Life Extension Magazine®

Man running on beach with a boost in energy reserves

Safely Boost Your Energy Reserves

Aging humans suffer higher levels of fatigue, often complaining of brain drain, diminished energy, and chronic exhaustion. Two traditional Chinese medicinal ingredients have been uncovered that work deep at the cellular level to boost ATP, the body’s internal energy resource. When combined, these readily available plant extracts have shown the ability to fight all forms of fatigue, including mental, emotional, physical, and stress without stimulants.

Scientifically reviewed by: Dr. Heidi Yanoti, DC, in August 2023. Written by: Margaret Powell.

Safely Boost Your Energy Reserves

Tired of being tired all the time?

Aging people often suffer from diminished energy and persistent tiredness.1 But contrary to popular belief, mental and physical fatigue are not always natural products of growing older.

The causes of fatigue can be difficult to pinpoint—and therefore, challenging to treat. As a result, many people reach for stimulants, usually in the form of caffeine or energy drinks to artificially boost their energy levels.2 These options may work for the short-term, but they don’t create natural energy in your body; they temporarily squeeze adrenaline from your cells creating a larger energy deficit later on.3

However, you don’t have to resort to stimulants to replenish your body’s energy stores. Two traditional Chinese medicine ingredients have been found to work at the cellular level to boost your body’s own natural energy source called ATP. 4,5

The potent medicinal mushroom called cordyceps and ginseng root provide sustainable energy by utilizing your body’s own energy resources.4,5

Whatever the source of your fatigue—mental, emotional, physical, stress, or other—these two compounds can boost ATP levels and help you maintain optimal energy despite the passage of time.

Recharge Your Body’s Batteries

Recharge Your Body’s Batteries  

Your body is loaded with cells that contain mitochondria that make the vital energy molecule known as ATP.6 Think of ATP as the tiny “batteries” that our bodies use to store and move energy.

Fatigue and exhaustion are the direct result of insufficient ATP.7 Over time, our lack of energy is not simply due to “aging” but rather an indication that we are running low on ATP.8

The good news is that you can restore youthful ATP levels throughout your body with a pair of time-tested natural ingredients. The medicinal mushroom Cordyceps sinensis and the root of the ginseng plant (Panax ginseng) have been proven to boost energy by ramping up ATP production.4,5

In addition to increasing ATP production, cordyceps enhances our ability to burn fuel more efficiently and store its energy as ATP, and ginseng supports ATP production at the much higher levels possible when oxygen is available, as in a long-distance run or a prolonged, mentally challenging task.9,10

Nature’s Energy Boosters

Cordyceps sinensis is considered one of the most valuable medicinal mushrooms in China due to its rarity and valuable health benefits. In traditional Chinese medicine, cordyceps has been used for everything from cancer prevention to metabolic modulation and energy production.11,12 Now, science has uncovered how cordyceps enhances energy levels in three ways:

  1. By raising ATP levels , even under stressful conditions that would typically produce fatigue. For example, in animals with iron deficiency anemia (a common cause of fatigue in humans), cordyceps boosted ATP levels and blood flow.4
  2. By lowering levels of lactic acid , the substance that produces fatigue in over-stressed muscles.9 This has direct bearing on exercise capacity. Studies show that when mice are supplemented with cordyceps, they can increase swimming time by 20% to as much as 94%.9,13,14
  3. By increasing insulin sensitivity,15,16 the more sensitive your cells are to insulin, the faster and more completely they take up sugar from your blood. In the short-term, this gives your cells access to more energy, and in the long-term, this lowers your risk of diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic conditions.

Panax ginseng is an important adaptagenic herb that has long been used to boost energy and reduce feelings of fatigue and exhaustion.17-20 Now, studies show that ginseng produces these effects by increasing ATP production in the mitochondria.5,21 Ginseng also activates multiple enzymes in the so-called tricarboxylic acid cycle (or Krebs cycle), enabling mitochondria to extract maximum energy (in the form of ATP) from their glucose fuel in the presence of oxygen.10

As a result of their ability to enhance the body’s own energy production, studies have demonstrated the ability of cordyceps and Panax ginseng to enhance physical and mental energy.4,5,9,13,14,17-19 As you’ll soon read, scientists have developed a method to enable far more ginseng to be absorbed into your bloodstream than ever before!

