Q. Dear Terry, “One of my friends recently started taking ashwagandha for stress and it’s really helped. I’m interested in trying ashwagandha as well, but I don’t know much about it. Is it safe to take long term?”– Rob L., Tucson, AZ
A. Dear Rob, Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is a highly valued adaptogen in Ayurvedic medicine, one of the oldest healing systems in the world. Ayurveda has been practiced in India for over 5000 years and ashwagandha has been a prized herb throughout much of Ayurveda’s history. In Ayurveda, ashwagandha is known as a rasayana, or rejuvenating herb. The name ashwagandha comes from the Sanskrit word used to describe the essence of a horse, referring to both the scent of the plant’s roots, but also the strength and vitality that comes with using ashwagandha. Traditionally, ashwagandha has been used for calming nerves, reducing inflammation and pain, improving energy (physical and sexual), and joint conditions.
In clinical trials, ashwagandha has been shown to reduce cortisol levels, balance stress hormones, and increase protective antioxidant activity. Inflammation and oxidation can both play a major role in stress and other mood disorders. Ashwagandha also works with neurotransmitters like GABA, which helps instill a sense of calm. Because ashwagandha can address stress from so many angles, I think this is an excellent choice for stress.
I prefer ashwagandha that uses a water and ethanol extract process, to yield a higher concentration of withanolides. Withanolides are some of the key compounds found within ashwagandha and have been studied on their own for stress relieving effects. I would look for an ashwagandha that is standardized to at least 35% withanolides. Ashwagandha is a very safe herb and can be taken long term. I would take ashwagandha once or twice daily.
Terry . . . Naturally
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