Heather Hanks
Written by Heather Hanks

Reviewed by Physician Brandon Yew on May 24, 2022

Best Natural Energy Drinks To Help You Make It Through The Day

Public officials warn that some energy drinks may come with severe health complications, even sudden death. This article provides healthy and safe alternatives that still allow you to boost productivity and energy levels without the associated risks.

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You might want to think twice the next time you think about stocking up on your favorite energy drinks. According to a recent study published in the European Society of Cardiology, some energy drinks can increase your risk of stroke and sudden death.

This is because, in addition to high levels of caffeine, many energy drinks contain other stimulants that may increase blood pressure or cause an irregular heartbeat – even in young and healthy people.

In this article, our experts weigh in on the dangers of energy drinks and what you should be drinking instead to make it through the day safely without putting your health at risk.

Why Do We Need Energy Drinks, Anyway?

Many young people turn to energy drinks to help them work or study.

When coffee just doesn’t seem to be enough, many Americans reach for energy drinks to increase their productivity, make up for lack of sleep, and get more done during the day.

From a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) perspective, lack of energy and the need for energy drinks may stem from:

  • Work stress 
  • Poor work-life/rest balance 
  • Insufficient and poor-quality rest and sleep 
  • Poor emotional management  
  • Unhealthy diet and poor eating habits 
  • Bad lifestyle habits and choices like binge-drinking and smoking 

According to registered TCM Physician Brandon Yew, these factors “disrupt the Qi and Blood Circulation, causing the formation and accumulation of pathogenic factors like Cold, Heat, Dampness, Phlegm, Qi Stagnation and Blood Stasis within the meridian channels, impeding the proper distribution of nutrients to the entire body, resulting in fatigue and lack of energy.”

“Over time, these factors can also cause the deficiency of vital fundamental substances like Qi, Blood, Yin (cooling energy and body fluids) and Yang (warming energy), and weakening of the five vital viscera (Liver, Heart, Spleen, Lungs, and Kidneys), leading to malnourishment of the entire body. This pathology is also applicable to those with inherently weak body constitution,” explained Physician Yew.

Potential Dangers Of Energy Drinks

Some energy drinks have been linked to irregular heartbeat, which may increase the risk of heart complications.

The dangers of consuming energy drinks to boost energy, instead of addressing the core causes of fatigue, can be concerning for many people.

According to Physician Yew, “Depending on the unique body constitution, some energy drinks do actually benefit the consumer not just in terms of boosting energy, but also improving overall health in the long run. But for those whose body types happen to be a mismatch to these energy drinks, they may very likely experience further worsening of their fatigue levels, and even newly surfaced symptoms or conditions after a period of regular consumption of these energy drinks. To sum up, these drinks can cause more harm than good if used inappropriately.”

A number of studies have been done on these potential health risks of energy drinks. One study found that adults who drank certain energy drinks had an increased risk of seizures. They have been linked to seizures in children, too.

Other possible health risks associated with energy drinks may include:

  • Dehydration
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Feeling nervous, anxious, or jittery
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Heart complications, such as heart failure
  • Increases in blood pressure
  • Caffeine intoxication and withdrawal
  • Increased risk of cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome or RCVS (a sudden spasm of the blood vessels in the brain that restricts its blood supply or causes a hemorrhage)
  • Headaches or migraines

Healthy Alternatives To Energy Drinks

Below listed are some TCM herbs and formulations to boost energy levels: 

  • Gan Lu Yin: Dispels Dampness and Heat, regenerates Yin and Blood to nourish the Liver, Lungs, and Kidneys 
  • Wei Ling Tang: Strengthens Spleen’s Qi to improve fluid circulation, removing Dampness and Phlegm 
  • Di Tan Tang: Dispels Heat, Dampness, Phlegm, and Stagnated Qi; revitalizes the Heart’s and Spleen’s Qi 
  • San Ren Tang: dispels Heat, Dampness, Phlegm, and Stagnated Qi 
  • Chai Hu Shu Gan San: soothes Liver and strengthens Spleen to dispel Stagnated Qi, Phlegm, and Dampness 
  • Xiao Yao San: soothes Liver to dispel Stagnated Qi; strengthens Spleen Qi to remove Dampness; regenerates Blood and Yin to nourish the Liver 
  • Dan Zhi Xiao Yao San: Clears Liver’s Fire; soothes Liver to dispel Stagnated Qi and Blood Clots; strengthens Spleen’s Qi to remove Dampness; regenerates Blood and Yin to nourish the Liver 
  • Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang: dispels Stagnated Qi and Blood Clots, clears Blood Heat, regenerates Blood and Yin to nourish the Liver 
  • Sheng Mai San: Regenerates Qi and Yin to nourish the Heart, Lungs, and Spleen  
  • Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang: Regenerates the Spleen’s Qi and Liver’s Blood  
  • Si Wu Tang: Regenerates Blood and Yin to nourish the Liver 
  • Dang Gui Bu Xue Tang: Regenerates Spleen’s Qi and Liver’s Blood 
  • Bu Yang Huan Wu Tang: Regenerates the Heart’s and Spleen’s Qi, and Liver’s Blood; dispels Blood Clots 
  • Liu Wei Di Huang Wan: Regenerates the Spleen’s Qi, Liver’s Blood, and Kidney’s Yin; dispels Dampness, Heat, and Blood Clots 
  • Jin Gui Shen Qi Wan: Regenerates the Spleen’s Qi, Liver’s Blood, and Kidney’s Yin and Yang; dispels Dampness, Heat, and Blood Clots 
  • American Ginseng: Regenerates Qi and Yin to nourish the Heart, Lungs, and Spleen, clears Heat 
  • Cordyceps: Regenerates the Lungs’ Qi and Kidney’s Yang 
  • Black garlic: Warms the Stomach, strengthens the Spleen’s Qi and Kidney’s Yang, and improves Qi flow to dispel Stagnation 
  • Lingzhi: Regenerates Qi and Blood to nourish the Heart, Lungs, and Spleen 
  • Honey: Regenerates the Spleen’s Qi and Lung’s Yin 

