The 9 Best Herbs for Energy

Do you constantly have low energy while managing a long list of daily tasks? Is caffeine a frequent solution to boost your energy?  Research shows that low energy is a …

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Written by: Daniel Powers, MS
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Do you constantly have low energy while managing a long list of daily tasks? Is caffeine a frequent solution to boost your energy? 

Research shows that low energy is a common affliction that impacts most individuals. While caffeine can be a short-term solution for increased energy, it often leaves the body and mind in a state of exhaustion. While improving low energy can be difficult, there are natural ways to support high energy days. 

Using natural herbs for energy is a great way to improve energy levels, without having to rely on caffeine.

This article gives a summary of the most significant scientific research behind the best herbs for energy.

herbs for energy - rosemary - cover image

Overview:

Low energy is considered a state of “weariness, tiredness, or lack of energy.” People often describe it as having a lack of vigor or absence of vitality in their life. 

In the US, approximately 38% of the overall population has reported feeling considerable fatigue. General causes of low energy consist of chronic stress, a hectic lifestyle, aging, and some diseases such as obesity, inflammation, and depression. 

Chronic stress is one of the most common causes of low energy due to an overworked HPA axis. The HPA axis is responsible for the release of glucocorticoids (cortisol) which causes alertness during stressful situations. However, with the consistent presence of stress, the HPA axis goes into overdrive causing a steady release of cortisol that exhausts the body.

Natural herbs can alter the body’s stress response and improve energy levels. 

The Best Herbs for Energy:

Below are the best herbs for improving energy levels. These herbs have been known to benefit energy production in various ways. 

herbs for energy - rhodiola

1. Rhodiola 

Rhodiola is an herb known to support the production of energy through its ability to impact physical performance and mental focus. It’s thought to be one of the best herbs for energy and motivation.

In studies involving healthy volunteers, both single and repeated doses of rhodiola extract had an anti-fatigue effect. The extract also improved cognitive performance in subjects that engaged in stressful situations. 

A review observing the use of Rhodiola rosea extract discovered that the extract improved overall brain function and focus in individuals with chronic fatigue syndrome. The primary constituent in rhodiola, rhodioloside, demonstrated a mentally stimulating effect after a single dose. 

Summary:

Research indicates that rhodiola may increase physical performance and focus, but additional human studies would be beneficial in confirming these findings.
herbs for energy - eleuthero

2. Eleuthero

Eleuthero root is considered one of the best natural herbs for energy and improved physical stamina/athletic performance. 

In a study implementing eleuthero supplementation, researchers observed that the supplement was able to increase VO2 max (maximal oxygen consumption) by 12% and improve endurance time by 23% in recreationally trained college-age males. These two markers imply that the eleuthero impacted the metabolism of these college students by sparing glycogen. 

A similar 8-week study found that 800mg of eleuthero was effective for improving energy levels in college-age males. The eleuthero was able to improve cardiovascular function and increase endurance. 

A review discovered that repeated administration of eleuthero is able to improve mental energy in high-stress situations. The eleuthero increased memory and concentration through the “excitation of the CNS” and decreased adrenal activity. Decreased adrenal activity implies a stress-lowering effect. 

Over 35 clinical trials conducted in normal and stressful conditions found that eleuthero has the capacity to improve mental and physical energy. These trials involved healthy human subjects. 

Summary:

Several human clinical studies have found that eleuthero is effective in improving physical endurance, energy, and concentration.
herbs for energy - schisandra

3. Schisandra

The “five-flavor” berry, schisandra, is thought to be one of the best herbs for boosting energy levels and stamina.

These reports are initially from 1950s Russia when the research was conducted to observe the effects and benefits of schisandra on athletes or workers with labor-intensive jobs. 

Although these studies are elusive and difficult to get ahold of, a scholarly review summarizes some early human clinical trials that involve schisandra. 

One study reported that 2mL of schisandra extract had the ability to significantly increase the work capacity and physical force of male subjects. The extract increased their abilities by 24-42% over a 3-hour period. 

Another study found that schisandra seed extract increased the working capacity of 19 healthy participants by 49.2%.

An earlier study observed that soldiers involved in a 20km ski run saw improvements in shortness of breath, exhaustion, levels of thirst, and muscular pain after being administered 6g of schisandra seed extract. 

Another study found that the administration of schisandra resulted in increased physical capabilities for highly trained gymnasts. Even after the administration stopped, the gymnasts could still feel the benefits of the schisandra. 

A 1965 study involving oarsman found that schisandra extract improved function of the respiratory & cardiovascular systems, increased hand muscle power, decreased weight loss, and reduced the time it took to cover prescribed distances. The extract was given at 1,2, and 3-hour intervals prior to physical exertion. 

Summary:

According to research, schisandra may be able to increase work capacity and reduce the side effects of taxing physical exertion. Human studies are needed to further confirm these findings.
herbs for energy - ashwagandha

4. Ashwagandha  

Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb known for its ability to reduce stress and improve energy levels.

A placebo-controlled study involving subjects with a history of chronic stress found that ashwagandha root extract was highly effective for reducing cortisol levels. This ability supported the participants’ overall resistance to stress which is a common marker for balanced energy levels. 

Another placebo-controlled trial found that ashwagandha extract was helpful for improving VO2 max and fatigue recovery. Researchers noted that these results demonstrate ashwagandha’s benefits for enhancing cardiovascular endurance. 

In a review, researchers found that ashwagandha supplementation was supportive of enhanced strength, improved cardiovascular fitness, and the reduction of fatigue. These findings suggest that ashwagandha may help improve physical performance and reduce muscle fatigue.  

