Ashwagandha: A Traditional Ayurvedic Remedy
Ashwagandha, also known as Withania somnifera, is an herb used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine to treat various conditions. It belongs to the Solanaceae family, which includes tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants.
Ashwagandha is native to India and North Africa and grows in dry regions. In Ayurvedic medicine, ashwagandha is a rasayana herb that promotes vitality and longevity.
It is classified as an adaptogen, which can help the body cope with stress. Ashwagandha has been used traditionally to treat anxiety, depression, insomnia, arthritis, asthma, bronchitis, and other conditions. in this article, we examine the power of Ashwagandha for sleep and anxiety symptoms.
How Ashwagandha Can Help Treat Anxiety and Depression
Anxiety and depression are among the most common mental health disorders worldwide. They can significantly affect the quality of life by interfering with daily activities such as sleep, work or social interactions.
While conventional treatments such as antidepressants can be effective in some cases, they often have unwanted side effects. Ashwagandha may offer an alternative approach to managing sleep problems and anxiety symptoms.
Research suggests that ashwagandha can regulate neurotransmitter levels in the brain by modulating GABA receptors. GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) is a neurotransmitter that helps reduce neuronal excitability in the nervous system.
A 2019 study involving 60 participants with mild anxiety found that those who took 240 mg of ashwagandha extract twice daily experienced significant reductions in anxiety scores compared to those who took a placebo. 
Another study from 2017 found that ashwagandha extract was effective in reducing symptoms of depression in people with major depressive disorder. 
Ashwagandha Dosage and Administration
Ashwagandha can be taken in various forms, such as capsules, powders, teas, or tinctures. The recommended dosage for anxiety and depression is typically 300-500 mg of ashwagandha extract standardized to contain 5% withanolides . It is important to consult a healthcare professional before taking herbal supplements, especially if taking other medications.
Ashwagandha May Interfere with Certain Medications
Ashwagandha should not be used during pregnancy or breastfeeding due to potential risks. It may also interact with certain medications, such as sedatives or thyroid hormone replacement therapy.
Some people may experience mild side effects such as gastrointestinal upset or drowsiness when taking ashwagandha. Ashwagandha has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine to promote overall health and well-being.
Emerging research suggests it may offer a safe and effective alternative treatment for anxiety and depression symptoms. However, more studies are needed to determine its long-term safety and efficacy.
What is Ashwagandha?
Description of the plant and its properties
Ashwagandha, also known as Withania somnifera, is an evergreen shrub that grows in India, the Middle East, and Africa. The plant belongs to the nightshade family and has yellow flowers that bloom in the winter.
The root of this herb has an odor similar to that of a horse (aswaa), which is why it is called Ashwagandha. The active compounds in Ashwagandha are withanolides, alkaloids, and steroidal lactones.
These compounds have been found to have anti-inflammatory properties, antioxidant effects and can help reduce cortisol levels. The leaves and fruit of this plant also contain some compounds that have potential health benefits.
History of use in Ayurvedic medicine
Ashwagandha has been used for over 3000 years in Ayurvedic medicine as a natural remedy for anxiety, stress-related disorders, depression, fatigue reduction, and cognitive enhancement. Ayurveda considers the herb rasayana or adaptogen, meaning it helps improve overall physical health while building resilience against stressors. In traditional Indian medicine systems such as Ayurveda and Unani Tibb herbalism (traditional Persian medicine), ashwagandha root was commonly used to treat symptoms ranging from general weakness to sexual dysfunction.
It was also commonly prescribed as a tonic after illness or surgery due to its restorative properties. Ashwagandha’s anticancer properties were first documented by Indian scientists who noticed a correlation between people who consumed Ashwagandha regularly suffering from lower rates of cancers associated with oxidative damage, such as breast cancer, than those who did not consume it at all.
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The Science of Ashwagandha on Anxiety and Depression
Effects on the Nervous System
One of the main ways that Ashwagandha helps with anxiety and depression is by regulating the body’s stress response. It has been shown to reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which can have a calming effect on the body.
Additionally, Ashwagandha has been found to increase levels of GABA, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate nerve activity and has a calming effect on the brain. This can be especially helpful for those with anxiety who may experience racing thoughts or difficulty sleeping.
Ashwagandha also contains compounds called withanolides, which have been found to have anti-inflammatory effects in the brain. Chronic inflammation in the brain has been linked to an increased risk of depression and other mood disorders, so reducing inflammation may be another way that Ashwagandha helps improve symptoms.
Clinical Studies Supporting Effectiveness
Several clinical studies have been conducted on Ashwagandha’s effectiveness for anxiety and depression. In a randomized controlled trial published in the Journal of Clinical Psychopharmacology, participants taking 300 milligrams of Ashwagandha extract twice daily for eight weeks had significantly lower anxiety and stress scores than those who took a placebo. 
Another study published in Phytomedicine found that participants with moderate to severe depression who took 600 milligrams of Ashwagandha extract daily for 60 days had significantly reduced symptoms compared to those who took a placebo.
A systematic review published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine looked at six randomized controlled trials involving over 500 participants. It concluded that Ashwagandha extract effectively reduced anxiety symptoms without significant adverse effects. 
Overall, these studies provide promising evidence for using Ashwagandha as a natural treatment for anxiety and depression. However, more research is needed to understand its mechanisms of action and potential long-term effects fully.
