A cup of coffee is normally the first thing people reach for in the mornings upon waking or to help deal with the post-lunch slump. We all know that coffee is an effective stimulant for a couple of hours, helping to perk you up when you need it most.
Though, the effects of caffeine can often lead to jitters, energy crashes, and dependency. That’s why more and more people are turning to nootropics for energy, particularly adaptogens, in place of a caffeinated beverage.
Not only do adaptogens help boost focus, productivity, and endurance, they also help support a healthy mind and body, something that caffeine lacks.
This article discusses some of the best adaptogenic herbs that you should consider including in your supplement or nootropic stack!
What are Adaptogenic Herbs?
Adaptogens are herbs or mushrooms that have been shown to have various health benefits. Most adaptogen-containing products claim they have certain perks, including helping you to manage stress better. They are often sold as teas, tinctures, powders, or capsules.
The theory behind adaptogens states that they help your body cope better with the physical, chemical, and biological effects of stress. They are thought to stimulate your body’s stress-protection response, helping to return the systems to a balanced state, also known as “homeostasis”.
You’ll often find adaptogenic herbs and mushrooms being sold as isolated supplements or as part of nootropic formulas.
Nootropics are a class of substances that can boost brain performance and enhance cognitive function. So, you can probably see why they are often combined with adaptogenic herbs, with some even being adaptogens as well as being considered to have nootropic properties.
Caffeine is an example of a substance that is often thought of as a nootropic. Let’s take a closer look at the differences between adaptogens and caffeine!
Adaptogens Vs Caffeine
One of the main similarities between adaptogens and caffeine is that they can both help increase energy levels, though they do so in very different ways.
Caffeine is an effective central nervous system stimulant. It works by blocking adenosine receptors in the brain. Adenosine is a brain chemical that is produced later in the day to make us feel tired and ready for sleep. It does this in response to the dimming daylight working as part of our circadian rhythm.
When we wake up in the morning, there are often some remnants of adenosine floating around in our brain, which is why it takes us a little while to feel alert and awake until it’s flushed out in response to daylight. This is also why we naturally reach for a caffeine source in the morning!
Though, caffeine can have some negative side effects. For one, it can temporarily increase blood pressure and cortisol levels, also known as the stress hormone. This is what’s to blame for that jittery, anxious feeling you may experience after consuming a caffeinated beverage, particularly when consumed in excess or on an empty stomach.
You can avoid these side effects if you “hydrate before you caffeinate” (drink some water before your morning coffee or have breakfast), reduce the amount of caffeine you’re consuming in one go, and try not to become reliant on it.
So, how do adaptogens work when it comes to increasing energy?
Well, adaptogens have been shown to have a balancing effect on the hypothalamic, pituitary, and adrenal gland, which all play a major role in stress response.
Thus, they help the body recover from stress, manage cortisol levels, and reduce feelings of fatigue and tiredness associated with stress.
Alongside these effects, they also have stimulant properties that help to improve physical and mental performance!
Top 10 Adaptogenic Herbs for Energy
Wondering which adaptogens help boost energy and focus? Read on to find out the top 10 adaptogen herbs that will help provide you with the sustained energy you’re seeking, without the crash!
1) Lion’s Mane Mushroom
Starting strong with lion’s mane mushroom, arguably one of the best nootropics and one of the main ingredients in some of the most potent nootropic formulas.
Lion’s mane, also known as Yamabushitake, is an ancient Chinese medicinal mushroom that is globally recognized for its wide range of cognitive benefits.
It has been traditionally used as a health treatment for neurodegenerative diseased and its neuroprotective qualities, but some of the other noted health benefits include:
- Enhanced memory and brain health
- Potential anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties
- Anti-depressant and anxiolytic properties
On top of this, lion’s mane is thought to offer some help with increasing energy production, as it may play a small role in helping to prevent muscle fatigue during exercise, as well as promoting energy production.
From one powerful mushroom to another, cordyceps has also been used extensively in traditional Chinese medicine, acting as a natural energy enhancer by promoting the production of ATP (our body’s energy currency).