Summary:

Several studies show evidence of ashwagandha’s ability to reduce cortisol levels and increase fatigue recovery, however, more human research is required for confirmation if these findings.
herbs for energy - cordyceps

5. Cordyceps

Cordyceps is a type of fungus that is a highly revered natural remedy for improving energy. It’s also said to have the potential to improve endurance and tolerance to intense exercise.

In a trial involving 10 volunteers, Cordyceps militaris increased tolerance to exercise after 3 weeks of supplementation. Researchers noted that a longer-term study may support an improvement in results. 

Another study using Cordyceps sinensis (cordyceps with the same potential actions as Cordyceps militaris) found that cordyceps capsules were able to improve exercise performance in healthy older subjects. The capsules were administered 3x/day for 12 weeks. 

In a review, researchers highlighted cordyceps’ energetic powerhouse abilities by demonstrating their potential to revitalize organs involved in the stress response. The cordyceps also showed the ability to increase oxygenation and improve overall physical endurance. 

Summary:

Cordyceps may be beneficial in increasing physical endurance and tolerance of exercise. Addition human studies would be useful in verifying these findings.
herbs for energy - asian ginseng

6. Asian Ginseng

Research has shown that Asian ginseng is able to benefit respiratory endurance, the effects of fatigue, and mental energy. 

A 2014 study involving participants with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease discovered that ginseng has the ability to increase respiratory endurance through improved pulmonary (lung) function. Improved lung health allows for more oxygen to be taken into the lungs, increasing endurance, and allowing for higher energy output.

In a research review, Asian ginseng produced an anti-fatigue effect and also improved mental clarity and performance. After repeated administration, the effects of the ginseng were two-fold. 

Summary:

Asian ginseng shows potential of being able to improve respiratory endurance, mental performance and clarity. More human clinical research needs to be conducted to confirm these findings.
herbs for energy - maca

7. Maca

Maca is known to be one of the best herbs for energy and increased stamina. 

Researchers found that maca showed promising results in increasing the physical performance of athletes. On average, physical output increased by 10.3%, and the maximum value for the increase in oxygen consumption was 33.6%. These observations demonstrate that maca has the ability to increase physical energy and performance.

In a small-scale pilot study, maca improved bike-time performance over a 14-day period. The placebo group also had a similar increase in performance after the bike time trial was repeated. 

A placebo-controlled study involving healthy men found that maca increased self-reported energy levels. 

Summary:

Several studies indicate that maca may improve physical performance and energy. Large-scale human studies are required for confirmation of these findings.
herbs for energy - shilajit

8. Shilajit 

Shilajit is a sticky, mineral-rich substance that is made through the gradual decomposition of plants over thousands of years. Shilajit is one of the best herbs for an energy boost.

In a review, shilajit was found to stimulate energy production and increase muscle strength at high altitudes. This effect may be attributed to the fulvic acid content found in shilajit which supports the supply of minerals to the body. 

A study observed that the supplementation of shilajit was able to promote increased muscle strength in recreationally-active men. The 500mg supplement was administered daily for 2 months. 

Summary:

Shilajit has been found to promote energy and increase muscle strength, but further clinical research would be beneficial in verifying these findings.
herbs for energy - rosemary

9. Rosemary

Rosemary is an aromatic herb for mental and physical energy. 

A trial involving Japanese men observed that rosemary extract was able to improve energy levels and mental clarity after 4 weeks of administration. The extract also improved levels of fatigue, mood, and cognitive function.  

In a recent 4-week intervention trial, adults with mild depression were administered 8g of rosemary extract daily. The extract significantly improved levels of fatigue upon waking as well as mental energy. Participants also reported a decrease in anxiety tension. 

Summary:

Several trials show evidence of rosemary’s abilities to increase energy and mental clarity, however, additional human studies should be performed in order to confirm these findings.

Common Symptoms of an Energy Imbalance:

Low energy is an issue that is often a symptom of a greater health issue.

Some common symptoms of an energy imbalance include: 

  • Fatigue
  • Mental exhaustion
  • Irritability
  • Weakness
  • Headaches
  • Decreased physical activity

Cause and Improving an Energy Imbalance:  

Low energy can be caused by a number of different external and internal factors. Addressing these factors may help improve energy balance within the body and increase energy output.

Some common causes of low energy include:

  • Smoking
  • Obesity and physical inactivity
  • Diet
  • Chronic stress 
  • Inadequate sleep
  • Poor mental health
  • Aging

Examining different lifestyle choices may support an increase in energy levels and may alleviate the root cause of the imbalance.

Some lifestyle changes that can improve energy levels include: 

  • Implementing an exercise routine
  • Avoiding smoking
  • Eating a healthy, whole food-based diet
  • Weight management
  • A consistent sleep routine 

Both modern medical care, and lifestyle changes, can significantly impact energy levels. Implementing the use of natural herbs and remedies to improve energy may provide preventative and active benefits for energy balance. 

herbs for energy - infograph

Conclusion:

Balanced energy intake and output is necessary for a high quality of life and sustained health. 

As previously mentioned, a variety of natural herbs have been scientifically proven to improve energy and energy balance.

Whether it’s through the regulation of the HPA axis, increased physical performance, improved brain function, or an increase in respiratory & cardiovascular function, there are a number of ways to improve levels of energy. 

Please note that it is highly important to consult a health care professional when considering supplemental changes to your daily routine. 

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About Daniel Powers, MS

Daniel has a master's degree in herbal science from the Maryland University of Integrative Health. He has a passion for herbal medicine and how it can be used to support everyday health & wellness.

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