Are you someone who reaches for a cup of coffee or tea first thing in the morning? Do you enjoy the energy boost and mental clarity they provide? But does the caffeine in these beverages make you feel not-so-great later in the day? You’re not alone. Many people who drink caffeinated beverages report symptoms like headaches, grogginess, and fatigue as the caffeine wears off.
No need to worry, though. Herbal teas are an excellent way to boost energy and cognition while avoiding some negative caffeine-related symptoms associated with coffee or caffeinated teas (black, green, or oolong).
So, what are “herbal” teas? Unlike traditional teas (e.g., black, green, and oolong), which are derived specifically from the Camellia sinensis plant and contain caffeine, herbal teas are made from various parts (e.g., flowers, leaves, and seeds) of other plants and do not typically contain caffeine.
Let’s explore some herbal teas that are great for boosting energy and cognition.
Panax ginseng tea
As one of the most commonly found ingredients in energy drinks, Panax ginseng can be made into a tea for a quick energy pick-me-up. Panax ginseng is rich in antioxidants and has been shown to reduce fatigue and improve focus in clinical research.
Panax ginseng tea can be found in tea bags or loose-leaf tea. Look for Asian, Korean, or Chinese ginseng when searching for your tea, as this is the common name for Panax ginseng. Alternatively, you can chop or slice whole ginseng root, steep it in boiled water for about 5 minutes, add flavourings such as honey, and then enjoy.
Ginger promotes circulation in the brain and body, meaning it effectively helps get more blood and oxygen flowing to the areas that need them. Given these properties, ginger tea is a fantastic way to gain physical and mental energy.
In one study, researchers found that taking ginger improved fatigue symptoms in runners. In another study, researchers looked at the role of ginger on cognition. They found that women who took ginger improved their working memory, i.e. remembering new information and using it shortly afterward.
Ginger tea can be prepared similarly to the Panax ginseng tea—simply chop ginger root, steep or simmer in hot water for 5-10 minutes, add any flavourings, and enjoy! Ginger tea is also available in sachets, or powdered forms.
Peppermint tea is another excellent option if you’re a fan of the mint flavour! Not only does it taste refreshing, but it can also make you feel refreshed. Peppermint has stimulating properties. This means that it ramps up signalling between the brain and the rest of the body, which can help you feel more upbeat and alert.
In a clinical study, peppermint improved athletic performance on a treadmill test in healthy males. In another study, 24 healthy young adults took a peppermint capsule. They experienced improvements in cognitive tasks where they had to process visual information quickly and were less tired when tackling them.
Peppermint tea can be found in loose-leaf form or in easy-to-use tea bags which you can steep in boiled water. You can also use fresh peppermint leaves and steep them in boiled water for about 5 minutes to enjoy a fresh and refreshing beverage.
Panax ginseng, ginger, and peppermint tea are among the most popular for these benefits, and a lot more information on these herbs can be found in Nara’s Plant Library (including how and why they work, clinical evidence, and safety details).
Please note that this article does not contain medical advice. For serious health concerns, please consult a healthcare professional.