Ashwagandha is an anxiety relief remedy that is effective, powerful and free of side-effects.
It has anxiolytic, stress-relieving, neuro-protective properties which help foster a healthy mental environment.
Ashwagandha has tons of other uses as well. In addition to anxiety relief, Ashwaganda is beneficial for sleep, acne, hypothyroidism, PCOS, arthritis, sexual health and more.
Ashwagandha effectively improves an individual’s resistance to stress.
This is what we’ll cover in this article.
Anxiety In Ayurvedic Medicine Ashwagandha’s Anti-Anxiety Effects
Anxiety In Ayurvedic Medicine
Anxiety stems from fear and desire.
It falls under the general heading of ‘insanity’ in Ayurvedic medicine. It was described in Ayurveda as a derangement of the doshas affecting the nerves and producing a distracted state of mind.1
The cause of this derangement of the upper-body doshas is some form of fear and desire which has established itself in the mind of the individual.
Anxiety is characterized as an invasion by Vata in the mind and nerves.
Ayurvedically speaking, anxiety is a dosha imbalance where excess Vata accumulates in the nervous system.
Vata imbalances manifest as insomnia, fear, changing thoughts and feelings, restlessness, weight loss, tremors, hopelessness and over-stimulation.
The primary types of Vata involved in anxiety are Prana Vata and Vyana Vata.
Prana Vata is responsible for the movement of life force, especially inhalation. It is responsible for connecting body, mind and spirit altogether. Its impairment in acute anxiety results in a disconnected individual with an altered mind, senses and memory function.
Vyana Vata is located in the center of the heart.
It is the initiator of all actions and movements inside the body.
Vyana vata is responsible for the circulation of substances in the body to activate muscular movements and to initiate mental activities.
A person suffering from aggravated Vyana vata reveals an over-abundance of disorganized, inefficient Vata dosha.
In Ayurveda, the treatment of anxiety is really the treatment of Vata dosha. Ayurveda has a very important principle of treatment. It recognizes that similar substances increase in properties and opposite substances decrease properties. In other words, foods and formulas opposite in properties to Vata dosha are beneficial.
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is a wonderful herb for its mind relaxing effects. It has the opposite properties of Vata dosha.
It is light and unctuous, hot in potency and has a sweet post digestive effect. It pacifies Vata and Kapha dosha (Vatakaphahara) and in addition to that, acts as a rasayana or rejuvenate, increases strength and improves sexual and reproductive health.2,3,4
Ashwagandha is a nervine tonic.
Ashwagandha is revered in Ayurvedic medicine. It is used for various kinds of disease processes and especially as a nervine tonic.5
Ashwagandha replaces your body’s vital reserves and helps your body adapt to stress as an adaptogen. It strengthens your body’s nervous and adrenal systems. It has antioxidant effects and helps in nervous disorders, anxiety, stress, hypertension, sleep disorders, dizziness and lack of concentration. It helps in neurotic regeneration and synaptic reconstruction.6
It is known for its immunomodulatory and central nervous system (CNS) effects.7 It is well known for its anti-fatigue and anti-stress activity.8 Its anxiolytic activity is also well reported.9
Clinical studies on animals and humans have found that ashwagandha is an adaptogen. That means it helps the body adapt to stress. It is indispensable in treating various central nervous system (CNS) disorders, particularly epilepsy, stress and neurodegenerative diseases.10
Daily intake of Ashwagandha with lukewarm milk may help reduce stress and promote a state of calm.
Ashwagandha’s Anti-Anxiety Effects
Ashwagandha contains alkaloids. Alkaloids are steroidal and saponin chemicals essential for anti-anxiety activity in the hormonal pathways of the body.
They support the overall function of the endocrine system, helping in hormonal balance.11 They normalize bodily functions under stressful conditions by targeting the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal gland (HPA) axis.12
Sitoindosides and acylsterylglucosides in Ashwagandha are anti-stress agents. Active principles of Ashwagandha, sitoindosides VII-X and Withaferin-A, have demonstrated significant anti-stress activity.13
Anxiety disorder often occurs with depression and for both conditions, stress is the major culprit.
Ashwagandha prevents stress, anxiety and depression by reducing the stress hormone by up to 28%. The stress hormone, cortisol, is the foremost public health enemy.
Elevated levels of cortisol interfere with learning and memory power. They lower immune function and bone density, increase weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and the rate of heart disease.
High cortisol brings down levels of other hormones and mood-lifting neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine.
Stress caused by high levels of cortisol may contribute to changes in dietary behaviors.
It slows down metabolism which leads to weight gain. It starts affecting your mood and brain function. If chronic stress is not treated, it gives rise to anxiety and depression.
Ashwagandha can help you cope with stress.
