How to Supplement Ashwagandha to Decrease Stress and Anxiety, Increasing Focus and Relaxation
Ashwagandha is an ancient medicinal herb and one of the most important herbs in Ayurvedic medicine. In a society where constant anxiety and stress are common, ashwagandha’s relaxation-inducing and anxiety-relieving properties can be incredibly helpful. While these are some of the most popular benefits, ashwagandha has even more to offer, with potential benefits for pain management, fatigue, skin conditions, and more serious conditions. Here’s how the adaptogenic herb can help in your life.
What is Ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha grows in India, parts of Africa, and the Middle East. It’s an evergreen shrub with red-orange fruit, known also as winter cherry or Indian ginseng. Its name comes from the smell of the root. Ashwa means horse, so the name ashwagandha means “like a horse.”
It is an adaptogenic herb, meaning it helps your body find homeostasis by balancing hormones, bringing some up and some down, depending on where you’re at. People use both the roots and fruit of the ashwagandha plant for their medicinal effects. It has been used for everything from tiredness and fatigue to blood sugar reduction.
Ayurvedic medicine, one of India’s healthcare systems and one of the oldest medical systems in the world, relies heavily on ashwagandha. Ayurvedic medicine considers ashwagandha to be Rasayana, meaning that it can be used to maintain mental and physical youth.
What is Ashwagandha Used For?
Various parts of the ashwagandha plant are used for different purposes. Since it’s believed to have anti-inflammatory effects, it can help with a number of health conditions that are caused by inflammation.
It can aid in the treatment of:
- Anxiety and stress
- Tiredness and fatigue
- Skin conditions
- Pain management
Apart from treating various conditions, it can also provide a variety of benefits, including:
- Improved brain function
- Lower cortisol levels
- Lower blood sugar
- Improved mood
Healthful Properties of Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha has multiple properties that can help protect your body from more serious illnesses. For example, both test tube and animal studies have been completed to research withaferin, a compound found in ashwagandha. This compound helps induce apoptosis - the programmed death of toxic, unhealthy cells. It may also cause these cells to be less resistant to apoptosis, as well as disrupt their function.
Ashwagandha’s withanolides, another compound, have also been linked to fighting tumor growth and inflammation. While ashwagandha can’t be used to treat anything specific on its own, it is a great insurance plan that can protect you from potential threats.
Ashwagandha Blocks Cortisol, Encouraging Weight Loss
Cortisol is a stress hormone released by your adrenal glands in response to potential stressors. It can also be released when your blood sugar is low. Cortisol is also linked to weight gain, particularly in the abdomen, and high blood sugar levels.
When you spend lots of time under stress, you also end up with chronically elevated cortisol. This increase can completely change your habits, as cortisol increases the desire for sugary foods and decreases metabolism - again, leading to weight gain.
By lowering cortisol, ashwagandha unlocks many of its other benefits. Ashwagandha has been shown to reduce cortisol levels in people with chronic stress. In one study, ashwagandha supplements were given to one group and a placebo was given to another. In the ashwagandha group, people experienced a significant drop in cortisol compared to the placebo group. The people taking higher doses of ashwagandha also experienced the biggest reduction.
Increase Strength and Muscle Mass
Perhaps linked to ashwagandha’s cortisol-lowering capabilities, the herb can also potentially help with weight loss and muscle growth. Since cortisol causes increased weight gain, it makes sense that lowering cortisol could help with weight loss.
However, these results go even further. One study found that people taking ashwagandha had significant increases in both muscle size and muscle strength when compared to those that took a placebo. They also doubled reductions in body fat percentage than those who didn’t take the supplement.
Relieve Stress with Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha is known to reduce stress and anxiety, which makes sense given its ability to lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. This has been proven multiple times in studies on both rats and humans. In one study, a control group was given a placebo while another group was given an ashwagandha supplement. The group taking ashwagandha experienced an 88% reduction in anxiety, while the placebo group reported a 50% reduction.
In another study of people with chronic stress, the group that was given ashwagandha supplements experienced a 69% reduction in both anxiety and insomnia, while the placebo group reported an 11% drop. Multiple other human studies have shown that people with anxiety conditions experience a decrease in symptoms when taking ashwagandha.
While we don’t fully know how ashwagandha is processed in the body, a study on rats sheds some light. When the rats were given ashwagandha, it appeared to regulate the nervous system and block the stress pathway in the brain.
Promote Relaxation and Improve Sleep
If you’ve ever found yourself lying awake at night with your mind racing, you know the impact that stress can have on your ability to sleep and get good quality sleep. Not only does ashwagandha relieve stress, but it also works to help you relax and sleep better. The botanical name for ashwagandha is actually Withania Somnifera - in Latin, somnifera means “sleep-inducing.” The herb is aptly named, as it has long been used to promote better, deeper sleep.
Ashwagandha nourishes and strengthens your nervous system, which is especially important for people who are anxious and stressed, as these feelings can weaken the system. It lowers cortisol, making you feel less stressed and helping you relax. With relaxation comes more successful sleep, which also helps you maintain a natural sleeping rhythm - resulting in multiple long-term benefits. Sleep is essential for your brain and body recharge.
