Source: Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine (2012)
Nutrition / Natural Medicine Update
We all know that stress has become a significant factor in the increasing number of reported mental health disabilities, and a contributor to various physical health conditions, such as ulcers, high blood pressure, heart disease, and so on.
A very intriguing study was published in the Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine in 2012, which showed that supplementation with the adaptogen herb “Ashwagandha” reduced feelings of stress, improved feelings of wellbeing and lowered key objective blood markers of the stress response in highly-stressed individuals.
How stress is affecting our physical and mental condition?
Stress is a condition arising from external physical or mental overload. It can make us feel embattled, nervous, anxious or otherwise less capable of full and normal response to the demands of life.
Studies show that prolonged exposure to stress can unbalance the mental and physiological state of a person, thereby leading to other illnesses like depression, high blood pressure, heart disease and metabolic disorders, including diabetes.
Such conditions, rooted in mental or emotional factors, are rapidly increasing in prevalence and emerging as major global diseases. It is not surprising, therefore, that an increasing fraction of the population is seeking medical help to overcome stress.
This randomized, control study, enrolled 64 subjects with a history of chronic stress, after performing relevant clinical examinations and laboratory tests. These tests included a measurement of serum cortisol, and assessing their scores on standard stress-assessment questionnaires.
One group was given a supplement containing 300 mg Ashwagandha root extract, standardized to 5% withanolide content, and the other group received the placebo. Ashwagandha is recognized as an adaptogen herb.
Adaptogen herbs have been shown to improve an individual’s ability to cope with stress by normalizing the physiological process of the body and by helping the body adapt to changes.
What was the impact of adaptogen herbs on stress management?
This study assessed the level of stress, depression, anxiety and general well-being of an individual using three different, extensively used sets of stress scales and serum cortisol level: a biochemical marker of stress.
The results showed that after 60 days, compared to the placebo group, subjects taking the Ashwagandha supplement experienced marked improvement in:
Feelings of Anxiety
And Social Dysfunction
And remarkably researchers saw a marked reduction in blood cortisol levels. Serum cortisol is a direct reflection of how the body is responding to stress.
As perceived stress increases so do the release of cortisol from the adrenal glands.
Should we have higher cortisol?
In this study, after just 60 days of treatment, a cortisol reduction of 28% was observed in the Ashwagandha group, compared to an 8% reduction in the placebo-control group. That’s almost a 30% decrease in cortisol levels, which is very impressive (i.e. 500 nmol/L – 360 nmol/L in 60 days)
Weakens Immune System – infections and cancer (possibly trigger autoimmune diseases)
Promotes Ulcer Development
Increases High Blood Sugar
The researchers conclude, “The findings suggest that high-concentration full-spectrum Ashwagandha root extract improves an individual’s resistance towards stress and thereby improves self-assessed quality of life. High-concentration full-spectrum Ashwagandha root extract can be used safely as an adaptogen in adults who are under stress”.
I have recommended adaptogen herbs to help lower cortisol in highly stressed patients and have been impressed with the results. I personally like the combination of the herbs, Ashwagandha, Rodiola and Schisandra.
It’s not a total solution to combating stress by any means. Certainly, aerobic exercise, meditation, yoga, progressive relaxation, psychotherapy, stress-management and other solutions are also important.
But adaptogen herbs like ashwagandha can be used as part of the global management in these cases. The mere fact that it can reduce cortisol blood levels is very impressive and important from a total health standpoint.
I have included the scientific reference for this study in the text below
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 Journal of Psychological Medicine. 2012. July-Sept.34(3):255-262
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