For many, a caffeinated drink or two is a staple on a hectic day. Whether it’s a coffee, energy drink, or hot tea, even I can’t go most mornings without a caffeine fix to get my heart rate going and feel like I have cognitive function again. Kidding. Kind of.
Most canned energy drinks on the shelf are chock-full of artificial sweeteners and stimulants that make for a short-lived energy burst that fizzles into a sugar crash with a headache. While we aren’t here to tell you what you should or shouldn’t drink, there’s no harm in switching up your daily dose of jitters with a natural stimulant that might yield better results than your typical energy drink.
If you’re like me and feel a bit wary about how much and what kind of stimulant you’re ingesting daily, I’ve compiled a list of some of the best natural stimulants that can give your blood pressure and sugar a break.
Natural stimulants are derived from plants, herbs, fungi, and other botanical species and have been used in plant-based medicine for centuries worldwide.
These stimulants can be consumed in myriad forms, whether brewed with water, encapsulated in supplement form, or eaten cooked or raw. While some natural stimulants contain caffeine, such as coffee or herbal teas, others contain vitamins and minerals that significantly boost energy and heightened cognitive function.
In modern times, coffee or pharmaceuticals have taken the stimulant market by storm due to their promised effectiveness and overall accessibility. However, many artificial stimulants and caffeinated drinks have poor side effects due to their chemical makeup of alkaloids, both natural and synthetic.
For a change of pace or even a new staple in your morning routine, here’s our list of the best natural stimulants you can buy.
In today’s pharmaceutical climate, many people with ADHD cannot afford or react positively to prescription treatments. While these medicines effectively eliminate some effects of attention disorders, they can also leave us feeling like zombies at the end of the day- to put it lightly.
The amphetamines used in common ADHD medicines like Adderall, while effective in boosting focus, energy levels, and blood flow, negatively affect the central nervous system by raising blood pressure and heart rate. Additionally, their appetite-suppressant qualities can cause irritability, moodiness, unhealthy weight loss, and stomach issues.
Studies have shown that individuals with ADHD, particularly children, can benefit from herbal supplements alongside or without medication in everyday life. Rather than relying solely on pharmaceuticals to remain attentive, many natural stimulants contain vitamins and minerals that provide the same energy and dopamine boost sans the end-of-day zombification.
This naturally caffeine-free mushroom is often referred to as an adaptogen, a natural supplement that aids the body in stress regulation. It is commonly used as a natural athletic performance enhancement as it increases oxygen in the body and reduces fatigue, but using it on a day-to-day basis can improve overall cognitive function and physical stamina.
Combine cordyceps with other mushrooms of your choice to create your perfect daily fungi cocktail.
While not technically a stimulant, this honorable mushroom mention will provide a natural energy boost without the midday crash. A 2018 study indicates that lion’s mane can also aid in stabilizing dopamine levels in those struggling with mood swings and depressive symptoms.
While additional human study is needed, this mushroom is a quintessential element of fungal supplements. Pairing this fungus alongside others can create a full suit of body armor to fight mental fatigue, wake up your neurotransmitters, and activate your brain cells for improved brain function.
Yes, green tea naturally contains caffeine, but the real hero of this mug is its active ingredient L-theanine, an amino acid that supports relaxation by decreasing stress and anxiety levels. Clinical studies have shown that L-theanine works symbiotically to improve mental cognition, accuracy, and focus in addition to caffeine.
Green tea’s additional potent antioxidants, flavonoids, can organically regulate cellular activity and protect your body against stressors.
Not only does yerba mate contain enough caffeine to get you through a midday slump, but it also offers other supplements to help you fly through work feeling relaxed. Thanks to theobromine and theophylline, yerba mate increases blood flow and oxygen to the brain, reducing overall blood pressure.
For thousands of years, Ginkgo Biloba has been used in Chinese medicine to improve memory and mental sharpness and has recently yielded positive results in children with ADHD. This antioxidant can improve blood flow to the brain, offering short-term energy and cognition improvements and long-term aid against degenerative memory diseases like Alzheimer’s.
Not a stimulant, oops, but a dang good memory and cognition boost, both in the short and long term. Early studies of Gotu kola have shown evidence that this herbal tea can bolster your brain against Alzheimer’s, like Ginkgo Biloba.
Caution: For those who may be on hormonal contraceptives, this may not be the one for you, as Rhodiola Rosea has proven to alter birth control’s effects. Those who also may be or are bipolar should also not consume this supplement.
Those who can rely on this herbal supplement for their daily energy boost (first of all, I’m jealous) reap the benefits of this natural serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine-stimulating herb. This adaptogen notably fights fatigue while helping the body adapt to stress over time, and continued usage could yield positive mental health benefits.
Named for the Amazonian tribe in which this medicine originated, the Guarani, this natural stimulant is commonly included in weight-loss supplements and natural pre-workout concoctions. This herb contains caffeine to predominantly provide stimulation, but its theophylline and theobromine also offer relaxing, blood sugar and blood pressure-reducing qualities.
The GOAT, the best for last. This is truly nature’s crack, if I may- after personally replacing my medicinal stimulants with ginseng vitamins, I can see why it maintains its status as one of the most popular herbs in the U.S.
Ginseng does not contain caffeine but acts as a solid focus-boosting supplement that aids in improved learning and material retention. However, it is advised that those with diabetes should not ingest ginseng without consulting a doctor, and ginseng should not be taken consecutively for more than a few weeks.
Take it from a recent college graduate who relied on a cup of coffee (or two, or three) and Adderall to make it through some days- I get it. Accessibility and physical compatibility with stimulants make all the difference, and making a total switch is easier said than done. But, for those curious, any of these alternatives could offer health benefits that rival your daily java.
Everyone works differently, and what works for you or me may not be what works for your neighbor. Consult a doctor before making any drastic changes to your stimulant consumption.