The Stress Reducing Benefits of Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha (pronounced osh-wah-GONE-duh) is one amazing stress-reducing adaptogen.
What's an adaptogen? I'm glad you asked. An adaptogen is a natural substance considered to help the body adapt to stress and to exert a normalizing effect upon bodily processes. A well-known example is ginseng.
Ashwagandha is becoming more well-known in western society because of its amazing mind-body healing properties. Most notably, ashwagandha has calming properties that help you manage stress and anxiety. A modern-day epidemic, stress has been linked to as many as 90% of illnesses and injuries.
Ashwagandha root acts on all three stages of the stress response: the alarm phase, the state of resistance, and the exhaustion phase. This dulls the stress response which benefits us because chronic stress harms the body, and in modern society, it’s rare that people are in real danger.
Ashwagandha, stress, and the adrenals
Stress and the adrenal glands are inextricably connected. The adrenal glands produce cortisol, a stress hormone that is quicker to release than the more physically noticeable stress hormones like adrenaline. Constant release of cortisol chips away at your health, and it’s best to keep stress and cortisol in check to the extent that you can.
Ashwagandha boosts the adrenals by supporting normal HPA Axis function — meaning, it helps the hypothalamic, pituitary, and adrenal glands communicate effectively. When the three aren’t working in sync, your stress response can become quick to react or your body could respond with intensity that doesn’t match the situation.
It also acts on the adrenals to lower testosterone overproduction which can cause a chronic, low-level stress response if there’s too much testosterone pumping in your system.
It also prevents stress-induced vitamin C depletion in the adrenals, and since the adrenals use up a huge percentage of our total vitamin C, this keeps them functioning as they should. If the adrenals don’t have the vitamin C they need, they aren’t able to regulate cortisol production, which results in too much or too little. Cortisol dysregulation can start a cycle of stress response, improper cortisol production, stress response…you get the picture.
Chronic stress can cause adrenal insufficiency, which can cause abnormal adrenal gland size and wonky aldosterone (an adrenal hormone) production. A case study revealed that six months of ashwagandha supplementation effectively treated a woman with abnormal adrenal growth and aldosterone deficiency, and thus reduced scalp hair loss.
In addition to stress management, ashwagandha’s benefits include reducing anxiety, immune support, weight management, neurological support and so much more.