Cordyceps can also help enhance lactic acid metabolism, thus helping to reduce fatigue associated with exercise, making physical activities less challenging.
In summary, cordyceps has been found to help reduce fatigue, improve circulation, and boost the function of the immune and respiratory system.
3) Bacopa Monnieri
Bacopa is a powerful nootropic herb, possessing actives (bacosides) that are effective antioxidants that help enhance other brain antioxidants.
This synergistic antioxidant activity helps to protect brain cells from free radicals, which also promotes the production of acetylcholine, GABA, and serotonin, all of which are tied to focused thinking, clear memory, and a healthy mood.
Bacopa may optimize cognitive function under stress while also promoting relaxation, making this herb a key player in the adaptogen game!
Ashwagandha is likely one of the most recognized herbs on this list. This herb is one of the most powerful Ayurvedic adaptogens for energy, making it one of the most important herbs for vitality in India.
It has been used for centuries for boosting energy, improving concentration, and reducing stress. It is also thought to enhance physical performance, muscle strength, and cardiorespiratory endurance, making this an excellent herb for fighting fatigue and keeping energized.
5) Rhodiola Rosea
Rhodiola is an adaptogenic plant that grows in the highlands of Northern Asia and Eastern Europe. It has been used by Vikings and Sherpa people for its benefits on strength and endurance.
Today, it’s still a very popular herb, particularly for athletic performance, strength, stamina, overall energy levels, as well as helping to combat stress.
Turmeric is an Indian spice that is known for its bright yellow color, often used in Indian dishes for bringing flavor and flair to a meal.
Though, there is a lot more to this spice than what meets the eye (and taste buds!).
Turmeric is widely known for its powerful anti-inflammatory properties, though it’s often overlooked for its energy-boosting properties.
While turmeric doesn’t have a direct effect on energy levels, it may have a stabilizing effect that can help the brain’s ability to stay focussed and alert.
Additionally, turmerics' active ingredient, curcumin, can help reduce inflammation in the brain, thus helping to improve memory, attention, and mood.
Panax ginseng is a widely known adaptogen used to help fight fatigue. Ginseng can help reduce mental fatigue on top of increasing both cognitive and physical performance.
This herb has been used for centuries in Chinese herbalism as a potential stimulant, helping to promote the production of “feel good” hormones such as dopamine and serotonin.
Maca, also known as Peruvian Ginseng, is a root that packs a huge punch of clean energy in all aspects of life.
It is known to help increase endurance, enhance mood, improve cognition, and balance hormones. This nutrient-dense adaptogen has been used for centuries for its health benefits and has now become a popular superfood in recent years.
It is thought to possess nutritional, energizing, and fertility-enhancing properties, and is also thought to improve learning and memory.
Moringa has been hailed for centuries for its energy-boosting properties. A tree native to India, moringa contains a bunch of vitamins, minerals, amino acids that help provide a natural burst of energy, similar to the effects of caffeine.
Moringa is actually considered one of the best energy enhancers on top of being labeled as a nutrient-dense superfood with adaptogenic properties. This tree can help regulate stress levels and bring a sense of ease, helping you stay focused and alert without the jitters.
Shatavari is an ancient Ayurvedic herb known for its powerful adaptogen properties and its ability to possibly increase endurance, stamina, and energy.
Being an adaptogen, it can help our body cope better with the physical effects of stress, as well as manage any spikes and dips in energy levels.
This invigorating herb may also bring about a sense of clarity to the mind, and these benefits are particularly notable in women.
All of these adaptogens for energy can be taken on their own, as food or supplements, or in combination with other adaptogens and nootropics.
They can make for excellent alternatives to caffeine, helping you to sustain your energy levels for a longer period without the jitters of the crash.
The best way to take adaptogenic herbs is as part of a nootropic formula. Our top pick is Mind Lab Pro, the world’s best all-in-one nootropic formula.
Mind Lab Pro combines a selection of the most powerful adaptogens as well as potent cognitive enhancers, functioning as a whole-brain optimizer to support a state of peak and overall mental performance!