While caffeinated beverages might be your go-to when it comes to powering through the day, they aren’t the only route. Herbs like ginseng, sage, and ashwagandha have all been proven to support high energy levels and they come in handy if you often struggle with that post-coffee crash or resisting a second or third cup. Even worse, consuming too much caffeine can cause headaches, insomnia, nervousness, and irritability, making an alternative source of energy appealing.1 Find out the best herbs for energy and how to incorporate them into your daily wellness regimen.
Used medicinally for over 2,000 years, ginseng was known as an “all-healing” herb in China, Korea, and Japan.2 It boosts energy by facilitating the biochemical reactions in cells that yield energy and increasing cortical levels of dopamine, noradrenalin, and serotonin in the brain.3 According to a Mayo Clinic study, high doses of the herb American ginseng given over two months reduced cancer-related fatigue in patients more effectively than a placebo with no apparent side effects.4
While there are many supplements on the market today containing ginseng, natural ginseng root can also be prepared in a number of ways. You can chew on it raw or stew it in water to make tea. You can also cook with ginseng by simply adding it to stir-frys or soups.5
You might already have rosemary hiding in your spice drawer. But it’s the oil form of this fragrant herb that is said to increase energy levels. According to research published in Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology, energy-boosting terpenes in rosemary enter the bloodstream via the nasal passages, crossing the blood-brain barrier to improve cognitive performance and elevate mood.6
If you’re looking to increase mental energy, perform better on tasks, and maybe even improve your memory, both rosemary oil and rosemary-infused water will do the trick.7
Ashwagandha is a revered plant in Ayurvedic medicine dating back 6,000 years as a healing tonic and aphrodisiac. As an adaptogen, it increases resistance to physical, chemical, and biological stressors, builds energy and general vitality. In addition to fighting inflammation, reducing anxiety, and supporting brain health, ashwagandha can also help you stay energized. In one study of 50 healthy male/female athletic adults, ashwagandha enhanced cardiorespiratory endurance during exercise by increasing red blood corpuscles and improving mitochondrial health.8
Though ashwagandha was traditionally taken as a fine powder mixed with water, ghee, or honey, there are now a number of ashwagandha supplements available to incorporate this plant easily into your health regime.
While you may have used sage to clear bad energy from your home or to spice up a recipe, the herb can also be used to sharpen mental stamina and improve your mood thanks to its antioxidant properties and terpene levels.9 In one recent study, participants who took sage enjoyed better working memory and accuracy in cognitive performance tasks quickly (after just two hours of consuming the herb).10
Fresh sage leaves can be used sparingly in dishes or made into a tincture or tea. There are also various sage extract supplements available to make incorporating this herb into your routine easier than ever.
Taking herbs is just one way to support your energy levels and overall health. Learn how to naturally gain energy by detoxing your body, staying hydrated, following a healthy diet, and more. Choosing natural sources of energy is preferable to caffeinated beverages, which have the potential to interfere with sleep and dehydrate the body, which can both affect your immunity. Sugar is also notorious for suppressing the immune system, leaving you more susceptible to illness.11
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Erica Garza is an author and essayist from Los Angeles. She holds an MFA from Columbia University and a certificate in Narrative Therapy. Her writing has appeared in TIME, Health, Glamour, Good Housekeeping, Women's Health, and VICE.