Feeling anxious and overwhelmed? With the extended pandemic and daily stressors in life, many folks are experiencing emotional and physical exhaustion aroused by excessive and prolonged stress. As a result, more attention is given to coping better with stress and improving mental health the natural way. And of course, ashwagandha tops the search ranks.
What Is Ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha, also called the “Indian ginseng” or Withania somnifera, is a herb that’s native to Asia and Africa. For thousands of years, it’s been used in traditional Indian Ayurvedic medicine as an alternative medicine for natural healing. But beyond these, many are turning to ashwagandha for its many other benefits – relieving stress-related fatigue, improve focus, improve muscle mass and calm an overactive mind.
Function of Ashwagandha
1. Reduce stress
Did you know, prolonged chronic stress can translate into health problems like increased blood sugar levels, weakened immunity, digestive issues, cardiovascular diseases, and even a lowered sex drive!
Ashwagandha is classified as an adaptogen, it helps the body to adapt to stress by rejuvenating the body at the cellular level and boosting stamina and endurance, which could be a natural and safe option for stress relief.
In a clinical trial, 64 chronically-stressed subjects were orally administered one capsule that is high concentration of Ashwagandha roots extract or placebo, twice a day for 60 days. This clinical trial studies the safety and effectiveness of Ashwagandha in reducing stress and anxiety, as well as improving the well-being of stressed adults.
In the ashwagandha group, each capsule contained 300 mg of high-concentration ashwagandha root full-spectrum extract. As a result, a significant reduction in the scores on all the stress-assessment scales was observed in ashwagandha group on day 60, as compared with the placebo group. In addition, their serum cortisol levels were substantially reduced.
In brief, this study suggests that a high-concentration full-spectrum ashwagandha root extract improves an individual's resistance to stress safely and effectively, thus improving self-assessed quality of life.
(Indian J Psychol Med. 34(3): 255-262 (2012))
2. Reduce cortisol level
Did you know that cortisol, widely known as the stress hormone, will be released by the adrenal gland when the body responds to stress? The release of cortisol may also cause emotional arousal, blood sugar levels increase, and insulin resistance. Therefore, optimum cortisol levels are necessary for maintaining several bodily functions.
Usually, the normal cortisol levels are highest early in the morning. The normal values at 8 a.m. are 5 to 25 micrograms per deciliter (mcg/dL). If the cortisol level is consistently high or low, it may take a toll on your overall health.
Ashwagandha is additionally found to scale back the cortisol level in the body.
In a clinical trial, 64 subjects with chronic stress were orally administered a capsule of 300 mg standardized dose of ashwagandha root extract or a placebo, twice daily over 60 days. The efficacy of ashwagandha extract in reducing cortisol level was measured on day 60. The measurement of cortisol level showed 27.9% reduction from baseline in the ashwagandha group while only 7.9% reduction in the placebo group. The serum cortisol levels reduction between the two groups on the day 60 is statistically significantly different. Thus, this can suggest that ashwagandha can effectively reduce blood cortisol levels.
(Indian J Psychol Med. 34(3): 255-262 (2012))
How to choose the ashwagandha?
As discussed above, we can see that ashwagandha is been clinically validated for its health benefits. It helps our body to adapt to stress by naturally reducing adrenaline and cortisol (stress hormone) levels, and in turn helps to manage stress and adrenal fatigue issues.
Now, the question is, what are the things to take note of when choosing an ashwagandha supplement?
1. Make sure that the quality marker (Withanolide) is stated for quality consistency and high efficacy.
Many of ashwagandha’s health benefits are attributed to its high concentration of withanolides. Withanolides is the active compound that gives ashwagandha the ability to help the body with mental and physical stress. It can reduce inflammation and stress and modulate metabolic processes.
You may want to look for about 2.5%-10% withanolides in the ashwagandha product. If there is no percentage of withanolides mentioned or the concentration is way too low, you will probably be wasting your time and money on it.
2. Make sure your Ashwagandha is an extract, and not just grinding powder directly from the root.
Instead of simply grinding powder, extraction is a significant procedure to separate the desired natural compound from the raw material.
Extraction can concentrate active compounds and remove the impurities from the ashwagandha, thereby maximizing its efficacy and safety.
3. Make sure that the Ashwagandha extract is certified and verified by independent third-party certifications.
Quality certification provides some assurance as it can be validated as tangible evidence of transparency. For example, look for an ashwagandha supplement that holds various prestigious third-party GMP (Good Manufacturing Practices) certifications, to ensure the product is produced and controlled according to quality standards.
4. Compare the potency
Besides comparing ashwagandha products by its quality marker (Withanolide), you may also look at the entire formulation, if the product only contains ashwagandha, or has other “booster” ingredients to enhance the product’s efficacy.
You may like to consider:
LABO Nutrition AdaptWell
AdaptWell is an all-natural fast-acting and vegan-friendly adaptogen made with potent research-proven Ashwagandha extracts. On top of using ashwagandha with a high concentration (>7%) of withanolides, AdaptWell also includes Rhodiola rosea extract and BioPerine black pepper extract to enhance the bioavailability of the ingredients by at least 30%.
It is formulated to help people to cope with emotional distress and physical and mental fatigue. Their synergistic effects help to strengthen the body’s natural resistance and adaptation to stress, enabling one to cope well. It is 100% natural & safe with no additives or fillers. What’s more, 1 bottle gives 90 capsules, which also translates to a 3-month supply.