When trying to manage stress and fatigue, many people reach for a caffeinated quick-fix like coffee. A better way of combating stress and creating lasting energy is by enlisting the help of a group of herbal ingredients called ‘adaptogens.’
Adaptogens are known for their ability to improve stress hormone function and boost the body’s ability to focus and combat the biological effects of stress. They help return your body into a balanced state, otherwise known as “homeostasis.”
Adaptogens vs. Caffeine
Both caffeine and adaptogens help to increase energy levels, albeit in very different ways.
Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system and the release of stress hormones. It also blocks brain receptors for adenosine, a compound that promotes feelings of tiredness and helps to prepare the body for sleep. When these effects wear off, adenosine kicks back in leading to feelings of drowsiness and a desire for more caffeine. This is not to say that coffee is unhealthy, because research shows that in moderation, it helps with everything from focus to weight loss and preventing cancer – but rather to suggest that if you are looking for a sustained energy boost, caffeine might not be the answer.
Adaptogens on the other hand work to combat fatigue by addressing the root cause of fatigue: balancing the hypothalamic, pituitary and adrenal glands, which regulate hormone production. So, instead of temporarily blocking receptors, they work with the body to balance stress hormone levels, enhance stress recovery and improve alertness – creating a lasting effect on fatigue and stress-reduction. If you’re caffeine sensitive, adaptogens might be a healthy alternative for you.
Here are some adaptogens that help with energy levels:
Lion’s Mane Mushroom
Lion’s mane is an ancient Chinese medicinal adaptogen and mushroom, also known as Yamabushitake. Lion’s mane helps mediate inflammation and promotes blood flow to the brain, leading to increased brain oxygen – thereby, enhancing brain performance. Lion’s mane is thought to enhance memory, boost focus and combat depression.
Rhodiola Rosea is thought to boost brain function after a poor night’s sleep (although it is not an excuse to stop prioritizing your sleep!). One of the ways Rhodiola works is by balancing cortisol levels in the body. It also boosts cellular energy production, combats depression and supports heart health and overall brain function.
Cordyceps works to enhance energy by boosting the body’s and cell’s energy currency, ATP. It helps to improve circulation, boost immune system and respiratory system function, and reduce fatigue. It has also been shown to extend the lifespans of both mice and fruit flies.
From balancing the body’s stress response and promoting lasting energy to their anti-aging and overall health-supportive effects, adaptogens make for a great way to cope with fatigue. Unlike caffeine, they work with your circadian rhythm to boost your energy throughout the day while also supporting healthy sleep behaviors at night. You can sprinkle adaptogenic powders into your morning beverage of choice, smoothies, or even have them in the form of teas or tinctures.