Ashwagandha benefits for anxiety
Amandeep  Kaur

December 16, 2019

How This Helps

Does anxiety bother you more than what healthy people may experience? Do you often feel anxious about almost everything? Experiencing anxiety once in a while is considered to be just fine, but once a person experience anxiety attacks more than average, then they should be concerned about it. Anxiety is a common mental disorder that can affect people of all ages. Anxiety is often accompanied by long term stress, which is a common trigger factor for mood disorders, resulting in the decline of overall health and complicating the existing diseases. 

 There are various natural treatment protocols available for the management of anxiety and the reduction of stress that have shown to mitigate the effect of these prevailing health risks. One such treatment involves the usage of Ashwagandha.  Ayurveda views it as one of the essential herbs in its arsenal and uses it as a broad-spectrum remedy. A variety of neurodegenerative diseases like anxiety, depression, and Alzheimer's, stress have seen healing when treated with Ashwagandha. Various studies have also reported it's anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anxiolytic, immunomodulatory effects, and anticancer effects. 

What is Ashwagandha?

Ashwagandha is an ancient medicinal herb that grows as an evergreen shrub in India and some parts of the middle east. Its roots and fruit have been used for many centuries for healing many conditions. The herb is also known as Indian ginseng or winter cherry and has been used in India and southern Asia. It's a Medharasayan that's the Ayurvedic category of nutrients and foods that encourage learning and memory recovery. It's utilized in states of debility, emaciation, impotence, and premature aging.  The translation of Ashwagandha is approximately the odor and strength of a horse, regarding its aphrodisiac claims. This herb is a tonic and an adaptogen. People in the Middle East use it to promote standard sleep patterns and promote a normal inflammatory reaction.


Ayurvedic medicine uses herbs, special diets, as well as other organic practices as treatment for many different conditions. In Ayurvedic medicine, Ashwagandha is regarded as a Rasayana. That means it is an herb that helps maintain childhood, both emotionally and physically.

Historically, the roots of Ashwagandha have been used as the leaves, seeds, and even fruit have been used in various ways for a variety of treatments.

One can buy Ashwagandha as a supplement in the US to treat a number of the conditions listed above. Additionally, it has been significant in Indian medicine. 


What's Ashwagandha good for?

Adaptogens support the capacity of an organism to cope with anxiety and thereby conserve energy. Ashwagandha rejuvenates and tonifies the whole system, especially the immune and endocrine systems. Health benefits include cognitive & brain support, energy assistance, immune support, anxiety support, sleep aid for men & women.

See: Green Tea Benefits

Ashwagandha for Anxiety

Ashwagandha, also is known as Indian ginseng, is an herbal supplement that has shown similar effects in the management of anxiety as the standard prescription drugs. The herb is considered to be safe, easy to use, cost-effective, and harmless in pregnant women. 

Numerous research studies have postulated the role of Ashwagandha in treating anxiety disorders through various mechanisms, which may be due to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Anxiety is a reaction to stress, and growing evidence suggests that there is an intermediate link between stress and anxiety and other brain-related disorders. 


Anti-inflammatory effects

Long term stress can stimulate the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis activity, which is associated with a series of responses that can lead to an increase in cortisol levels. Increased circulating levels of hormones such as adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) and cortisol/corticosterone exert their effects on the multiple aspects of brain function. These functions include survival of neurons, neurogenesis, and emotional events by activating various neurotransmitters and neuropeptides, as well as novel immune and inflammatory mediators. Ashwagandha intake produces an attenuating effect on the HPA axis. It promotes reductions in morning cortisol levels by inhibiting the secretion of proinflammatory cytokines, which may be beneficial in reducing the anxiety scores.


Antioxidant effects

Another potential mechanism of Ashwagandha's anxiolytic effects may be via its antioxidant property. Research has shown that patients with anxiety and depression have been identified with higher levels of oxidative stress that is a precursor of long term exposure to a stressor. The free radicals generated through oxidative stress may damage the nerve cells giving rise to a variety of neurological disorders, including anxiety. However, the intake of Ashwagandha promotes antioxidant activity by scavenging the free radicals and thus protects nerve cells from harmful free radicals.


Mood enhancing properties

Ashwagandha root extract is considered to be a potent regenerative nervine tonic that has proved its beneficial effects in promoting the growth of the nerves. Ashwagandha and its constituents show GABA mimetic activity where it influences GABAergic and serotonin activity and exerts anti-anxiety effects by inhibiting or reducing the hyperactivity of the nerve cells. Whereas, its action on serotonin contributes to the mood-enhancing impacts and promotes feelings of well-being and happiness.

Besides anxiety, Ashwagandha has also shown its beneficial effects in different types of diseases like memory loss, Parkinson, stress-induced diseases, dementia, arthritis, and others.

See: Success Case of Thyroid with Ayurveda Therapy and Ashwagandha Herbs

How is Ashwagandha taken?

You should always consult an Ayurvedic expert before starting any herbal treatment. The right dose, frequency, and the form of Ashwagandha used may be dependent upon the condition you are trying to heal. There isn't a standard, prescribed dosage that has been studied by clinical trials or recommended by any entity.

Manufacturers recommend Ashwagandha may be used in powdered form in dosages ranging from 450 mg to 2 grams. You can get it in capsules, powders, or as a liquid extract in health food, supplement stores, or online.


Studies in Ashwagandha for anxiety

1. Naturopathic Care for Anxiety: A Randomized Controlled Trial ISRCTN78958974

The study was carried out on 81 individuals with moderate to severe anxiety. The patients were randomized into two groups, naturopathic care (NC) (n = 41) or standardized psychotherapy intervention (PT) (n = 40) based on their age and gender. Participants in the NC group received deep breathing relaxation techniques, a standard multivitamin, dietary counseling, and herbal medicine, Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), at a dose of 300 mg to be taken twice daily. The PT intervention received psychotherapy and matched deep breathing relaxation techniques and a placebo for over 12 weeks.