Boost Your Physical Energy

Boost Your Physical Energy

In an impressive human study, 20 healthy adults age 50-75 years were supplemented with 333 mg of cordyceps extract three times a day for 12 weeks, or a placebo.22 At the beginning and conclusion of the study each participant performed exercise testing on a stationary bicycle to maximal levels. By the end of the study period, the subjects taking cordyceps had a 10.5% improvement in the time until they experienced muscle fatigue, and their ability to work out until they were “out of breath” increased by 8.5%.22 The placebo patients not taking cordyceps showed a worsening of both fatigue and ventilation status.

Along with cordyceps, ginseng has been found to enhance physical energy as well. In the laboratory, rats treated with a single dose of energy-boosting ginseng increased the time they could run on a treadmill by 132%. After 7 days they had increased by 179%.23 Multiple studies now confirm that ginseng used alone or in combination prolongs aerobic exercise endurance of even untrained rats and mice.20,24-26

Restore Your Mental Energy

Restore Your Mental Energy  

People with depression often lack the energy to do anything. In this case, the fatigue is mental rather than physical, yet just as debilitating. In fact, recent studies have confirmed that in people suffering from major depression, their brain levels of ATP are low—direct confirmation of that “blah” feeling and lack of motivation that so many people with depression report.27-29 By restoring ATP levels, the brain is able to function at a higher level.27

Among other mental benefits, ginseng produces improvements in levels of the calming neurotransmitter GABA.30 Unlike prescription drugs like Valium® and Xanax®, which alleviate anxiety by fooling your body into thinking it has more GABA, ginseng increases levels of your body’s own GABA, producing a more natural sense of calmness and healthier sleep.30,31

One study found that a single 200 mg dose of a standardized ginseng extract significantly reduced mental fatigue while improving cognitive performance on mental arithmetic tasks in a group of healthy volunteers.32

In a subsequent study, researchers gave healthy volunteers either 200 mg of ginseng extract, or a placebo, immediately followed first by a series of cognitively demanding tasks. Thirty minutes later they gave the volunteers either 25 grams (nearly an ounce) of glucose or a placebo.33 As to be expected, both ginseng and glucose improved performance on arithmetic and reduced feelings of fatigue. However, because ginseng lowered blood sugar, while the glucose raised it, the researchers concluded that ginseng was vastly superior to sugar as an energy-boosting supplement.

And in still another study, healthy young adults taking 400 mg/day of a standardized ginseng extract for 8 days improved working memory and feelings of calmness, compared with placebo recipients.34

Enhanced Absorption — For Even Better Results

Ginseng has numerous health benefits, but it is poorly absorbed from the digestive tract in its native form. Most forms of ginseng require fermentation in the human intestine before they can be absorbed.35-37

Now, scientific innovation has brought us an advanced formulation of ginseng that naturally ferments premium Panax ginseng, a process which has been shown to increase absorption of the active compounds of ginseng (ginsenosides) by more than 15-fold.38

Innovative research demonstrates the utility of fermenting premium ginseng in customized fermenters.39 Studies in humans reveal that, compared with standard ginseng extracts, the GS15-4 form of fermented ginseng extract is absorbed 15.5 times as much in 24 hours, achieves a 27-fold higher peak concentration in blood, and reaches that peak in roughly a quarter of the time (3.29 vs. 12.04 hours).38


Low energy levels and fatigue plague millions of Americans, especially as we age.1,40 While fatigue has many different physical and mental causes, it ultimately comes down to insufficient levels of ATP, the tiny molecular batteries our bodies use to store and transport energy.7,40

Mainstream medicine and popular culture have conspired to produce a toxic response to fatigue in the form of stimulant drugs or caffeine/sugar combinations that have potentially addictive, and even fatal, adverse effects.41

Both cordyceps and ginseng have hundreds of years’ worth of proven energy-boosting benefits without addictive or toxic potential.11,12,17-20 Both supplements are now known to act by raising ATP levels, making more energy available to brain, muscle, and other vital organs, restoring more youthful energy levels.4,5

If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Health Advisor at 1-866-864-3027.


