Fatigue. Even the word sounds tired and worn down. Whether your fatigue is chronic or just enough to upset day-to-day activities, it can diminish the desire to live life to the fullest. Different from the tiredness you feel after an occasional late night, fatigue can last for days or even weeks. A 2017 National Safety Council survey found that 97 percent of respondents reported having at least one of the leading nine risk factors for fatigue including enduring long commutes, working more than 50 hours a week, and working very early or very late. Seventy-six percent of those surveyed said they felt tired, 53 percent felt less productive, and 44 percent had trouble focusing. Fatigue’s effect on productivity and overall health is taking a toll on Americans. The following adaptogens and nutrients can counteract fatigue and help restore energy and balance for a more joyful and productive life.
Andrographis is one of nature’s most effective herbs with a broad range of health benefits that has been used throughout the centuries in Ayurvedic medicine. Andrographis supports mental and physical health, fostering homeostasis—the state of internal balance that exists despite external changes that can affect well-being. Like other adaptogens, andrographis helps people adapt to less than ideal circumstances—whether real or perceived—by decreasing reactivity to stressful situations.
While andrographis was first seen as a cold and flu fighter, research now indicates that this powerful herb can also lower stress levels, help brain cells communicate more clearly, and boost energy levels thanks to a bitter compound in the leaves called andrographolide. In lab experiments, andrographis was shown to be more effective than diazepam (Valium) for stress reduction. Used at low doses, this versatile adaptogen was also found to lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol and relieve the symptoms of long-term stress. In a Chilean study, patients suffering from multiple sclerosis—a disease that can sap energy—found that those taking andrographis experienced 44 percent less fatigue than those taking a placebo.
For best results, look for an andrographis supplement that includes at least 80 mg andrographolide and around 400 mg of andrographis per capsule.
This adaptogen has been shown in multiple studies to increase the brain’s “feel good” neurotransmitter chemicals—norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin. Salidrosides in andrographis, as well as the compounds rosavin, rosin, and rosarian, are responsible for the herb’s energizing effects. Researched since the 1960s, clinical findings show that rhodiola improves focus and productivity. One double-blind study of 60 college students who were studying for their final exams showed that those taking rhodiola felt less mentally fatigued and had improved feelings of well-being. They also got better final exam grades.
Rhodiola supplementation was also found to reduce stress and fatigue, enhance concentration and physical fitness, and improve memory in another double-blind trial of 161 men.
Another clinical study of physicians on night duty showed that those taking rhodiola experienced improved mental performance. When it comes to moving beyond fatigue to improved focus, feelings of well-being, and endurance, rhodiola is an excellent solution. Excellent as a stand-alone herb, rhodiola also works well when taken with ashwagandha.
Another favorite Ayurvedic remedy for fatigue is ashwagandha. Here’s why: The adrenal glands play an important role in managing fatigue. When these glands are stressed and depleted, the body responds negatively by raising cortisol levels. Cortisol is known as the “fight or flight” hormone and is responsible for many of the negative effects of stress, including weight gain and mood swings. Clinical studies have proven ashwagandha’s ability to lessen cortisol while increasing antioxidant activity. This, in turn, allows the body to adapt and thrive. In fact, reducing cortisol levels has been shown to reduce the symptoms of chronic stress and fatigue significantly. A 60-day double-blind, placebo-controlled trial found that ashwagandha decreased the physical symptoms of stress by 76 percent. Those taking the herb also reported a 69 percent drop in stress and insomnia, a 68 percent decline in social dysfunction, and 79 percent less severe depression. Ashwagandha is a key adaptogen and it also works synergistically with rhodiola to fight fatigue.
An iron deficiency is a common cause of fatigue, especially among women. However, a study involving 136 women between the ages of 18 and 55 found that those taking 80 mg of iron daily for four weeks experienced 29 percent less fatigue compared to just 13 percent in those taking a placebo. Women of childbearing age and those who are pregnant are at the greatest risk of an iron deficiency. On the other hand, men and postmenopausal women should have their iron levels checked before supplementing since low levels are rare among these groups.
The B Vitamins
This family of water-soluble nutrients has earned a reputation as the energy vitamins, and for good reason. The B’s are essential for turning the food we eat into energy, or more specifically into adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, which is the form of energy your cells use. Converting food into cellular energy requires hundreds of chemical reactions. Since the B vitamins act as co-factors in many of those reactions, it’s important to make sure your levels are adequate. Just be aware that the B vitamins are not stored in the body. What’s more, stress, alcohol, and a poor diet can deplete your supply. This is why it’s important to replenish your levels daily with a B complex that includes B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B6, pantothenic acid, biotin, B12, and folate.