Fatigue and a feeling of tiredness are extremely common here in the US. Without realizing it, many of us go through our days self-medicating our adrenal exhaustion with caffeine, nicotine from cigarettes or vaping, sugar, energy drinks, or other stimulants.
Stimulants like these often overtly attempt to drive the adrenals to make energy that they just don’t have, ultimately leaving the body more exhausted.
Even many natural health strategies intended to support healthy energy levels rely on boosting adrenal function. The catch is that many adrenal-boosters are stimulants in disguise – even the natural ones! Ginseng, green tea, and gingko are some common examples.
When you stimulate already over-stimulated adrenals in the effort to drive more energy, your adrenals will eventually become depleted and, in turn, the adrenals will deplete reproductive function, de-stabilize blood sugar, deplete thyroid function, and slowly deplete all of the energy-building centers in the body.
If you are tired, stimulating the body will only offer temporary, symptomatic relief at best.
In this article, I’ll share the herbal route to addressing your energy issues, as well as some easy Ayurvedic lifestyle strategies to naturally restore energy to the body without depleting the adrenals.
Is Caffeine the Answer?
A whopping 75 percent or 154 million Americans drink coffee and 49 percent of them drink it on a daily basis. (1)
While many coffee-drinkers will say they “just like the taste,” the boost in mental clarity, better bowel movements, and the peppy energy cannot be denied.
Caffeine, found in coffee, tea, chocolate, energy drinks, and endless health products promising to boost energy, is a stimulant that is very addictive.
Caffeine has serious side effects and can present significant withdrawal symptoms. (3)
Clearly, an occasional cup of coffee presents little risk—unless, of course, you are genetically more sensitive to caffeine.
Underreported Side Effects of Caffeine Consumption
Published data has stressed that caffeine consumption increases the risk of:
- Coronary heart disease
- Arterial hypertension
- Arterial stiffness
- Elevated cholesterol and homocysteine plasma concentration
High consumption of caffeine may also: (2)
- Alter insulin sensitivity and glucose blood level
- Abnormally stimulate the central nervous system
- Decrease the tone of the lower esophageal sphincter (linked to heartburn)
- Increase the risk of miscarriage and intrauterine growth retardation
Top 5 Herbs to Stabilize Energy and Nourish your Adrenals – 5 Herbal Energy
From the Ayurvedic perspective, it is important to bring awareness to when stimulants, such as coffee or chocolate, are controlling your thoughts and desires.
It is true that America is tired and, for many, caffeine appears to offer a healthy boost with little risk.
The tendency to reach for stimulants is natural, but instead of stimulating the body to make energy it doesn’t seem to be able to deliver naturally, Ayurveda suggests to rebuild the body’s energy reserves, instead of further overstimulating and depleting.
The following five herbs combined offer a synergistic, safe, and healthy delivery of stable, non-stimulated energy while rebuilding the body’s energy reserves. I combined these five herbs to make my new herbal energy formula, 5 Herbal Energy – look for it in my online store.
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)
Ashwagandha is known as one of the most effective adaptogens (anti-stress agents) in the world, and is labeled as a rasayana, or longevity tonic, in Ayurveda. (5)
The Latin word, “somnifera,” translates to “sleep-inducing,” and numerous studies have shown it also helps boost energy without depletion. It is one of the few herbs that support deep sleep in the evenings, and better endurance and stamina in the mornings. (4)
For the adrenals, ashwagandha supports healthy cortisol production during stress and endurance exercise. (5)
Ashwagandha is a well-known tonic for mental clarity, cognitive function, mood, and energy support. (5)
Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea)
Rhodiola has been used for boosting mental clarity and physical energy for thousands of years all throughout Europe and Asia. It is the herb said to be responsible for Viking strength and stamina. (6)
Much like ashwagandha, rhodiola has been found in numerous studies to support energy and endurance after hours of endurance exercise and stress. (6)
Much like ashwagandha, rhodiola is one of the very few herbs that can boost physical energy and mood during the day, but also support deep sleep at night. (7)
Eleuthero Root (Eleutherococcus senticosus)
Eleuthero root is a classic Asian adaptogenic herb that supports the body’s response stress and physical exertion.
