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Can You Take Ashwagandha for Anxiety and Stress Relief?

For centuries, ashwagandha root has been the “go-to” in Ayurvedic medicine to reduce stress and increase energy levels. This has left many people wondering if it can be used to treat anxiety. Unfortunately, it is not a cure-all for mental health conditions- however, the stress-reducing effects if brings may offer some indirect benefits for easing anxiety.

In this article, we’ll discover everything you need to know about ashwagandha before you use it for your anxiety. We’ll also highlight some additional health benefits you may obtain from this herbal remedy.

What is Ashwagandha?

Ashwagandha is an evergreen herb that is native to areas in Africa and Asia. For centuries, an extract from the herb’s roots has been used in Ayurvedic medicine. You may find ashwagandha products marketed under other names, such as:

  • Ashwanga
  • Indian Ginseng
  • Winter Cherry

Practitioners of Ayurvedic medicine claim that ashwagandha can treat a variety of conditions, from insomnia to Alzheimer’s disease. However, it’s important to note that according to the National Library of Medicine, ashwagandha is only possibly effective against stress.

This is because ashwagandha is considered an adaptogen, which means that it may help improve the way your body deals with stress. When it comes to your overall wellness, stress is a major component. Too much can result in a variety of other health issues, including anxiety.

Can ashwagandha be used for anxiety?

In a recent review, it was revealed that while ashwagandha can help relieve stress, there is not enough research at this time to claim that it can help treat anxiety.

However, you can still take ashwagandha to treat the symptoms associated with anxiety, but its effectiveness depends on the reason for your anxiety. After all, there’s more to anxiety than stress and it comes in a variety of forms, such as:

  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Separation anxiety disorder
  • Phobia-related disorders

If you have anxiety related to depression, PTSD, or genetics, ashwagandha will probably not help. However, if your chest pain, headaches, and nausea are flaring up due to stress, ashwagandha may be helpful by:

  • Influencing GABA, or gamma-aminobutyric acid, which is the neurotransmitter that calms your brain down
  • Regulating cortisol levels (stress hormones)

A rodent study from 2000 indicated that the effects of ashwagandha are similar to those of lorazepam, which is commonly prescribed by medical professionals to treat anxiety. Of course, since mice are not people, we need more research to determine the validity of these results.

What about using ashwagandha for stress?

As we have mentioned, research indicates that ashwagandha is effective for reducing stress levels.

One small study in 2019 revealed that a daily dose of 600 milligrams of ashwagandha significantly reduced stress and anxiety. In addition, it has also been linked to a reduction in cortisol and improved sleep, which are both critical for your overall mental health.

A second study in 2019 revealed that a dose of 240 milligrams on a daily basis reduced overall stress levels.

Once again, we have more evidence indicating that taking ashwagandha for stress is more effective than taking it for an anxiety disorder.

Other Benefits of Ashwagandha

Most of the time, people use ashwagandha supplements to give their mental health a boost. However, there are some other benefits associated with this herb, such as:

How Should You Take Ashwagandha?

When it comes to taking ashwagandha supplements, there is no one-size-fits-all dosing or approach that is backed by industry leaders. Research indicates that it can be taken with or without a meal and can be taken any time of the day.

You can find ashwagandha in a variety of forms, such as:

  • Liquid extracts
  • Pills
  • Teas
  • Powders

Most of the research suggests that a dose of 250 to 600 milligrams per day can reduce stress. Other studies use higher doses and some companies suggest that you need up to 1,500 milligrams. It’s important to note that, no matter what your dosage, you may have to take it for several weeks or even months before you start seeing results.

It’s best to consult with your medical provider or a dietician before you start taking an ashwagandha supplement. They will be able to help you find the best type and dosage for you.

Side Effects of Ashwagandha

According to experts, ashwagandha is safe in small doses, for up to 3 months. There has not been enough research to determine effects associated with long-term use. However, it has been shown that taking too much for too long can mess with your gastrointestinal tract, causing side effects such as:

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting

Also, it’s important to note that since research is still limited, there are some groups that should avoid taking this herb, including:

  • Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • Individuals with autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, lupus, etc.
  • Individuals with a thyroid condition

Just like other supplements and herbs, ashwagandha may interact with some prescription medications. Therefore, make sure that you discuss it with your medical provider before you start taking it.

Conclusion

Ashwagandha has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine. It has been proven to soothe stress, which is one of the most common triggers for anxiety. Therefore, it might help with anxiety, depending on what is causing it.

This is not a quick fix for your stress, insomnia, or anxiety. It acts like a supplement, not a prescription medication and can take several weeks to get into your system. Additionally, it may not work for everyone. Before you purchase an ashwagandha product, make sure to do your research and purchase only the one you trust.

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References

“Ashwagandha: MedlinePlus Supplements.” Medlineplus.gov, Sept. 2019, medlineplus.gov/druginfo/natural/953.html.

“Ashwagandha: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions, Dosage, and Warning.” Webmd.com, 2009, www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-953/ashwagandha.

“Ayurvedic Medicine: In Depth.” NCCIH, www.nccih.nih.gov/health/ayurvedic-medicine-in-depth.

Bhattacharya, S.K., et al. “Anxiolytic-Antidepressant Activity of Withania Somnifera Glycowithanolides: An Experimental Study.” Phytomedicine, vol. 7, no. 6, Dec. 2000, pp. 463–469, 10.1016/s0944-7113(00)80030-6. Accessed 3 May 2020.

Cleveland Clinic. “Cortisol: What It Is, Function, Symptoms & Levels.” Cleveland Clinic, 10 Dec. 2021, my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/22187-cortisol.

—. “What Is Stress? Symptoms, Signs & More | Cleveland Clinic.” Cleveland Clinic, 2021, my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/11874-stress.

foodrevolutionnetwork. “What Are Adaptogens & How Can You Benefit from Them?” Food Revolution Network, 22 May 2020, foodrevolution.org/blog/what-are-adaptogens/. Accessed 25 May 2022.

Healthline’s Medical Network. “What Does Gamma Aminobutyric Acid (GABA) Do?” Healthline, Healthline Media, 26 Oct. 2018, www.healthline.com/health/gamma-aminobutyric-acid.

Jovanovic, Tanja. “Anxiety.org.” Anxiety.org, 15 Nov. 2018, www.anxiety.org/what-is-anxiety.

Mayo Clinic. “Generalized Anxiety Disorder – Symptoms and Causes.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Clinic, 2017, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/generalized-anxiety-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20360803.

—. “Panic Attacks and Panic Disorder – Symptoms and Causes.” Mayo Clinic, 4 May 2018, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/panic-attacks/symptoms-causes/syc-20376021.

—. “Separation Anxiety Disorder – Symptoms and Causes.” Mayo Clinic, 5 Apr. 2021, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/separation-anxiety-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20377455.

—. “Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia) – Symptoms and Causes.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Clinic, 29 Aug. 2017, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/social-anxiety-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20353561.

“Phobia Related Disorders Definition | Signs and Symptoms.” The Treatment Specialist, thetreatmentspecialist.com/mental-health/anxiety/phobia-related-disorders/.

Salve, Jaysing, et al. “Adaptogenic and Anxiolytic Effects of Ashwagandha Root Extract in Healthy Adults: A Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Clinical Study.” Cureus, vol. 11, no. 12, 25 Dec. 2019, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6979308/, 10.7759/cureus.6466.

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