“Please always bear in mind that the herbal ingredients and formulas provided above are meant for different pathological subsets of fatigue, corresponding to varying body constitutions. Essentially, fatigue might appear simple, but to effectively treat it, it can be rather complex. As such, it is strongly advised not to purchase any of them to self-medicate without first consulting a licensed TCM practitioner for professional guidance,” cautions Physician Yew. 

What Other Ways Can TCM Boost Energy?

TCM can help boost energy through acupuncture, herbal medication, cupping, tuina (Chinese manual therapy), moxibustion, and guasha (scraping). These treatments are formulated carefully by the TCM physician to address specifically the unique body constitution of every individual patient. Hence, it’s best to always first consult the TCM physician for proper assessment. 

Acupressure is an easy self-help remedy. You can practice by placing fingers or a blunt object like a massage stick at certain acupoints. Then apply an appropriate amount of pressure to elicit a tolerable sensation of soreness or tenderness, in order for it to be effective. At the same time, massage in both clockwise and anticlockwise circular motion 20 times each. Repeat for at least 3 minutes per acupoint: 

  • Bai Hui DU20 (dispels Cold, Heat, Dampness, and Phlegm to allow better Qi and Blood Circulation for improved alertness, cognition, and mood)
  • Tai Yang EX-HN5 (dispels Cold, Heat, and Dampness; restores and enhances localized Qi and Blood Circulation for improved alertness, cognition, and mood)
  • Feng Chi GB20 (dispels Cold, Heat, and Dampness; restores and enhances localized Qi and Blood Circulation for improved alertness, cognition, and mood)
  • Hegu LI4 (dispels Heat, Dampness, and Phlegm; restores and enhances Qi circulation throughout the body)
  • Nei Guan PC6 (restores and enhances the Heart’s Qi and Blood Circulation to dispel Phlegm, Stagnated Qi, and Blood Clots)
  • Dan Zhong RN17 (dispels Cold, Heat, Dampness, Phlegm, and Stagnated Qi; regenerates the Heart’s and Lung’s Qi)
  • Zhong Wan RN12 (dispels Cold, Heat, Dampness, Phlegm, and Stagnated Qi; regenerates Spleen’s Qi)
  • Guan Yuan RN4 (dispels Cold, Dampness, and Heat; revitalizes Kidney’s Qi and Yang)
  • Qi Hai RN6 (dispels Cold, Dampness, and Heat; revitalizes Kidney’s qi and Yang)
  • Zu San Li ST36 (dispels Cold, Heat, Dampness, Phlegm, and Stagnated Qi; strengthens the Stomach’s Qi)
  • Yin Ling Quan SP9 (dispels Cold, Heat, Dampness, and Phlegm; strengthens the Spleen’s Qi)
  • Feng Long ST40 (dispels Cold, Heat, Dampness, Phlegm, and Stagnated Qi; strengthens the Stomach’s Qi)
  • San Yin Jiao SP6 (dispels Cold, Heat, Dampness, and Phlegm; revitalizes the Spleen, Liver, and Kidneys)
  • Tai Xi KI3 (dispels Cold, Heat, and Dampness; revitalizes the Kidneys)
  • Tai Chong LR3 (soothes Liver to dissipate and dispel Cold, Heat, Dampness, Phlegm, Qi Stagnation, and Blood Clots; revitalizes the Liver)

“Do take note that acupressure provides a mild boost to energy levels and is insufficient in tackling the actual root pathology behind fatigue, which can be complex to treat. It is thus strongly recommended to seek professional TCM help, in conjunction with the medical doctor especially if the fatigue persists, and or is of greater severity, affecting daily functions,” stated Physician Yew.

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