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Ashwagandha is an adaptogen (herbs which reduce stress, fatigue, and promote homeostasis) and is often referred to as Indian Ginseng for its use in Ayurvedic medicine. Ashwagandha appears to be most effective for alleviating anxiety, reducing stress, and promoting restful sleep. It is also under investigation for its ability to reduce fatigue and improve physical performance.
First and foremost, there is strong evidence that ashwagandha can alleviate anxiety, and is effective at alleviating social anxiety in particular.19https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2140796020https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1971825521https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23439798
Second, ashwagandha appears to alleviate stress and lower cortisol21https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2343979822https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19789214. In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study 64 subjects with chronic stress had their cortisol and stress levels tested. Subjects were given 300mg capsules of the root extract twice daily. After 60 days, the treatment group showed a significant reduction in their stress based on stress-assessment scales, and their cortisol levels were substantially reduced as well.21https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23439798
Ashwagandha also appears to have antidepressant19https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21407960 effects, though they are mild in comparison to the anxiolytic effects. It also has anti-fatigue effects20https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1971825523https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23142798, improves social functioning and general well-being21https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2343979823https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23142798, and may even improve motivation.20https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19718255
The full extent of ashwagandha’s mechanism of action, at least in regards to the above effects, is not totally understood at this time. However, it is likely that its anxiolytic effects primarily come from its GABAergic effects, specifically by enhancing signaling at the the GABAA receptor.24https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2136944925https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/166003426https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18697606
As far as the nootropic effects go, Ashwagandha has also been noted to provide neuroprotection by inducing antioxidant enzymes in the brain.27https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1113734328https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10816336 Additionally it has been shown to cause neurogenesis, demonstrating regeneration activity in axons and synapses as well as neurite extension in normal and damaged cortical neurons.29https://www.ancbi.nlm.nih.gaov/pubmed/15956813
Ashwagandha appears to be a very well-rounded substance that provides some real benefit, with nootropic effects being the most promising. Among adaptogens, it may be the most potent of them all, and may be one of the best nootropics for social anxiety.
Ashwagandha Dosage Information
Aswagandha comes in its basic extract form, and in two patented forms, the Sensoril and KSM-66 extracts. People tend to have different results with each, but in general the Sensoril extract is better for relaxation while the KSM-66 extract is better for stress reduction, although both appear to be fairly similar overall.
Sensori doses range typically range from 125-375mg per day, while KSM-66 doses range from 300-900mg per day.
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