Adaptogens are a class of herbs that support the regulation of the body’s stress response. In this article, we’ll review the best adaptogens for energy and focus.
They are able to help the body build resilience and strength through a number of biological mechanisms.
Table of Contents
How Adaptogens Impact Energy:
Research shows that adaptogens have the potential to:
- increase physical endurance
- improve mental performance
- and reduce fatigue.
Some of these effects may be a result of adaptogen’s stress-protective actions.
Through regulation of the HPA axis and cortisol release, adaptogens seem to have the ability to level the stress response and therefore increase the body’s energy output.
This adaptogenic effect is thought to increase energy transfer so the body can use its resources more efficiently.
Best Adaptogens for Energy and Focus:
Adaptogens tend to fall under two categories: calming/relaxing or stimulating/energizing. For mental or physical energy, stimulating adaptogens are the way to go.
Below are the best adaptogens for energy and focus:
This energizing adaptogen is a perennial herb that grows in colder climates. Its scientific name is Rhodiola rosea and the root is the part most commonly used in herbal medicine.
Research suggests that rhodiola is able to improve exercise performance by increasing physical endurance. Researchers believe rhodiola is able to do this by decreasing heart rate as well as the perception of effort. A decreased heart rate during exercise signifies a stronger, more efficient heart as well as a higher level of cardiovascular fitness.
In a review involving Rhodiola rosea extract, researchers documented effects such as improved focus and overall brain function in participants with chronic fatigue syndrome. It was also discovered that rhodioloside, a primary phytochemical in rhodiola, demonstrated a mentally stimulating effect after a single dose.
In studies with healthy volunteers, single and repeated doses of rhodiola extract demonstrated an anti-fatigue effect as well as cognitive improvement when participants engaged in stressful situations.
Summary:Research shows that rhodiola can help to improve energy and physical endurance. It also appears to be helpful for mental focus and brain cognition.
Schisandra chinensis is a plant that grows in China and far east Russia. It’s commonly called the “five flavor berry” adaptogen. It’s thought to be one of the best adaptogens for energy.
In an overview of research conducted in Russia, schisandra users showed increases in endurance and performance accuracy. This effect may have been due to the changes in the blood cortisol levels. It’s thought that this stress-regulating effect helped to increase physical and mental energy.
A clinical study showed that Schisandra chinensis increased mental performance and reduced fatigue and weakness in subjects with asthenia. This action is thought to be the result of the stress-relieving abilities of schisandra.
Summary:Schisandra appears to be a helpful adaptogen for energy and focus. In particular, it appears to have a brain-stimulating effect. More clinical trials are needed to prove its effects on physical energy.
The adaptogen eleuthero holds a wide variety of health benefits ranging from increased energy to regulation of the stress response. It is known as “Siberian ginseng” due to its mirroring actions similar to both American and Asian ginseng, but it does not belong to the ginseng family. It’s an important adaptogen for energy production.
In an 8-week study, 800mg of Eleutherococcus senticosus was given to recreationally trained college-age males. Results showed increased endurance and improved cardiovascular function.
After repeated administration, a review mentioned that eleuthero is able to improve mental energy in stressful situations through increased concentration and memory. This was shown through the “intensified excitation of the CNS” and decreased adrenal activity (an important stress lowering effect).
Eleuthero has also been proven to improve physical and mental capacities in over 35 clinical trials involving healthy human subjects. This research was conducted in normal and stressful conditions.
Summary:Small-scale clinical trials show that eleuthero is helpful for increasing mental and physical performance. Larger human clinical trials are needed to verify these promising results.
Cordyceps is a species of fungus that fall under the adaptogenic category due to their potential to improve endurance and tolerance to intense exercise. They are found growing in the high altitudes of the Himalayas.
Cordyceps militaris increased tolerance to exercise in 10 volunteers after 3 weeks of supplementation. It should be noted that this was a short-term study and consistent chronic administration may elicit greater benefits.
In a separate study, Cordyceps sinensis (cordyceps with the same potential actions as Cordyceps militaris) improved exercise performance in healthy older subjects. The capsules were administered 3x/day for 12 weeks.
A review of cordyceps highlighted it’s energetic powerhouse abilities. Nutritionally potent cordyceps are reported to revitalize organs involved in the stress response, increase oxygenation, and improve overall physical endurance.
Summary:Clinical research shows that cordyceps can help to improve physical energy and work output. This makes it a great adaptogen for energy and focus.
5. Panax Ginseng
Panax ginseng is a highly revered adaptogen in Traditional Chinese Medicine. The roots are the parts that are used in herbal medicine. It’s also known as Asian ginseng, red ginseng, and Korean ginseng.
In a 2014 study, ginseng demonstrated improved pulmonary (lung) function and respiratory endurance in participants with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The study participants were given 200mg of Panax ginseng 2x/day for four weeks.
A research review showed that ginseng was able to produce an anti-fatigue effect, as well as improve thinking and mental performance. These effects were duplicated after repeated administration.
Summary:Research shows that ginseng is an effective adaptogen for physical and mental energy. It also appears to have an antifatigue effect.
Our last adaptogen that supports energy is shilajit, which is a thick, black-ish brown sticky substance. This oozy, mineral-rich substance is made from the gradual decomposition of plants over thousands of years.
A review of this “herbomineral” substance claims that the fulvic acid content in shilajit is able to stimulate energy production and increase muscle strength at high altitudes. This may be due to shilajit’s ability to provide most minerals to the body.
A study involving sixty-three recreationally-active men points out that a shilajit supplement promoted increased muscle strength after an exhausting exercise. This effect occurred after the “high-dose group” was given 500mg/day for 8 weeks.
Summary:Shilajit is a physically stimulating adaptogen. It appears to be helpful for individuals looking to increase physical energy and strength.
Evidence shows that adaptogens have the ability to regulate the stress response and increase endurance through improved cardiovascular, respiratory, cognitive, and HPA function.
With these effects, adaptogens have the potential to reduce fatigue and increase both physical and mental energy.