Stressed, anxious, exhausted… and unable to sleep? A daily dose of ashwagandha could help!
Most of us are familiar with stress, but here’s a quick overview of how it affects our brain and body. Stress activates a complex network of hormones known as the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) axis. The HPA axis causes our body to release the stress hormone cortisol, sending you into ‘fight or flight’ mode. This is an evolutionary response that would have once helped our ancestors run away from danger. For most of us, daily stress at work or in relationships can have the same effect on our HPA axis, causing our adrenals to be constantly releasing cortisol. This leaves us feeling anxious, strung-out, and unable to relax.
The longer we remain in a state of elevated cortisol, the more taxed our adrenals become. This can eventually lead to adrenal fatigue, in which we’re no longer producing the amount of cortisol required to function properly.
Stress can also affect fertility and normal hormone production. When the hypothalamus senses that you’re under stress, it signals your pituitary gland to make fewer fertility hormones and more cortisol. This is why women sometimes find that their period stops when they’re particularly stressed or anxious.
What is Ashwagandha?
Also known as the “Indian ginseng”, Ashwagandha is has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for hundreds of years. It’s now one of the best-selling supplements on the natural health market.
Why? Ashwagandha is an adaptogen, which means it can help your body ‘adapt’ to the stress you face in daily life. It supports your natural stress response, helping you to feel less anxious, less exhausted, and more capable of facing the world.
That’s not all this amazing plant can do. Revered for its benefits in boosting vitality, enhancing brain function, and improving immune defences, Ashwagandha seems like the answer to everything life throws at us. It can even help your memory, balance your hormones, and help you get a better night’s sleep!
Benefits of Ashwagandha
Relieves stress and adrenal fatigue
At the very top of Ashwagandha’s benefits is its ability to alleviate stress and nervous tension. This makes it ideal for those with fast-paced lifestyles who need to be productive every day.
Ashwagandha has been shown to help relieve feelings of stress and support healthy levels of cortisol. One study involving people with chronic stress found that taking a high dose of Ashwagandha for two months significantly reduced levels of cortisol and improved their overall resistance to stress.
Supports brain function
As a nootropic and a neuroprotective, Ashwagandha also helps your brain to function more effectively, even under stress. Studies have shown that Ashwagandha can improve performance on cognitive tasks by enhancing working memory, flexible thinking, attention span, and reaction time. It’s also been found to help memory function in people who have mild cognitive impairment.
Helps with relaxation and sleep
Ashwagandha is a nervine tonic, which means it helps to soothe an agitated mind by gently supporting the nervous system. Some research suggests it may even have similar effects to benzodiazepines, which are prescribed to treat severe anxiety.
These anxiolytic benefits mean that Ashwagandha is great for getting a good night’s sleep. It’s been shown to help reduce insomnia and induce relaxation, which allows for deeper and more restful sleep.
Helps balance hormones
Stress can cause an imbalance in reproductive hormones and fertility. Again, this is all to do with the HPA-axis.
That’s where Ashwagandha can help. It helps to bring hormones back into balance by encouraging the HPA axis to reduce cortisol production. This helps the body get back to producing the right amounts of estrogen and luteinizing hormones, both of which are required for normal menstruation and fertility.
Ashwagandha also supports normal reproductive function in men by promoting healthy sperm and normal levels of testosterone.
Enhances endurance and fitness
Ashwagandha is great for athletes, too - it can help boost physical performance and recovery. It harbours excellent anabolic benefits, which means it supports lean muscle growth. Athletes who take Ashwagandha are able to train more often and for longer periods of time and recover more quickly after intense training. This is all thanks to its high content of antioxidant phytochemicals, such as flavonoids, and carotenoids, which provide powerful rejuvenating benefits.
Other studies suggest that Ashwagandha can also support lean body mass, improve upper and lower-body strength, and support fat-to-muscle ratios.
Promotes healthy weight management
Chronic stress is often associated with unhealthy eating and weight gain. This is because stress makes us want to overeat, as well as making us crave junk foods such as chocolate, takeaways, soft drinks, and alcohol.
Ashwagandha’s modulating effects on cortisol have been shown to help reduce the compulsion to overeat or snack. Some studies have even suggested that it can help with weight management, with patients experiencing both weight loss and lower cortisol levels after taking Ashwagandha supplements for eight weeks.
Ashwagandha may also help bring blood glucose levels into healthy ranges, which in turn can help reduce the sugar cravings that drive us to snack more often.
Helps reduce joint pain and inflammation
The roots and leaves of the Ashwagandha plant are rich in constituents called withanolides, which have a similar action to steroids. These help to reduce levels of C-reactive protein, an inflammatory chemical that plays a major role in joint pain. By regulating levels of inflammation in the body, Ashwagandha can help those suffering from sore joints, stiffness, swelling, and general aches and pains.
It’s been shown to harbour analgesic and anti-inflammatory benefits, which can help with osteoarthritis of the knees.
May enhance immune function
Healthy immune function is now more important than ever - and Ashwagandha may be another weapon in your body’s natural defence arsenal. It can help to boost cell-mediated immunity, which means it strengthens the body’s response to invading bacteria and viruses. Some research has shown that Ashwagandha can promote the function of immune cells called natural killer cells, which your body uses to fight infection and maintain overall wellbeing.
On top of all those benefits, Ashwagandha is also a potent antioxidant, which means it can help protect your body’s cells against damage caused by free radicals.
Looking to add Ashwagandha to your daily routine? We’ve got some great options!
If you’re looking to support your digestive health along with feeling a little less stressed, try Good De-Stress Ashwagandha. These delicious soft chews provide a daily dose of Ashwagandha plus natural pectin, which aids gut health and keeps those glucose levels in check.
For those who are constantly challenged by stress and anxiety, Goli Ashwagandha Gummies are a great choice. It’s one of the few formulas that contain KSM-66®, the highest concentration of Ashwagandha extract on the market backed by extensive research. And they taste great, too!