Our modern world is stressful. Between work, bills, traffic, family, relationships, and just trying to keep it all together, most of us are incredibly stressed out and not managing it very well. But, there is hope. An ancient herb from India called ashwagandha may provide some relief by helping the body manage the effects of stress a little bit better.
How Ashwagandha Helps Manage Stress
Stress is a modern-day health epidemic. Research on stress has found that up to 90% of at-work injuries are due to work-related stress.1 Excessive stress has been linked to almost every chronic disease from cancer to diabetes. In order to live the healthiest and happiest life you envision for yourself, you must find ways to manage your stress and counteract the impact it has on your body.
There are many ways to manage stress, but adaptogenic herbs like ashwagandha can help. Ashwagandha is an herb has been used for over 3000 years in Ayurveda, a traditional medicine from India. It is referred to as an “adaptogen” because it helps the body adapt more easily to the health effects of stress.
Ashwagandha attacks stress from many different angles. First, it helps the body more effectively metabolize stress hormones like cortisol, so they are not hanging around causing problems for you when you don’t really need them.
If you do go through a period of stress, it helps the body rebalance and get back to a place of homeostasis. It can stabilize blood sugar, which is elevated during periods of high stress. It can lower inflammation another side effect of chronic stress, which could in turn lead to a decrease in the risk of chronic disease.
The exact mechanism of how ashwagandha works for stress is not known, but it is believed to contain both anti-inflammatory compounds that neutralize free radicals, and help regulate hormones and neurotransmitters resulting in a better stress response.
Stress, Adrenal Fatigue, and Ashwagandha
The adrenal glands are responsible for releasing stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. During periods of high stress, the adrenals can work overtime leading to an imbalance of hormones. Ashwagandha can help the adrenals release these hormones in a more balanced way and help the body metabolize them faster.
A 2008 study evaluated the use of ashwagandha on inflammation and hormone levels of 98 chronically stressed participants over a 60 day period. Those that took the ashwagandha were found to have lower C-reactive protein (a marker of inflammation), lower cortisol, and decreased blood pressure. The ashwagandha group was able to have a more balanced stress response compared to those that took a placebo.2
Stress, Weight, and Ashwagandha
One side effect of stress is weight gain due to elevated stress hormones that cause increased fat storage. A 2016 study evaluated the impact of an ashwagandha supplement on 52 chronically stressed overweight subjects. The 52 subjects received either 300 mg ashwagandha or a placebo twice a day for 8 weeks.
Subjects that took the ashwagandha lost an average of 3% body weight during the study period, whereas those that received the placebo only lost 1.5%. The subjects also reported significantly less stress, fewer food cravings, and improvement in other subjective stress measurements.3
Taking Ashwagandha for Stress
If you want to take ashwagandha for stress, the recommended dosage is 300-600 mg per day. It is safe for most healthy people and does not have any significant side effects.
If you are chronically stressed, it is worth trying ashwagandha in addition to other stress management techniques. For true long-term health and longevity, you have to get a handle on stress, and ashwagandha can help.
- Salleh MR. Life event, stress and illness. Malays J Med Sci. 2008;15(4):9-18.
- Auddy, B et a. A Standardized Withania Somnifera Extract Significantly Reduces Stress-Related Parameters in Chronically Stressed Humans: A Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Study. Journal of American Nutraceutical Association. 2008; 1:50-56.
- Choudhary D, Bhattacharyya S. Body weight management in adults under chronic stress through treatment with Ashwagandha root extract: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Journal of evidence. 2017.