jitters when combined with your morning cup.
At higher levels, CBD takes on a more famous chilling effect. A 2019 meta-analysis from The Permanente Journal found that CBD was linked to an “increased duration of sleep” and a therapeutic effect on anxiety, a common drain on energy.
This blanket term covers non-toxic plants that may help the body resist stressors, freeing up much-needed energy to spend on an evening run or an overflowing inbox. One of the most powerful is Rhodiola Rosea, a traditional Tibetian medicinal plant that the journal Medicine reports contains multiple components effective at reducing oxygen complications at high altitude. The resilient herb helps your body resist symptoms of stress like fatigue and anxiety, and it has been shown to support mental alertness and concentration.
Another adaptogen, the Ashwagandha root (Withania somnifera, also known as Indian ginseng), was found to substantially reduce stress levels with no serious adverse effects in a double-blind study of 64 subjects published in the Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine. The root achieves this by substantially reducing serum cortisol levels which, as the journal puts it, “effectively improves an individual’s resistance towards stress and thereby improves self-assessed quality of life.” But you don’t need a medical journal to tell you that less mental overload equals more energy at work and at play.
On this popular herbal solution for increased performance, the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine’s 2018 review of 149 studies concludes that “Ginseng is a promising treatment for fatigue” with a “low risk of adverse events” and “modest evidence for its efficacy.” So, it’s not surprising why it’s showing up in everything from herbal tea to revitalizing face masks.
Though its remedial origins lie in East Asia, ginseng likely owes its enduring global popularity to its diverse applications. The root’s ginsenoside compounds help ease inflammation while increasing the antioxidant capacity of the body’s cells, while daily doses of Panax ginseng may actually benefit social functioning and mood (especially when the supplement is freshly introduced), per research from the Annals of Pharmacoptherapy.
Matcha is a type of green tea, but it’s not just green tea. To make matcha, green tea leaves are first grown in the shade for weeks before they’re harvested, which increases both chlorophyll and L-theanine levels before the leaf is de-veined and de-stemmed.
When it comes to getting you through those last few reps or the final hour of the workday, that rich L-theanine content is where the magic happens. This amino acid tag teams with the leaf’s natural caffeine content (which is less than your typical coffee) to interact with brain chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine. In a study by Nutritional Neuroscience, 44 young adults self-reported increased alertness and reduced tiredness when using L-theanine. And if that doesn’t wake you up, the British Journal of Nutrition notes that long term ingestion of green or black tea could result in a significant reduction in blood pressure.
According to the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, mighty Lion’s Mane mushroom is a “well-established candidate for brain and nerve health” with “neurite outgrowth and neuronal health benefits.” The mushroom helps improve cognitive performance, reduces brain fog and supports a healthy mind. Lion’s Mane is another well-known adaptogen that helps bring your body and brain into balance during times of stress.
As the ancient Egyptian poem goes, “Without leaves, without buds, without flowers: yet they from fruit; as a food, as a tonic, as medicine: the entire creation is precious.”
Like Lion’s Mane, the reputation of Bacopa Monnieri (also known as the Brahmi herb) precedes it. Since at least 500 AD it has been used to ease anxiety, improve memory, and sharpen brain processes such as recall and comprehension. Today, randomized, placebo-controlled trials tell us that chemical compounds isolated from B. monnieri known as bacosides improve the transmission of impulses between neurons and have the capacity to repair damaged neurons. Bacosides also increase serotonin levels, helping promote feelings of relaxation.
To put a bow on those processes, a 2016 report from Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine backs up this ancient Ayurvedic remedy, noting “statistically significant improvement in [tests] relating to cognitive functions” as well as a significant increase in serum calcium levels in blood biochemistry.
Stack Your Supplements
While you may have heard bodybuilders hype up supplement stacking for muscle gains, taking herbal supplements that target day-to-day energy doesn’t have to fill your cabinets with heaps of pills and powders. Each herb’s effects contribute their own unique benefits to your energy levels and cognitive functions, but a product like FOCL Day does the stacking for you with premium hemp CBD, Rhodiola Rosea, Lion’s Mane, L-theanine, vitamin B6, and Bacopa Monnieri all included.
Think of stacking like individual instruments contributing to a full orchestra; sure, they’re great on their own, but they sound better together. For instance, as cannabidiol helps you relax, L-theanine steps in to fire up your alertness. Then, Lion’s Mane and Bacopa monnieri do their work on neuronal function throughout the day. Taking them separately does offer benefits, but stacking also offers combined effects alongside straight-up convenience — why take five caps when you can get a whole concert of herbal perks and interactions in a single capsule?
Dan has been a writer and small business owner since 2009. In the healthcare and cannabis realms, he’s fortunate enough to have collaborated with the likes of Civilized Life, Cetaphil, LIVESTRONG, VitaGenne, DermStore, JillianMichaels.com, Reign Together and more, with work appearing in publications such as USA Today, The Seattle Times and the San Francisco Chronicle’s SFGate, among others.
Harvard Medical School: The Buzz About Caffeine and Health
National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: Energy Drinks
The Permanente Journal: Cannabidiol in Anxiety and Sleep: A Large Case Series
Medicine: Understanding Molecular Mechanisms of Rhodiola Rosea for the Treatment of Acute Mountain Sickness Through Computational Approaches
Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine: A Prospective, Randomized Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study of Safety and Efficacy of a High-Concentration Full-Spectrum Extract of Ashwagandha Root in Reducing Stress and Anxiety in Adults
NCBI PubMed.gov: Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine: Ginseng as a Treatment for Fatigue: A Systematic Review
Healthline: 7 Proven Health Benefits of Ginseng
NCBI PubMed.gov: Annals of Pharmacoptherapy: Effects of Panax Ginseng on Quality of Life
Nutritional Neuroscience: The Combination of L-theanine and Caffeine Improves Cognitive Performance and Increases Subjective Alertness
TIME: Should You Drink Matcha Tea?
Cambridge University Press: Effects of Tea Intake on Blood Pressure: A Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials
Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine: Neuronal Health – Can Culinary and Medicinal Mushrooms Help?
Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Mushrooms and Truffles: Historical Biofactories for Complementary Medicine in Africa and the Middle East
Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Efficacy of Standardized Extract of Bacopa Monnieri (Bacognize) on Cognitive Functions of Medical Students: A Six-Wee, Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial