It’s not a surprise; most people are looking for more energy. Whether you are working & going to school, keeping up with babies and toddlers, homeschooling & running a home, running a business, or playing with grandkids, no one is going to turn down a little extra pep in their step.
How do herbs work to provide energy?
Herbs give us energy in two basic ways; they either act as a stimulant or as an adaptogen.
Stimulants like caffeine excite the body, raising the heart rate, respiration, blood pressure, etc. (motherearthnews.com) Common herbal stimulants include coca, licorice, and ephedra. These can be dangerous because your body can adjust to the amount of alkaloids (like caffeine) in the herb, leading you to need to take higher and higher doses to feel an effect. I will not be talking about stimulants in this blog post and would strongly encourage you not to rely on them for your extra boost of energy.
Herbs can also work as an adaptogen. According to truththeory.com, adaptogenic herbs provide, “nonspecific enhancement of the body’s ability to resist a stressor.” Like the name suggests, they help the body adjust, whether that means calming your nervous system down, or balancing your hormones.
There are many herbs and compounds available that promise to increase energy. Carefully research both the herb and the brand of herb you are buying to make sure that you are making the right choice for you and your family.
I was hoping to find more “energy herbs” that can be grown locally in North America, but found only Ginkgo and Stinging Nettle. So, after some research, I thought I would share my top four herbal adaptogens that have been shown to increase energy. I will be adding to this list as I learn more, so check back soon!
Ginkgo has been shown to increase energy at a cellular level. It does this by increasing ATP production, which then helps the brain process glucose for energy. You learn something new every day. This is generally the most recommended herb for increasing mental energy.
Stinging Nettle has been said to provide more energy than a cup of coffee. I wouldn’t know because I have never had a cup of coffee, but I can say that an infusion of Stinging Nettle can be very refreshing when you remember to actually drink it. (side note; herbal infusions DO mold when you forget them in the back of the fridge.) It is chock full of nutrients, high in protein, and great for all around toning the body. JJ Pursell writes in The Herbal Apothecary that, “It is a wonderful blood builder and nourisher. . . Nettle has been shown to improve bodily function, whether it be sluggish thyroid, kidney, nerves, muscles, or gastrointestinal. ” It also relieves allergy symptoms, inflammatory pain, and nerve pain. Make an infusion using 1 to 2 teaspoons per cup steeped for 8 to 12 minutes.
A not so local herb also very strongly suggested for increasing energy is Siberian Ginseng, also known as Eleutherococcus Senticosus. In Medical Herbalism; the Science Practice of Herbal Medicine David Hoffman writes, “Siberian Ginseng can be considered for prolonged use to ward off exhaustion and stress due to overwork on a long term basis without any side effects.” The benefits include a strengthened immune system, cold and flu relief, a boost in mental performance, and increased physical performance. As a side note, while David Hoffman says that this can be used with no side effects, I have also read that this herb can increase blood pressure or cause sleep issues. Keep that in mind when choosing which herbs to use. Remember; you are ultimately responsible for you & your family’s health.
Another plant that gets a LOT of attention when talking about increasing your energy levels is Maca root. This is used to balance hormones, which can often be an underlying cause of exhaustion. It “nourishes and stimulates your hypothalmus and pituary glands to balance hormone production from the adrenals, pancreas, thyroid, ovarian, and testicular glands.” (naturalhealth365.com) Dr. Axe calls Maca root a nutrient dense superfood with benefits that include increased fertility in both men and women, increased energy, stamina, improved sexual function, memory, and focus. It’s long list of nutrients include over protein, phytonutrients, 20 amino acids, Vitamins B-1, B-2, C, E, calcium, magnesium, potassium, copper, zinc, manganese, phosphorus, selenium, sulphur, and iron. He suggests starting with 1 tablespoon of powdered Maca root and potentially working up to 2 or 3 tablespoons spread through the day.
I want to leave you with a recipe from The Herbal Apothecary called Energy Now Tincture that incorporates some of the herbs I have mentioned. It includes:
– 3 parts eleuthero root
– 3 parts ginkgo leaf
– 1 part guarana seed (a source of caffeine that is released slowly without the negative side effects of coffee. I would skip this.)
– 1 part peppermint leaf.
Combine into a tincture and take 1 to 2 dropperfuls as needed. Check out my post here about making tinctures
I will be adding to this list as I research and try more herbs that are said to improve energy. Remember, I DO NOT claim to be an expert, just a curious wife and mother wanting to keep her family healthy naturally!