The world we live in is indeed an extraordinary one. However, living in the world today can sometimes be a fast, hectic and quite stressful experience. The hustle culture of today's society is glorified by our infatuation with technology, and our constant need to be doing, rather than being.

When we need an energy boost to get us through the day, we often unconsciously turn to refined and sugary carbohydrates, caffeine and other stimulants, as well as high-fat foods. Having an opposite and quite detrimental effect on our mind and bodies, and usually leading to that jittery feeling, followed by a sugar crash, poor digestion and irritability. And as a result, our ojas (the subtle essence of strength, vigour and vitality) can become depleted and promote feelings of exhaustion.

The majority of us do not live in the idyllic, agrarian culture that Ayurveda was created in. Nor do we live in isolation from the consequences of the cycles and rhythms of nature. However, help is still available to us from the natural world of plants, fungi and herbs - to provide us with long lasting natural energy supplements when we need it most!


Rhodiola Rosea 

Rhodiola is an adaptogenic herb which naturally helps the body deal with stress, anxiety and as a supplement to boost energy. It was discovered by the Russian scientist Dr Nicolai Lazarev - who also coined the term ‘adaptogen’-  in 1947. It originates from Arctic Siberia, and has been used by the indigenous Siberian population for hundreds of years, to help cope with the stress and provide energy for living in such an extreme and cold climate. 

Energy & Endurance Benefits
Rhodiola is a potent anti-inflammatory and energy boosting supplement. Studies show that it can increase ATP synthesis (the energy currency of the cell), while helping the body to recover faster. It has been used by the Russian Olympic Team to help increase athletic ability, stamina and endurance, as it increases red blood cells -and as a result oxygen carried to muscles- and decreases oxidative stress. 

Adaptogenic Benefits
Adaptogens are natural substances which help your body to adapt to mental and physical stress. Rhodiola contains a phytochemical called salidroside - known for its stress and anxiety relieving properties, and its ability to balance cortisol levels harmoniously within the body. This compound also helps in the restoration of the adrenals and adrenal fatigue from burnout, and as a supplement for low energy.

Rhodiola can also help to improve mood and cognition by stimulating the production of serotonin and dopamine. These neurotransmitters further boost our energy and wellbeing naturally, due to the positive and ‘happy’ effects on our brain chemistry.

Anti-Aging Benefits
Salidroside and rosavin compounds are essential active constituents found within Rhodiola, which have been extensively researched for their longevity and anti-aging benefits. Salidroside can help to prevent premature ageing and protect human skin cells when exposed to oxidative stress, by preventing skin cells’ ability to divide and promoting radiant, youthful and glowing skin. 


Chaga

Also known as ‘The King of Mushrooms’, Chaga can be found growing mostly on trees in Russia, Scandinavia and the USA and looks like tree bark.

Energy & Endurance Benefits
Studies suggest that gram per gram, Chaga contains the highest amount of antioxidants than any other source in the world. It contains Superoxide Dismutase (SOD) which comprises potent anti-viral and anti-inflammatory properties, as well as Betulin and Betulinic acid. It is a powerful force-field to be reckoned with against bacteria and pathogens!

SOD is essential for anti-ageing and energy production because it fights free radicals and stops them from oxidising cells and tissues. By eating antioxidant-rich foods like Chaga and reducing elements that produce stress in the body, we may enhance the structure, energy and health of our cells and support the levels of SOD.

Chaga is also well known for its high levels of Melanin, and is a wonderful internal beauty mushroom that is great for glowing eyes, skin, nails and lustrous hair. 

Digestive Benefits
Chaga originates from Russia where it was originally used for digestive issues and colon cancer, and to help support a healthy microbiome. Research indicates that poor gut health can be linked to low energy and chronic fatigue. The Norwegian translation of Chaga is ‘cancer polypore’, in reference to its potential benefits against tumours. 

Immune Benefits
Chaga is an immunomodulator and can suppress or stimulate the immune system depending on what the body requires. This is because of the high content of polysaccharides and beta glucans. Research also suggests that Chaga can help to increase T-cells and immune cells.

Chaga also contains high amounts of minerals such as potassium, magnesium, zinc and iron. It is a very alkaline and mineral-rich fungi, and was used as a coffee substitute in Finland during World War II due to the similarity in taste as a supplement for energy.


