Ashwagandha, the adaptogen is gaining attention worldwide, primarily due to its ability to modulate stress and anxiety.
Ashwagandha is the most well known and well studied natural adaptogen. It is native to India and Southeast Asia. Here, it has been known for centuries for its ability to decrease stress, increase energy levels, improve concentration levels, lower cholesterol, and balance blood glucose.
It is also known as Indian ginseng, winter cherry or as Withania somnifera (scientific name). Ashwagandha is a herbal shrub with roots and berries holding medicinal properties.
Ashwagandha Relieves Stress and Anxiety
Ashwagandha is perhaps best known due to its stress-relieving properties. Several studies have proved ashwagandha’s ability to decrease participants’ stress and anxiety levels significantly.
One particular study showed that ashwagandha can improve sleep quality too as researchers confirmed participants slept much better with doses of the herb compared to the placebo doses.
What is an adaptogen?
As the word Adaptogen says itself, the Adaptogens are known for their ability to help “adapt” to a stressful situation of any form, mental stress or disease.
The adaptogens have been used as a herbal medicine in ayurvedic healing for hundreds of years. They are certain plants and herbs which can support adrenal function and help counteract the adverse effects of physical, mental, or biological stressors on the body.
Adaptogens provide a number of health benefits including combating fatigue, boosting immunity, enhancing mental performance, slowing aging, lowering inflammation, and decreasing symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Adaptogens help to cope with stress and maintain homeostasis. In other words, they help our body maintain its usual constant self and not get affected or changed by any form of stress. They help you to stay calm and deal with stress in a better manner.
An adaptogen helps your body adjust to a changing environment in a better manner. Ashwagandha has helped many people feel calmer in a stressful situation. Also, it gives the feeling to cope with stress in an easier manner.
The practitioners of ancient ayurvedic medicine have used ashwagandha, as an adaptogen to help address a whole host of health issues.
“Ashwagandha can be beneficial to overall health and well-being,” says Valerie Agyeman, a registered dietitian and host of The Flourish Heights Podcast. “The health benefits include reducing stress hormone levels, supporting fertility, reducing inflammation, increasing energy, and improving sleep.”
How does Ashwagandha, the adaptogen reduce stress?
The main chemical compound in Ashwagandha which is responsible for its property of stress adaptation is “Withanolides”. The withanolides class involves three hundred different chemical compounds.
When you take Ashwagandha, you feel calm & a higher tendency to cope better with a stressful situation.
As shown by a number of studies, it helps to reduce cortisol levels. Cortisol is a hormone which helps our body adapt to a stressful situation. As the level of stress increases, so does the cortisol levels. In case of chronic stress, cortisol levels stay consistently high. It’s not healthy to have your body in a state of chronic stress and chronically elevated cortisol.
The stress response increases the blood sugar and in case of chronic stress, blood sugar stays consistently high, making you prone to developing diabetes.
Cortisol decreases the insulin sensitivity, trying to prevent the tissues from using up glucose under stress, so as to keep supplying it higher to the vital organs(Heart, brain, lungs and kidneys).
A number of factors come to play in the stress response. Cortisol slows down the immune system. The sodium and water retention increases whereas potassium is excreted more.
With increased cortisol, gastric acidity increases. This can make you experience acid reflux or heartburn. When stress turns chronic, it can irritate and create inflammation in your stomach which is known as gastritis.
Potential benefits of ashwagandha:
For all the above listed effects of stress, ashwagandha provides a counter action:
This potent herb can help reduce the level of stress hormones. It helps lower cortisol and also helps lower DHEA (a precursor to cortisol).
It helps raise testosterone levels which are also lowered by stress.
It helps to increase endurance. This herb increases strength when stress can make you weak.
This adaptogen is really good for anyone who feels weak like in case of infection or in case of stress. Taking ashwagandha would not make u feel weak.
It also shows significant improvements in emotions so you do not get mentally stuck in stressful situations.
Ashwagandha can be effective for reducing stress and anxiety symptoms as it helps our body cope with a stressful situation in a better and less pressurizing manner.
FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Cortisol is the hormone which is released in response to stress. It is an enemy of collagen and it breaks down the connective tissue that keeps your face and skin, taut and firm.
Chronic exposure to stress and hence cortisol inhibits the production of hyaluronic acid and collagen. Both of these are responsible for keeping the skin plump and youthful. When your body can’t make them enough, the skin gets thinner.