Ashwagandha for Anxiety
DISCLAIMER: This article has been written for informational and educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
Everyone experiences anxiety in different situations of life such as anxiety before exams, a job interview, or the anxious feeling before going out on a first date, or walking towards the podium for a speech.
It is common to have anxiety at such moments in life and there is nothing to worry about. But if you have frequent, persistent, and intense episodes of anxiety in everyday situations then you should seek help.
You can adopt different strategies to cope with anxiety one of which is to include a natural supplement called ashwagandha in your daily routine.
Anxiety is described as a mild to severe feeling of uneasiness, fear, or worry on different occasions. This anxious feeling can interfere with day-to-day activities and may also hamper your social life.
Anxiety is caused by overactivity in those areas of the brain that control our behavior and emotions. An imbalance of chemicals (that regulate mood) such as serotonin and noradrenaline within the brain can also lead to anxiety.
Inheritance is also an important factor when it comes to the development of anxiety disorders. People with positive family history of anxiety have an increased risk of being affected by an anxiety disorder at some point in life.
Following is the detail of different types of anxiety disorders:
- Generalized anxiety disorder – The condition in which you experience excessive and persistent episodes of anxiety even in ordinary aspects of your life is called generalized anxiety disorder.
- Panic disorders – In this type of anxiety disorder one experiences sudden intense episodes of anxiety that reach a peak within a few minutes. These panic attacks can be accompanied by chest pain, palpitations, and shortness of breath.
- Social anxiety – This type of anxiety is fuelled by feelings of self-consciousness, embarrassment, or the fear of being judged by people around you. These people are fearful of social gatherings and have a difficult time interacting with others.
- Specific phobias – In this condition, people experience moderate to severe anxiety upon exposure to specific objects or situations. It can also trigger panic attacks in some individuals.
RISK FACTORS FOR ANXIETY
Anxiety is triggered by different objects or situations in different people, however, the following are some factors that may increase your risk of developing an anxiety disorder:
- Emotional trauma – Children and adults who have been a victim of physical or emotional abuse or those who might have witnessed any traumatic event are more likely to develop anxiety disorders.
- Stress – Work-life stress, emotional stress, or stress due to an illness all can lead to anxiety.
- Mental health conditions – People with psychological disorders such as depression also have an increased risk of developing an anxiety disorder.
- Drug or alcohol abuse – Individuals who are drug abusers often experience anxiety and many times the drug or alcohol abuse can worsen the already present anxiety issues.
SYMPTOMS OF ANXIETY
The common signs and symptoms of anxiety disorders are:
- Nervousness or restlessness
- Increased heart rate
- Rapid breathing
- Digestive issues
- Lack of focus and concentration
- Disturbed sleep
COMPLICATIONS OF ANXIETY DISORDERS
If anxiety disorders are left unchecked then they can cause a variety of physical and psychological complications of which some are listed below:
- Chronic pain
- Bowel problems
- Social isolation
- Depression or other mental health conditions
Ashwagandha or Withania somnifera is an important herb used in Ayurveda medicine. This small shrub with yellow flowers is also known as Indian ginseng and winter cherry.
Ashwagandha mainly grows in India and Southeast Asia. People of these regions have been using this herb as a medicine for thousands of years. They used it to relieve stress, boost energy levels and improve concentration.
In the present era, the leaves and roots of this medicinal plant are used to make ashwagandha extract and ashwagandha powder which are used to manage different conditions such as anxiety, fertility issues, and high blood sugar levels.
BENEFITS OF ASHWAGANDHA FOR ANXIETY
One of the main risk factors for developing different anxiety disorders is stress. Ashwagandha works by managing the stress and ultimately help you cope with anxiety.
Ashwagandha works by controlling different mediators of stress including cortisol, heat shock proteins, and stress-activated protein kinase.
Ashwagandha regulates these stress mediators and reduces the physical and psychological stress on your body and lowers your risk of developing an anxiety disorder.
Ashwagandha can also suppress the activity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. This system present in your body is responsible for regulating stress hormone i.e. cortisol. By reducing the functional activity of this particular system ashwagandha directly lowers stress and anxiety levels.
