Let’s talk ashwagandha!
Ashwagandha is a root plant and adaptogen. Adaptogens are natural substances that are utilized to “adapt” your body. Specifically, it aims to decrease your stress response and maintain homeostasis, which is your body’s natural balanced state. Adaptogens are thought to primarily work on cortisol.
A quick note on cortisol. You can think of cortisol as the trigger for your fight or flight response. Whenever your cortisol levels rise your body enters into a protection mode to ensure we stay safe against a stressor. However, if we stay in that state for too long we start to get symptoms like constant worry, insomnia, fatigue, and weight gain. The goal of many stress relievers is to prevent cortisol from spiking as high or to help your body get back to that balanced, resting-state faster.
Okay, so back to adaptogens. These substances are thought to expand your body’s management of cortisol so it’s not triggering that protection mode. All this theory is based on an old alternative medicine practice called Ayurveda – the knowledge of life. This practice originated in India over 3,000 years ago and focuses on balancing mind, body, spirit, and environment. So even though there isn’t a ton of scientific research regarding ashwagandha, it’s safe to say this plant has been used to help with ailments for a very long time!
The positive benefits of ashwagandha
Taking 300-600mg of ashwagandha daily can help lower levels of cortisol in your body and decrease stress-related symptoms up to 30-40%. Symptoms improved within 12 weeks including decreased fatigue, increased motivation, and increased concentration.
Many times, when we are stressed, our diet changes also. There is some evidence that cortisol increases our cravings for sweet or fried foods, softs drinks, or alcohol. All of these foods have more calories that can lead to weight gain. In addition, chronic stress is associated with less physical activity. In short, stress doesn’t just mess with your mind, it can mess with your body too! Since ashwagandha helps manage cortisol, food cravings can decrease and help support weight loss efforts.
Oxidative stress can cause muscle restriction, decrease blood flow, and lower testosterone. Ashwagandha has some evidence of preventing male infertility by acting as an antioxidant. Antioxidants act to prevent the damage done by oxidative stress restoring testosterone levels and helping achieve regular sperm counts and motility.
The best part of ashwagandha is virtually no side effects! Most people report no problems as all, but mild stomach upset may occur. These side effects are mostly seen with doses over 1000mg. If you take any thyroid medication, you will want to talk to your doctor before starting ashwagandha as it could increase your thyroid hormone production. If it doesn’t seem like the right supplement for you, there are other over-the-counter stress relief supplements you can try! Read about those here.
Ashwagandha comes in multiple formulations including capsules, teas, and even gummies making it easier to find the best solution for you! Order ashwagandha today or speak to our knowledgeable Sona pharmacists at 828-298-3636!
- Natural Medicines (March 2021). Ashwagandha. Access June 29,2021: https://naturalmedicines-therapeuticresearch-com.libproxy.lib.unc.edu/databases/food,-herbs-supplements/professional.aspx?productid=953#mechanismOfAction
- Cooley K, Szczurko O, Perri D, et al. Naturopathic care for anxiety: a randomized controlled trial ISRCTN78958974. PLoS One. 2009;4(8):e6628. Published 2009 Aug 31. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0006628
- Choundhary, D, Bhattacharyya, S, Joshi. Body Weight Management in Adults Under Chronic Stress Through Treatment With Ashwagandha Root Extract. J Evid Based Complementary Altern Med. 2017 Jan; 22(1): 96–106. Published 2016 Apr 6. doi: 10.1177/2156587216641830
- Kaleem, M, Abbas, A, Kantshuklam, A, et. al. Withania somnifera improves semen quality by regulating reproductive hormone levels and oxidative stress in seminal plasma of infertile males. Fertnstert. 2010;94(3): 989-996. Doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2009.04.046