What is Ashwagandha for? – Can it Reduce Stress?

So what is ashwagandha for anyway?  Can it help relieve stress?  Is it a nootropic?

We all know that stress can have a negative impact on our cognitive abilities.

In fact, long term exposure to stress hormones like Cortisol can actually change the structure of your brain.

The pace the world runs at today is insane, and it’s getting crazier every day.

It’s no wonder that over 40 million people in the United States suffer from anxiety disorders of one kind or another every year.

Even more alarming is the fact that less than 37% of those 40 million actually receive treatment.

Trust me, if you sometimes feel uneasy in certain social situations, or just generally overwhelmed, you’re not the only one feeling the pressure.

Crazy Pace

When I was 19, a long long time ago, I used to have panic attacks.  Usually before exams, but sometimes it was because I felt like I no longer had any control over my life.

I worried.  Then I would worry about worrying.  You get the idea. It was a downward spiral.

So what can we do?  How can we adapt?  Let’s face it, the world isn’t going to slow down any time soon.

If you’re like me, and you prefer nutritional supplements over prescription drugs, you want a natural solution.

So can ashwagandha fit the bill?  Can it help people manage stress and provide anxiety relief?

Let’s find out how effective it really is…

What is Ashwagandha? – Does it Relieve Stress?

OK.  Sure.  There are other herbs out there like bacopa monnierirhodiola rosea and St. John’s wort that can help with stress.

But I believe that out of all of them, the very best natural solution for anxiety and stress is ashwagandha.

Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is one of the most powerful herbs used in Ayurvedic healing, and is most noted for it’s ability to provide users with a relaxed state of focused concentration.

It’s been used throughout the centuries to treat anxiety, stress, and depression.

But that’s not all!  Ashwagandha also relieves nervous exhaustion, mental fatigue, and can even spice up your love life!

It is commonly prescribed to treat impotence, and can be used as an aphrodisiac.

Ashwagandha Benefits – How it Improves Brain Health

The benefits of ashwagandha kind of come in a 2 part package because of the way it works.  This is a basic breakdown:

  • Neural Protection – Chronic stress, and overly high cortisol levels in the brain can damage the neural pathways connected to the prefrontal cortex.  This reduces the capacity for executive function and memory in the brain.  Ashwagandha is an adaptogen that regulates the stress factors, preventing this harmful rewiring of neural pathways.  Ashwagandha is also a powerful antioxidant, protecting various bodily tissues from free radical damage and inflammation.
  • Neural Enhancement – Ashwagandha encourages the regrowth of brain cells, and the reconstruction of synapses, increasing the overall efficiency of brain function.  The repair of receptor sites also enhances the activity of GABA and serotonin in the brain, thereby promoting relaxation and improved mood, respectively.  Ashwagandha also acts as a reuptake inhibitor by blocking the activity of acetylcholinesterase, an enzyme that breaks down the neurotransmitter acetylcholine.  The end result is enhanced memory, learning capacity, and cognition.

Ashwagandha is also very good for alleviating sleep issues because it enhances the activity of GABA in the brain.

GABA, or gamma-aminobutyric acid, is naturally released by the body near the end of the day to encourage sleep.

People using ashwagandha as a sleep aid often report feeling far more refreshed in the morning, with a much more positive outlook.

Siesta

Generally speaking, getting more sleep, and better quality sleep, is always going to improve your mental health.

I mentioned in one of my previous articles that the brain has a fluid system it uses to cleanse itself when we’re sleeping.

What does this all mean?

It means that on top of protecting your brain from damage, and improving it’s efficiency, ashwagandha also promotes better maintenance of your brain with improved sleep patterns.

This is all good news if you are suffering from anxiety, depression, or chronic stress.

Which leads us to the next question in this article.

Ashwagandha Side Effects – How do I use it Safely?

Generally speaking the root and berries are used as medicinal ingredients.

Ashwagandha can be taken as a tincture or tea, but these delivery methods are less than ideal.

I would recommend using a powder made from the ground root either in capsule form, or as an extract.

