If you’ve been following this blog for quite sometime now, you’d know that we’re huge fans of the adaptogenic herb, Ashwagandha. If you’re new here, welcome! We’ve written about the many benefits of Ashwagandha. It’s an excellent herb to help you with weight loss, and can also be a beneficial food supplement for those who suffer from PCOS.
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), a small shrub with yellow flowers, is also called Indian Ginseng or Winter Cherry. It has long been used in traditional Eastern medicine for its Ayurvedic healing powers. It is native to India and North Africa. In Sanskrit, Ashwagandha means “smell of the horse” which alludes to its particular smell and ability to increase strength.
Helps the body to adapt to stress
Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb - it has natural substances that can help the body adapt to stress and gain homeostasis (balance). It is also known to be a fabulous mood elevator. In particular, Ashwagandha helps activate GABA, or Gamma Aminobutyric Acid, receptors in the brain to block signals of anxiety and stress. It also contains tryptophan, a building block of serotonin, that helps elevate mood.
It’s no wonder that Ashwagandha is a favourite food supplement of those who want to reduce their stress and anxiety levels. A study to evaluate the safety and efficacy of Ashwagandha roots in reducing stress and anxiety found that “Ashwagandha root extract safely and effectively improves an individual's resistance towards stress and thereby improves self-assessed quality of life.”
Reduces cortisol (stress levels)
Ashwagandha is known to help reduce cortisol levels in chronically stressed individuals by an average of 30%. Cortisol is a hormone released by the adrenal glands when you are under stress. It is helpful in small amounts by boosting your energy so you can handle stress better. Under high alert, cortisol suspends bodily functions that get in the way (like immunity, digestion, and glucose metabolism) so that your body can focus on your flight or fight response.
As you might have guessed by now, this can be problematic if you are battling stress for a long period of time. A body under chronic stress can produce elevated cortisol levels that can wreak havoc on your immune system and digestion. It can also lead to spikes in your blood sugar that can cause you to store fat around the tummy area.
For more than 2,500 years Ashwagandha has been used in Ayurvedic medicine to promote relaxation and healing. Its immunomodulating effects are renowned to help reduce cortisol levels and boost immunity.