For maintaining youthful energy, strength, and mental alertness, all with a smile on your face because you are in a good mood, one of the most useful things you can do is find stress relief herbs that are right for you. Once again, adaptogens are those substances that “keep you in the zone.” They help counteract stress of many sorts to keep you balanced, yielding healthier mind, body, and daily performance…(perfect for hectic “Back to School” schedules.) A classic example of a herbal stress relief adaptogenic herb is Ashwagandha, Latin designation: Withania somnifera
Ashwagandha is also termed “Indian Ginseng”, because its active constituents called “withanolides” share similar broad-spectrum properties with the ginsenosides in Ginseng. Used in Ayurvedic medicine for hundreds of years to increase energy and vigour, while warding off depression, Ashwagandha is also used in Ayurvedic herbal formulas for musculoskeletal problems such as arthritis or rheumatism. Western applications for Ashwagandha include improving mood, anxiety, and for preserving nervous system function. In keeping with this, a review of 58 articles off of 4 medical databases found that Ashwagandha has been credited
with anti-stress, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, immunomodulatory and
blood rejuvenating properties, while benefitting the cardiopulmonary, endocrine, and central nervous systems. (1)
Since the mechanisms of action for Ashwagandha’s benefits remain largely unidentified, skepticism reigns in medical circles, as is the case for many herbs. Moreover, how can one plant have such a broad range of action? I propose that the basis of the benefits for many adaptogenic herbs lie in their ability to improve the function of the mitochondria, i.e. to improve oxygen and maintain energy production throughout many of the body’s tissues. In turn, this improves tissue resistance to stress, reduces inflammation, reduces oxidation/free-radicals and acidity, and rejuvenates function, while lessening the need for anti-inflammatory stress hormones like cortisol, (which lightens the load on the adrenal glands).
Ashwagandha seems particularly supportive for the nervous system and endocrine glands. In one study, Ashwagandha given to chronically stressed animals reduced brain cell degeneration by 80% compared to controls. Several other trials have demonstrated the ability to reduce cortisol, and regenerate damaged neurons, indicating Ashwagandha’s potential applications for preventing neurodegenerative conditions. (3,4,5)
Ashwagandha health benefits include mild tranquilizing and calming effect so it is not surprising that it can help you sleep better, and a widely quoted study indicated that Ashwagandha helps the thyroid gland produce higher concentrations of the thyroid hormones T3 and T4.(6)
One of the better-studied botanicals, Ashwagandha’s benefits can be further enhanced by combining it with other stress relieving herbs. As a result you will find it in a variety of different natural formulas. My favorite product in this regard is one that combines Ashwagandha with other classic adaptogens, namely Holy Basil, Rhodiola, and Ginseng, available in Optimum Health’s Optimized Adrenal Balance. As mentioned, such a formula can be extremely helpful in dealing with the stresses of school, work, and other routines that are re-started in September…helping to keep you alert, energetic, and calm.
1) Lakshmi-Chandra Mishra, MD (Ayur), PhD, Betsy B. Singh, PhD, Simon Dagenais, BA: Scientific Basis for the Therapeutic Use of Withania somnifera; Alternative Medicine Review, vol 5 no.4, pp. 334-346; Thorne research, 2000.
3) Tohda C, Kuboyama T, Komatsu K. Search for natural products related to regeneration of the neuronal network. Neurosignals. 2005;14(1-2):34-45.
4) Tohda C, Kuboyama T, Komatsu K. Dendrite extension by methanol extract of Ashwagandha (roots of Withania somnifera) in SK-N-SH cells. Neuroreport. 2000 Jun 26;11(9):1981-5.
5)Kuboyama T, Tohda C, Komatsu K. Neuritic regeneration and synaptic reconstruction induced by withanolide A. Br J Pharmacol. 2005 Apr;144(7):961-71.
6) Panda S, Kar A. Changes in thyroid hormone concentrations after administration of ashwagandha root extract to adult male mice. J Pharm Pharmacol 1998;50:1065-1068.
Disclaimer: The above information is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your physician.