Less sunlight, crazy schedules, poor sleep, seasonal illnesses, long days traveling, and holiday stresses can easily zap energy. In addition, sleep, lifestyle factors, and many other things heavily influence how much energy you have on a day-to-day basis. When you need a quick lift in energy, for example, on a cold, dark, winter morning, it’s time to think more creatively than caffeine and sugar.
Look to herbs–certain herbs can improve energy and focus while helping to reduce stress.
With herbs, unlike with boosting energy by sugar, there’s no sugar crash, blood sugar or insulin issues, or weight gain to worry about. While sugar lends a temporary relief in stress by boosting dopamine, particularly in sensitive people, frequent consumption of sugar can cause physiologic stress on the body as it works harder to pump out insulin and deal with excess glucose.
Since these herbs are free of stimulants, they can be taken late in the day or by people sensitive to caffeine. These herbs are safe, natural, and gentle on the system.
To get the enlivening properties of the following herbs, consider sipping them as herbal teas, using these herbs in cooking, or just smelling their essential oils.
Spicy, warming herbs like cayenne, ginger, and cinnamon invigorate as they warm you up, boosting metabolism, stimulating digestion, and increasing blood flow. The spiciness alone can make you feel more awake, while also helping to clear your nasal passage of the winter stuffiness. Chinese Hawthorn (Shan Zha) works in a similar way, helping increase blood flow and stimulating digestion.
Adaptogens are certain types of herbs that help your body better cope with and resist the effects of stress. They balance major systems in the body, including the immune, endocrine, and central nervous system, and as a result, they can help mitigate or even avoid the exhaustion caused by being overstressed. Some adaptogens also increase endurance and stamina, and help quicken recovery time after exhausting experiences. For not only the stress-reducing effects but also their energy-lifting qualities, look for Schisandra, eleuthero, licorice, and gouji berries. These work great as herbal infusions, or powdered and added to smoothies, juices, or oatmeal.
Culinary and aromatic herbs like turmeric, safflower (or saffron), rosemary, mint, and citrus can also be used to enliven on cold, lethargic winter days. The aroma of citrus brightens mood and helps you to feel more awake and clearheaded. Turmeric, safflower, and rosemary all reduce inflammation and promote better blood circulation. (Inflammation in the body often causes water retention and a feeling of stagnation, thus by reducing inflammation, things can get moving again, opening up passageways for energy to flow.) Finally, mint has a revitalizing, refreshing quality that stimulates the senses and raises alertness.
Spicy and culinary herbs are all great in cooking, not only for their energizing qualities but also for the wonderful flavor they impart on food.
If you’re dragging to get yourself out of bed just to start the coffeepot every morning or the stress of the season is wearing you down, these herbs will help lift energy and boost stamina. Say goodbye to the morning joe and hello to an herbal infusion.