Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is a frequently utilized adaptogen in Ayurvedic medicine, one of the oldest healing systems in the world, practiced in India for over 5,000 years. The name “ashwagandha” comes from the Sanskrit word used to describe the smell of a horse, referring to the scent of the plant’s roots after harvesting, but also to the feeling of strength and vitality that all those using the herb experienced as well.
Ashwagandha contains potent natural compounds, withanolides, known to boost resistance to stress. In scientific studies, ashwagandha has been shown to reduce corticosterone levels and increase antioxidant activity. The result is less of a feeling of “fight or flight” and a greater feeling of calm.
In this 60-day, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, volunteers were separated into ashwagandha and placebo groups. Each individual had completed surveys relating to anxiety, stress, depression, and fatigue. Cortisol levels – the “fight or flight” hormone – were also noted.
Reporting cortisol levels is a good “real world” way of telling whether a stress-reducing ingredient is really working. Obviously, some cortisol is a good thing – we need it to help speed up our reactions and make us more alert in potentially dangerous situations. But in many people with chronic stress or anxiety, cortisol levels are elevated all the time. After a while, they simply feel exhausted.
When you feel anxious, your physical feelings – the somatic symptoms – might include tense muscles in your neck, back, and jaw. It can also boost your heart rate, and induce the panicked sensations that anyone with chronic stress or anxiety finds familiar. And these somatic symptoms can cause a lot of long-term damage. But ashwagandha may help.
Throughout the test, researchers measured the differences between the ashwagandha group and the placebo group. By day 60, they were dramatic.
For example, in each scale subset of the surveys, the ashwagandha group showed clear reductions in symptoms:
The control group, by contrast, was nowhere close. Their numbers, to be expected for a placebo, were 5, 11, -3, and -10 percent respectively.
Cortisol levels were reduced by 27 percent compared to about 8 percent in the placebo group. Additionally, in the “stress” subset score, those in the ashwagandha group saw a 64 percent reduction. Those in the placebo group only reporting a 10 percent reduction.
Chandrasekhar K, Kapoor J, Anishetty S. A prospective, randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study of safety and efficacy of a high-concentration full-spectrum extract of ashwagandha root in reducing stress and anxiety in adults. Indian J Psychol Med. 2012;34(3):255–262.
Context: Stress is a state of mental or emotional strain or tension, which can lead to underperformance and adverse clinical conditions. Adaptogens are herbs that help in combating stress. Ayurvedic classical texts, animal studies and clinical studies describe Ashwagandha as a safe and effective adaptogen.
Aims: The aim of the study was to evaluate the safety and efficacy of a high-concentration full-spectrum extract of Ashwagandha roots in reducing stress and anxiety and in improving the general well-being of adults who were under stress.
Settings and Design: Single center, prospective, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial.
Materials and Methods: A total of 64 subjects with a history of chronic stress were enrolled into the study after performing relevant clinical examinations and laboratory tests. These included a measurement of serum cortisol, and assessing their scores on standard stress-assessment questionnaires. They were randomized to either the placebo control group or the study drug treatment group, and were asked to take one capsule twice a day for a period of 60 days. In the study drug treatment group, each capsule contained 300 mg of high-concentration full-spectrum extract from the root of the Ashwagandha plant. During the treatment period (on Day 15, Day 30 and Day 45), a follow-up telephone call was made to all subjects to check for treatment compliance and to note any adverse reactions. Final safety and efficacy assessments were done on Day 60.
Statistical Analysis: t-test, Mann-Whitney test.
Results: The treatment group that was given the high-concentration full-spectrum Ashwagandha root extract exhibited a significant reduction (P<0.0001) in scores on all the stress-assessment scales on Day 60, relative to the placebo group. The serum cortisol levels were substantially reduced (P=0.0006) in the Ashwagandha group, relative to the placebo group. The adverse effects were mild in nature and were comparable in both the groups. No serious adverse events were reported.
Conclusion: The findings of this study suggest that a high-concentration full-spectrum Ashwagandha root extract safely and effectively improves an individual's resistance towards stress and thereby improves self-assessed quality of life.
Click here for a link to the complete article: A Prospective, Randomized Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study of Safety and Efficacy of a High-Concentration Full-Spectrum Extract of Ashwagandha Root in Reducing Stress and Anxiety in Adults
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