Modern-day stressors and hectic schedules leave many people drained and looking for ways to feel more energized and alert.
While getting enough sleep, eating a nutrient-dense diet, maintaining a healthy body weight, and practicing self-care are the most important factors for feeling your best, some supplements, including herbal ones, have been shown to boost your energy and cognitive health (
Keep in mind that many herbs can interact with commonly prescribed medications and may cause other side effects, so it’s important to speak with your healthcare provider before using any of the following herbs.
Here are the 10 best herbs that may help boost alertness and energy levels, according to scientific research.
Ginseng is a popular herbal supplement, well known for its energy-boosting properties. It has also been shown to stimulate brain function, making it a sought-after herb for improving sports and mental performance. Panax ginseng is the most studied type in human trials (
Ginseng contains compounds, including ginsenosides, eleutherosides, and ciwujianosides, which are thought to give ginseng its performance- and energy-enhancing effects (
Keep in mind that ginseng use comes with potential side effects, including insomnia, diarrhea, and increased heart rate and blood pressure. Plus, this herb can interfere with common medications, such as those used to treat diabetes, depression, and heart disease (
Ginseng contains compounds that may help boost alertness and concentration, according to research studies.
Research shows that sage (Salvia) may have impressive cognitive-enhancing effects in adults. It’s high in many potent plant compounds, including luteolin, rosmarinic acid, camphor, quercetin, and apigenin, which give it its impressive medicinal properties (
For example, a study in 36 healthy adults found that treatment with 50 microliters (uL) of sage essential oil led to improvements in memory and attention tasks. Plus, it reduced mental fatigue and increased alertness over a 4-hour period (
Interestingly, sage acts as a powerful inhibitor of acetylcholinesterase (AChE). This enzyme that breaks down acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that plays an important role in brain function, including memory, attention, and motivation (
AChE inhibitors help increase the availability of acetylcholine in the brain, thus improving cognitive function (
When taken as a supplement, sage may help improve mood, alertness, and attention span, as well as reduce fatigue in adults.
Guarana is commonly used as an ingredient in energy drinks and supplements due to its stimulating effects. It contains an array of chemicals, including caffeine, saponins, and tannins, which are thought to provide beneficial effects on energy and brain function (
While human studies have found mixed results, other studies have shown that supplementing with guarana extract alone or combined with other nutrients in doses ranging from 37.5–300 mg may help boost attention, alertness, and memory performance (
A small study in 10 pentathlon athletes also found that supplementing with 300 mg of guarana may help reduce perceived exertion and improve athletic and cognitive performance (
Some studies show that guarana may be beneficial for brain function and help boost attention, alertness, and memory performance.
Bacopa monnieri is a plant that grows in wet, marshy areas throughout South Asia. It’s used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat a variety of ailments, including anxiety, insomnia, and memory issues (
The cognitive-enhancing effects of Bacopa monnieri are attributed to its concentration of triterpenoid saponins, which are known as bacosides and have neuroprotective and cognitive-enhancing properties (
Studies show that the plant may help boost brain function and alertness.
One review of 9 studies that included 518 people found that supplementing with around 300 mg of Bacopa monnieri extract daily improved brain function, especially the speed of information processing and reaction time (
Bacopa monnieri is a concentrated source of triterpenoid saponins, which are known as bacosides and may have brain-function-boosting effects.
While research suggests there are health benefits, the FDA doesn’t monitor or regulate the purity or quality of essential oils. It’s important to talk with a healthcare professional before you begin using essential oils and be sure to research the quality of a brand’s products. Always do a patch test before trying a new essential oil.
Simply inhaling the pleasant aroma of peppermint essential oil, a hybrid of spearmint (Mentha spicata) and water mint (Mentha aquatica), may help boost energy, mood, athletic performance, and alertness (
One study that included 144 people found that exposure to peppermint essential oil aroma increased alertness and improved memory (
Peppermint essential oil has a good safety profile. Still, you should never ingest an essential oil unless you have discussed it with your healthcare provider, as taking too much peppermint essential oil can be toxic (
Inhaling peppermint essential oil has been shown to have beneficial effects on memory, energy levels, and alertness.
