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Ashwagandha Dosage for Anxiety
If you know anything about Ayurveda, you will probably have heard of ashwagandha, and you might have even heard of taking an ashwagandha dosage for anxiety. Even if you don’t know one thing about Ayurveda, you may still have heard the name as it’s starting to pop up around the health industry in quite a few places today! This article will explain how ashwagandha might be able to provide relief for a mental health issue that can often be unbearable.
An Introduction to Ashwagandha
This is a perennial herb that also goes by the nicknames Indian Ginseng, Poison Gooseberry and Winter Cherry. The ashwagandha plant is cultivated in the drier regions of Sri Lanka, Pakistan, India, China, Nepal, and Yemen, and it’s native to Southern Asia. Its appearance is that of small, green flowers which produces an orange to red fruit.
Ashwagandha is a plant in the nightshade family, which includes potatoes, tomatoes and eggplants that are all botanically related to the herb.
Ashwagandha has an earthy smell, and the name even translates in Sanskrit to mean ‘the smell of a horse’, and this is true to its name. This healing herb actually smells a bit like a horse!
There are many suggested health benefits of taking ashwagandha, but ultimately, it is thought in Ayurveda to give the vigor and strength of a horse. This means stamina, longevity, and a healthy sexual function, amongst many other benefits. There are now many studies on the potentially wondrous benefits of ashwagandha. This includes its potential to prevent and fight against degenerative diseases, and fight against the free radical damage that speeds up aging.
A Brief History: Ashwagandha
Over the 2000 years that ashwagandha has been used for, you can’t help but think of all the people who have used it in this time, and all the ways it might have helped them. Scientifically known as withania somnifera, ashwagandha is known in ayurvedic medicine as a ‘rasayana’, meaning a ‘tonic’. To expand on this, this is considered to release emotional and physical tension, creating a ripple effect of feelings of wellness, and promoting longevity in the body. Ayurveda is India’s traditional system of medicine, which can be traced back to 6000 BC.
It’s revered as a rejuvenator and for its ability to enhance life longevity, and has been used in India, the Middle East and various parts of North Africa. During these 2000 years ashwagandha has been used and celebrated for many different purposes, within different countries and cultures. For example, it has traditionally been used within African tribes to treat fevers and inflammatory conditions. Burns and wounds are treated in Yemen, after the dried leaves of ashwagandha have been ground into a paste. The ashwagandha berries and leaves have also been used for topical application to help heal conditions such as tubercular glands, ulcers and tumours.
An Anxiety Epidemic
Here in the UK and elsewhere, we’re suffering from an anxiety epidemic, and also a stress epidemic. The two often go hand in hand. In the Western world, we are literally killing ourselves for our fast-paced modern lives. In Japan, they call it ‘karoshi’, which means death by overwork. Thousands of deaths are a result of hours of overwork each year in Japan, and it’s a chronic problem for the country, but a similar thing is happening in developed countries around the world. As a result of our modern, hardworking culture, anxiety is on the rise, and so is stress. We are working till the anxiety or stress consumes us and we drop to the floor.
There is also a mental health crisis in the UK, notably for children, teenagers and young adults. The NHS are overburdened, with long waiting lists for people needing to see counsellors meaning that the wait can often be months. And sometimes people are in desperate need to see someone a lot sooner.
Many of us are chronically stressed or anxious, but we shrug it off or put it down to the general stressors of daily life, without realising the significant impact it’s having on our overall mental health. And sometimes our anxiety is so much more obvious, either slowly building up each day, or exploding in one big, fat panic attack. Or maybe a few in short spaces of time.
Anxiety is a part of life, and everyone will feel it at some point. What you don’t want is anxiety every single day for a long period of time. When we get anxious, our breathing and heart rate increases, and blood flow increases to the brain where we need it. This is part of the fight or flight response, which is exactly the same response our ancient ancestors would have had, except their anxiety triggers were just a little bit different (more like facing dangerous animals in the wild).
Today, our stressors may be different but our response is exactly the same, which means that we are reacting in exactly the same way as if we were running away from that ancient bear. The fight or flight is the stress response, and is essential for our survival and dealing with potential dangers, because it means, will you stay to fight, or will you flee? The adrenaline starts pumping and cortisol levels rise to help you make that split second decision. Daily life of living with anxiety can be very difficult. It can also have a knock-on effect with sleep issues and poor energy levels.
This is why the benefits of taking an ashwagandha dosage for anxiety can come in useful, as it has been known to treat anxiety and all of the other problems that occur alongside it. As an overall rejuvenator and tonic for the body, there are many claims for endless health benefits on ashwagandha.
Symptoms of Anxiety
Everyone’s experience with anxiety is unique to them, and symptoms can differ, but there are a few common symptoms. Sometimes it’s good to know exactly what you’re dealing with to know how to treat it.
Symptoms to look out for include a racing heart, restlessness, tension in the body, trembling, muscle twitching, irritability, insomnia, concentration problems, excessive worrying, racing thoughts, fatigue, avoiding anxiety triggers, hyperventalation sometimes leading to a panic attack, gastrointestinal issues, digesttive issues, stomach upset and an overwhelming feeling of dread, doom or danger.
Panic attack symptoms can be very specific and arrive quickly. These include shaking, sweating, light-headedness, dizziness, feeling hot or cold, fear of drying, chest tightness or pains, choking sensation, palpitations, numbness and hyperventilation.
Other unpleasant effects of anxiety include adrenal burnout, muscle tension, aches and pains, headaches, depression, insomnia, fatigue, social isolation.
