Cortisol is our primary stress hormone, responsible for increasing “sugars (glucose) in the bloodstream” as well as enhancing “your brain’s use of glucose [and the] availability of substances that repair tissues,” according to the Mayo Clinic. Cortisol plays an imperative role in the functioning of our metabolism by helping to regulate sugar levels and blood pressure. While there are many ways to get your stress under control, natural and holistic options tend to have the best effects. This is particularly true in the case of ashwagandha and its positive affect on cortisol levels.
What is Cortisol?
According to Healthline, “prolonged stress can keep stress hormone levels elevated,” and having “long-term cortisol levels are strongly related to having abdominal obesity.” This does not mean cortisol is inherently negative. In fact, it has many benefits and we need it to function, but too much of anything can have negative repercussions.
When our stress levels are too high, we put our health and happiness at great risk. High cortisol levels can lead to reduced glucose utilization, weakened muscles, less muscle mass, abdominal fat, and osteoporosis, to name a few. If you’re looking to slim down, tone up, and even add some muscle, it’s important to understand how cortisol works and get your stress under control.
What is Ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha is also known as “indian winter cherry” and is an evergreen shrub that is commonly found throughout the continents of India, Africa and even portions of the Middle East. This herb has been used for years in Ayurvedic medicine for its many beneficial properties, including but not limited to:
Balancing health between mind, body and spirit
Ashwagandha is an excellent choice for those looking to naturally decrease the stress and anxiety that is associated with everyday life. It is commonly suggested to those who are dealing with mental illness such as anxiety or depression in addition to prescription drugs such as SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) to help balance mood and brain chemistry.
While ashwagandha can generally be taken safely and purchased without a prescription, it should not be taken in place of medication for those who need it, but rather as a supplemental addition. For those interested it is always helpful to first consult with your doctor or healthcare provider to learn about the benefits it may have for you and proper dosage to begin with.
Short-Term Impacts of Ashwagandha
When stress (cortisol) levels are too high or are persistent in the body, we tend to make a permanent shift to fight-or-flight mode. This chronic stress can lead to a host of unwanted health issues such as inflammation, heart disease, stroke, acne and more. Many studies have been done on ashwagandha and its benefits. One study on adults found that “ashwagandha's stress-relieving effects may occur via its moderating effect on the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis” .
It is important to note that studies have found some of the beneficial properties of ashwagandha can take days or in some cases weeks to take occur. In the beginning, users may notice some symptoms like an upset stomach or drowsiness. This will go away in time when taking the supplement consistently and over a longer period.
Long-Term Impacts of Ashwagandha
The long-term benefits associated with taking the supplement of ashwagandha is primarily the regulated stress response within the body. Several studies have proven its efficacy.
One study found that ashwagandha lowered serum (blood) cortisol levels by 23% in adults. Gender-wise comparisons revealed there was a statistically significant 25% reduction in cortisol in females in the ashwagandha group, and 22% in the males group.
Another study looked at an adult group with chronic stress who consumers ashwagandha root for 60 day period.
The study examined the participants ‘Perceived Stress Scale’ (a survey) as well as the serum cortisol levels.The study found that there was only a 5.5% reduction in baseline PSS scores in the placebo group, compared to 44.0% in the Ashwagandha group. Additionally, a reduction of 27.9% from baseline cortisol level was observed in the Ashwagandha group.
The findings of this study suggest that a high-concentration full-spectrum Ashwagandha root extract safely and effectively improves an individual's resistance towards stress and improves self-assessed quality of life.
A similar study compared a low-dose ashwaghanda group (250mg/day) to a higher-dose ashwagandha group (600 mg/day). After 60 days of trial, both groups saw a statisically significant reduction in both PSS scores and serum cortisol levels. The difference in scores did indicate that while Ashwagandha 250 mg/day treatment is effective in reducing the cortisol level, it is not as effective as Ashwagandha 600 mg/day.
Lowering stress in the body can have significant secondary long-term effect including improved quality of life, weight changes, improvement in conditions related to chronic stress such as high blood pressure, better self-control and focus, and better relationships.
There are many studies done on the benefits of taking ashwagandha for one’s cortisol and the growth of effects it has that branch out from it. This includes but is not limited to: improved athletic capabilities, improved sleep, assistance in alleviating symptoms associated with anxiety and depression, and more. As previously stated, we encourage you to always confer with your health care provider to learn if ashwagandha is good for you and what dosage to begin at.