Like peppermint, the aroma of rosemary essential oil may help improve cognitive performance.
Inhaling rosemary essential oil allows compounds in the oil called terpenes to enter your bloodstream, from where they can directly affect your brain (
A study in 20 adults found that exposure to rosemary essential oil that was diffused into the air led to improved performance on cognitive tasks, including those that involved speed and accuracy (
Another small study in 8 adults demonstrated that consuming 250 mL of water containing rosemary extract led to improved performance on computerized cognitive tasks (
Research shows that rosemary essential oil may help improve performance on cognitive tasks when inhaled or used as a supplement.
Rhodiola rosea may be especially helpful for people who experience burnout, which is defined as “emotional, motivational, and physical exhaustion as a result of chronic occupational stress” (
A 12-week study in 118 people with burnout found that supplementing with 400 mg of Rhodiola rosea extract per day significantly improved feelings of exhaustion, impaired concentration, and lack of joy, compared with their baseline (
When used as a supplement, Rhodiola rosea may help boost energy levels, improve concentration, and boost mood, according to human research.
A number of studies have suggested that ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), an herb that has been used as an Ayurvedic remedy since ancient times, has powerful beneficial effects on brain function (
An 8-week study in 50 people demonstrated that supplementing with 600 mg of ashwagandha root extract per day significantly improved memory, attention, and information processing, compared with a placebo (
A review that included five studies found that supplementing with ashwagandha was well tolerated and led to improved performance on cognitive tasks, attention, and reaction time (
Additionally, another 12-week study in 50 older adults showed that taking 600 mg of ashwagandha root extract daily improved sleep quality, mental alertness, and overall quality of life, compared with a placebo group (
Proven Health Benefits of Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha is a popular dietary supplement that may help boost performance on cognitive tasks and improve sleep quality, mental alertness, and athletic performance.
Gotu kola has been used in traditional medicine systems to help improve brain function, as well as studied for its beneficial effects on alertness and mood.
A 2-month study in 28 older adults who received 250–750-mg-doses of gotu kola extract per day found that those taking the highest dose experienced improvements in working memory, alertness, and self-rated mood, compared with a control group (
Another 3-month study in 80 older adults demonstrated that supplementing with 500 mg and 750 mg of gotu kola extract per day significantly improved strength and physical functioning, compared with a placebo group (
What’s more, a study that included 33 people with anxiety found that supplementing with 1,000 mg of gotu kola extract per day for 2 months helped improve attention and reduce their anxiety and mental fatigue rate, compared with their baseline (
Gotu kola is an herb that may help improve memory, alertness, and mood when taken as a supplement. Plus, it may enhance strength and physical functioning in older adults.
Maca (Lepidium meyenii) is a plant native to Peru that’s prized for its energy-enhancing potential. Human studies show that taking it as a supplement may help boost energy levels, reduce anxiety, and enhance athletic performance (
A study in 50 men with erectile dysfunction found that treatment with 2,400 mg of dry maca extract for 12 weeks significantly improved physical and social performance, compared with a placebo (
Studies show that supplementing with maca may have positive effects on athletic performance, mood, and energy levels.
The best way to ensure that you stay energized and focused is by leading a healthy lifestyle that includes a nutritious diet, plenty of sleep, and stress-reduction techniques like engaging in enjoyable physical activity.
Additionally, certain herbal supplements, including the ones listed above, may have the potential to boost your energy and brain function.
If you’re interested in adding one or more of the herbs on this list to your diet, make sure to consult your healthcare provider first, as many herbs can lead to side effects if not taken properly and interact with common medications.
Useful supplement shopping guides
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