ashwagandha helps stress and anxiety

Rough day? Feeling stressed and anxious? You need to know about this herb that has been revered since ancient times and that modern science is getting more and more excited about.

Ashwagandha is an ancient herb that has been used in India’s Ayurvedic system of medicine for over 2,500 year. It has traditionally been used as a vitalizer, or adaptogen, that rejuvenates the body and increases strength, vigour and stamina.

In a recent post, we talked about brand new research that shows that ashwagandha can protect you and your brain from neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. We also talked about the many other proven modern uses of ashwagandha.

A lot of the recent excitement over this ancient herb has been over its ability to form a dam against stress and anxiety. Could this ancient herb be the solution to the stress and anxiety of the everyday modern world?

A small double-blind study wanted to see. So, it took 60 healthy people who were mildly anxious when the study started and gave them either a placebo or a low 240mg daily dose of ashwagandha extract. The more commonly studied dose is a much higher 600mg a day.

The study is interesting because it looked at healthy people just struggling with normal, mild anxiety like most of us. And the ashwagandha reduced their scores on the Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale by 41% compared to only 24% in the placebo group. That means that the ashwagandha was significantly better at reducing anxiety. On a scale that measured depression, anxiety and stress, the herb improved scores by 30% versus 10% on placebo. This difference was not significant, though it is unclear whether the people in the study were suffering from depression.

When the researchers looked at the hormones that are involved in stress, the results again pointed to ashwagandha as a very active herb. Cortisol went down by 23% in the people taking ashwagandha while it went up by 0.5% in the people who got the placebo: this difference is significant. DHEA also dropped by 8% in the herb group while elevating 2.5% in the placebo group: again significant.

Ashwagandha increased testosterone in the men by a significant 11% while not affecting women.
Even at this low dose, the researchers conclude that ashwagandha has “mood enhancing and antistress benefits in people with mild stress.” It would be interesting to repeat this study with the more normal higher dose of 600mg.

Several previous studies have also shown that aswagandha helps stress and anxiety and that it improves cortisol levels (JANA 2008;11: 50-56; J Evid Based Complementary Altern Med 2017 Jan;22(1):96-106). A study that used the more normal 600mg of extract found a similar 44% drop in stress and a much greater 28% drop in cortisol, the stress hormone (Indian J Psychol Med 2012;34:255-262).

Studies have also consistently demonstrated ashwagandha’s ability to increase testosterone in men (Fertil Steril 2010;94:3; Evid Based Complement Alternat Med 2013;2013:571420; J Ethnopharmacol 2013;149:208-214).

This new study continues to point to ashwagandha root as an ancient herb for our time that can help to hold back the stress, anxiety and insomnia that come with the modern world.

Medicine September 2019;98(37):e17186

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For much more on preventing and treating stress, anxiety and insomnia, see our book The Family Naturopathic Encyclopedia.

For comprehensive help with mental health and sleep problems, make an appointment to see Linda Woolven nowLinda’s clinic is now open for virtual appointments.


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