Yuck, who wants to be tired all the time?

Wouldn’t it be great to find holistic ways to be more vital?

In a previous post, I reviewed how fatigue and lack of focus has many root causes. I explored the mindset and biological factors associated with brain fog and how to address them. Then, I discussed how mental fatigue and burnout can not only be a cause of overall lack of resiliency, but also lack of motivation.

Next, I listed several natural means to increase the neurotransmitter dopamine, which impacts reward and drive. I also explained how herbal adaptogens support memory, endurance, stress resiliency, and alertness. Finally, I highlighted various types of botanical nervines that nourish the central nervous system to modulate the stress response and support rejuvenation.

In this post, I highlight six of my favorite apoptogenic and nervine herbs for focus, energy, and cognition. I discuss their main actions and how I differentiate the best ones to use with clients.

In an upcoming post, I will conclude this series with several mind-body benefiting essential oils that you may also want to incorporate for better brain function and vitality.

My Top Six Herbs and Essential Oils for Energy

Below are the six most common herbals that I use in my practice to help my clients feel more energetic, gain more clarity, and revitalize their bodies. They are not necessarily in order. These medicinal botanicals made my list based on which have the most evidence in clinical trials and for their specific, additional characteristics that meet an individual’s needs.

Important Safety Consideration:

Before we begin learning about the many benefits of my selected plant medicine choices, there are some safety factors to consider.
Although I provide tips for their use based on my experience in clinical practice, it is important to note that I use questionnaires and/or testing to assess hormones and neurotransmitters that also impact which herb I select for my clients. I also ensure proper dosage and monitoring whenever I suggest a therapeutic modality.

These aspects are important as any intervention can cause some side effects or interactions if dosages are not adequately accounted for or one’s nervous system responds negatively. Please make sure that you and your healthcare provider are also taking these factors into consideration if you decide to implement any of these medicinal plants.

1. Ginseng

Chinese ginseng (Panax Ginseng) and Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus) have both been shown in human studies to support cognitive and physical endurance. (source, source, source) Various studies with athletes have demonstrated that components in ginseng, Ginsenosides, Eleutherosides and Ciwujianosides, have ergogenic properties (enhancing athletic performance). These effects include increasing oxygen uptake, decreasing lactate, and enhancing aerobic capacity. (source) This herb may also increase glutathione, the master antioxidant that supports many body systems.

Expert Tip: Though both are adaptogens, some of my clients have found Chinese ginseng to be somewhat stimulating. I use it for those who are looking for more of an “immdediate energy boost.” I will select Siberian ginseng over Chinese ginseng for its more tonifying and apoptogenic properties with clients that are more sensitive to herbs yet need restoration. I have found in my experience that it tends to be more subtle and gentle.


2. Rhodiola

Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea) has traditionally been use for memory, mood, and energy. It has been demonstrated in animal and human studies to assist with fatigue, cognition, burnout, and emotional symptoms. (source, source, source, source, source) In fact, in one exploratory, single-arm study, 400 mg R. rosea extract (WS® 1375, Rosalin) was found effective for relieving many symptoms associated with burnout. These were measured by several clinical outcome questionnaires for assessing burnout, stress, mood, and sexual function. (source) There is also emerging evidence this botanical may be helpful for depression. (source)

Expert Tip: I tend to suggest Rhodiola for those with burnout, low energy, and low mood state. Oftentimes, my clients who report that if they had more energy, they would have a better mood, do well with rhodiola. Ginseng is also helpful in this population if the burnout is due to physical factors.

3. Bacopa

Bacopa monnieri has been validated for its impact on brain health in many areas including memory, anxiety, stress remediation, depression, fatigue, processing speed, and attention. (source, source, source) In fact, it has even been cited as a “nootropic,” a substance that enhances cognitive performance. (source, source)

Expert Tip: Bacopa is one of my favorite adaptogens for “brain fog,” especially if it is hormone mediated. This is because it lowers cortisol as it boosts brain function. (source) I find it combines well with Siberian Ginseng.


4. Ashwagandha

Withania somnifera, Ashwagandha is a true herbal multi-tasker.

It has been found to (source, source, source, source):

  • lower cortisol
  • support hormonal levels (thyroid and testosterone)
  • modulate stress
  • improve memory
  • help with sleep
  • boost brain power.
  • improve mood and alleviate anxiety and depression
  • enhance cellular energy
  • assist with athletic performance
  • regulate blood sugar

According to Healthline, “A 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.”

Expert Tip: Ashwagandha is the perfect herbal for those that are “wired and tired.” I use it with my insomniac clients who have hormonal complaints and have been in burnout on the physical and emotional level for a long time.

5. Gotu Kola

Centella asiatica (gotu kola) is an herbal that benefits cognitive health, physical and emotional fatigue, anxiety, attention, overall circulation, and skin health. (source, source, source) This herb is technically a nervine, which soothes the nervous system and promotes restoration.

Expert Tip: Gotu Kola is one of my go-tos for brain and fatigue issues linked with circulatory and/or skin issues.


6. Schisandra

Schisandra chinensis has some clinical evidence for cognitive support, stress, mental fatigue, menopausal symptoms, endurance, and mood. One of its constituents schisandrin B, has been shown to have neuroprotective properties as well. (source, source, source)

Expert Tip: Due to its potential impact on the liver, I use this adaptogen often in women with hormonal issues who have a history of toxicant exposure and if neurological support is indicated.

Honorable Mentions: The Nervines

I cannot forget to mention some of my beloved soothing and stimulating nervines which are sometimes needed in conjunction with these adaptogens. Verbena and chamomile are my favorite calming nervines, whereas green tea is a beautiful “stimulant” that also has a balancing effect. (source)


So, there you have it. These are the herbs I most often use in practice to support mental processing, focus, and energy. Please do make sure you read over the precautions and considerations before trying them. That being said, overall good quality herbs have a very high safety profile.

In the next post, I’ll highlight essential oils that are my favorites.

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Mental Health Resources

If you are in need of additional support and professional health, please reach out!

  • The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (U.S.) — Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
  • Crisis Text Line — Text HOME to 741741 to connect with a crisis counselor
  • Lifeline Crisis Chat — Chat online with a specialist who can provide emotional support, crisis intervention and suicide prevention services at www.crisischat.org


Other Uplifting Resources

The Tapping Solution, A Technique to Lower Cortisol and Reduce Stress- Podcast interview by Dr. Kara Fitzgerald with Nick Ortner.

Stress management tips and resources


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Disclaimer: This material is for information purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prescribe for any illness. You should check with your doctor regarding implementing any new strategies into your wellness regime. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. (Affiliation link.)

According to experts and the World Health Organization (WHO), there is no approved standard of care treatment, cure, or preventative for COVID-19. Supportive measures, vaccination, and containment are in full force as a result. Please see the CDC website and your state’s website for more information and updates. They also state when to contact your physician related to symptoms and travel history, exposures. Please read my more detailed article on this subject here.

This information is applicable ONLY for therapeutic quality essential oils. This information DOES NOT apply to essential oils that have not been tested for purity and standardized constituents. There is no quality control in the United States, and oils labeled as “100% pure” need only to contain 5% of the actual oil. The rest of the bottle can be filled with fillers and sometimes toxic ingredients that can irritate the skin. The studies are not based solely on a specific brand of an essential oil, unless stated. Please read the full study for more information.

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