It reduces levels of serum cortisol which is elevated in stressful conditions.14 In a study on people suffering from chronic stress, it was found that Ashwagandha root could bring down the cortisol levels by 28% in just 2 months. It improved the symptoms of stress and in some cases even prevented stress.15
Another study showed that Ashwagandha root extract raised dopamine levels.16
It also has neuroprotective properties. It relaxes frayed nerves and tones the central nervous system to enhance tolerance to stress.17
Ashwagandha helps one cope with anxiety and depression.
1. Ashwagandha reduces severe depressive symptoms by 68%.
In a human study, patients having chronic stress took 300 mg capsules of Ashwagandha or a placebo twice daily for 2 months.
The participants were then asked to answer three questionnaires they had also filled out at the beginning of the study. The difference in their scores was remarkable.18
Those who were part of the Ashwagandha group showed a reduction in symptoms of chronic stress by 44%. Physical symptoms score was reduced by 76.1%. Anxiety and insomnia score was reduced by 69.7%. Social dysfunction score was reduced by 68.1%. Severe depressive symptoms score was reduced by 79.3%.
The findings from the research suggest that a high concentration of Ashwagandha root extract improves an individual’s resistance to stress and improves self-assessed quality of life.
A conclusion was also drawn that a concentration of full-spectrum Ashwagandha root extract can be used safely as an adaptogen in adults who are under stress.
People who took Ashwagandha had fewer physical symptoms of anxiety and depression. They felt calmer and slept better. Their productivity also increased.
2. It’s an effective remedy for insomnia caused by stress, anxiety and depression.
Ashwagandha was observed to help the body face stress-related conditions rather than masking it with sedatives.
It has a pronounced and positive rejuvenating effect on the nervous system. This in turn eases stress and helps the body settle back into its normal state of sleep.19
Ashwagandha acts like a GABAergic drug, binding to GABA receptors.
It produces calming, anti‐anxiety, anti‐convulsive, highly‐stabilizing effects. Excessive neuronal activity leads to restlessness and insomnia. GABA in the brain however inhibits the number of nerve cells that fire, and helps to reduce anxiety, uplift mood, and induce sleep.20
3. It has anti-anxiety effects and acts as a mood stabilizer.
In studies conducted on rats, Ashwagandha acted as a mood stabilizer and had an anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effect on rats suffering from anxiety and depression.
Its effect was comparable with that of diazepam, a standard anxiolytic drug. It was also seen that the sub effective dose of Ashwagandha significantly increased anxiolytic effects of diazepam.21
In other studies it was observed that Ashwagandha induces a calming anxiolytic effect that is comparable to the drug Lorazepam. Ashwagandha exhibits an antidepressant effect, comparable with that induced by imipramine.22
4. It works better than psychotherapy.
Participants with mild to severe anxiety were given a naturopathic treatment that included Ashwagandha, a multivitamin, dietary counseling, and cognitive-behavioral therapy. This seemed to have greater effect than standard psychotherapy alone.23
5. It manages body weight in chronic stress.
In a research study on 52 participants with chronic stress, it was found that 300 mg of Ashwagandha twice daily for 4 weeks reduced weight along with food cravings.
The outcome of this study suggests that Ashwagandha root extract can be used for body weight management in adults under chronic stress.24
Ashwagandha does not have any side effects and withdrawal symptoms. Even at higher doses Ashwagandha is well tolerated, with little side effects.
A high-concentration of full-spectrum Ashwagandha root extract safely and effectively improves an individual’s resistance to stress and improves self-assessed quality of life.
It was also noted that even when the participants abruptly stopped taking it at the end of the test period, none of them reported any withdrawal symptoms.25
Ashwagandha is a powerful nervine tonic that is safe to take for long-term use. It is not associated with any adverse effects.
This preliminary research points towards Ashwagandha’s adaptogenic potential. More trials and research are needed to establish its role as a stress reliever.
