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Does Ashwagandha Really “Kill” Emotions?

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Ashwagandha, a renowned herb in Ayurvedic medicine, has been used for millennia to address numerous health concerns, including stress, anxiety, fatigue, and even cognitive impairment. However, a myth has been circulating recently: that Ashwagandha “kills” emotions. Before allowing this claim to cause unwarranted concern, let’s delve into the science and explore the truth behind this ancient herb’s impact on our emotional well-being.

Also known as Withania somnifera, Ashwagandha is an adaptogen, meaning it helps the body adapt to stress. Its roots and berries are used to make medicine with potent neuroprotective properties. It’s a staple in Ayurveda, a 5000-year-old Indian holistic healing system, and is now being recognized by modern science for its profound health benefits. One of the most common variants is ashwagandha with black pepper.

The claim that Ashwagandha ‘kills’ emotions probably stems from its known effects on stress and anxiety. Scientific studies have demonstrated its ability to regulate chemical signalling in the nervous system by reducing cortisol levels, the body’s primary stress hormone. With lowered cortisol, we experience less stress and, as a consequence, fewer strong negative emotional reactions related to anxiety, fear, and panic.

In a 2012 study published in the Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine, ashwagandha was found to significantly reduce stress and anxiety compared to a placebo. It does this by enhancing the body’s resilience to physical and emotional stress, rather than by numbing emotions.

But what about positive emotions? Does Ashwagandha dampen those too?

Research suggests otherwise. By helping to balance our neurochemistry, Ashwagandha can promote emotional well-being and stability, without dulling our capacity for joy, excitement, or love. In a 2019 study published in PLoS One, Ashwagandha was found to improve general well-being, sleep quality, and reduce depressive symptoms – all indicators of a healthy emotional state.

Ashwagandha’s calming effect does not equate to emotional blunting or ‘killing’ emotions. Instead, it aids in the smooth flow of emotions, helping us not to be overwhelmed by them but to handle them more effectively. This emotional regulation is essential for maintaining mental health and resilience in stressful situations.

Just like any substance, though, it’s crucial to remember that everyone’s body reacts differently. While most people experience reduced stress and anxiety with Ashwagandha, some people may feel less emotionally reactive. This reduction in emotional reactivity should not be mistaken for a lack of emotional depth or capacity, but rather as an increase in emotional stability and control.

Furthermore, dosage and preparation matter. Traditionally, Ashwagandha is consumed in carefully measured doses, often prepared alongside other herbs to balance its effects. Modern, over-the-counter supplements may not follow these traditions, which could lead to varied results. Therefore, consulting a healthcare provider before beginning any supplementation routine is always a wise decision.

Rather than ‘killing’ emotions, Ashwagandha aids in emotional regulation, reduces stress, and promotes a sense of well-being. It’s a gift from nature to help us combat the increasing levels of stress in today’s fast-paced world. However, it’s not a magic bullet. Emotional health is a complex, multifaceted aspect of overall health, and while Ashwaganda can play a supportive role, it is not a standalone solution. Always seek the advice of a qualified health professional for personal mental health concerns.

So, let’s retire the myth: Ashwagandha doesn’t ‘kill’ emotions. It helps us manage them, and that’s something we could all use a little help with.

Tim Williamson, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.

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