The Power of Adaptogenic Herbs for Sustained Energy

Adaptogenic herbs can provide a natural way to enjoy sustained energy and better manage daily stress, improving performance at work and home. Learn more!
The Power of Adaptogenic Herbs for Sustained Energy

Did you know coffee isn’t the only way to boost your energy?

Adaptogenic herbs can provide a natural way to experience sustained energy and manage daily stress, improving your performance at work and home.

Schools of traditional medicine have used herbs like Rhodiola rosea, holy basil, and Schisandra to improve quality of life. Research reveals how these adaptogens can relieve stress and improve energy and focus.

What Are Adaptogens?

Adaptogens are ingredients in certain herbs and plants that aid the body in managing and recovering from a stress response. To fully understand how adaptogens help your body, first, we need to examine the stress response.

What Is the Stress Response?

When we experience stress, we go through three stages called the general adaptation syndrome, including:

  • Alarm
  • Resistance
  • Exhaustion

The alarm phase is the most recognizable of the stress response. It’s when you encounter a stressor and experience a “flight or flight” burst of energy as your body releases stimulating hormones.

The resistance phase is more difficult to recognize. It’s when your body experiences sustained stress beyond the initial shock. Also known as the adaptation phase—your body will adapt to maintain a constant state while stress hormones continue to be released. In this phase, you may believe you’re no longer stressed because the effects on your body are less extreme than during the alarm phase. You can determine if you are in the resistance phase if your senses are heightened accompanied by decreased mental focus, including irritability and difficulty concentrating. 

The exhaustion phase is self-explanatory. It’s when sustained stress wears you down and you experience fatigue and burnout. Extreme cases can include anxiety and depression.

How Adaptogens Work

The way adaptogens work is by helping your body during the resistance phase. They extend your energy levels while reducing the harmful effects of stress hormones, giving you time to resolve your stressful situation before you reach exhaustion.

The Stress-Energy Connection

As we’ve mentioned, sustained stress decreases your energy and leads to eventual fatigue. There’s also a connection between taking stimulants and stress. If you’re consuming caffeine to help get through a challenging day, you may be doubling the strain on your system.

Stimulants, like caffeine, activate your stress response system, releasing hormones epinephrine and cortisol. These hormones increase your heart rate and improve your reflexes but can cause negative side effects, like caffeine jitters. 

Adaptogenic herbs provide a way to alleviate these side effects while helping you alleviate the energy-draining effects of stress.

So, which herbs should you use to sustain energy? We recommend exploring Rhodiola rosea, Schisandra, and holy basil. These three are well-known primary adaptogen herbs with recent studies showing a positive impact on stress and energy levels.

Rhodiola Rosea’s Benefits

Rhodiola rosea flower.

Rhodiola rosea is the scientific name for a flowering plant known as golden root.

It grows at high altitudes in the northern hemisphere and has historically been used in Russia and Scandinavia to help sustain energy.

Rhodiola has been found to possess energy-boosting properties for both mental and physical tasks. One study found that physicians working the night shift showed a 20% reduction in fatigue tests after taking golden root for two weeks. The tests measured perceptual speed, attention capacity, and short-term memory.

Another study found that rats swam for 24% longer on exhaustive swim tests when they took Rhodiola orally. Rhodiola helped the rats generate more ATP—the main compound that provides energy in cells. 

In practical terms, Rhodiola is used by athletes as a legal, herbal way to boost energy. Rhodiola has even gone into space! Russian cosmonauts have used it to fight altitude sickness.

Schisandra’s Benefits

Schisandra chinensis, known as “five-flavor berry,” is a medicinal plant used in traditional Chinese medicine.

The berries contain compounds that reduce the effects of stress on your body as a whole and on a cellular level.

In one study, scientists induced the symptoms of depression in mice by exposing them to chronic unpredictable mild stress. When treated with Schisandra extract, they were more active, increasing their time in a forced swim test.

On a cellular level, Schisandra extract has been found to increase antioxidant production, which reduces oxidative stress, helping protect against DNA damage that can lead to cancer.

Holy Basil’s Benefits

Native to India, holy basil is referred to as tulsi in Hindi. As an important herb in Ayurvedic traditional medicine, holy basil leaves are brewed in tea for mental clarity and increased energy.

Holy basil’s Latin name is Ocimum tenuiflorum and is related to sweet basil and Thai basil.

In a double-blind study, holy basil reduced perceived stress and the main stress hormone, cortisol.

In the study, the holy basil group reported a 37% perceived decrease in stress. In hair samples, experimenters found that people taking holy basil decreased their cortisol to one-third (34%) of the level of the placebo group.

How to Use Adaptogens

Schisandra, Rhodiola, and holy basil offer a variety of benefits. They can be consumed in numerous ways: extract; in tinctures; or as a tea. Each method has advantages—tea offers hydration, and extract and tinctures can be consumed quickly. Each method can be equally effective—it’s a matter of personal preference.

Consult with a doctor before taking adaptogens because there is the potential for side effects. Rhodiola should not be taken if you’re on antidepressants. Schisandra isn’t recommended for diabetics and people with high blood pressure. Holy basil may have some negative effects on fertility.

Herbalists often recommend taking adaptogens for a certain time. This helps reduce potential long-term side effects and your body won’t become immune to adaptogens over time, so it’s helpful to take a break.

If you’re experiencing stress burnout in the exhaustion phase, there’s only so much taking adaptogens can do to help. The best way to decrease the effects of stress and increase energy is to remove yourself from the stressful situation. 

Adaptogenic herbs offer a powerful way to sustain energy, but they are only one variable to boost your energy. For the best results, combine adaptogenic herbs with improved nutrition, exercise, and rest.

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