Ashwagandha for Stress Relief

It’s been a while…I don’t have any excuses, I’ve just been busy living, researching and doing.  My focus has been elsewhere, although I’m keeping track of all of it for this blog.  Someday, really…I promise…

Anyway, on to the ashwagandha.  While shopping online for natural remedies for stress and anxiety, I came across something called ashwagandha root.  I had never heard of it, so I did some quick research and decided to give it a try.

What is Ashwagandha?

Ashwagandha is considered an adaptogen in Ayurvedic medicine, meaning that it fights stress and promotes relaxation while giving you energy and motivation.  Basically, it magically knows what your body needs at any given moment and does it.  Can’t go wrong with that, right?  Truthfully, it was added to my cart as an impulse buy and I’m not sure I was expecting much.

Ashwagandha, Withania somnifera, is a shrub native to northern Africa, the Middle East, and southeast Asia.  It’s in the same plant family as tomato, and the roots and berries are used medicinally.  In addition to its anxiolytic and stress relieving properties, Ashwagandha is said to reduce inflammation, lower cholesterol, decrease blood pressure, boost immune function, and enhance sexual potency.  Research (conducted mostly on animals) suggests that it helps balance hormones, and may improve thyroid function and decrease cortisol levels.  It is often recommended for treating adrenal fatigue (to be discussed in an upcoming post).

Other research suggests that ashwagandha exerts a neuroprotective effect, which may be useful in treating degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s.  A quick internet search will show these and many other supposed effects, including the ability to make you taller…possibly inches taller (!)  So do your own research, and be careful of your sources.

My Experience – It’s a Keeper!

When my package of goodies arrived in the mail, I was excited and wanted to try something immediately.  I had work that night, so I was concerned that skullcap or passionflower might be a little too relaxing to enjoy before my shift.  I’m a nurse, no way I can be at all fog-brained at work.  That left the ashwagandha root…said to relax without sedation, improve mood and focus, and relieve fatigue.

I opened the bag and noticed the strong aroma which I had been prepared for.  The word ashwagandha means “smell of a horse” (or strength of a stallion, depending on which source you’re reading).  It really isn’t so terrible, and after decocting a tablespoon in 3 cups of water for about 15 minutes, I dropped an herbal tea bag in to improve the flavor a bit.  I poured about 4 ounces for myself and boyfriend and we tried the potion.

About 20 minutes later, I started to feel energized.  Not like caffeine energy (shaky, racing thoughts), but a sudden uplifting, motivating “I got this” kind of energy.  I was getting ready for work and boyfriend suddenly asked, “Is this supposed to give you energy? I feel like I could run a marathon!”  No joke.  I hadn’t told him much more than ashwagandha is an adaptogen and that it would help anxiety and stress, but not make him sleepy.  We were all smiles and suddenly realized that we just felt good.  Kind of like being well-rested while on vacation.  Not at all what I was expecting from some herbal tea.

The feeling lasted throughout the day/night.  I felt like my old self at work – cheerful, calm, master multi-tasker.  (“I got this!”)  I started drinking the ashwagandha decoction daily, about 6 ounces before work and 6 ounces around the time I’m supposed to take a lunch break.  It’s been more than two months and for me, the effects have been amazing.

I can say that I’ve noticed increased mental clarity and focus.  I am more in control of my thoughts, and better able to express myself even when I’m feeling emotional about something.  I’m more resilient to everyday stressors and feel less overwhelmed than I’ve been in a very long time.  I’ve also noticed increased stamina and I rarely get the headaches I usually get when I haven’t gotten enough sleep.  There is no “miracle potion” that fixes everything, but I’d say that I have an increased sense of well-being that makes it easier to continue striving for self-improvement.

You should know…

I seem to be in the minority, as most users take ashwagandha in powdered form, either as a capsule or mixed right into food.  I don’t mind the taste of my decoction, so I’ll keep using it that way although my dose is obviously inexact.  I did find a recipe for energy balls using powered root that I am going to try for my next camping adventure, so I will report back on that after the experiment.

In higher doses, ashwagandha is said to possess emetic and/or laxative properties that I do not want to experience, so I’m careful to not use too much haha.

It is not safe for everyone.  Ashwaganda is listed as “likely unsafe” for use during pregnancy as it may cause miscarriage.  It’s also probably not a good idea for those with auto-immune disorders or hyperthyroidism.  Please check with a knowledgeable professional if you have any concerns.

Incidentally, my boyfriend stopped drinking the potion after about a week, because one of the effects it seemed to have on him was increased “assertiveness.”  That can obviously become a problem in certain situations, and the benefits did not really outweigh the risks in his case.  This effect is mentioned on nootropic forums.  Some say this may be due an increase in testosterone or thyroid hormones…Luckily, the effect was very short-lived.

So buyer beware – there is no one size fits all.  Know exactly what you’re putting in your body and why, and then monitor yourself closely.  If something’s not working, stop doing it.  Just because something is found in nature does not mean that it’s harmless or even safe.

 

 

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