Ashwagandha also stimulates the thyroid glands, so if you have a thyroid condition, talk to your doctor before taking it.

It also amplifies the effects of other anti-depressants or sedatives, so don’t double up on them.  That includes other herbal remedies like St. John’s wort.

Any side effects with ashwagandha should be very minimal, but remember, it’s an adaptogen with strong hormonal effects.

If you’re pregnant, don’t take ashwaganha; it may cause a miscarriage.

Pregnant

If you experience any unfavorable symptoms like nausea or diarrhea, then ashwagandha may not be for you.

It would be a shame if this happened to you, since it’s so useful, but you’d need to stop taking it at that point.

So where do you get ashwagandha?  Are some sources better than others?

Ashwagandha Supplements – It’s a Jungle out there!

There are over 8,000 ashwagandha supplements on the market right now, and to be perfectly honest, I don’t have time to vet them all.

However, if you follow the guidelines I’m about to give you, you should be able to find a suitable source of ashwagandha for your needs.

One concern that I feel I should address is that black pepper is added to a lot of ashwagandha supplements.

It might help make ashwagandha more effective, but we don’t really know that for sure.

This is because piperine, or black pepper extract, has been shown to increase the absorption rates of several other nootropics.

Black pepper is also deeply ingrained in Ayurvedic medicine, with almost half of traditional Indian remedies using it as an ingredient.

However, the scientific evidence in this area is still inconsistent.

Piperine has been shown to increase the absorption of curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, by over 2,000%.

Research has also confirmed that it can increase the bioavailability of CoQ10 by about 30%.

But when researchers have tested other neutraceuticals with piperine, it hasn’t had any effect.  Including with ashwagandha.

The reason behind this issue could be that there are several active compounds in ashwagandha.  Some may respond to black pepper extracts, while others might not.

Long story short, don’t refuse to buy an ashwagandha supplement just because it doesn’t have piperine in it.

There are other considerations that are far more important to keep on your radar.

You want to make sure that your supplement is free of any herbicides, pesticides, or heavy metals.  Look for a label that has, “Certified Organic”, and check for the percentage of active ingredients.

They should be standardized to 4-5% active constituents to ensure the supplement will be effective.

I should also mention KSM-66, which is a patented, standardized extract.  KSM-66 is tested for safety, effectiveness, and purity.

If you see KSM-66 on the label, it’s a good sign that the product will do its’ job properly.

Ashwagandha Dosage – Recommendations for Best Results

The recommended dosage for ashwagandha ranges widely depending on how you are using it.

If you are taking it for anxiety relief, 100 mg/day may be enough, but if you want to improve your cognition, you should be getting at least 500 mg/day.

And peoples’ tolerance for ashwagandha can vary, depending on their body chemistry.

The vast majority of individuals see best results at the 500-600 mg/day mark.

I’m tempted to say the recommended dosage range is 100-1,000 mg/day, but since this article is focusing on ashwagandha as a nootropic, I think it makes more sense to put it at the 500 -1,000 mg/day mark.

Taking at least 500 mg/day should ensure that you see notable benefits to your cognition.

Ashwagandha Review – Final Recommendations

So what is ashwagandha for?

I see it as a nootropic that provides neuroprotection from stress, and improves cognitive function at the same time.

Ashwagandha is one of those miracle herbs that has so many benefits that it literally seems like a gift from God.

It’s been extensively studied, and has been shown to be a potent adaptogen for stress, anxiety, and depression.

It’s healing properties are also the subject of further research for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s disease.

I firmly believe that with the way the world is evolving, stress is going to become a larger and larger issue over time.

Stress can cause all kinds of issues ranging from the minor inconvenience of a headache, to full blown cancer.

It even encourages your brain to rewire itself so that executive function is impaired.

Pretty serious stuff!

So before you rush out to get a sedative at the drug store, why not consider going to a health food store for some ashwagandha instead?

It just might cure whatever’s been ailing you…

 

In my next post, I’ll be taking a closer look at ginkgo biloba, another natural nootropic that’s been in use for thousands of years!

