Is Ashwagandha One of The Best Natural Remedies for Anxiety Or Just Hype?

July 2, 2024

Across the United States, anxiety is on the rise. In 2023, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that nearly one out of three adults reported having anxiety or depression symptoms. Many have turned to pharmaceutical interventions. Others are experimenting with supplements, hoping to find natural ways to cure anxiety. Unfortunately, there’s a tendency to believe that because something is “natural” it’s also safer and better for the body. That’s not always the case.

“People want to put an equals sign with natural because it came from the earth, but so does cocaine and heroin,”explains Dr. Fatima Cody Stanford, an obesity medicine physician-scientist at Massachusetts General Hospital. Ashwagandha has become one of the more popular of the many natural ways to treat anxiety

What is this plant with the hard to pronounce name? Does it work? Is it safe? Read on to learn more about the peer-reviewed studies on its use for anxiety, how to choose the best ashwagandha supplement and the ways one company is pioneering a holistic treatment for anxiety.

What is Ashwagandha?

In surveys, anxiety is often paired with questions about depression but the CDC reports that in 2024, nearly 18% of all adults reported having just anxiety symptoms. Anxiety disproportionately affects younger people with nearly 30% of adults 18-29 suffering from the mental health disorder. Anxiety peaked during the COVID-19 pandemic in part because of isolating lockdowns. Although anxiety levels have declined since then, they remain elevated when compared to the 2010s. It’s not surprising then that many people are looking for safe and natural remedies for anxiety.

Anxiety is normal. People are hard wired to respond to perceived threats; anxiety is part of that response. What makes it more challenging in the 21st century is that humans are biologically conditioned to prioritize anxiety over other emotions. Thousands of years ago, people’s very survival depended upon reacting quickly to a perceived threat. Today “perceived threats” are constant with dire warnings delivered over social media or on-air news broadcasts. 

Anxiety is the most common mental health disorder, affecting over 300 million people worldwide according to the World Health Organization. Along with excessive worry about a certain situation that lasts for weeks or months, other symptoms include irritability, heart palpitations, insomnia, and difficulty concentrating or making decisions. 

There are supplements that claim to help but ashwagandha is one of the most popular of the many natural products for anxiety. Also called winter cherry and Indian ginseng, ashwagandha’s name is from the Sanskrit meaning “smells like a wet horse.” Some believe it delivers equine strength along with its distinctive odor. An evergreen shrub that grows across the warmer tropical and subtropical regions of Asia, Africa, and Europe, it has long been one of the best known natural remedies in India. It’s because of this that many studies conducted on its use as one of the alternative treatments for anxiety have been conducted there. 

In 2021, a systematic review of seven studies with nearly 500 participants examined ashwagandha’s efficacy as an alternative treatment for anxiety. Six used extracts made from ashwagandha root alone as a natural remedy for anxiety, while the seventh used dried root powder. 

As reported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS), ”Overall, the studies found that ashwagandha significantly reduced stress and anxiety levels (subjectively measured by validated rating scales), reduced sleeplessness and fatigue, and reduced serum cortisol (a stress hormone) levels, compared with placebo. In several studies, benefits appeared to be greater with doses of 500 to 600 mg/day compared with lower doses.”

Similar studies in Florida and Colorado have produced similar results. Not only has the self-reported effect with those taking ashwagandha clearly superior to those taking a placebo but study participants had lower saliva cortisol levels than those in the placebo group. They also reported better focus and memory. Studies have suggested that in addition to relieving stress and anxiety, ashwagandha may also be one of the more effective natural sleep aids.

So how does it work? Ashwagandha is an adaptogen, a natural substance that may reduce the negative effects of stress or improve the body’s resistance to it. In 1998, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) defined adaptogens as, “A new kind of metabolic regulator that has been proved to help in environmental adaptation and to prevent external harms.”

These remedies work as one of the natural ways to treat anxiety.  One study in Chinese Medicine suggested “…that adaptogens can increase the effectiveness of adrenal gland secretion, thereby abolishing excess hormone production.” The study also saw them being used effectively as natural sleep aids.

How Anxiety Affects the Body

It’s easy to be triggered. The hypothalamus in the brain regulates the body’s response to danger by, among other things, signaling the adrenal glands to release adrenaline and cortisol. The body reacts immediately: the heart beats faster and blood pressure rises as the burst of adrenaline increases energy. At the same time the primary stress hormone, cortisol, is motivating a flood of glucose into the bloodstream. Among other things, this sugar alters how the immune system behaves while simultaneously suppressing everything from reproduction to digestion.

At first, these physical reactions are beneficial. It’s easy to see how quickly they can turn negative. Chronic, untreated stress wreaks havoc on the body. That’s because while the “flight-or-fight” response is an appropriate reaction to immediate danger, if it doesn’t subside the hormonal surge of cortisol can lead to a host of health issues. Along with anxiety and depression, unchecked cortisol is responsible for muscle pain and headaches along with high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, insomnia and weight gain. 