  1. Egerton T. Self-reported aging-related fatigue: A concept description and Its relevance to physical therapist practice. Phys Ther. 2013 Aug 22.
  2. Available at: Accessed August 26, 2013.
  3. Battram DS, Graham TE, Richter EA, Dela F. The effect of caffeine on glucose kinetics in humans--influence of adrenaline. J Physiol. 2005 Nov 15;569(Pt 1):347-55.
  4. Manabe N, Azuma Y, Sugimoto M, et al. Effects of the mycelial extract of cultured Cordyceps sinensis on in vivo hepatic energy metabolism and blood flow in dietary hypoferric anaemic mice. Br J Nutr. 2000 Feb;83(2):197-204.
  5. Li XT, Chen R, Jin LM, Chen HY. Regulation on energy metabolism and protection on mitochondria of Panax ginseng polysaccharide. Am J Chin Med. 2009;37(6):1139-52.
  6. Available at: Accessed August 27, 2013.
  7. Meeus M, Nijs J, Hermans L, Goubert D, Calders P. The role of mitochondrial dysfunctions due to oxidative and nitrosative stress in the chronic pain or chronic fatigue syndromes and fibromyalgia patients: peripheral and central mechanisms as therapeutic targets? Expert Opin Ther Targets. 2013 Sep;17(9):1081-9.
  8. Shimano Y. Studies on aging through analysis of the glucose metabolism related to the ATP--production of the senescence accelerated mouse (SAM). Hokkaido Igaku Zasshi. 1998 Nov;73(6):557-69.
  9. Yan W, Li T, Lao J, Song B, Shen Y. Anti-fatigue property of Cordyceps guangdongensis and the underlying mechanisms. Pharm Biol. 2013 May;51(5):614-20.
  10. Wang JR, Zhou H, Yi XQ, Jiang ZH, Liu L. Total ginsenosides of Radix Ginseng modulates tricarboxylic acid cycle protein expression to enhance cardiac energy metabolism in ischemic rat heart tissues. Molecules. 2012;17(11):12746-57.
  11. Zhu JS, Halpern GM, Jones K. The scientific rediscovery of an ancient Chinese herbal medicine: Cordyceps sinensis: part II. J Altern Complement Med. 1998 Fall;4(4):429-57.
  12. Zhu JS, Halpern GM, Jones K. The scientific rediscovery of an ancient Chinese herbal medicine: Cordyceps sinensis: part I. J Altern Complement Med. 1998 Fall;4(3):289-303.
  13. Kumar R, Negi PS, Singh B, Ilavazhagan G, Bhargava K, Sethy NK. Cordyceps sinensis promotes exercise endurance capacity of rats by activating skeletal muscle metabolic regulators. J Ethnopharmacol. 2011 Jun 14;136(1):260-6.
  14. Koh JH, Kim KM, Kim JM, Song JC, Suh HJ. Antifatigue and antistress effect of the hot-water fraction from mycelia of Cordyceps sinensis. Biol Pharm Bull. 2003 May;26(5):691-4.
  15. Balon TW, Jasman AP, Zhu JS. A fermentation product of Cordyceps sinensis increases whole-body insulin sensitivity in rats. J Altern Complement Med. 2002 Jun;8(3):315-23.
  16. Zhao CS, Yin WT, Wang JY, et al. CordyMax Cs-4 improves glucose metabolism and increases insulin sensitivity in normal rats. J Altern Complement Med. 2002 Jun;8(3):309-14.
  17. Oliynyk S, Oh S. Actoprotective effect of ginseng: improving mental and physical performance. J Ginseng Res. 2013 Apr;37(2):144-66.
  18. Xie J, Shao J, Lu Y, et al. Separation of ginseng active ingredients and their roles in cancer metastasis supplementary therapy. Curr Drug Metab. 2013 Jun 1;14(5):616-23.
  19. Lee NH, Yoo SR, Kim HG, Cho JH, Son CG. Safety and tolerability of Panax ginseng root extract: a randomized, placebo-controlled, clinical trial in healthy Korean volunteers. J Altern Complement Med. 2012 Nov;18(11):1061-9.
  20. Choi JY, Woo TS, Yoon SY, et al. Red ginseng supplementation more effectively alleviates psychological than physical fatigue. J Ginseng Res. 2011 Sep;35(3):331-8.
