Ashwagandha for Anxiety and Insomnia? What to Know

Ashwagandha for Anxiety and Insomnia? What to Know

In today’s fast-paced world full of constant stress, anxiety and insomnia have become common concerns. Many people are looking for natural ways to find relief before asking their doctor for prescription medications. One remedy that’s been growing in popularity is ashwagandha, an herb that’s been used medicinally since ancient times.

However, there are several factors to consider before you try treating anxiety and insomnia with an herbal supplement. Whether you’re seeking a natural solution or simply curious about traditional remedies, read on to learn more about ashwagandha’s potential to improve your physical and mental well-being.

What Is Ashwagandha?

Ashwagandha, also known as Indian ginseng or winter cherry, is an herb that’s long been used to relieve stress and improve vitality. The name means “smell of the horse” in Sanskrit and refers to the plant’s potent smell and alleged energizing properties. Though native to India and Southeast Asia, ashwagandha also grows in parts of the Middle East and Africa.

According to Ayurveda, or traditional Indian medicine, ashwagandha is a tonic that helps rejuvenate your mind and body. Historically, it’s been used to treat a variety of physical and mental ailments, including stress, anxiety, fatigue, skin conditions and poor memory. The leaves, seeds and fruit of the plant can all be used in medicine.

In modern times, various commercial products contain ashwagandha, including gummies, powders and liquid drops that can be mixed into food or drinks. These kinds of herbal supplements are widely available and have become increasingly popular in Western countries.

Benefits of Ashwagandha for Anxiety and Insomnia

Ashwagandha supplements are commonly used to help lower stress and anxiety levels. Current scientific research on ashwagandha shows it may be useful for treating both conditions. You may have heard it called an adaptogen, which refers to a substance that improves your body’s ability to cope with stress.

In a study of 64 chronically stressed adults, each participant took either a placebo or one capsule of ashwagandha root extract per day for 60 days. The researchers measured cortisol levels and assessed the subjects’ stress levels using questionnaires, with follow-ups during the treatment period. The study found the individuals who took the ashwagandha supplement (instead of the placebo) showed a 56.5% reduction in their anxiety scores.

Another study focused on ashwagandha’s impact on sleep quality. A group of 125 adults took either a placebo or one ashwagandha capsule per day for 90 days. Along with sleep quality, researchers assessed stress hormone levels, memory recall and happiness at the outset. They found the treatment group reported significantly improved sleep quality, better mental well-being and lower stress levels.

Ashwagandha may also be beneficial for several other conditions, such as diabetes, inflammatory diseases and male infertility. While research is promising, there’s still much uncertainty about dosages and effectiveness. Many of the early studies on the benefits of ashwagandha involved animal or cell models, so evidence is limited and further clinical trials on people are necessary.

Is Ashwagandha Safe to Use?

Though generally safe, ashwagandha may cause side effects in some people. The most common effects users report are mild to moderate in severity:

  • Drowsiness
  • Gastrointestinal discomfort
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Dizziness
  • Congestion
  • Nausea
  • Coughing or wheezing
  • Irritated skin

Extra caution should be exercised when using ashwagandha with some health conditions and prescription medications. The remedy is thought to affect your thyroid and immune function. Adults being treated for an autoimmune disease or prostate issue should avoid it. Women should also avoid it during pregnancy since complications can occur, including induced abortion. When in doubt, check with your doctor before adding an ashwagandha supplement to your daily regimen.

The recommended daily dosage of ashwagandha can vary. It’s best to start with a lower dose, in the range of 250–500 milligrams, before upping your intake. However, your dosage could play a role in whether you experience benefits from its usage.

Ashwagandha supplements typically come in capsule form and are designed to be taken once or twice daily. They can be taken any time during the day, but if you’re using it as a sleep aid, nighttime is a better choice. If swallowing capsules is difficult, mixing the powdered version into smoothies, drinks or food may be easier (and tastier).

Read the label carefully on any supplement you purchase, especially if you ordered it online. Look for an ashwagandha product that lists the concentration of withanolides (the active ingredient in ashwagandha). Be sure to check the bottle or package for third-party testing certifications. Terms such as “natural” and “organic” aren’t regulated, so they won’t help you determine a product’s quality.

The Role of Holistic Healing

Anxiety and insomnia can be extremely disruptive to your daily life. While supplementing with ashwagandha may help improve these conditions, you’ll likely get better results when it’s combined with a holistic approach to physical and mental health. Holistic healing can offer long-term solutions for managing anxiety and insomnia.

Reviewing your diet is a good place to start. Nutritional status has a significant impact on inflammation and energy levels. When your body can’t make enough neurotransmitters or use energy efficiently, you’re bound to feel stressed and fatigued. Getting enough of key nutrients, such as B vitamins and magnesium, helps your brain function in a focused and calm state.

Exercise is another way to support your overall health. Regular exercise has been shown to change brain chemistry and positively impact mood and stress levels. You don’t have to hit the gym, either — finding a moderately intense physical activity you enjoy doing often is enough to reap the rewards.

Practicing meditation and mindfulness can also help with regulating your emotions and reducing stress. When done before bedtime, these techniques are great tools for dealing with negative thoughts and emotions, so you can rest peacefully.

Though your mindset matters, some psychological issues have biological roadblocks. A registered dietitian or health care professional can help you figure out ways to optimize your diet and lifestyle.

Have you tried supplements and still need additional support? The mental health professionals at Restore are here for you when you’re ready to start your wellness journey. Contact us now to speak to our caring team of counselors and explore personalized solutions.