The body’s reaction to stress is known as “general adaptation syndrome.” This is a three-pronged response consisting of alarm, resistance, and exhaustion. Studies suggest that adaptogens like ashwagandha allow the body to remain in the resistance phase longer than it normally would. These adaptogens act like a stimulant, preventing the exhaustion stage from occurring immediately. Instead of experiencing a rapid depletion of energy during a moment of stress, people are able to keep going without any ill effects. 

Over time, people using ashwagandha and other natural remedies adapt better to stress. That’s why some believe it’s a viable long term option. “I think of ashwagandha for the person who’s both tired and wired at the same time; stressed and fatigued all day, but has trouble winding down at night,” dietician Robin Foroutan, MS, RD, told Health magazine. 

Before reaching for ashwagandha or other natural remedies, it’s important to identify the specific physical issues. It’s not enough to do an online survey or self diagnose – what might seem like anxiety symptoms could be indicating other medical concerns. That’s why an at-home test is such an important first step. 

While similar tests can cost hundreds of dollars, Kyla Clinics’ Hormone Panel costs just $99 and may be covered by insurance. The panel examines everything from cortisol levels to thyroid function to inflammation markers – all of which could be involved in stress responses and anxiety. The information provided by the test results can help patients learn to more effectively manage stress.

Kyla believes in enhancing every patient’s well-being while proactively managing chronic conditions. The goal is to increase each person’s healthy years of life – their healthspan. This is achieved with at-home blood tests and AI-driven actionable insights.

Kyla’s customized blood testing program provides a valuable examination into the body’s internal workings. It then provides guidance for individualized improvements. After completing a simple quiz to identify areas for improving health, the patient selects the right at-home blood tests. The tests arrive in just a few days, complete with instructions for sample collection. Simply return it to the lab at no cost and receive prompt, accurate results.

Because Kyla embraces a whole body, holistic treatment for anxiety, testing is usually only the first step. This is followed by consultations with a physician who provides personalized advice on the best options for managing and even overcoming anxiety. This can mean everything from counseling sessions to alternative treatments for anxiety which could include ashwagandha.

How to Find the Best Ashwagandha Supplement

There are many forms of ashwagandha supplements including powders, liquid extracts and even ashwagandha gummies. It’s important to realize that while the Food and Drug Administration regulates supplements and tries to control the health claims made by their manufacturers, they are treated as food not as drugs. That makes a huge difference when it comes to safety and efficacy. 

For one thing, so long as the manufacturer believes the product is safe, they can sell it to the public. The years of tests and research that occurs with drugs is completely absent. The FDA will only act if there’s a clear risk – once people get sick. “If you look at the supplement industry, it’s a multibillion-dollar industry where people are making a ton of money off of a lot of things that have limited research and data,” Dr. Stanford explains on the AMA website. “I’m all for using whatever works – whether it’s natural or not – but unfortunately, the data is usually very scarce for most supplements, including those that are natural.”

Although there gave been numerous studies recommending ashwagandha as a one of the more effective alternative treatments for anxiety, that doesn’t mean consumers can easily buy the best ashwagandha supplement. The first step should be to look for supplements that offer an adjustable dose – meaning individuals can easily use less if necessary along with high quality ingredients and most importantly third-party testing. This is vital for anyone seeking the best ashwagandha supplement

Often when supplements are studied in a laboratory, they are found to not be as pure or contain as much of the active ingredient as the label suggests. Because a third-party is hired to make sure the ingredients are high quality, it’s more likely that the ashwagandha can be trusted. 

Traditionally when ashwagandha is deployed as one of the natural ways to treat anxiety the entire plant is used. Generally the best ashwagandha supplement available uses just the root. Although ashwagandha gummies are a popular choice in part because they offer an easily adjustable dose, it’s important to select one that’s low in added sugar. Some also combine the amino acid L-theanine which is found in tea and may promote calmness and relaxation. Some of the best ashwagandha supplements are in powdered form and contain more of what is believed to be the plant’s active ingredient – withanolides – which is mainly found in the root. 

Although some choose to take ashwagandha for years, taking it for longer than three months is not recommended. That’s because there haven’t been enough studies to determine any long term risks or side effects. Common side effects with short term use include upset stomach and vomiting. There have been some rare reports of liver problems although the patients improved once ashwagandha use was discontinued. Pregnant or breastfeeding women should avoid this supplement as should those who are going into surgery. It may interact with medications which is why it’s important to speak with a doctor before considering this a natural product for anxiety

Because even the best ashwagandha supplement can affect everything from blood sugar to blood pressure, it should not be taken without consulting with a healthcare professional. That’s why working with Kyla Clinics can be so helpful. They offer a holistic treatment for anxiety because they believe in treating the individual, not just the symptoms. 

Whether trying to find the best ashwagandha supplement or learning how hereditary anxiety can affect long term health, Kyla’s focus is on achieving  long-lasting changes with anti-aging treatments that combine personalized recommendations from trusted healthcare professionals with AI driven data. That’s why Kyla’s holistic, all encompassing approach means tailored lifestyle adjustments, medication, and supplements. So not only will anxiety and stress be managed but a long and healthy life is possible. 


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