  21. Tian J, Zhang S, Li G, Liu Z, Xu B. 20(S)-ginsenoside Rg3, a neuroprotective agent, inhibits mitochondrial permeability transition pores in rat brain. Phytother Res. 2009 Apr;23(4):486-91.
  22. Chen S, Li Z, Krochmal R, Abrazado M, Kim W, Cooper CB. Effect of Cs-4 (Cordyceps sinensis) on exercise performance in healthy older subjects: a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. J Altern Complement Med. 2010 May;16(5):585-90.
  23. Filaretov AA, Bogdanova TS, Podvigina TT, Bodganov AI. Role of pituitary-adrenocortical system in body adaptation abilities. Exp Clin Endocrinol. 1988 Dec;92(2):129-36.
  24. Wang LC, Lee TF. Effect of ginseng saponins on exercise performance in non-trained rats. Planta Med. 1998 Mar;64(2):130-3.
  25. Tadano T, Nakagawasai O, Niijima F, Tan-No K, Kisara K. The effects of traditional tonics on fatigue in mice differ from those of the antidepressant imipramine: a pharmacological and behavioral study. Am J Chin Med. 2000;28(1):97-104.
  26. Zhao W, Zhang X, Wang W, Zhang L. Experimental study for the anti-fatigue effect of ginseng general ginsenosides P.E. in vivo. Wei Sheng Yan Jiu. 2009 Mar;38(2):184-7.
  27. Cao X, Li LP, Wang Q, et al. Astrocyte-derived ATP modulates depressive-like behaviors. Nat Med. 2013 Jun;19(6):773-7.
  28. Volz HP, Rzanny R, Riehemann S, et al. 31P magnetic resonance spectroscopy in the frontal lobe of major depressed patients. Eur Arch Psychiatry Clin Neurosci. 1998;248(6):289-95.
  29. Available at: Accessed August 27, 2013.
  30. Kitaoka K, Uchida K, Okamoto N, et al. Fermented ginseng improves the first-night effect in humans. Sleep. 2009 Mar;32(3):413-21.
  31. Available at: Accessed August 27, 2013.
  32. Reay JL, Kennedy DO, Scholey AB. Single doses of Panax ginseng (G115) reduce blood glucose levels and improve cognitive performance during sustained mental activity. J Psychopharmacol. 2005 Jul;19(4):357-65.
  33. Reay JL, Kennedy DO, Scholey AB. Effects of Panax ginseng, consumed with and without glucose, on blood glucose levels and cognitive performance during sustained ‘mentally demanding’ tasks. J Psychopharmacol. 2006 Nov;20(6):771-81.
  34. Reay JL, Scholey AB, Kennedy DO. Panax ginseng (G115) improves aspects of working memory performance and subjective ratings of calmness in healthy young adults. Hum Psychopharmacol. 2010 Aug;25(6):462-71.
  35. Leung KW, Wong AS. Pharmacology of ginsenosides: a literature review. Chin Med. 2010;5:20.
  36. Hasegawa H. Proof of the mysterious efficacy of ginseng: basic and clinical trials: metabolic activation of ginsenoside: deglycosylation by intestinal bacteria and esterification with fatty acid. J Pharmacol Sci. 2004 Jun;95(2):153-7.
  37. Akao T, Kida H, Kanaoka M, Hattori M, Kobashi K. Intestinal bacterial hydrolysis is required for the appearance of compound K in rat plasma after oral administration of ginsenoside Rb1 from Panax ginseng. J Pharm Pharmacol. 1998 Oct;50(10):1155-60.
  38. Jin H, Seo JH, Uhm YK, Jung CY, Lee SK, Yim SV. Pharmacokinetic comparison of ginsenoside metabolite IH-901 from fermented and non-fermented ginseng in healthy Korean volunteers. J Ethnopharmacol. 2012 Jan 31;139(2):664-7.
  39. Ilhwa Co LTD. The 21st Century Ginseng Extract2013.
  40. Available at: Accessed August 27, 2013.
  41. Reissig CJ, Strain EC, Griffiths RR. Caffeinated energy drinks--a growing problem. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2009 Jan 1;99(1-3):1-10.