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Ashwagandha- An adaptogen

If you are someone who has stress or anxiety, you may have heard of the herb Ashwagandha before. Ashwagandha, an Ayurvedic adaptogen, shows a remarkable effect on stress which helps restore a normal lifestyle and helps prevent the onset of various other diseases. 

What is an adaptogen?

Adaptogens are herbs that improve the responses to stress and help the body adapt by bringing homeostasis. Ideally, an adaptogen must reduce stress-induced damage, be safe, exhibit stimulating effects, be innocuous, not perturb any bodily functions, and be devoid of any negative effects such as withdrawal symptoms. 1

Benefits of Ashwagandha

  • Alleviates stress: Our body produces the hormone cortisol when we are stressed to keep up with situations.  Ashwagandha is a herb that has been used traditionally to lower stress and improve wellbeing. 

Studies show that Ashwagandha’s effect might occur via its effect on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. 2

GABA is the target neurotransmitter, for target in the treatment of anxiety, and Ashwagandha in various pre-clinical and clinical studies shows Ashwagandha being able to modulate the GABA pathway. 3

  • Improves sleep: Lack of sleep can lead to various health problems, and it is essential to get enough rest. Reduction of the average sleep hours combined with everyday stress can serve as a trigger for insomnia. 

Ashwagandha has been shown to significantly improve sleep efficiency, and sleep quality and people experienced significantly shorter time falling asleep upon intake of Ashwagandha4

  • Boosts cognitive function: Cognitive decline is usually seen in people as they age. Cognitive impairment is when a person has trouble learning new things, remembering, concentrating, and making decisions.

Ashwagandha may help improve immediate and general memory in people with minor cognitive impairment and helps in processing information faster. 5

  • Reduces depression: Stress-related disorders are a leading cause of disability which increases the risk of several other diseases and conditions. 

Ashwagandha reduces serum cortisol levels, reduces the over-excitation of neurons, and produces calmness thus improving mental wellbeing. 6

  • Reduces inflammation: Inflammation plays a critical role in healing, but chronic inflammation increases the risk of various diseases. 

 Ashwagandha may help reduce inflammatory markers like CRP, IL-6, and TNF-α when compared to placebo. 7, 8


  1. Salve J, Pate S, Debnath K, Langade D. Adaptogenic and Anxiolytic Effects of Ashwagandha Root Extract in Healthy Adults: A Double-blind, Randomized, Placebo-controlled Clinical Study. Cureus. 2019;11(12):e6466. Published 2019 Dec 25. doi:10.7759/cureus.6466 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6979308/
  2. Lopresti AL, Smith SJ, Malvi H, Kodgule R. An investigation into the stress-relieving and pharmacological actions of an ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) extract: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Medicine (Baltimore). 2019;98(37):e17186. doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000017186 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31517876/
  3. Savage K, Firth J, Stough C, Sarris J. GABA-modulating phytomedicines for anxiety: A systematic review of preclinical and clinical evidence. Phytother Res. 2018;32(1):3-18. doi:10.1002/ptr.5940 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29168225/
  4. Langade D, Kanchi S, Salve J, Debnath K, Ambegaokar D. Efficacy and Safety of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) Root Extract in Insomnia and Anxiety: A Double-blind, Randomized, Placebo-controlled Study. Cureus. 2019;11(9):e5797. Published 2019 Sep 28. doi:10.7759/cureus.5797 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6827862/
  5. Choudhary D, Bhattacharyya S, Bose S. Efficacy and Safety of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera (L.) Dunal) Root Extract in Improving Memory and Cognitive Functions. J Diet Suppl. 2017;14(6):599-612. doi:10.1080/19390211.2017.1284970 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28471731/
  6. 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(3):255-262. doi:10.4103/0253-7176.106022 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23439798/ 
  7. Auddy, Biswajit & Hazra, Jayram & Mitra, Achintya & Abedon, Bruce & Ghosal, Shibnath. (2008). A Standardized Withania Somnifera Extract Significantly Reduces Stress-Related Parameters in Chronically Stressed Humans: A Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Study. Journal of American Nutraceutical Association. 11. 50-56. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/242151370_A_Standardized_Withania_Somnifera_Extract_Significantly_Reduces_Stress-Related_Parameters_in_Chronically_Stressed_Humans_A_Double-Blind_Randomized_Placebo-Controlled_Study
  8. Devpura G, Tomar BS, Nathiya D, et al. Randomized placebo-controlled pilot clinical trial on the efficacy of ayurvedic treatment regime on COVID-19 positive patients. Phytomedicine. 2021;84:153494. doi:10.1016/j.phymed.2021.153494 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7857981/

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