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Here’s what the experts are saying about using Ashwagandha as a stress reliever

It will come as no surprise to learn that, as a society, we are under a lot of stress. In fact, the American Psychological Association found that 27% of Americans report being too stressed out to function.

So, it’s easy to see why any product that is said to help with stress is attractive to potential buyers. While there are claims of many supplements and pills that help you experience a sense of calm, there is one in particular that has been garnering attention online and in the natural health field: ashwagandha.

“[Ashwagandha is] an herb that grows in regions of south and central Asia, including India, where it is used in Ayurvedic medicine,” said Dr. Susan Blackford, physician of internal and integrative medicine at Duke Integrative Medicine Center in North Carolina.

The Latin name of the shrub is Withania somnifera. In Latin, somnifera means to induce sleep, said Blackford, who talks about one of its uses. Ashwagandha claims to help with issues beyond sleep and stress, too, including anxiety and depression.

So, is it true? Here’s what the experts say:

Some ashwagandha supplements Candies help with stress and other issues.

“There are many other ways that [people] use it, but I would say in integrative medicine we probably use it mostly for stress,” Blackford said.

That’s because ashwagandha is an adaptogen, meaning it “improves the body’s resilience to stress,” she added.

Amala Soumyanath, director of the Oregon Health and Science University’s Botanical Dietary Supplements Research Center, explained that this can refer to multiple types of psychological stress, physical stress (such as from an infection), and more. “These adaptogens [are] it should have a very wide range of effects,” Soumyanath noted.

Blackford added that it’s not entirely known how Ashwagandha has an impact on stress, but it appears to work with GABA-A and GABA-B receptors, which are “known to produce calming effects” within the body. And a calmer disposition naturally affects anxiety and sleep as well. So, it’s easy to see how ashwagandha could potentially have an effect on all of these issues.

Soumyanath said preclinical and clinical studies have looked at ashwagandha as a treatment. A 2019 study of 60 adults found that people who took ashwagandha daily had reduced morning cortisol levels, according to Blackford. But it’s worth noting that with only 60 people, the sample size of this study is very small.

“I would say… there is some reasonably good clinical evidence for effects on stress and sleep,” Soumyanath said. “There’s a lot of preclinical evidence for its efficacy in anxiety, but perhaps less clinical evidence for it.”

In other words, more studies on ashwagandha’s effectiveness in helping manage anxiety are needed before more solid conclusions can be drawn.

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It’s important to let your doctor know if you start taking ashwagandha, or any medicine, for that matter.

Only specific ashwagandha products have been studied, not everything on the shelf.

There’s a big caveat to all of this: While there’s some promising evidence of ashwagandha’s effectiveness for certain issues, these studies typically relate to a specific ashwagandha product makeup, Soumyanath said.

This means that not all supplements that contain ashwagandha are created equal. “Because products are variable, we can’t necessarily assume that every product on the shelf will have the same effects,” Soumyanath explained.

“If you look on the shelf, you’ll see a whole variety of different ashwagandha products available for sale,” Soumyanath said, noting that these products use different types of extracts, which affects their effectiveness.

“Sometimes it’s just the powdered root, sometimes it’s an extract of the powdered root, sometimes the extract is made with water, sometimes it’s made with an alcohol mix, sometimes the extract is made from [the] root as well as leaf,” he continued. In other words, there are many formulations and not all of these extracts have been studied or proven effective.

Your first thought might be to find the products that Have been studied, but Soumyanath said dietary supplements aren’t necessarily standardized. The manufacturer can change its production process at any time, which affects future batches of the product.

Instead, Soumyanath said, you can compare products that use different formulations, such as dried root versus an extract, and see what works for you. “In general, products containing extracts are stronger because the extract focuses on some of the components of the botanical,” she said.

Also, Blackford said, you can check out consumerlab.com, which compares available products.

“He’s not saying whether or not it’s useful, he’s saying, ‘it contains what it’s supposed to contain and it contains any contaminants you need to be concerned about,'” Blackford said. “So it’s kind of a watchdog group to make sure what you’re taking is safe.”

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Camille Delbos/The Art in All of Us via Getty Images

Close-up on dried ashwagandha roots used for herbal tea on September 25, 2018, in Bunjako island, Mpigi district, Uganda.

Exactly what makes an effective ashwagandha supplement is still being studied.

Soumyanath said she and other researchers are trying to determine the parameters needed to ensure ashwagandha is effective.

“There is still much research needed to try to link a botanical’s chemical profile of ashwagandha to its biological activity so that better dietary supplements can be designed that contain the right components at the right doses, but we still don’t have this information,” Soumyanath said.

“I guess the take-home messages within all those warnings about variability … it’s a very helpful botanical and is generally found to be safe, but individual products may or may not deliver” results such as reduced stress and anxiety, she said.

Make sure you know about potential side effects.

When it comes to ashwagandha, there are usually no side effects, Blackford said, and if there are any, they tend to be short-term. “It could cause a headache, it could cause drowsiness… and it could cause an upset stomach.”

“There have been very rare reports of liver toxicity,” noted Soumyanath.

And while side effects aren’t common, it’s still important to tell your doctor about any supplements or medicines you’re taking, Soumyanath said.

Ashwagandha also affects other systems; it could also lower blood pressure, blood sugar and raise hormone levels, Blackford said. “So it probably won’t be dramatic, but if you’re on blood pressure or blood sugar or thyroid medications, you should just be aware that you want to monitor them.”

Also, from a Western medicine perspective, Blackford said, taking ashwagandha is not recommended while pregnant or breastfeeding. “We simply don’t have enough data to determine its safety,” he explained.

Soumyanath added that it’s important to follow the recommended dosage: “Don’t assume that taking more is always going to be better for you.”

Like any medicine, be responsible when taking ashwagandha. “Don’t assume that natural is safe,” Soumyanath said. Taking too much of the supplement or taking it for an extended time can increase the chances of side effects.

Finally, when it comes to stress relief, Blackford said ashwagandha isn’t her benchmark. “Self someone comes to me with stress and anxiety, I will first look at what factors are contributing to this.

Think about your stress coping skills, your sleep habits (sleep is important for stress reduction, Blackford added), your exercise patterns (another stress reliever), and your connection to your community.

[Ashwagandha is] just a tool. I always get a little concerned when people focus on one thing, whether it’s… an approach, an herb, a drug,” Blackford said. “If we focus so much on one thing, we miss out on the entirety of all other influencers and won’t have meaningful long-term change.”

#Heres #experts #Ashwagandha #stress #reliever

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