Withania Somnifera, that’s the botanical name for adaptogenic herb, ashwaganda.
Ashwaganda is an herb used in Ayurvedic medicine where it is known for it’s anti-inflammatory, anti-stress, and antioxidant benefits and has been used as a general health aid for many health conditions. Being an ‘adapotgen’ means it helps the body respond to stress in a more balanced way, helping the body ‘adapt’ to stressors.
So in Ayurvedic medicine it is called a rejuvenation and longevity herb as it is able to help you adapt to the many stressors of life and modulate the immune response, meaning it can prevent you from getting sick or developing health conditions. Now that’s a great thing right!
Benefits Of Ashwaganda
Some of the reported benefits of ashwaganda include:
- reducing cancer tumor growth
- aiding neurodegenerative conditions
- reducing pain associated with inflammation
- reducing stress
- reducing symptoms of adrenal fatigue and chronic fatigue
- aiding epilepsy
- aiding central nervous system (CNS) disorders
- a powerful free radical scavenger
- promoting better memory and cognition
- aiding mental disorders
- reducing anxiety
- helping arthritis and inflammation
Pretty impressive health benefits!
Active Constituents & Influences on the Body
So far studies have identified 12 alkaloids, 35 withanoloids, and several sitinosides. This probably means very little to you but these are the active compounds in ashwaganda, all of which have diverse affects and probably explains why ashwaganda has such a wide variety of medicinal purposes in Ayurvedic medicine.
Ashwaganda helps modulate neurotransmitters and other functions
In medical studies Ashwaganda has been shown to modulate:
- The GABAergic system – meaning it has the ability to influence GABA, an inhibitory neurotransmitter involved in reducing the excitability of neurons in the central nervous system.
- The cholinergic system – meaning it has the ability to influence the parasympathetic nervous system, which uses acetylcholine to send messages to various systems and organs in the body.
- The oxidative system – meaning it has the ability to influence metabolic reactions in the body to minimize oxidative damage and the production of free radicals.
- The dopaminergic system in the brain – meaning it has the ability to influence the neural pathways of neurotransmitter dopamine from one region of the brain to another.
- The ability to diffuse naturally across the blood brain barrier, which may explain some of ashwaganda’s powerful effects on the CNS and the brain.
Ashwaganda has a powerful impact on the central nervous system
And here’s a table from the Kulkarni study (listed in references) that lists some of the benefits of ashwaganda on the central nervous system.
Stress & Anxiety Relief
One of the things I often recommend ashwaganda for is adrenal fatigue or stress and anxiety situations.
Studies have shown it’s effectiveness for these types of conditions. In 5 randomized control trials with patients taking 600-1000mg/d over a 6-8 week period, people taking ashwaganda had a greater anxiety and stress score compared to people taking a placebo, meaning their stress and anxiety reduced significantly.
Ashwaganda For Adrenal Fatigue & Chronic Fatigue
It is well known that both adrenal fatigue and chronic fatigue are associated with imbalances in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. Ashwaganda is very effective for these conditions and it may be due to it’s ability to modulate neurotrasmitters as mentioned above.
You can find ashwaganda as a stand alone supplement, or sometimes you might also find it in a combo stress supplement.
Most stand alone supplements are around 400-500 mg per dose and the recommendation is 2 capsules a day so you’ll be getting around 800-1000 mg/d.
I hope you’ll give ashwaganda a try because it really does help with many things, especially stress, anxiety and adrenal fatigue/ chronic fatigue.
Nutritionist & Health Counselor
Pratte et al. An Alternative Treatment for Anxiety: A Systematic Review of Human Trial Results Reported for the Ayurvedic Herb Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera). THE JOURNAL OF ALTERNATIVE AND COMPLEMENTARY MEDICINE. Volume 20, Number 12, 2014, pp. 901–908.
Kulkarni et al. Withania somnifera: An Indian ginseng. Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology & Biological Psychiatry 32 (2008) 1093–1105.
Vareed et al. Blood–Brain Barrier Permeability of Bioactive Withanamides Present in Withania somnifera Fruit Extract. PHYTOTHERAPY RESEARCH Phytother. Res. 28: 1260–1264 (2014).