Until next time,

 

Michael

P.S. – Do you know someone who is struggling with anxiety, stress, or depression?  Do you think ashwagandha could help?

Let me know if you have any concerns about trying ashwagandha.  Post a comment below.

I’d really appreciate hearing from you.

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6 thoughts on “What is Ashwagandha for? – Can it Reduce Stress?”

  1. This is the first time ever that learn of the Ashwagandha plants existence, and it has such great properties. Although I always try to stay positive and see the good in everything, one tends to still get anxious and depressed from time to time. The world is becoming a rat race, and sometimes you might find it difficult to keep up. I always prefer to use natural remedies or treatments, rather than taking medication that was brewed in a lab from all sorts of chemicals I won’t even know. I am considering to try out the product that you recommend from 88Herbs. The price seems good, actually on the cheap side for a herbal product. Here in south Africa herbal products are quite expensive off the shelf.

    Reply
    • Hi Martin,

      Thank you for reading my article.  It’s really great to hear from you!

      Yes, I think natural remedies tend to be overlooked sometimes because they are not a part of mainstream medicine.  Pharmaceutical companies are also not very motivated to invest research dollars into proving natural remedies are effective because they can never own the patents on them.

      If you are going to try the KSM-66 extract I recommended, just stick to a low dose at first to see how you feel, and go from there.

      Thanks once again for writing in, and if you have any other questions, please let me know.

      Michael

      Reply
  2. This is absolutely a plethora of fabulous information on amino acids and supplements that enhance our cognitive processes as well as enrich our bodies with nourishment that helps heal and increase energy at a cellular level and beyond.

    Thank you very much for this great work you have done, and it is a lot of work. In order to deliver a very informative site on material of this nature, one must be ready to take on the realization that he/she will have to perform mucho research on all the different amino acids natural remedies for anxiety, natural supplements for the brain, muscles and heart, etc….

    I liked your post “What is the Best Natural Remedy for Anxiety?” The answer was enlightening— ( ashwagandha ) is one of the most powerful herbs used in Ayurvedic healing (holistic type healing). I am a holistic type person. Therefore, I honestly enjoyed what I was reading. I can tell you are really into this. You are well versed in your knowledge about holistic healing, or as you call it—-Ayurvedic healing. Isn’t Ayurvedic Healing a Indian or originate in India? I’ll look it up.

    You did a great job with your excerpts, and your content stays well on track with your thoughts. Your purpose is easy to follow, though at times I thought I might have to direct myself away from your site and google terms. Here, you remedied this situation by allowing click on explanations formatted in easy to see colored or highlighted words, so I did not have to leave your site—-good for you. Your disclosures pages are accurate, and you added disclaimers, too. Nicely done, sir.

    I also admire your transparency. You brought to light the fact that you have ADD and this is what motivated you to research all this terrific insightful information—EXCELLENT.I like it very much.

    Audrey

    Reply
    • Thank you so much Audrey,

      I am so glad that you appreciate all of the hard work that goes into every article!  You are very right, nootropicscoach is definitely a labor of love!

      I find the field of nootropics truly fascinating, and I am very thankful that it is growing every day.  I know that people with ADD today have much better options to treat their condition than people had say, 20 years ago.  I consider myself very lucky to have access to all of the latest research.

      If I am being completely honest, I think we still have so much more to learn!

      Thanks once again for reading, and please let me know if you have any other questions.

      Sincerely,

      Michael

      Reply
  3. Hi Michael! Thank you very much for the way you conveyed your message in this post. Yes, I acknowledge that one of the things I must correct immediately in my life is how much sleep I get. Sometimes trying to be more productive, I sleep less which ends ups giving me more anxiety and thus making me less productive. 

    Reply
    • Hi Ann,

      Thanks for reading my article!

      If you are interested in knowing about a good nootropic supplement that helps you sleep better, read my review on Awakened Alchemy, and take a look at their ‘Dream’ product.

      They also have some good articles on Yoga, and other lifestyle changes that can improve brain health.

      If you have any questions, please let me know!

      Michael

      Reply

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