During times of stress, illness or sleep deprivation, many women feel exhausted. In an attempt to stay alert, some women turn to cigarettes, prescription medication, illegal drugs or other stimulants. Several natural products can offer a stimulant boost, often with fewer side effects than conventional alternatives. However, any stimulant can cause side effects, including anxiety, insomnia and addiction. Consult your health care provider before using any natural stimulant if you have a medical condition or take medication.
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During all stages of the plant's life cycle, tea leaves contain moderate levels of caffeine. Black tea offers the strongest stimulant effect, although green and white teas also contain natural stimulants. The National Institutes of Health attributes some of green tea's health benefits, including weight loss and mental clarity, to the plant's natural caffeine content. Natural stimulants in green tea also can cause side effects, including insomnia and heart palpitations. Do not use green tea or green tea supplements if your physician has advised you to avoid caffeine.
The bark of the yohimbe tree, an African evergreen, contains a high concentration of the stimulant compound yohimbine. Yohimbine is a potent stimulant of the central nervous system; the NIH notes that it can cause altertness, insomnia, euphoria and sexual urges. Traditionally, yohimbe bark was used to increase stamina in both men and woemn. Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved yohimbine as a treatment for erectile dysfunction in men, there is no strong scientific evidence to support the plant's use for any other purpose. Avoid yohimbe entirely if you have a heart condition or anxiety disorder, as it may significantly worsen these conditions.
In many parts of South America, yerba mate is used in place of coffee or other morning beverages. According to Mayo Clinic nutritionist Katherine Zeratsky, this natural stimulant may help to boost metabolism, relieve headaches and relieve fatigue. Although yerba mate is generally safe when used in moderate amounts, Zertasky warns that it can elevate the cancer risk among smokers when it is used routinely. Yerba mate may offer health benefits, but smokers should probably avoid using this as a coffee substitute on a daily basis.
Guarana supplements are commonly used by people seeking a natural alternative source of caffeine. The NIH acknowledges guarana's caffeine content, suggesting that people avoid combining it with other stimulant herbs such as green tea. Guarana may be included in herbal teas, energy drinks or supplement capsules designed to provide a stimulant effect. Its natural flavor is slightly astringent and similar to black coffee or dark chocolate.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration banned the use of ephedra, a powerful stimulant herb, because it caused significant side effects. According to Katherine Zeratsky, bitter orange supplements contain synephrine and octopamine, compounds that are nearly identical to those responsible for ephedra's harmful effects. Although bitter orange is highly effective as a stimulant and possibly effective as a weight loss aid, it should not be used except under the guidance of a qualified health care provider.