Ashwagandha: The #1 Herb in the World for Anxiety?
- Published on: 03 March, 2018
- Last update: 03 March, 2018
This weekend, my herbalism class had the honor of studying Ayurveda with registered herbalist Karta Purkh “K.P.” Singh Khalsa (who has been practicing Ayurveda for over 4 decades). He is also the author of a wonderful book, “The Way of Ayurvedic Herbs” for anyone wanting to learn more about this topic.
I’ve always considered it an adaptogenic herb for vitality that nourishes the thyroid and adrenal glands, and it’s certainly effective in that regard. However, K.P. made a profound statement that helped me appreciate this herb more than ever: he said it may be the single most important herb known to man for treating anxiety.
In the world of herbalism, anti-anxiety herbs are usually classified as “nervines.” They quite literally cool, soothe and relax the nervous system, triggering the mind to relax as well. However, ashwagandha is considered a “normalizer,” or a nutritive/regulating herb that supplies the necessary raw materials to slowly resolve chronic conditions and support the rebuilding of tissues. These herbs are slow-acting and often taken for months or years; in fact, he said he has been taking 1 gram of ashwagandha per day for the last 40 years!
He told us this right after he explained that it is Ayurveda’s #1 stamina-enhancing longevity tonic for men (which would translate to increased testosterone, lean muscle mass, mental focus and sex drive in Western terms). However, he also explained that Ayurveda does not have gender-specific herbs, and it’s incredibly effective for women as well – especially in the libido department which I can’t wait to post about next!
WHAT IS ASHWAGANDHA?
Ashwagandha quite literally translates to “smells like a horse,” although K.P. prefers to understand it as “carries the vibration of a horse.” It is the root of a nightshade plant that is native to India (the winter cherry), and is one of Ayurveda’s most famous aphrodisiacs. It’s pretty much equivalent to ginseng in Chinese medicine: a prized tonic that enhances energy, muscular stamina and the ability to tolerate daily stress in general.
One thing that I found very relevant to my readers who are sensitive and empathic is that ashwagandha is a grounding tonic. It is a “vata”-suppressing herb used in nervous conditions (since people with a “vata” dosha are often tightly wound, anxious, airy, and creative with a very active mind! I haven’t made a post on the doshas yet, so here’s a helpful chart to look at while I work on writing a more in-depth explanation).
As you can see, people with “vata” qualities are quite prone to anxiety and dry conditions that may translate to things such as nerve pain or arthritis. Ashwagandha is a vata and kapha-reducing herb that fits right in to K.P.’s indication of using it for chronic anxiety and tension.
In more modern terms, Ashwagandha has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity in the brain, which mirrors a newly emerging medical paradigm that I’m very excited about: treating depression and anxiety by treating the root issue of brain inflammation.
Ayurvedic herbalists also use ashwagandha to re-establish proper sleep rhythms, also known as resetting the “circadian clock.” Rather than making you sleepy when you take the herb, it helps to regulate sleep cycles over time, facilitating more refreshing sleep which slowly but surely strengthens the mind and reduces anxiety.
WHERE TO GET ASHWAGANDHA
THE MOST IMPORTANT INFO ABOUT ASHWAGANDHA: DOSAGE + LENGTH OF USE
Dosage and duration of use are significant factors when working with ashwagandha if you want to see measurable results.
First of all, K.P. mentioned that “valium works in 15 minutes, but ashwagandha works in 15 days.” Ashwagandha prevents and heals anxiety, but does not treat it immediately in the short term. This means you need to be consuming the herb for at least two weeks before it starts to really kick in.
For example, he says that when using it for low libido, “expect two weeks to go by before any effect at all. Expect one month before you feel the desired effect. Then, the libido will continue to increase slowly over the next 6 months.”
Second of all, if you’re using it as a long term adaptogenic herb for thyroid and adrenal health, a lower dose of 1-3 grams is sufficient (this is the type of dosage you’ll find in our Thyro-Pro Formula).
However, when you’re using it for severe chronic anxiety (or even aphrodisiac purposes when the libido is greatly suffering), you need to consume much larger doses – meaning you need to EAT IT or DRINK IT instead of swallowing capsules!
Incredibly, 12 grams per day is the beginning dose of most Ayurvedic herbs from the medical scriptures. Ayurvedic texts recommend anywhere from 5 – 45 grams of Ashwagandha, and K.P. says that he has used up to 60 grams per day in people with acute conditions that need relief fast.
Of course, I would never recommend this large of a dose without proper supervision from a well-trained herbal practitioner. Read: do not try this at home! I simply wanted to highlight the traditional range of dosages since I found that interesting when I learned it in class. K.P. says that one of the reasons Americans never really consume herbs at this high amount is because they won’t “eat a bowl of mush” (AKA you pretty much *have* to put this stuff in your food if you want to get that much down the hatch).
K.P. said that an average dose for anxiety in his practice is around 15 grams daily (which means you would have to take a whopping 30 500mg capsules). As the anxiety improves, you can drop this down to a more reserved dose for maintenance and daily nourishment.
I have personally found that a dose of around 6 grams/day is effective for me in terms of both anxiety and libido. (The first few weeks I took it at this dose, I felt like a whole new woman! Haha). Since I’m not going to get this amount from capsules, I’ve been putting powdered ashwagandha root into my weekly batch of gluten-free muffins. I eat 2 muffins daily (one as a mid-day snack, and one as ‘dessert’) and I get 3 grams from each serving. K.P. was absolutely right that eating it in food would be most effective, and I’m loving the results.
Stay tuned for my next post where I will go deeper into the aphrodisiac benefits and share my muffin recipe.
Hope you have a wonderful weekend 🙂 xo, Olivia