Herbs for Energy: 6 That Are Better Than Coffee
If you're looking for ways to boost your energy levels, you probably turned to coffee for the quick energy boost it can offer. A warm cup of coffee can do wonders for your willingness to take on the day, especially if you're not a morning person.
However, coffee can often cause an energy crash within hours of your first sip, which may leave you feeling even more exhausted than before. If you feel tired and struggle to stay awake or alert, herbal supplements may be a more healthful, longer-term alternative to boost your energy levels compared to the only hours-long energy that coffee seems to provide.
Read on to learn about the best herbs to naturally increase feelings of energy, including their health benefits and how each can contribute to your physical performance, mental health, and overall well-being.
How Does Coffee Work?
Before we get into what herbs can best support natural energy, it is important to understand how coffee works in the body and how this beverage’s energizing mechanisms differ from alternatives.
Coffee’s energizing abilities come from one of its primary compounds — caffeine. Caffeine, a stimulant, activates your central nervous system and your brain to help boost feelings of energy and alertness.
When you drink coffee or other caffeine sources such as energy drinks, the caffeine enters your bloodstream via rapid absorption in the gut during digestion, then quickly travels to your brain. There, it works to stimulate neural activity levels and raise the levels of certain hormones — such as cortisol and adrenaline — to increase feelings of alertness.
That said, caffeine’s main energizing mechanism is in blocking the neurotransmitter that makes us tired: adenosine. (More on adenosine in just a bit!)
Because of all this, although coffee can be effective for a short-term energy boost, too much coffee can negatively impact your sleep quality, blood sugar levels, and stress response. In the short term, coffee can cause a spike in your blood pressure and heart rate and might leave you feeling jittery or nervous due to increased stress hormone levels.
Your body can also “adapt” to coffee and develop a tolerance to the caffeine, which means that you might feel more tired when that caffeine wears off compared to how you felt before you drank the coffee, and you may also need higher amounts of caffeine to feel those short-term effects.
What Causes a Crash After Coffee?
The answer lies with adenosine, a compound your brain produces to make you tired.
To decrease feelings of tiredness and have an energizing effect, caffeine binds to adenosine receptors in your brain, blocking adenosine itself from binding. However, this does not mean that your brain stops producing adenosine.
Typically, adenosine works by being continuously produced throughout the day, slowly accumulating in your nervous system so you get more and more tired through the day. Eventually, you’ll be so tired that you’re compelled to sleep, and when you do, those adenosine molecules get broken down so the cycle can start all over again the next day.
This adenosine cycle is an important part of your circadian rhythm, which is the biological clock that tells you when to wake up, when to feel sleepy, when to eat, and more.
If you drink a lot of coffee, adenosine can build up in your brain without attaching to its nerve cell receptors, ultimately flooding those receptors when that caffeine wears off and the receptors are free for binding. This can impact brain function and mental performance, and may cause side effects such as exhaustion, inability to concentrate, or stress. The sudden change in brain function can also lead to low blood sugar levels.
What Herbs Can Help Support Feelings For Energy?
Herbs can be a great alternative to coffee that can combat mental fatigue and provide an energizing boost without some of the unpleasant side effects of too much caffeine (or even more accurately, the effects that ensue when caffeine wears off).
Matcha Green Tea
Matcha green tea is an age-old go-to for full-body benefits and an all-around lifted spirit. Matcha can offer polyphenols, antioxidants, chlorophyll, and L-theanine to promote overall well-being and help you feel your best throughout the day.
This is rich in catechins, a type of phenolic plant compound naturally present in the tea plant’s leaves. Catechins can have several beneficial effects on human health to support a natural energy boost.
Additionally, matcha green tea contains L-theanine, an amino acid that helps give the tea its unique, non-bitter taste. Due to the shade-growing of plants intended for matcha production, L-theanine does not break down and is preserved in the final matcha product. The relatively high L-theanine content in matcha tea may help enhance concentration and overall wellness.
Lion’s mane is a unique mushroom that contains several health-promoting substances, including antioxidants and beta-glucans.These compounds have energizing effects that can help you feel your best during the day.
Lion’s mane is common in powder and supplement form, though some people eat it raw, dried, or even prepared in a tea.
Ashwagandha, also known as Withania somnifera, is a woody, herbal shrub native to Southeast Asia, India, and Africa that can offer rejuvenating effects.
Ayurvedic medicine has incorporated this herb into its practices for thousands of years because components of the Ashwagandha root, leaves, and berries may help promote mind-body-spirit balance.
Ashwagandha is an adaptogen, meaning it can help you feel more relaxed during times of stress. When you experience stress, your adrenal glands produce the stress hormone cortisol to help modulate your response. As an adaptogenic herb, ashwagandha can help support healthy cortisol levels, working to maintain your well-being during times of stress and promote a sense of calm.
Maca is an herb native to Peru. It’s rich in nutrients that can help your body respond to stress more effectively, and is considered an adaptogenic herb like ashwagandha.
This herb’s nutrient-dense contents make it a great natural way to supplement your energy levels, as maca can leave you feeling ready to move through the day and take on tasks.
Rhodiola is an herb native to Europe and Asia that traditional medicinal systems have incorporated into their practices for years due to its stress-balancing effects.
Rhodiola helps support healthy cortisol levels, which may help you feel calmer and less fatigued. Additionally, this herb may help promote stamina, strength, and mental capacity, which can, in turn, support endurance to help you fight mental fatigue and burnout.
There are several different types of ginseng, but American ginseng and Panax, or Asian, ginseng, are the two most common. Traditional Chinese medicine has incorporated Panax ginseng into its practices for years due to ginsenosides in this herb, which are the primary ingredient that can bring many different health benefits.
Ginsenosides can benefit your energy levels, concentration, physical performance, and mood. As such, Panax ginseng is a natural herb that can help you perform well in energy-taxing tasks.
How Can You Incorporate Herbs Into Your Diet
You can incorporate energizing herbs into your diet through powders, tinctures, capsules, or supplements. Adding powders into smoothies is a delicious way to naturally get an energy boost out of your favorite drink.
Additionally, you can take a dietary supplement, which is an easy way to incorporate herbs into your daily routine. If you’re thinking about taking an herbal supplement, make sure you choose a clinically studied option such as Lemme Matcha. Made from high-quality, finely ground green tea leaves, Lemme Matcha also has CoQ10 and B12 to support energy metabolism.
Note: Before starting any new dietary supplement, it’s generally recommended to consult your healthcare provider.
The Bottom Line
Herbs are a healthy natural alternative to coffee as a means to help you be your best, energized self and take on the day. Many different herbs can offer energizing effects without the caffeine crash that drinking coffee so often comes with.
Herbs such as matcha green tea, Lion’s Mane, Ashwagandha, Rhodiola, Maca, and Panax ginseng can all support energy and overall wellness, and are easy to incorporate into your diet, especially in supplement forms like gummies.
If you’re thinking about an herbal supplement, make sure you choose a high-quality one like Lemme Matcha. Additionally, make sure you maintain your wellness routine with a healthy, well-balanced diet, adequate sleep, and stress management techniques.