In one study, a group of cyclists was given eleuthero root for 8 weeks, the results showed supplementation enhanced endurance capacity, supported cardiovascular functions, and altered the metabolism for sparing glycogen during exercise and stress. (8)
In China, eleuthero aka Siberian Ginseng is considered one of the safest herbal adaptogens to support healthy energy levels. In one study with elderly adults complaining of fatigue, eleuthero supported better mental energy and social interaction, suggesting support for healthy energy levels with no reported side effects. (9)
Eleuthero has also shown to support healthy lymphatic function. (10) The lymphatic system is responsible for delivering baseline energy in the form of fats to every cell of the body. Without a healthy lymphatic system, we would all feel fatigued!
Shilajit (Asphaltum punjabianum)
Shilajit works by enhancing the natural production of the body’s primary energy source, adenosine triphosphate, commonly known as ATP. (12)
ATP is manufactured in the mitochondria, where food is converted into energy. ATP delivers about 95% of the cellular energy that fuels the lion’s share of the body’s energy needs. It is involved in almost every one of the body’s physiological functions.
Unfortunately, as a result of stress, chemical toxicity and oxidative damage, mitochondrial production of ATP declines with age.
Studies have shown that shilajit can boost ATP production, supporting healthy mitochondria throughout the aging process. (11-15)
The secret ingredients that make shilajit such a powerful agent for ATP production are the naturally-occurring fulvic and humic acids. These are natural compounds found in soil that convert the minerals from the earth into bio-available nutrients for the plant, and then us!
Specifically, fulvic acids stimulate the transfer of energy in the mitochondria, making the energy production of ATP in the mitochondria more efficient. (11,14)
Humic acids, on the other hand, speed up the transfer of electrons along the electron transport chain, in turn boosting energy production. (15)
Both of these natural acids feed the mitochondria with the fuel it needs to continually deliver ATP and ward off the oxidative stressors linked to aging.
Ginger Root (Zingiber officinale)
Ginger is one of the most important herbs in Ayurvedic medicine. While it is well-known to support digestive, joint and muscle health, it is also one of the classic herbs used for supporting healthy energy levels. (16,17)
In this formula, I use ginger as a driver to boost the absorption of the other herbs in the formula. This is the classic way Ayurveda formulates whole herbs to be more bio-available and more effective. (18)
We RecommendHow Ayurveda Activates Herbs for Maximum Results
Additional Ayurvedic Strategies to Restore Energy Naturally
Ayurveda suggests numerous lifestyle measures to help to not further exhaust the body’s reserves. If you are unsure of how to do this, I have written many articles on this subject.
I’ve also developed a month-long Ayurvedic lifestyle immersion program, the 28-Day Ayurveda Challenge, to help you experience and easily integrate an Ayurvedic routine into your life.
While adding new protocols to your day when you are already exhausted may seem counterintuitive, these protocols offer the chance to experience life flowing downstream, rather than constantly struggling to swim upstream.
Here are three simple Ayurvedic ways to boost your energy levels:
A few rounds of this simple, yet profoundly effective flow of postures that alternately contract and expand the spine will help boost energy by using the body’s own prana, or life force, to circulate energy, rather than tapping the adrenals once again.
Using the breath in an intentional way can also help circulate the prana, build energizing pitta (heat) in the body, and harmonize both sides of the brain for increased energy that still feels peaceful and calm. Learn how to meditate! Take my Free Meditation Training.
3. Avoid Late Meals
Shifting the timing and the size of your last meal may have you waking up in the morning with more energy than you are used to.
Try to have your dinner no later than 6pm, and make it light.
If you are on a weight loss plan, skipping supper altogether a couple times a week may also boost energy levels. If you decide to try that, be sure to have a large, balanced, and nourishing lunch that day to get you through the night without hunger pangs.