Not only does ashwagandha reduce stress and anxiety levels but it can also help you manage different signs and symptoms of anxiety disorders.
Insomnia or troubled sleeping is a common complaint among people who are fighting anxiety. Ashwagandha acts as an adaptogen and promotes restful sleep. As a result, when you wake up you feel more alert and attentive.
Another common complaint among anxiety patients is lack of energy or fatigue. Ashwagandha may enhance the maximum oxygen consumption in adults and consequently improves athletic performance.
The maximum oxygen consumption is not only beneficial for your energy levels but by increasing the maximum oxygen consumption ashwagandha also lowers the risk of different heart diseases.
Uncontrolled anxiety levels can lead to mental health complications such as depression and can impair brain functions leading to a lack of concentration.
Ashwagandha has an antioxidant effect that protects the cognitive functions of the brain, improves memory and concentration, and reduces the risk of depression.
BEST TIME TO USE ASHWAGANDHA PRODUCTS
There is no hard and fast rule which tells you about the right time to consume ashwagandha. You can use it at any time of the day as per your convenience and depending upon your desired goals.
However, if you are using ashwagandha for anxiety disorders then it is recommended to consume it at night. This will calm your nerves, promote peaceful sleep, reduce stress, and ultimately lower anxiety levels.
HOW TO USE ASHWAGANDHA
Ashwagandha can be consumed in the form of powder, capsules, or gummies. You can also add ashwagandha to your tea, milkshakes, or oatmeal.
An important tip regarding the use of ashwagandha is not to consume it on an empty stomach as this can cause mild to moderate stomach discomfort. Therefore, always consume ashwagandha products after taking a meal or some snacks.
SIDE EFFECTS OF ASHWAGANDHA
Ashwagandha is considered safe to use for about two to three months. The long-term use of ashwagandha has not been studied much and therefore nothing can be said with certainty about its usage for longer periods.
The use of ashwagandha products in excessive quantities or for a longer duration can lead to the following side effects:
- Upset stomach
- Dry mouth
- Nausea and vomiting
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Cough and cold
- Weight gain
- Drowsiness and vertigo
- Blurred vision
- Liver disease
PRECAUTIONARY MEASURES TO BE TAKEN
Everything that goes in your body should be used in moderation and with great care. The same is the case with ashwagandha products, especially in the following circumstances:
- Pregnancy – Ashwagandha is not considered a very safe product to be used during pregnancy.
- Breastfeeding – The effect of ashwagandha on lactating women has not been studied extensively and therefore it is recommended to stay on the safe side and not use it while breastfeeding.
- Autoimmune conditions – Ashwagandha may increase the activity of the immune system in your body. As a result, it can increase the severity of autoimmune disorders such as SLE, Hashimoto's thyroiditis, and rheumatoid arthritis. Hence, it is recommended to avoid using ashwagandha products if you have any autoimmune condition.
- Surgery – Ashwagandha acts as a central nervous system depressant and therefore can amplify the effect of anesthesia and other medications during surgery. It is advised to discontinue the use of ashwagandha supplements at least two weeks before the scheduled surgical procedure.
- Medications – Ashwagandha can interact with different therapeutic drugs that one might take for underlying medical conditions. These interactions can interfere with the action of drugs and may also increase their side effects. Therefore, before starting ashwagandha products always tell your doctor about any medicines that you are taking at the moment.
IN A NUTSHELL
Anxiety is a very common mental health issue that affects people of all ages. It can be mild, moderate, or severe in intensity and interferes with your personal and social life.
If not managed appropriately on time anxiety can lead to different physical and psychological complications including gastrointestinal illnesses, chronic pain, social isolation, and depression.
Ashwagandha is a herbal supplement that manages stress and lowers anxiety levels. Not only this but it also helps in fighting different symptoms of anxiety and prevents its complications.
It is recommended that you speak with your healthcare provider before starting ashwagandha supplements especially if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or taking medications for any underlying health conditions.