There’s a reason $40 billion is spent on coffee in the U.S. alone, and it isn’t just for the taste (1).
Plain black, cold brew, cappuccino, frappuccino, iced – you name it, every type of coffee has one thing in common that we crave: its energy boost. Unfortunately, while we may get a good rush every morning from the brew, it’s usually a temporary effect that leaves us needing another cup a few hours later.
This might not seem like a big deal to many. After all, there’s usually a coffee shop on every corner, making it easy to refuel. However, if you find yourself feeling edgy and jittery after your daily “boost,” your nervous system and adrenals (glands that regulate stress hormones) might not agree with the excess stimulation.
This is because the caffeine in coffee acts as a strong central nervous system (CNS) stimulant, which is what gives you your initial energy burst. It’s also a double-edged sword, in that stimulating your CNS too often can cause you to feel shaky, jittery and eventually experience burnout when your adrenals finally decide they’ve had too much.
This creates a continual cycle of caffeine stimulation, over-stimulation, and fatigue. Eventually, you end up needing more caffeine to function normally – leaving you even more fatigued when that energy runs out. This roller coaster is a recipe for eventual burnout of your energy levels.
9 Naturally Herbs and Roots to Give You Energy
Luckily, there’s a healthy and nourishing escape from the wild ride of excess caffeine. Many natural herbs, barks, roots, and even berries have energizing properties that work with your body to produce increased energy, without over-stimulating your nervous system.
You can take your pick (maybe even literally!) of nature’s natural energizing herbs below.
Yerba mate tea, brewed from the dried leaves of the Ilex paraguariensis plant, has its origins in South America, where it is widely consumed for its vitality-enhancing effects (2).
As yerba mate has grown more and more popular in the Western world over the years, researchers have uncovered several properties that make it a superstar in the energy world. For one, it has been found to contain even more antioxidants than green tea, while also being associated with enhanced metabolism and physical performance (3, 4).
Guarana extract, which comes from the Brazilian native plant Paullinia cupana, is something you probably want to have on hand if mental focus and energy is your goal.
Research has shown that guarana improves task performance (specifically tasks that require a lot of attention) and improves the speed of short-term memory (7).
Tongkat Ali Root
Tongkat Ali Root, or Eurycoma longifolia, is ideal for when you feel like stress is at the root of your low energy levels.
Studies have found significant improvement in mood and other stress parameters, like tension, in people supplementing with Tongkat Ali. It has been recommended as a supplement to help blunt the effects of daily chronic stressors (traffic, anyone?) and also help boost libido and free testosterone (8).
Schizandra berries are unique energy boosters that have herbal adaptogenic properties. “Adaptogens” are a powerful class of energizing herbs that help your body adapt to stress and resist fatigue while improving overall vitality and boosting energy levels (9).
Schizandra certainly lives up to its label, with studies showing it not only increases mental performance, but also acts as a strong antioxidant, improves reaction time and endurance, and even protects against increased stress from heat shock, exposure to toxic heavy metals, and irradiation (10).
If it was used by the Vikings for strength and endurance, it’s probably worth a second look.
Rhodiola rosea’s impressive past doesn’t stop with one of the most physically durable people in history, however. This high altitude herb was also used extensively in ancient medicine systems throughout Asia and Europe, as an anti-cancer and tuberculosis treatment in Mongolia, and as a fertility booster throughout Siberia (11).
Today it’s known for its ability to enhance performance, speed up workout recovery, lower inflammation, and improve stress-related fatigue and depression (12).
Chinese ginseng has been an integral part of traditional Chinese medicine for over 2,000 years. Like schizandra, it’s also an adaptogen that is commonly used to increase longevity, boost the immune system, and raise energy levels (13).
Other studies have also shown positive effects on cognitive performance, sexual function, and physical performance (14).
Ginkgo biloba, which hails from the leaves of the Chinese gingko tree, is commonly referred to as the “brain herb” for its positive effects on cognitive function.
It has been found to support brain activity, improve focus and memory, and is apparently “the most investigated and adopted herbal remedy for cognitive disorders and Alzheimer’s disease,” according the International Journal of Phytotherapy and Phytopharmacology (15).
Maca root, a plant native to Peru, has been cultivated and consumed for well over 2,000 years for its libido and energy-boosting effects (16).
It turns out Maca has quite a few unique tricks up its sleeve when it comes to benefits. Not only is it an adaptogen, but it also enhances fertility, mental function, memory, learning, physical performance, and even protects skin from the damaging effects of too much sunlight (17).
If you’re looking for energy to power through tough workouts, beetroot might be your new go-to boost.
The nitrate in beets has been shown to increase stamina and endurance by reducing the oxygen cost of exercise on the body. One study showed that participants were able to exercise for up to 16 percent longer after supplementing with beetroot juice (18).
How to Use Natural Energizers
The sky is truly the limit as to how you can incorporate these energizing herbs into your daily routine. For instance, you can brew up some yerba mate mixed with green tea for your mid-afternoon pick-me-up, snack on dried schizandra berries, or even add maca root powder to homemade, gluten-free bars or cookies.
However, since we’re all up for saving time, the easiest way I’ve found to get a healthy burst of energy from each of these herbs is to take them in powder form mixed with water. Rootz Nutrition in particular makes a quick raspberry-lemonade blend that you can sip anytime: first thing in the morning for a quick wake-up call without the jitters, as a study aid, or even as a pre-workout. It contains every herb on this list, plus other energizers that work to increase circulation, vitality, and focus, like beetroot, turmeric, and green tea.
Personally, I noticed an immediate difference using Rootz during my workouts. I tend to have a short attention span in the gym, preferring short and intense workouts over longer ones (and by longer I mean over 20 minutes!). However, even after my first dose of Rootz, I noticed a level of mental focus that made it easy for me to sustain my workout. I also noticed less breathlessness during my circuits, which allowed me to push harder.
This focus also seemed to transfer over to my daily tasks. I found it was easier to sit and write for longer periods of time without getting distracted, and also felt less “brain drain” after long bouts of intense focus.
Overall, there’s really no reason not to give these powerful, energizing herbs (or a blend of them) a try. You might find yourself responding better to stress, or not needing that “essential” afternoon nap. Either way, reaching for herbals will nourish your body rather than deplete it, which is the ultimate goal.
This post is sponsored by our friends at Rootz Nutrition. Our goal is to always bring you healthy, Paleo-friendly articles that we know you’ll love. We only feature trusted brands approved by the PaleoHacks team.
(Read This Next: Health Benefits of Yerba Mate, a Natural Coffee Alternative)