Ashwagandha is an adaptogen, a class of medicinal herbs prescribed to alleviate stress and fatigue. Also called Indian ginseng, it has recently gained immense popularity as a health supplement that helps people deal with chronic stress.
Adaptogens restore and promote balance. These nonspecific herbal remedies respond to the body’s needs. If the user feels nervous, adaptogens will exert a calming effect and provide additional energy or relaxation.
Ashwagandha, maca, rhodiola, and other adaptogens currently enjoy attention because of how regularly people are subjected to stress. When confronted by a threat, the adrenal system releases stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. If adrenaline and cortisol levels remain high for extended periods, they can cause health problems like adrenal fatigue and chronic diseases.
While all adaptogens can manage hormone levels, ashwagandha is particularly effective because it can assist the adrenal system in regulating the body’s reaction to stress. (Related: Four of the best adaptogens that help you beat stress.)
By fighting off stress, ashwagandha helps restore your health
The effectiveness of ashwagandha at managing cortisol levels and reducing stress improves health in many ways. One of the ways it does this is by restoring blood sugar to normal levels.
The stress hormone cortisol increases the amount of glucose in the blood and stops the production of insulin. Ashwagandha corrects these spikes in blood sugar levels by lowering cortisol levels, thereby preventing the development of insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes due to stress.
Ashwagandha also restores the immune system after illness. Stress weakens the immune system by causing injury to immune cells. The antioxidant activity of ashwagandha stimulates the immune system and increases immune activity.
Ashwagandha helps with hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid) by increasing the activity of the thyroid gland. Elevated cortisol levels caused by stress can shut down the production of thyroid hormones that manage metabolism. Ashwagandha supports the thyroid and restores the production of these important hormones.
Last but not least, ashwagandha protects neurons in the brain and boosts cognitive function. Its antioxidant activity protects nerve cells from oxidative stress that can cause neurodegenerative diseases.
Animal studies suggest that ashwagandha can encourage the growth and regeneration of neurons in mice with memory problems. A 2012 experiment by Indian researchers at the National Brain Research Centre also showed that ashwagandha can reverse the signs of Alzheimer’s disease.
Find out what approach and dose of ashwagandha is best for you
According to several studies, taking 100 to 500 milligrams of ashwagandha is enough to gain its health benefits. However, there is currently no standard dose for ashwagandha.
In addition, the effective dose of an adaptogen depends on the needs of the individual. When using ashwagandha, start with small doses and slowly increase it until you get your desired effect.
Ashwagandha is available in various forms, but it is traditionally taken in powder form. Mix it with clarified butter (ghee), honey, and water to make a tonic. It can also be added to baked goods. While effective on its own, it also works well with other adaptogens that alleviate anxiety and stress.
Like other adaptogens, ashwagandha takes a while to reduce stress and improve health. It slowly but surely helps the body regain its balance and develop more resilience. To enhance its benefits, combine it with healthy lifestyle choices.