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Benefits of Ashwagandha and How Much to Take

If you are someone who gets nervous or stressed easily, you may have heard about the benefits of ashwagandha. People might have recommended it to you as a solution for everything from cooking dinner to putting the kids to bed. However, if you are skeptical about herbal medicine, you may not have looked into it. Don’t worry, we will do the research for you. With the help of integrative medicine specialist Yufang Lin, MD, we will explain what ashwagandha is and some of its medically proven benefits.

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), also known as “Indian Winter cherry” or Indian Ginseng, is an evergreen shrub found in India, Africa, and parts of the Middle East. According to Dr. Lin, it has been used in Ayurvedic medicine to increase energy, improve overall health, and reduce inflammation, pain, and anxiety. Ayurvedic medicine is a traditional healing system in India that uses nutrition, exercise, mindfulness practices, and herbs to promote balance between the body, mind, spirit, and the environment. Ashwagandha seems to be a good option for those who prefer herbal medicine for several reasons.

Modern life is full of stress triggers that contribute to physical and mental illness. During stressful moments, cortisol levels in your body become elevated, causing your heart to pump harder and faster.  Your mind becomes hyper-focused on any threats, and your body goes into fight or flight mode. You breathe rapidly, and your body generates more glucose for a quick burst of energy. When the stressful event is over, cortisol levels normalize, and the associated symptoms resolve. However, when a threat is chronic, such as stress from finances or work, the stressful response also becomes chronic. Over time, long-term stress can contribute to persistent inflammation and increases the risk for developing chronic conditions like  stroke, diabetes, obesity, cancer, hypertension, heart-disease, fibromyalgia and osteoporosis.

Research shows that ashwagandha can help in several ways: it normalizes cortisol levels, reduces inflammation, reduces cancer risks, improves memory, improves immune function and anti-aging properties, and eases stress and anxiety. People who are stressed, anxious, or have chronic conditions might turn to ashwagandha to help ease their symptoms. Ashwagandha comes in a variety of forms, including gummies, capsules, liquid drops, and powders that you can mix into drinks. Regardless of the form, Dr. Lin recommends a dose of 500 mg twice a day.

While the side effects of ashwagandha are minimal, some people may experience gastrointestinal upset, diarrhea, vomiting, and nausea. It is always best to discuss with your healthcare provider before taking ashwagandha, especially if you have any issues with your thyroid or are pregnant or breastfeeding. Ashwagandha can augment thyroid function by increasing the conversion of the less potent thyroid hormone, T4, to the more active form of the thyroid hormone, T3. For some people, it can support a healthier thyroid function. However, if an individual’s thyroid is already borderline hyperactive, ashwagandha could contribute to frank hyperthyroidism.

Overall, ashwagandha can be a part of your wellness plan, but it is not a cure-all. Taking ashwagandha will not make the stress go away, but it may help reduce the symptoms so that you feel more at ease. Developing coping tools to help manage stress in the future will go much further in the long run.

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