You may have already heard of Ashwagandha - but what actually is it? Well, these evergreen shrubs have been used for hundreds of years for their natural medicinal properties and health benefits.
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is an ancient ayuvrvedic herb that is classified as an adaptogen. Adaptogens are herbs that can help your body manage stress. Ashwagandha is a member of the Solanaceae family and is also referred to as Indian Ginseng or Winter Cherry. The name ashwagandha literally translates to ‘smell of horse’, which reflects both the smell of the root as well as the belief that it can give you strength.
Ashwagandha is a multipurpose herb that has been studied as an adaptogen, anxiolytic, antidepressant and antioxidant, to name a few.
A 60-day study of its ability to reduce stress and anxiety in adults showed that the Ashwagandgha group had a significant reduction in scores for depression, anxiety and stress compared to the placebo group. The Ashwagandha group scores decreased by 77%, 75.6% and 64.2%, whereas the placebo group scores reduced by 5.2%, -4.3% and 10.4%, respectively.
When you are stressed, your body releases a hormone called cortisol, which is referred to as a ‘stress hormone’. Cortisol plays a key role in stress response. When under stress, the body releases cortisol to provide the energy needed to cope with stress-provoking stimuli. This results in increased heart rate, respiration and blood pressure.
High cortisol levels over time can have negative effects on the body, including high blood pressure, weight gain and disrupted sleep. Ashwagandha can reduce cortisol level, thereby reducing the negative effects of stress on the body. A study of its effect on cortisol levels showed a reduction of 27.9% in the Ashwagandha group compared to 7.9% in the placebo group.