Ashwagandha: The Natural Anti-Anxiety Herb
What Is Ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha is quite a mouthful, I know! (It’s latin name Withania somnifera is even more of a tongue twister.)
‘Ashwagandha’ is from Sanskrit, combining ‘ashva’, which means horse, and ‘gandha’ meaning smell. The root itself is said to have a very strong horse like odor and its namesake is also owed to the fact that Ashwagandha bestows ‘stallion strength’.
Colloquially, Ashwagandha is also sometimes called ‘Indian ginseng’, which is not to be confused with Chinese ginseng.
Ashwagandha has been popular in Ayurvedic medicine for millennia. It was traditionally used to treat Anxiety, Fatigue, and better health Sometimes, it was also utilized fight infections. Even for healthy people, Ashwagandha was thought to be an overall cure all to increase general health, strength and well being.
The medicinal part of Ashwagandha is harvested from the root of the Bush This plant is very hardy , surviving both hot and cold temperature extremes and able to grow at an altitude of up to 4,900ft (1,500m) above sea level.
Also, this bush belongs to the nightshade family, so here’s a quick heads up that Ashwagandha isn’t appropriate for anybody with nightshade intolerance.
Ashwagandha is considered to be adaptogenic. Adaptogens are herbs or botanical substances that help to balance our body’s physiological systems (such as our adrenals and nervous system) to better adapt to stress or external assaults. Ashwagandha benefits you by replacing your body’s vital reserves, helping your body adapt to stress (act as an adaptogen), and strengthening your body’s systems, such as the nervous system and the adrenals.
More specifically, Ashwagandha may help to Balance your hormones that control Anxiety, Stress and panic . On one hand, it can fire up your body and give you energy when you’re feeling fatigued and burned out. On the other hand, it can also suppress stimulation hormones when you’re strung out and stressed. Ashwaghanda can also depress the central nervous system, inducing relaxing and aiding in better sleep.
How to Gently Detoxify While Gaining Ashwagandha Benefits
Your body just might thank you more for giving it the gift of calm, balanced vitality that comes with a tonic like ashwagandha. Anxiety, stress, and depression levels can all decrease by using ashwagandha. A great, complementary way to gently detoxify while gaining ashwagandha benefits is to Clean up your diet by decreasing or eliminating all foods containing added sugar or white flour.
This is clinically helpful for stress and anxiety disorders, which tend to involve two extremes of high stress and stimulation, combined with fatigue and adrenal exhaustion.
The hormone-modulating effect of Ashwagandha is thought to be facilitated by several naturally-occurring phytochemicals.
What Is The Evidence For Ashwagandha?
Many clinical studies support what our ancient predecessors already knew; Ashwagandha can help to regulate stress. In addition to the anecdotal evidence provided by our forebears, modern medicine is adding to the Ashwagandha story.
In 2012, A Study of 100 people that were diagnosed with anxiety were allocated to take either Ashwagandha or a placebo during a two month period. By the end of the trial, the Ashwagandha treatment cohort showed significantly lower anxiety and - here’s the real kicker - 28% lower levels of cortisol levels were reported! (the stress hormone).
In addition to feeling less stressed, the treatment group also showed improvements in Insomnia, depression, panic, fatigue
This is important for a number of reasons. Firstly, clinically measuring cortisol levels eliminates the possibility of a ‘self-perceived’ improvement in anxiety. i.e. It’s not a subjective improvement.
Furthermore, a drop in elevated cortisol provides a cascade of positive domino effects in our body. High cortisol can create long-term fatigue and brain fog, plus it influences the parts of our brain that process memory and emotions. You don’t want prolonged, excess levels of this stuff!
In an earlier study in 2009, another group of people with moderate to severe anxiety were given either Ashwagandha or psychotherapy. Again, Ashwagandha proved to be more effective, providing up to 50% in improvements in anxiety.
Other Studies have shown that Ashwagandha may be useful for helping people with agoraphobia, adrenal hyperplasia and stress-related fertility problems. Ashwagandha may also indirectly help with libido and agin, by reducing emotional and chemical stressors.
The results, published in the Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine, showed that ashwagandha benefits just about every measure of stress. Compared to those who got the placebo, those taking ashwagandha had 28 percent lower levels of cortisol, the so-called “stress hormone.” While cortisol is helpful in small amounts, it causes problems when you’re battling chronic stress when your cortisol levels may remain mildly elevated for extended periods of time.
Benefits of Ashwagandha: Improves Stress, Anxiety, Depression, Insomnia, and More
The ashwagandha benefits didn’t stop with cortisol. Participants who took ashwagandha extract also scored better on each of three different psychological tests measuring stress, anxiety, and overall well-being. On all three tests, the higher the score, the more stressed-out you are. The ashwagandha benefits included a dramatic 72 percent drop in scores on two of the tests—the General Health Questionnaire-28 and the Depression Anxiety Stress Scale. And scores for the third test—the Perceived Stress Scale—fell significantly by an average of 44 percent in the group taking the ashwagandha tonic.
Those taking ashwagandha didn’t just feel less stressed. In addition to feeling more relaxed and mentally calm, their test scores also demonstrated significant reductions in depression, anxiety, social dysfunction, physical symptoms, and insomnia leading to better sleep. The ashwagandha benefits also included increased productivity. Overall, quality of life improved tremendously compared to those taking the placebo.
Many of the ashwagandha benefits observed in this and other studies are thought to come from the extract’s ability to lower the stress hormone, cortisol. When you’re under chronic stress and your cortisol levels creep up, your body’s other hormones and neurotransmitters become unbalanced, leading to symptoms like anxiety, depression, and poor sleep.