A fast-approaching deadline. The first tickly signs of a cough. Spilled coffee all over your new white sweater. Sources of stress are everywhere these days. If your life has been feeling extra hectic, you may want to try ashwagandha. A celebrated adaptogen (a medicinal plant that combats stress), ashwagandha has been shown to lower cortisol levels and help fight symptoms of stress. It’s even thought to increase our overall resistance to stress.
Key health benefits
Otherwise known as the “Indian Winter Cherry” or “Indian Ginseng,” ashwagandha has been used for thousands of years to combat stress. Ashwagandha root is usually ground into a fine powder, and it can be consumed after being mixed with water and honey, or used in smoothies and other recipes.
Ashwagandha’s long history of traditional health use is supported by studies that verify its ability to
- increase energy and physical endurance
- strengthen the immune system
- reduce inflammation
- reduce anxiety and depression
- improve memory and brain function
- support normal levels of the stress hormone cortisol
- promote restful sleep
Let’s dig into the science behind some of those key benefits.
Stress is an all-too-familiar issue, especially following the worldwide confusion and uncertainty of 2020. We all know stress can cause a racing heart, headaches, and upset stomach, but did you know that long-term exposure to stress is linked to many health issues? Hormone disruption, weight gain, sleep problems, anxiety, low mood, and blood sugar swings can result from chronic stress. Over time, this unmanaged stress can begin to impact our immune systems, digestion, and cardiovascular health, sometimes leading to serious complications.
Studies around the world have investigated the benefits and links between ashwagandha root and stress. Researchers in India found, through a recent small randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, that those who took ashwagandha supplements daily for 60 days reported reductions in feelings of stress and improved mental well-being.
Stress isn’t the only issue that ashwagandha may help relieve. In 2017, a university sleep institute in Japan found that ashwagandha may have a significant effect on those who struggle with insomnia. It was discovered that a water extract from ashwagandha leaves contained triethylene glycol (TEG), a chemical that promotes non-rapid eye movement, an important component of restful sleep.
Mid-day slump? Instead of reaching for yet another cup of coffee to boost your energy and focus, consider ashwagandha. Studies have found that ashwagandha may improve memory and cognitive function for those with mild cognitive impairment. In a 2017 study involving 50 adults, those treated with ashwagandha root demonstrated an improvement in memory, attention spans, and information processing speed.
Fitness fans, take note: Ashwagandha may even improve muscle performance. One study of healthy young adults found that the participants were faster and stronger during exercise after taking ashwagandha on the daily for eight weeks. The exercisers also took in more oxygen when they breathed.
Research shows that ashwagandha may help move toxic silver nanoparticles from your liver and kidneys. Silver nanoparticles are widely used for killing bacteria in personal care products and home cleaning products, surgical equipment, and some contraceptive devices.
Ashwagandha also has a long history of topical use in Ayurvedic medicine to soothe swelling. Preliminary research bears this out, showing ashwagandha may protect against skin inflammation—so it’s no surprise ashwagandha is starting to crop up in skincare products. It just might be your skin’s MVP this year.
How to take it
Ashwagandha is commonly available as a powder, as a liquid extract, or in pill form. As with all new supplements, it’s smart to speak with your doctor or health care practitioner before trying it out.
Ashwagandha powder admittedly has a bitter, earthy flavor (sometimes compared to the distinct smell of a horse), but its benefits supersede the unpalatable aroma. Adding the powder to smoothies, hot drinks, and sweet treats can help offset this bitterness.
Use ashwagandha in a caffeine-free latte. Put your morning coffee to the side and enjoy a Medicinal Root Mood Latte instead. It contains ashwagandha and a range of other de-stressing herbs to help you sip your way to a more harmonious state of being.
Add ashwagandha to salad dressing. Whip up a comforting and healing Roasted Medicinal Root Salad with Ashwagandha Dressing to awaken all your senses. The sweet and savory dressing perfectly complements the irresistible flavors of the roasted root veggies, creating a robust, nutrient-dense explosion of taste that’s sure to satisfy most palates.
The next time you’re going crazy trying to remember what’s next in your hectic schedule, or you’re stuck in traffic and your fight-or-flight response has you jumping through the sunroof of your car, remember history’s anti-stress herb, ashwagandha. It can help boost your brain, help you unwind, and relieve your fatigue.