Stress is a prevalent issue in today’s fast-paced society, and more people are turning to natural remedies to soothe their frazzled nerves. One such remedy is Ashwagandha, a popular herb used in Ayurvedic medicine for its potent stress-relieving properties. Let’s explore the science and benefits behind this fascinating plant.
What is Ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is a small, evergreen shrub native to India, North Africa, and the Middle East. It belongs to the Solanaceae family and has been used for centuries in traditional medicine to enhance physical and mental health. Its name comes from the Sanskrit words “ashva”, meaning horse, and “gandha”, meaning smell, which refers to its distinct aroma resembling a horse’s odour.
Benefits of Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha boasts a variety of health benefits, which can be attributed to its unique combination of alkaloids, steroidal lactones, and saponins. Among these benefits are:
- Relief from stress and anxiety
- Enhanced cognitive function
- Improved immune function
- Better sleep
- Increased energy and vitality
- Anti-inflammatory and anticancer effects
The primary reason Ashwagandha has become a go-to supplement for many is its ability to reduce stress and anxiety effectively. It’s classified as an “adaptogen” a natural substance that helps the body adapt to stress and maintain homeostasis. Studies have found that Ashwagandha works by regulating the body’s stress hormone, cortisol, while also balancing neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine that impact mood and relaxation.
A significant body of research supports the stress-relieving claims of Ashwagandha. Some key findings include:
- A 2012 study published in the Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine found that participants who took Ashwagandha showed a significant decrease in stress compared to those who took a placebo.
- A 2017 systematic review published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine analysed five randomised control trials, concluding that Ashwagandha supplementation significantly improved anxiety and stress scores.
- A 2019 study published in Medicine found that adults with chronic stress who supplemented with Ashwagandha for eight weeks noted significant reductions in anxiety and depression compared to a control group.
Adding Ashwagandha to your diet
Another way to incorporate Ashwagandha into your daily routine is through your diet. The herb can be found in teas and various recipes, such as smoothies or energy bars. Not only can you reap the stress-relieving benefits, but you can also enjoy the unique flavour profile.
The history and cultural significance of Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha has a rich history and remains an essential component of Ayurveda, one of the world’s oldest holistic healing systems. In Ayurvedic medicine, Ashwagandha is a ‘Rasayana’ herb, meaning it promotes overall health and longevity. Centuries of use in traditional medicine emphasize the herb’s effectiveness and time-tested use for various health issues beyond stress relief.
Enhancing health beyond stress relief
While Ashwagandha is primarily known for its stress-relieving properties, its benefits extend to other aspects of wellness. For example, it has been suggested to support healthy sexual function and reproductive health, improve muscle mass and strength, and help maintain a healthy weight. Exploring these additional health benefits makes Ashwagandha a versatile and valuable addition to a natural wellness routine.
How to use Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha can be consumed in various forms, including capsules, powders, and extracts. To experience its stress-relieving benefits, it’s crucial to use a high-quality supplement containing a standardized amount of Withanolides – the active components responsible for Ashwagandha’s effects.
It’s recommended to start with a low dose (around 300-500 mg of standardised extract) and gradually increase it based on your body’s response. Always consult your healthcare provider before starting any new supplement regimen, especially if you’re taking medications or have underlying health conditions.
Precautions and side effects
While Ashwagandha is generally considered safe, some people may experience side effects, such as stomach upset, mild drowsiness, or allergic reactions. It’s essential to adhere to the recommended dosage and be mindful of any potential interactions with medications, herbs, or supplements you’re currently taking.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid Ashwagandha, as its safety during pregnancy hasn’t been well-established. Similarly, individuals with autoimmune diseases or thyroid conditions should consult their healthcare provider before using the supplement.
Exploring other natural remedies
In addition to Ashwagandha, there are other natural remedies and supplements that can help alleviate stress, anxiety and improve mental clarity. Delta-8 is an increasingly popular option, and there is mounting scientific evidence to support its use. Delta 8 bulk suppliers are usually the cheapest option. As always, consult your healthcare provider when using new supplements to decide on the best combination for your individual needs.
Ashwagandha has emerged as a natural and effective way to manage stress and anxiety, supported by growing scientific evidence. While it may not be a cure-all, incorporating this ancient herb into your wellness routine may provide welcome relief from the daily stresses of modern life.
Adam Mulligan, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.