Ashwagandha For Stress: The Perfect Antidote


8 Min Read

Ashwagandha For Stress

Ashwagandha is a direct cure for chronic stress as it can reduce cortisol levels by 28% and promotes restorative sleep. By lowering blood pressure and blood glucose, it treats hypertension and diabetes, both causes and effects of stress. It cures depression and anxiety and can even cure Alzheimer's by repairing damaged brain cells and reconstructing neuronal networks. It also cures stress-induced premature aging.

Until recently, stress was considered the inability to deal with changing and challenging circumstances. Its implications were thought to be more mental than physical. It is now that we are waking up to the damaging effects stress can have on our mental as well as physical health.

In some cases, we may regain health and normalcy after the stress-causing agent or stressor is removed. The stressor could be anything; it could be internal like worrying or losing sleep over something or external like environmental toxins. But given our lifestyle and our increasingly polluted environment, this stress could continue for a longer period, resulting in chronic
stress. As chronic stress leads to more debilitating mental and physical conditions such as depression, anxiety, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases to name a few, it is a major cause of morbidity.

What Happens In The Body When It’s Under Stress?

When the brain receives signals that it interprets as stress, the hypothalamus (that part of the brain that regulates the production of several essential hormones and maintains homeostasis) releases the corticotrophin-releasing hormone, which then signals the pituitary gland to secrete adrenocorticotrophic hormone. This, in turn, signals the adrenal glands to release cortisol, which is commonly known as the stress hormone. The body also releases other hormones to suppress bodily functions that are of lesser priority during a fight-or- flight situation so that it can expend its total available energy in addressing the stress.

While cortisol has positive effects on the body in a fight-or-flight situation as it increases the production of glucose and regulates blood pressure by countering insulin release, high cortisol-levels for a prolonged period can be equally damaging. It suppresses the immune function of T-cells, making chronic stress patients vulnerable to infections. In many elderly patients of chronic stress, memory loss is a common symptom, as high levels of cortisol damage the hippocampus, or the memory storehouse of the brain.1

How Does Ashwagandha Reduce Stress?

Ayurveda categorizes ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) or Indian ginseng as a rasayana or a rejuvenating herb. Modern research finds it an excellent remedy for stress and other disorders of the nervous system, along with various other diseases such as cancer, tumor, and thyroid and kidney disorders.

It acts as an adaptogen (a combination of amino acids and vitamins) that helps the body adapt to stress and boosts energy, stamina, and endurance, thus improving overall health. Ashwagandha’s adaptogenic characteristics can be attributed to the steroidal lactones or the withanolides in it that have anti-oxidative effect.

In a study on an acute model of stress that was induced experimentally, two of its bioactive constituents—namely sitoindosides and acylsterylglucosides—showed significant anti-stress activity against acute models of experimental stress.2 So how exactly does ashwagandha lower stress?

Reduces Cortisol Levels

A human study on patients of stress showed that administering high-concentration, full-spectrum ashwagandha root extract capsules for 60 days brought down the cortisol levels of the test subjects by 28 percent, which can be considered a huge improvement.3

What makes stress a difficult condition to cure is that it can be both a cause and an effect of several other disorders. So while chronic stress can lead to diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, depression and anxiety, insomnia, premature aging, and even neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s, most of these in turn can exacerbate stress. And that’s what makes ashwagandha an excellent herb. It can prevent stress and cure its after effects.

Fights Ill Effects Of  Stress

  • Treats Diabetes

Ashwagandha can serve as both curative and preventive when it comes to diabetes. High cortisol levels slow down glucose metabolism and inhibit insulin function. Ashwagandha brings down the high blood-glucose levels and has been found to increase insulin sensitivity in Type 2 diabetes.45

  • Cures Hypertension

Cortisol is a hormone responsible for regulating blood pressure, but in excess, it leads to high blood pressure or hypertension.6 A human study on patients suffering from hypertension showed that ahswagandha root powder mixed with milk could bring down the systolic and diastolic readings of the test group.7

Research also suggests that because of its cardioprotective functions, ashwagandha can help prevent cardiovascular diseases.8

  • Treats Depression And Anxiety

A prolonged state of acute stress will eventually lead to anxiety and depression. Clinical trials on animals have proven that ashwagandha is as efficacious as standard antixyolitic (anti-anxiety) and antidepressant drugs in alleviating the symptoms.9

  • Promotes Sleep

High cortisol levels can lead to fragmented sleep, decrease deep sleep, or even lead to insomnia or sleep apnea. Lack of sleep, in turn, affects health and becomes a source of constant anxiety. Ashwagandha promotes restorative sleep and balances the energy in the body without acting as a sedative and helps treat insomnia better than sleeping pills in the market.10

  • Prevents Premature Aging

Chronic stress increases free-radical production, which increases lipid peroxidation—a process wherein the free radicals destroy the lipid membranes of cells, leading to cell damage. The body’s inability to fight free-radical damage leads to oxidative stress, which, in turn, leads to premature aging by shortening the telomeres in our chromosomes.11

Ashwagandha has an anti-aging effect that can be attributed to its glycowithanolides. In fact, a study in which ashwagandha extract was daily administered by researchers one hour before a stress-inducing procedure showed that the potent antioxidant properties of ashwagandha extract could reduce the free-radical damage.1213