Cordyceps

Cordyceps is also and adaptogen which helps to bring strength, balance and harmony back to the mind and body. Unlike other species of fungi, Cordyceps does not grow on trees - originally it was a parasitic fungus that grew on various insects. However, we now have vegan friendly Cordyceps which are grown on different kinds of fermentation. 

Energy & Endurance Benefits
Story has it that Cordyceps were originally found by shepherds in the Himalayan mountains and Tibet, who were travelling through high altitudes with their Yaks. The Yaks were fatigued and slowing down until they started grazing on Cordyceps mushrooms, and suddenly had a burst of energy. The shepherds did the same and experienced the same burst of energy!

Cordyceps has amazing beneficial qualities for our lungs and energy production. Research shows that it can increase our VO2 max (maximum oxygen intake) by 15%, allowing for more oxygen to be taken into our lungs and resulting in better performance and more energy. Cordyceps became widely known in 1993 when the Chinese Olympic Running Team broke multiple world records, and were accused of doping - but tested clean. 

It is a nourishing and rejuvenating fungi which can help to build our adrenals, due to stimulating increase in ATP production. And is a great alternative for those trying to wean off caffeine or stimulants, or for that afternoon coffee pick-me-up!

Aphrodisiac Benefits
Known as the ‘Himalayan Viagra’, Cordyceps is one of the top aphrodisiacs in the world as it increases blood circulation and testosterone levels, and can help to increase performance (inside and outside the bedroom).


Korean Ginseng

Also known as Panax Ginseng, which means "all healing". This species originated in Korea and China, and is now one of the most widely cultivated with the largest body of clinical data. Traditionally, Ginseng is used to promote virility, improve stamina and cognitive function, strengthen the mind and body, and restore the health of the adrenal glands.

Energy & Endurance Benefits
Korean Ginseng is harvested from the plant's root, which contains the bioactive chemicals ginsenosides and saponins - believed to increase metabolic effect on the central nervous system, and is a powerful supplement to boost energy, stamina and endurance. Due to its polysaccharides and oligopeptide content, it can help to lower oxidative stress and increase energy production in cells, resulting in less fatigue. 

Korean Ginseng also helps to ensure the body is functioning optimally, and can help to reduce sensitivity to stress, while improving sleep quality. Due to its potency, Korean Ginseng is best used by those who are recovering from long-term illness or extreme exhaustion.

Korean Ginseng is also categorised as a nootropic as it aids in improving memory, cognitive energy and function, due to its capacity to increase protein synthesis and neurotransmitter activity in the brain via ginsenosides.


Ashwagandha 

‘The King of Ayurvedic Herbs’ is an adaptogenic and rasayana (rejuvenating) tonic. It is referenced in the ancient Ayurvedic texts Charaka Samhita and Sushruta Samhita for its nourishing and strengthening properties of mind and body. 

Energy & Endurance Benefits
Ashwagandha is a revitalising tonic that increases energy, stamina, and endurance. It calms and nourishes the nervous system while simultaneously strengthening. It can increase athletic performance and ability, by increasing heart and lung capacity, muscle strength and energy levels. 

Aphrodisiac Benefits
Ashwagandha is a wonderful tonic for both male and female sexual health, and translates to ‘strength of a stallion’ in Sanskrit. It helps to reduce overall stress levels, allowing for a calm state of mind to help us appreciate sensuality - often a challenge when we are experiencing feelings of stress and fatigue. 

 

In Ayurvedic medicine, the herb and plant compounds consumed are transformed into cellular energy of the human body by rasa (taste), vīrya (energy), vipāka (post-digestive effect) and prabhāva (the unique specific action of the herb).

By utilising 2 or 3 different herbs which share a similar rasa, vīrya and vipāka (like the herbs and fungi referenced above), this can help to encourage each other’s action and have a synergistic effect on the constitution or dosha

To help carry the medicinal properties of herbs to deep internal tissues, Ayurveda promotes the use of anupāna when taking your supplements. Ghee, milk, or aloe vera juice is the best anupāna for pitta. Warm water or ginger tea is the best anupāna for vāta. While water, hot water, honey or pomegranate juice can be used for kapha. 

(Taking multiple supplements at once is safe to do so, as long as there are no counter-indications with other supplements and/or medications. For some supplements optimal absorption can depend on when in the day it is taken and what the supplement is taken with).

 

Written by Natalie Poppy Sheehan
Nutritionist (BSc, ANutr) & Ayurvedic Massage Therapist (FHT).