Dosage and Administration
Although Ashwagandha is generally considered safe, following the recommended dosage guidelines is important. The appropriate dosage may vary depending on factors such as age, overall health, and the severity of anxiety or depression symptoms.
Recommended Dosage for Anxiety and Depression
The typical recommended dosage of Ashwagandha for anxiety and depression is between 250mg to 600mg per day. However, it is important to note that some studies have used higher doses up to 1,000mg per day with no adverse effects reported.
It’s always advisable to start with a low dose and gradually increase if necessary. Ashwagandha supplements can be taken in the form of capsules or tablets.
Taking them after meals with water or your favorite beverage is best. The therapeutic effects may take several weeks to become noticeable, so it’s important not to get discouraged if you don’t see immediate results.
Different Forms Available (Capsules, Powders, Teas)
Ashwagandha supplements are available in different forms, including capsules, powders, and teas. Capsules are the most popular form because they’re convenient and easy to take. Powdered forms can be mixed into drinks or smoothies but may have a slightly bitter taste depending on how they’re prepared.
If you prefer a more traditional approach or want a more soothing way of taking Ashwagandha for anxiety relief, tea may be worth considering. Simply steep one teaspoon of Ashwagandha root powder in hot water for five minutes before drinking.
It is also possible to find ashwagandha in other forms, such as tinctures or topical creams; however, these forms are less common than capsules, powders, and teas. Before trying any form of Ashwagandha supplement, it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare provider to determine the best dosage and form for you.
Potential Side Effects
Ashwagandha is generally well-tolerated by most people when taken in recommended doses. However, like any supplement or medication, it may cause side effects in some individuals. The most commonly reported adverse effects of ashwagandha are gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
These symptoms are usually mild and temporary. In rare cases, ashwagandha may cause allergic reactions in people sensitive to the plant or its extracts.
Symptoms of an allergic reaction include difficulty breathing, swelling of the face or throat, and hives. If you experience these symptoms after taking ashwagandha, seek medical attention immediately.
Overview of Possible Adverse Reactions
Ashwagandha has been reported to interact with certain medications, including sedatives and thyroid hormone replacement therapy. If you take any medication or have a pre-existing condition, consult your doctor before taking Ashwagandha supplements. If you have any issues with your thyroid, Dr. Yufang Lin from the Cleveland Clinic strongly recommends checking with your healthcare provider before taking ashwagandha.
People with autoimmune diseases such as lupus or multiple sclerosis should avoid using ashwagandha because it may stimulate the immune system and worsen their symptoms. Additionally, pregnant women should avoid taking ashwagandha as it may cause uterine contractions and lead to premature labor.
Precautions for Use
To minimize potential side effects from using Ashwagandha for anxiety and depression, always follow the recommended dosage instructions on the package label or provided by your healthcare provider. If you experience any unusual symptoms after taking Ashwagandha supplements such as skin rash or severe stomach pain discontinue use immediately and consult a doctor. It’s important to note that while Ashwagandha has shown promise in treating anxiety and depression in clinical studies; more research is needed to determine its long-term safety profile.
Summary of key points
Ashwagandha is an herb with a long history of use in Ayurvedic medicine. Its potential to treat anxiety and depression has been studied extensively, with promising results.
It may help to reduce levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, and increase the production of GABA, a neurotransmitter that helps to regulate mood. Clinical studies have shown that Ashwagandha can be effective in reducing symptoms of insomnia, anxiety and depression.
It may also improve overall well-being and quality of life. However, more research is needed better to understand its mechanisms of action and potential long-term effects.
Final thoughts on using Ashwagandha for anxiety and depression
While Ashwagandha shows promise as a natural remedy for anxiety and depression, it should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care. People experiencing severe symptoms or taking medication should consult their healthcare provider before using any dietary supplement.
Incorporating Ashwagandha into a holistic wellness plan may provide additional support for individuals managing anxiety and depression. Strategies such as mindfulness meditation, regular exercise, proper nutrition, social support networks, and psychotherapy can complement the use of this herb.
Overall, Ashwagandha represents a promising alternative or complementary approach to conventional treatments for these common mental health conditions. Further research will help to clarify its potential benefits and limitations over time.
References for Ashwagandha
 “These findings suggest that ashwagandha’s stress-relieving effects may occur via its moderating effect on the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis. However, further investigation utilizing larger sample sizes, diverse clinical and cultural populations, and varying treatment dosages are needed to substantiate these findings”. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31517876/
 “Fifty-seven participants were enrolled, with 50 people completing the first 8-week period of the trial and 43 completing all 16 weeks. Improvements in fatigue, vigor, and sexual and psychological well-being were reported over time, with no statistically significant between-group differences”. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1557988319835985
 “Withanolides are a group of at least 300 naturally occurring steroids built on an ergostane skeleton. They occur as secondary metabolites primarily in genera of the Nightshade family, for example in the tomatillo.”
 “The findings of this study suggest that a high-concentration full-spectrum Ashwagandha root extract safely and effectively improves an individual’s resistance towards stress and thereby improves self-assessed quality of life”. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3573577/
 “The current systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of RCTs revealed a beneficial effect in both stress and anxiety following Ashwagandha supplementation. However, further high-quality studies are needed to firmly establish the clinical efficacy of the plant”. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36017529/
Last update on 2023-12-08 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API