Relieve Fatigue and Boost your Energy Naturally
Updated: Jan 18
Meetings after meetings. Never-ending to-do lists. Deadlines to meet. Not to mention heading the gym for better health. So, you took coffee, thinking it will help to relieve stress and fatigue. But a few hours later you feel more tired. Sounds familiar?
Caffeine in coffee can increase the body’s levels of cortisol, which is known as the ‘stress hormone’ and can lead to other health consequences, including weight gain, moodiness to heart disease and diabetes.
Cortisol and adrenal fatigue
The adrenal fatigue theory suggests that prolonged exposure to stress could lead the adrenals to low cortisol state. The human body has two adrenal glands and each sit on top of each kidney respectively. The adrenal glands secrete different hormones, including cortisol, that helps regulate your blood pressure. When you are stressed, cortisol will be released to slow down the immune system and control the blood pressure. Sometimes, your adrenal glands may not produce enough cortisol, causing adrenal fatigue, leading to brain fog, low energy, tiredness and other vague symptoms.
Fortunately, coffee isn’t the only way to boost energy and there are healthier ways to get through the day. There are some super-star energizing herbs known as adaptogens that can be helpful in improving your focus, performance and stamina. Adaptogens are found in herbs and roots and the term adaptogen was first proposed in 1940 by a scientist in Soviet Union , describing the stimulating and tonic effects of Schisandra chinensis, and the concept of adaptogens has been continuously modified and perfected till date. They have been used for a long duration of time to help the body to stay balanced and relieve fatigue levels, enhancing your energy at the same time without overstimulating. By supporting adrenal function, they can help maintain balance in the body by eliminating the toxic by-products of the metabolic process, allowing the cells to access more energy and efficiently utilized the oxygen. When taken in long term, adaptogens assist the body’s central response system to adapt to stressors and produce less stress hormones, including cortisol. Furthermore, these herbs are non-habit forming and it is safe for long-term use.
Mechanism of action of adaptogens
In the event of various stress modes, adaptogens can activate the body responses to cope with different forms of stress, by acting on the immune system and stress response system. When hormone such as cortisol exceed the critical level, the neurosecretory reactions may bring harmful effects. The hypothalamus in the brain is in charge of the stress response. When a stress response is triggered, it sends signals to two other structures: the pituitary gland and the adrenal medulla. Short term responses are produced by ‘the fight or flight response’ whilst the long term stress is regulated by the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) system, when activated, adrenal glands will be stimulated to produce cortisol to maintain steady supplies of blood sugar, helping the body to cope with prolonged stressor and chronic fatigue. Immune system is suppressed while this happens .
Mechanism of action of adaptogens on human body [Adapted from Liao et al. 2018]
There are many different adaptogens, each have its own specific action. Below are some of the most studied adaptogens:
Also known as ‘winter-worm summer-grass’ in Chinese, cordyceps has been demonstrated its anti-fatigue and a boost in endurance during exercise. Cordyceps exert its effects by speeding up the production of cellular energy (ATP) .
Panax Ginseng Extract
Panax ginseng is one of the most well-known and studied adaptogens and a long-time history of its administration in oriental medicine. Ginsenosides are the main active components that is responsible for ginseng’s efficacy, by acting on the adrenal glands, helping to prevent cortisol production and improves blood circulation in the brain, thereby improving memory and cognitive abilities .
Rhodiola rosea Extract
Also known as golden root, rose root or arctic root, is a plant from Siberia that grows well in dry and cold arctic climates. One mechanism for Rhodiola is an enhancement of oxygen efficiency, by increasing the intracellular availability of oxygen and more efficient utilization of oxygen .
It was suggested that adaptogens have not only specific therapeutic effects in some stress-induced and stress-related disorders, but also an impact on the quality of life. Although it is easy to consume supplement (adaptogens) everyday, but for a long-term impactful difference, it is important to practise other natural health-promoting measures such as eating a healthy diet and perform regular exercise such as mediation or mindfulness practice.
1. Panossian A, Wikman G. Effects of Adaptogens on the Central Nervous System and the Molecular Mechanisms Associated with Their Stress-Protective Activity. Pharmaceuticals (Basel). 2010 Jan 19;3(1):188-224. doi: 10.3390/ph3010188. PMID: 27713248; PMCID: PMC3991026.
2. Liao LY, He YF, Li L, Meng H, Dong YM, Yi F, Xiao PG. A preliminary review of studies on adaptogens: comparison of their bioactivity in TCM with that of ginseng-like herbs used worldwide. Chin Med. 2018 Nov 16;13:57. doi: 10.1186/s13020-018-0214-9. PMID: 30479654; PMCID: PMC6240259.
3. Ko KM, Leung HY. Enhancement of ATP generation capacity, antioxidant activity and immunomodulatory activities by Chinese Yang and Yin tonifying herbs. Chin Med. 2007 Mar 27;2:3. doi: 10.1186/1749-8546-2-3. PMID: 17386115; PMCID: PMC1847515.
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5. Ip, S.P., Che, C.T., & Leung, P.S. Association of free radicals and the tissue reninangiotensin system: prospective effects of Rhodiola, a genus of Chinese herb, on hypoxiainduced pancreatic injury. Journal of the Pancreas, 2001: 2(1), 16-25
Written By: Dr. Alicia