Living / 22 April, 2024 / My Baba

Calming The Chaos: The Power Of Ashwagandha For Mental Wellness

Stress comes in many forms, managing it must be considered from a holistic viewpoint and solutions should cover both physical and emotional stress management techniques, such as eating a healthy, balanced diet, keeping active, reducing emotional stressors, practising mindfulness and staying connected with others. A technique that has made health news headlines in recent years is the use of an adaptogenic herb called Ashwagandha.

Stress and anxiety are inevitable and unavoidable parts of life at times. Moving homes, family disagreements and looming work deadlines may all add to feelings of stress, worry and uncertainty. Many of us will recognise the effects of stress on an emotional level; while these feelings are completely normal, they can have much wider spread negative effects on the body which may impact both short and long-term health. Elevated blood pressure, irritability, headaches and sleep disturbances are common results of short-term stress. Over time, stress increases the risk of developing mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, and physical ailments including high blood pressure, chronic pain, digestive problems and even heart disease. As such, managing emotional and physical stress is paramount to maintaining health and longevity.

What is Ashwagandha?

Ashwagandha is an evergreen flowering shrub, found growing across the continents of Asia and Africa. It has been used traditionally as a medicinal plant for thousands of years; in fact, earliest reports trace its use right back to 6000 BC. Ashwagandha use is common in Ayurveda, one of the oldest health systems in existence, and is known to relieve stress and anxiety and promote overall wellness and longevity. Ashwagandha is classified as an adaptogen; adaptogens are specific types of herbs and mushrooms which exhibit stress-reducing effects on the body, allowing it to adapt to stress and return to a state of homeostasis, or balance. More specifically, adaptogens enhance the body’s stability against physical loads without increasing oxygen consumption to normalise metabolic function.

Stress and its Impact on Long-Term Health

Stress, be that physical or emotional, increases the production of a hormone called cortisol. Often referred to as the primary stress hormone, cortisol release prompts a cascade of effects on the body, such as releasing glucose in the bloodstream, dilating pupils, increasing heart rate and blunting non-essential bodily functions like digestion. This is a natural response to acute stress, known as the fight or flight response, and allows you to temporarily deal with stressors. However, long-term or chronic cortisol production puts the body’s systems under additional pressure, contributing to the health issues listed above.

How can we soothe the mind with Ashwagandha?

Ashwagandha contains a number of powerful molecules called withanolides; these structures act as steroids (otherwise known as hormones) in the body, specifically by suppressing cortisol production and thus lowering the negative effects of stress. Some other positive actions of withanolides in regard to brain support include regulating the immune system and promoting neurogenesis. In one study, ashwagandha supplementation was shown to reduce morning cortisol and DHEA-S (a sex hormone closely linked with cortisol) levels more effectively than placebo; researchers also found significant improvements in depression, stress and anxiety ratings among participants.

During periods of stress, cortisol production prompts the release of glucose into the bloodstream causing a rapid rise in blood sugar. To combat this, insulin is released to bring glucose levels back to baseline – these vast fluctuations can result in many symptoms associated with stress and anxiety such as low mood, fatigue, shaking or trembling and dizziness. Over time, this glucose rollercoaster can dysregulate both glucose and insulin release, leading to insulin resistance and increasing the risk of type 2 diabetes. Due to ashwagandha’s cortisol-lowering properties, its use may be beneficial in supporting blood sugar balance and subsequent effects on anxiety. In fact, a meta-analysis of 29 trials found ashwagandha to be an effective anxiolytic, though it is important to note the small sample sizes within these studies.

Finally, ashwagandha may help to improve sleep, which in turn may counteract the effects of stress and promote positive mental health. In a recent randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, daily supplementation of the herb resulted in a significant improvement in sleep quality for all participants, alongside reductions in serum cortisol and perceived stress scores.

How much is required to soothe the mind?

The dosage of ashwagandha across trials does vary slightly, though the average dose ranges from 400-600mg per day and appears to be effective in reducing cortisol levels and perceived stress and anxiety. In terms of safety, a trial specifically looking at this found 300mg twice daily (600mg total) for a duration of 8 weeks in healthy volunteers showed no adverse effects.

While ashwagandha has been used traditionally for thousands of years, it must be noted that there is currently little long-term data on its use over 8 weeks, therefore short-term use during periods of stress should be recommended. Nutrigold Organic Ashwagandha capsules contain 500mg of high-potency ashwagandha with the highest concentration of bioactive compounds on the market today.

Sponsored content in collaboration with Nutrigold.
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