References 1 P.V.Sharma,Sushruta ,Sushruta Samhita Volume 3 Uttartantra ,Chapter 62 page no 604, Chaukhambha Visvabharti, 2014. 2 API 2001: The Ayurvedic Pharmacopoeia of India, Part I, Volume I, 1st edition. 3 Khare CP. Indian Herbal Remedies: Rational Western Therapy, Ayurvedic and Other Traditional Usage, Botany. New York (NY): Springer; (2004) 4 Khory RN, Katrak NN. Materia Medica of India and Their Therapeutics. Delhi (India): KomalPrakashan; (1999). 5 Narendra Singh ,An Overview on Ashwagandha: A Rasayana (Rejuvenator) of Ayurveda, Afr J Tradit Complement Altern Med. 2011; 8(5 Suppl): 208–213.Published online 2011 Jul 3. doi: 10.4314/ajtcam.v8i5S.9 PMCID: PMC3252722. 6 Tomoharu Kuboyama, Chihiro Tohda and Katsuko Komatsu et al. Neuritic regeneration and synaptic reconstruction induced by Withanolide-A. British Journal of Pharmacology cited in April 2005; 144(7): 961–971. 7 Ghosal S, Lal J, Srivastava R, Bhattacharya S.K, Upadhyay S.N, et al. Immunomodulatory and CNS effets of Sitoindosides IX and X, Two new Glycowithanolides from Withania somnifera Phytotherapy Research, 1989; 3(5) : 201-6. 8 Bhattacharya S.K, Goel R.K, Kaur R, Ghosal S,et al .Anti-stress activity of Sitoindosides VII and VIII, new Acylsterylglucosides from Withania somnifera Phytotherapy Research, 1987, 1(1) :32-7.) 9 Bhattacharya SK, Bhattacharya A, Sairam K, Ghosal et al. Anxiolytic activity of Glycowithanolides from Withania somnifera. Phytomedicine: International journal of phytotherapy and phytopharmacology cited in December 2000; 7(6):463-9 10 Kulkarni, S. K., and Ashish Dhir. “Withania somnifera: an Indian ginseng.” Progress in neuro-psychopharmacology and biological psychiatry 32, no. 5 (2008): 1093-1105. 11 Bhattacharya SK, Bhattacharya A, Sairam K, Ghosal S. Anxiolytic-antidepressant activity of Withania somnifera glycowithanolides: an experimental study. Phytomedicine, 7: 463-469 (2000) 12 Verma SK, Kumar A. Theraputic uses of Withania Somnifera (Ashwagandha) with a note on withanoloids and its pharmacological actions. Asian J Pharma Clin Res. 2011;4(1):1–5 13 Bhattacharya SK, Goel RK, Kaur R, Ghosal S. Anti – stress activity of Sitoindosides VII and VIII. New Acylsterylglucosides from Withania somnifera. Phytother Res. 1987; 1:32–37. [Ref list] 14 Auddy B, Hazra J, Mitra A, Abedon B, Ghosal S. A standardized Withania somnifera extract significantly reduces stress-related parameters in chronically stressed humans: A double-blind, randomized 15 K. Chandrasekhar, Jyoti Kapoor, and Sridhar Anishetty, “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 Journal of Psychological Medicine 34 (2012): 266-262. doi:10.4103/0253-7176.106022. 16 KSM-66 Ashwagandha: The High-potency, Full Spectrum Ingredient for Stress Relief, Energy, Cognition and Immunity Anand V. Bodapati, Ph. D. UCLA Anderson School Advisor, Ixoreal Biomed 17 Bhattacharya SK, Bhattacharya A, Sairam K, Ghosal S. Anxiolytic-antidepressant activity of Withania somnifera glycowithanolides: an experimental study. Phytomedicine, 7: 463-469 (2000) 18 Chandrasekhar, K., Jyoti Kapoor, and Sridhar Anishetty. “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 Journal of Psychological Medicine 34, no. 3 (2012): 255. 19 Umadevi, M. “Traditional and medicinal uses of Withania somnifera.” The Pharma Innovation 1, no. 9 (2012). 20 KSM-66 Ashwagandha: The High-potency, Full Spectrum Ingredient for Stress Relief, Energy, Cognition and Immunity Anand V. Bodapati, Ph. D. UCLA Anderson School Advisor, Ixoreal Biomed 21 Gupta, Girdhari Lal, and Avtar Chand Rana. “Protective effect of Withania somnifera dunal root extract against protracted social isolation induced behavior in rats.” Indian J Physiol Pharmacol 51, no. 4 (2007): 345-353. 22 Abdel-Magied EM, Abdel-Rahman HA, Harraz FM,The effect of aqueous extracts of Cynomorium coccineum and Withania somnifera on testicular development in immature Wistar rats. J Ethnopharmacol. 2001 Apr; 75(1): 1-4. 23 Cooley, Kieran, Orest Szczurko, Dan Perri, Edward J. Mills, Bob Bernhardt, Qi Zhou, and Dugald Seely. “Naturopathic care for anxiety: a randomized controlled trial ISRCTN78958974.”PLoS One 4, no. 8 (2009): e6628 24 Choudhary, Dnyanraj, Sauvik Bhattacharyya, and Kedar Joshi. “Body Weight Management in Adults Under Chronic Stress Through Treatment With Ashwagandha Root Extract: A Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial.” Journal of evidence-based complementary & alternative medicine 22, no. 1 (2017): 96-106. 25 Andrade, Chittaranjan, Anitha Aswath, S. K. Chaturvedi, M. Srinivasa, and R. Raguram. “A double-blind, placebo-controlled evaluation of the anxiolytic efficacy of an ethanolic extract of withania somnifera.” Indian journal of psychiatry 42, no. 3 (2000): 295.