If you have experienced any of these symptoms before, you will know that none of them are pleasant. So, how can an ashwagandha dosage for anxiety help? Keep reading to find out!
Ashwagandha Dosage for Anxiety: How Does it Work?
Ashwagandha is a natural treatment option for anxiety for those who choose not to take prescribed medication from their doctor. An important disclaimer is that ashwagandha is not 100% proven or guaranteed to help someone manage their anxiety, but there have been some studies which suggest ashwagandha is a herb that can possibly reduce symptoms of anxiety.
Another thing is that often anxiety takes a lot of work in other areas, and often cannot be managed well by just popping a supplement or pill. This is certainly a method that can significantly help, but there are other lifestyle factors that when combined can have a greater impact. This includes exercise, nutrition, counselling, or another form of talking therapy.
In ayurvedic medicine, ashwagandha is an adaptogen, which helps to release the body’s stress and anxiety responses, including reducing hormones such as NADPH diaphosphorase and cortisol. A study done by the Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine, evaluated ‘the safety and efficacy of a high-concentration full-spectrum extract of Ashwagandha roots in reducing stress and anxiety and in improving the general wellbeing of adults who were under stress’.
They found that serum cortisol levels were lowered by 27.9% from baseline in a 60-day treatment of taking ashwagandha. Alongside this group, they studied a placebo group who only noticed a 7.9% reduction, noting that the difference between these two groups on day 60 was ‘statistically significant’.
This is relevant because lowering your cortisol levels by taking an ashwagandha dosage for anxiety can potentially help lower your symptoms. Cortisol is a steroid hormone that is made in the cortex of the adrenal glands. It is transported around the body after being released into the blood, with a few different functions. But when we make too much cortisol, it can lead to a condition called Cushing’s syndrome, which can lead to a rapid increase in weight, muscle weakness, osteoporosis, skin that easily bruises and other health issues. Making too much cortisol for too long can also lead to heart disease, digestion problems, memory problems and depression.
In short, lowering your cortisol levels can encourage a state of calm by preventing or reducing the impact of the fight or flight response. It can also help manage general anxiety throughout the day to prevent cortisol levels remaining high for too long. Taking an ashwagandha dosage for anxiety can potentially give you a feeling of balance and control whilst reducing symptoms of anxiety.
An ashwagandha dosage for anxiety could potentially reduce the severity of panic attacks or start to prevent them if taken consistently. Adaptogens should be taken before stress triggers to prevent anxiety in the first place.
Ashwagandha Dosage for Anxiety: Sleep
Ashwagandha is exceptional for when your adrenal burnout isn’t something happening, but has happened (maybe a while ago). You’re exhausted, but you can’t sleep, and when you do you don’t sleep deeply. You can’t think quite straight, your concentration is shot. You might find yourself more and more irritable. Perhaps your libido has also crashed, or is in other ways unreliable. But you’re still doing, doing, doing, because that’s what you do. And you’ll run yourself ragged before you let burnout stop you. - Jim Macdonald, Herbalist
Stress and anxiety can have a detrimental impact on sleep. The obvious reason is that anxiety and worry often means restlessness and tossing and turning as your mind churns out excessive out-of-control thoughts. Anxiety can upset the circadian clock, unbalanced blood sugar levels, disturb neurotransmitters production, create an overproduction of stress hormones and lower the body’s energy reserves.
Ashwagandha works to rebuild the body’s reserves so that the body can sedate itself naturally. ‘Somnifera’ within the scientific name of ashwagandha, withania somnifera, translates as ‘sleep inducer’ in Latin.
Ashwagandha is great for treating stress-related exhaustion and adrenal burnout after the body has been under pressure for too long. This can have a positive impact on mood, energy levels and stress levels. With increased energy levels and better sleep, this can have the knock-on effect of increasing feelings of calm.
Other Possible Benefits of Ashwagandha
As ashwagandha has so many uses and benefits, sometimes it’s hard to pinpoint exactly how it may benefit you personally. Here are some of the health benefits summarised to make this clearer, and to know if ashwagandha is a herb that you could personally benefit from.
- May reduce levels of fat and sugar in the blood
- May reduce swelling and pain from inflammation
- May help lessen symptoms of fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis and chronic back pain
- May boost libido in both men and women
- May help prevent and repair liver damage
- Protects against free radical damage as an antioxidant
- Contains certain chemicals that may potentially calm the brain
- Contains certain chemicals that may lower blood pressure
Potential Side Effects
There are no significant side effects for most people taking ashwagandha, however, it’s important to note that this herb may produce a sedative-like effect. There is a potential for drowsiness which is not suitable for driving. If you have taken ashwagandha before and driven, you may be perfectly fine. It may be ideal to take ashwagandha at night if your body reacts with drowsiness.
What’s the Exact Ashwagandha Dosage for Anxiety?
It’s up to you how you want to take an ashwagandha dosage for anxiety. You may want to take ashwagandha daily as a preventative to keep intake consistent or you may want to take ashwagandha when symptoms occur.
Use the dosage recommendation on the packaging as a guideline. You may want to increase your dosage slightly if your anxiety is severe. At low doses (50 – 100mg), ashwagandha may provide a calming effect. At moderate doses (300 – 500mg), a moderate panic attack may be calmed. A safe dose of 2000mg can be taken up to 3 times a day to help manage very severe cases of anxiety.
There is hope for living with anxiety, and so many tips out there for making small steps in the fight against it. Taking an ashwagandha dosage for anxiety could be a natural, empowering option. Please feel free to get in touch if you have any questions!
Written by Jess Burman
BA (Honours) in Writing
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