ADAPTOGENS: What Is Ashwaganda & Do You Really Need It For Stress?
If you’ve been anywhere near the wellness industry in the past two years, you’ve probably heard of adaptogens. Touted as stress-reducing cure-alls by supplement companies, I’ve seen adaptogens marketed as skin saviors, anti-aging plants, sleep enhancers, caffeine replacements and much more. They’re great, but maybe not as great as some companies would have us believe.
So what do adaptogens actually do? They’re a class of plants that work by increasing the body’s resistance to stress, often by supporting the adrenal glands. Many adaptogens build energy levels, enhance immunity, and help promote emotional well-being.
The most widely agreed upon definition of adaptogens states that they must fall under three categories and only about 20 plants make the cut. They must be:
Nontoxic: To the recipient.
Non-specific: An adaptogen has “non-specific” activity and acts by increasing resistance of the organism to a broad spectrum of adverse biological, chemical, and physical factors.
Normalizing: These substances tend to help regulate or normalize organ and system function within the organism.
Although adaptogens are very equalizing for specific systems in the body, the truth behind adaptogens is the same as all herbal and plant medicine: they should be prescribed and dosed according to an individual’s current needs.
Ok, where does Ashwagandha fit in here? Ashwagandha or Indian ginseng is a medicinal herb that has been used in India and around the world for over 5,000 years. Long used in Ayurvedic medicine, ashwagandha is one of the few calming adaptogens and has traditionally been used for anxiety, bad dreams, mild OCD, insomnia, and nervous exhaustion. Ashwagandha may help support emotional balance and brain function and acts as a potent antioxidant to assist the immune system.1 Studies indicate ashwagandha possesses anti-inflammatory, antitumor, antistress, immunomodulatory properties and may help infertility, depression and blood pressure. 1,2,3
Because of ashwagandha’s effects on the body, it is good for the overstressed and if you’re over-producing cortisol and adrenaline, but may be contraindicated for those who already have low energy.
Suggested Preparations & Dosage
When taken in a powdered form Ashwagandha can be added smoothies, coffee, teas, tonics, milks, and baking. The dried root has earthy taste that pairs well with chocolate, nut butters and tart juices. Most clinical studies highlighting the benefits of Ashwagandha record benefits starting after consistent use after 30 days.3 Suggested dosage is 1/2 - 2 tsp. a day.
1. Mishra L-C. Scientific Basis for the Therapeutic Use of Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha): A Review. Alternative Medicine Review. 2000;5(4):13.
2. Singh N, Bhalla M, Jager P de, Gilca M. An Overview on Ashwagandha: A Rasayana (Rejuvenator) of Ayurveda. African Journal of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicines. 2011;8(5S). https://www.ajol. info/index.php/ajtcam/article/view/67963. Accessed April 28, 2018.
3. Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera): Role in Safeguarding Health, Immunomodulatory Effects, Combating Infections and Therapeutic Applications: A Review - SciAlert Responsive Version. doi:10.3923/jbs.2014.77.94