  • Prevents And Treats Alzheimer’s Disease

Chronic stress has also been associated with neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.14 Alzheimer’s is also caused by oxidative stress, which is a fallout of chronic stress. Ashwagandha, being an anti-oxidative, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective agent,not only prevents brain cell damage but also repairs damaged neuronal networks, thus healing the disease.15

Ashwagandha Dosage for Stress Management

Given that Ashwagandha has powerful anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic, anti-oxidative properties, it is one of the best herbs for people looking at alternative therapies. It is also a much-preferred anti-stress medication when compared with drugs such as benzodiazepines and other prescription medications, which have adverse side effects. Take a daily dose of 1 – 2 teaspoons of dried ashwagandha roots.16. Don’t overindulge, though. It can affect your digestion. It’s best to avoid it if you’re pregnant as large dose say induce abortion.

Of course, ashwagandha will help, but here’s what you can do too. Set a routine, follow a healthy diet, and exercise well. Do not rely on alcohol, smoking, and caffeine as ways of coping with stress. Rather, build emotional strength and adopt a positive outlook.

References   [ + ]

1.Randall, Michael. “The
physiology of stress: Cortisol and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis.” Dartmouth Undergraduate Journal of Science 13, no. 1 (2010):22-24.
2.Singh, Narendra, Mohit Bhalla, Prashanti de Jager,and Marilena Gilca. “An overview on ashwagandha: a Rasayana(rejuvenator) of Ayurveda.” African Journal of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicines 8, no. 5S(2011).
3.Chandrasekhar, K., JyotiKapoor, and Sridhar
Anishetty. “A prospective, randomised double-blind, placebo-controlled study of safety and efficacy of a high-concentration full-spectrum extract of Ashwagandha root in reducing stress and anxiety in adults.” Indian journal of psychological medicine 34, no. 3 (2012): 255
4.Andallu B and Radhika B., “Hypoglycemic, diuretic and hypocholesterolemic effect of winter cherry (Withania somnifera, Dunal) root.”, Indian Journal of Experimental Biology, 38 (2000): 607-9.
5.Anwer, Tarique, Manju Sharma, Krishna Kolappa Pillai, and Muzaffar Iqbal. “Effect of Withania somnifera on Insulin Sensitivity in Non Insulin Dependent Diabetes Mellitus Rats.”Basic & clinical pharmacology & toxicology 102, no. 6 (2008): 498-503
6.Kelly JJ, Mangos G, Williamson PM, et al. Cortisol and Hypertension. Clin Exp Pharmacol Physiol. 1998;25:S51–6.
7. Kushwaha, Shalini, Agatha Betsy, and Paramjit Chawla. “Effect of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) root powder supplementation in treatment of hypertension.” Ethno Med 6, no. 2 (2012): 111-115.
8.Ojha, Shreesh Kumar, and Dharamvir Singh Arya. “Withania somnifera Dunal (Ashwagandha): A promising remedy for cardiovascular diseases.” World J Med Sci 4, no. 2 (2009): 156-158.
9. Bhattacharya, S. K., A. Bhattacharya, K. Sairam, and S. Ghosal. “Anxiolytic-antidepressant activity of Withania somnifera glycowithanolides: an experimental study.” Phytomedicine 7, no. 6 (2000): 463-469.
10.Umadevi, M. “Traditional and medicinal uses of Withania somnifera.” The Pharma Innovation 1, no. 9 (2012).
11.von Zglinicki, Thomas. “Oxidative stress shortens telomeres.” Trends in biochemical sciences 27, no. 7 (2002): 339-344.
12. Kiefer, Dale. “Ashwagandha Stress Reduction, Neural protection, and a lot more from an Ancient herb.”Life Extension Magazine, LE Magazine June (2006).
13. <a ” title=”AshwagandhaStress Reduction, Neural Protection, and a Lot More from an Ancient Herb” href=”http://atlaschiropractichealthcenter.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Ashwagandha.pdf” rel=”nofollow”>AshwagandhaStress Reduction, Neural Protection, and a Lot More from an Ancient Herb. Atlas Chiropractic and Nutrition.
14.Srivareerat, Marisa, Trinh T. Tran, Karem H. Alzoubi, and Karim A. Alkadhi.”Chronic psychosocial stress exacerbates impairment of cognition and long-term potentiation in β-amyloid rat model of Alzheimer’s disease.” Biological psychiatry 65, no. 11 (2009):918-926.
15. Kuboyama, Tomoharu, Chihiro Tohda, and Katsuko Komatsu. “Neuritic regeneration and synaptic reconstruction induced by withanolide A.” British journal of pharmacology 144, no. 7(2005): 961-971.
16.Ashwagandha Dosage
CureJoy Editorial

The CureJoy Editorial team digs up credible information from multiple sources, both academic and experiential, to stitch a holistic health perspective on topics that pique our readers' interest.

CureJoy Editorial

The CureJoy Editorial team digs up credible information from multiple sources, both academic and experiential, to stitch a holistic health perspective on topics that pique our readers' interest.