Good, consistent sleep is also linked with:
- Smaller appetite
- Lower body weight
- Better athletic performance
- Better mood
- Better immune function
- Sharper focus and concentration
- Better social interactions
- Less inflammation
- Lowered risk of more series health conditions
Lessen Feelings of Sadness and Improve Mood
As another side effect of lowered cortisol, ashwagandha helps to lessen feelings of sadness and improve the mood. Whether you experience a small amount of sadness or have more serious mental health concerns, ashwagandha can help improve your mood by removing anxious feelings brought on by stress. It also improves sleep, which in combination with lessened stress, can have a huge impact on the mood.
Several studies have been completed to study the link between improved mood and ashwagandha. In one study of 64 stressed out adults, those who took a high-concentration dose of ashwagandha extract felt a 78% reduction in their feelings of sadness. The placebo group only reported a 10% increase.
Ashwagandha Improves Focus
Although ashwagandha has long been utilized for its relaxing effect, its also now being studied for its ability to help you focus and concentrate. Studies have shown that it can help improve all aspects of cognitive function, including memory and the ability to absorb information.
In one study, a group of men was given ashwagandha supplements twice per day, while another group was given a placebo. After two weeks, the group that was given ashwagandha showed significantly improved reaction time compared to both baseline testing and the placebo group.
Ashwagandha Makes Fasting Easier
If you’re practicing fasting, ashwagandha can be helpful for aiding with moderating your feelings. Since ashwagandha is an adaptogen, it helps to modulate how you feel, making you feel more normal during a fast. If you’re just starting out with fasting, this might be especially helpful, as the adjustment to eating during a smaller window can be mentally tough.
When you fast, you experience an increase in catecholamines, like epinephrine and adrenaline. These are naturally occurring chemicals in the body that make you feel stressed, anxious, and shaky. When you supplement ashwagandha while fasting, it balances these chemicals and restores you to your normal level of calm. This can be incredibly helpful for sticking to your fasting goals and avoiding the shaky feeling that hunger can sometimes cause.
Blood Sugar Reduction
Ashwagandha may actually reduce blood sugar levels in both healthy people and those with more serious conditions. This is important because keeping your blood sugar in the target range helps lower the risk of more serious health issues, including problems with vision, the kidneys, and the heart. Plus, having healthy levels of blood sugar also improves energy and mood.
The blood sugar reducing effects of ashwagandha have been displayed in several studies. One four-week study found that the participants who supplemented with ashwagandha had a 13.5 mg/dl average reduction in fasting blood sugar levels. Those who received a placebo only had a 4.5 mg/dl reduction over the same time frame. Another study done in test tubes found that ashwagandha also caused an increase in insulin secretion, as well as improved insulin sensitivity for the muscle cells.
Lowers Cholesterol, Triglycerides, and Inflammation
Avoiding inflammation and cholesterol is important for overall health, but especially for heart health. However, much of the processed food that we eat today, in addition to various lifestyle factors, can increase these harmful components.
Ashwagandha has been shown to help reduce inflammation in several animal studies. Its also proven its ability to decrease markers of inflammation, including C-reactive protein (CRP) - a marker that is related to more serious heart issues. One human study found that a group that took 250 mg of ashwagandha extract each day experienced a 36% decrease in CRP. In comparison, those who took the placebo only had a 6% decrease.
Cholesterol and triglycerides, two types of blood fats, have also been shown to decrease with ashwagandha supplementation. In one study on rats, ashwagandha was linked to a 53% decrease in cholesterol levels and a 45% decrease in triglyceride levels. Human studies also show an improvement, although the results are less dramatic. For example, one study found that in chronically stressed adults, those taking the highest dose of ashwagandha had, on average, a 17% decrease in triglycerides.
Ashwagandha is Safe for Most
Unlike some other supplements, Ashwagandha is a safe supplement for almost all people, with the main exceptions being pregnant or breastfeeding women, people with autoimmune issues, and those on thyroid medication. If you fall into these groups, be sure to speak with your doctor before supplementing ashwagandha.
For everyone else, ashwagandha is a natural herb that can aid in many areas. It’s also widely available, so its benefits are available to anyone.
How to Take Ashwagandha for the Best Results
There’s no standard daily dose for supplementing with ashwagandha. Generally speaking, you can take anywhere from 1,000 mg and 6,000 mg of ashwagandha root powder. Standardized ashwagandha root extract can be taken in 500 mg to 1,500 mg capsules once or twice per day. At a minimum, a dose of ashwagandha should contain 6 mg of withanolides, the key compound that provides the benefits of the supplement.
Herbatech’s ashwagandha gummies contain 1,500 mg of ashwagandha root and 3%, or 45 mg, withanolides. You can take two gummies per day, making sure to chew thoroughly. Ashwagandha has a bitter taste that is hard to hide with other food. Herbatech’s gummies are deliciously strawberry flavored, so you get all the benefits of the ashwagandha without any of the bitterness.
Ashwagandha has many benefits, all stemming from its withanolides. As a herb with a long history in ancient medicine, many have experienced the benefits of ashwagandha, and studies will continue to show the positive effects. Whether you’re looking to lower stress and anxiety for relaxation and better sleep, or to improve focus and gain muscle, supplementing with ashwagandha can be incredibly helpful in speeding your success.