After following up with 75 patients over eight weeks, primary outcome measures like the Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI) were found to be decreased significantly in the NC group when compared to the PT intervention group. Secondary outcome measures like mental health, fatigue, mental concentration, vitality, social functioning, and overall quality of life were also significantly improved in the Naturopathic Care intervention group exhibiting more significant clinical benefit. Thus, the study concludes the positive and beneficial effects of Ashwagandha in anxiety.


2. An investigation into the stress-relieving and pharmacological actions of Ashwagandha extract. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study.

The study was conducted in sixty stressed, healthy adults to understand the stress-relieving and pharmacological activity of Ashwagandha. The adult subjects were randomly selected to receive either standardized Ashwagandha extract 240 mg once daily or a placebo. The duration of the treatment lasted for 60 days after which outcome measures like Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale (HAM-A), hormonal changes in cortisol, Depression, Anxiety, and Stress Scale -21 (DASS-21), dehydroepiandrosterone-sulfate (DHEA-S), and testosterone levels were calculated.

The results reported showed a statistically significant reduction in the HAM-A, morning cortisol levels, and a near-significant reduction in the DASS-21 in the group receiving Ashwagandha extract when compared with the placebo. Testosterone levels had also improved. Thus, the study concludes that Ashwagandha has stress-relieving effects.

Ashwagandha dosage for anxiety

An exploratory study to evaluate tolerability, safety, and activity of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) in healthy volunteers

The study was carried out in eighteen individuals to assess the dose-related tolerability, safety, and operation of Ashwagandha formulation in healthy individuals. The volunteer study demonstrates that WS can be well tolerated from 750 to 1250mg/day when given in the form of aqueous extract in capsules. The formulation was also found to be safe on biochemical organ function tests and hematological parameters. 

Numerous studies carried out to evaluate the efficacy of Ashwagandha on anxiety have shown that a dose of 300 mg taken twice a day7 is well tolerated and showed maximum benefits in treating anxiety and depression. However, some other studies have also reported a dose strength of 1000 mg/day of WSE,8, and 1200 mg./day.6 to be effective in treating anxiety.

Ashwagandha side effects

Ashwagandha supplements typically taken for anxiety are generally well-tolerated when taken short term (weeks to a couple of weeks ) in typical dosages, mild to moderate side effects like headache, sleepiness, and stomach upset have been reported in clinical trials. Rarely, allergic reactions and rapid heartbeat have been reported. There are no long-term studies on the protection of ashwagandha supplements. It is possible that ashwagandha could lower blood pressure and blood sugar, and increase thyroid hormone levels.


Summary

The effect of Ashwagandha is shown to exert a promising impact on controlling anxiety and related symptoms through various mechanisms like reducing cortisol levels and stress, through its antioxidative and anti-inflammatory properties. Intake of Withania somnifera has also shown additional secondary effects on the quality of life of individuals, a significant reduction in stress and improved vitality, emotional improvements over time, motivation, improved cognition, and overall health. This medicinal herb is viewed to be an effective adaptogen and safe to use without showing any adverse effects. Further clinical trials may need to be undertaken using larger sample sizes and longer durations to substantiate the current results of Ashwagandha.

References

1. Pratte, Morgan & Nanavati, Kaushal & Young, Virginia & Morley, Christopher. (2014). An Alternative Treatment for Anxiety: A Systematic Review of Human Trial Results Reported for the Ayurvedic Herb Ashwagandha ( Withania somnifera ). Journal of alternative and complementary medicine (New York, N.Y.). 20. 10.1089/acm.2014.0177. 

2. Naturopathic care for anxiety: a randomized controlled trial ISRCTN78958974.

Cooley K1, Szczurko O, Perri D, Mills EJ, Bernhardt B, Zhou Q, Seely D.

3. Lopresti, Adrian & Smith, Stephen & Malvi, Hakeemudin & Kodgule, Rahul. (2019). An investigation into the stress-relieving and pharmacological actions of an ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) extract: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Medicine. 98. e17186. 10.1097/MD.0000000000017186. 

4. Dongre, Swati & Langade, Deepak & Bhattacharyya, Sauvik. (2015). Clinical Study Efficacy and Safety of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) Root Extract in Improving Sexual Function in Women: A Pilot Study. BioMed Research International. 2015. 10.1155/2015/284154. 

5. Singh, Narendra & Bhalla, Manpreet & de Jager, Prashanti & Gilca, Marilena. (2011). An Overview on Ashwagandha: A Rasayana (Rejuvenator) of Ayurveda. African journal of traditional, complementary, and alternative medicines : AJTCAM / African Networks on Ethnomedicines. 8. 208-13. 10.4314/ajtcam.v8i5S.9. 

6. Khyati S, Anup T. A randomized double blind placebo controlled study of ashwagandha on generalized anxiety disorder. Int Ayurvedic Med J 2013;1:1–7.

7. Chandrasekhar K, Kapoor J, Anishetty S. A prospective, randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study of safety and efficacy of a high-concentration full-spectrum extract of ashwagandha root in reducing stress and anxiety in adults. Indian J Psychol Med 2012;34:255–262.

8. Gannon, Jessica & Brar, Jaspreet & Rai, Abhishek & Chengappa, K. (2019). Effects of a standardized extract of Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha) on depression and anxiety symptoms in persons with schizophrenia participating in a randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Annals of clinical psychiatry: official journal of the American Academy of Clinical Psychiatrists. 31. 123-129. 

Dosha Quiz

Get a Consultation
(650) 539-4545
Get more information via email