Ashwagandha – how ancient Indian herb helps with management of modern anxiety and stress


The Sanskrit word “Ashwagandha” stands for “ashva” and “gandha” which means “odor of the horse”. This probably refers to the specific smell of Ashwagandha root which is not very pleasant. However the comparison with a horse also points to another quality of ashwagandha – stamina.

Being the queen of Ayurvedic herbs Ashwagandha has a long story of usage that can be tracked back 6000 BC. In Ayurveda (traditional medicine in India) Ashwagandha was being used as Rasayana – which means a tool for lengthening lifespans and invigorating the body. Nowadays studies have shown Ashwagandha to be effective in increasing stamina, decreasing anxiety and stress levels. Let’s take a look closer.

How does Ashwagandha work?

Ashwagandha is considered to be an adaptogenic herb. What does “adaptogenic” mean? It’s something that helps your body to cope with stress by adjusting to the environment.

For example, if you stand up really fast and get dizzy – your body should be able to shift your blood pressure quickly so you don’t pass out. If there is a problem in the ability to adapt to that stress then adaptogen can help you.

One of the most important things that Ashwaganha does is reducing cortisol amount. Stress usually causes the pop up of steroid hormone cortisol which turns on the mode – fight or flight. It’s very helpful in short terms in life danger situations but modern people tend to experience stress more often. Thus if you have high cortisol all the time it leads to:

– Blood sugar increasing (cause of belly fat, diabetes and etc)
– Sensitivity to insulin decreasing
– Putting on hold immune system
Ashwagandha can help with preventing these problems.

Besides resilience to stress Ashwagandha improves the memory, the function of the reproductive system and the body’s defense against disease by improving the cell-mediated immunity.

Ashwagandha for athletes

In addition to supporting the nervous and immune systems, ashwagandha is becoming more popular amongst athletes for its supportive effects on the muscular system. How does Ashwagandha help?

– It gives more stamina
– Works as muscle tonic
– Reduces cortisol (cortisol inhibits protein synthesis, which means your body will find it harder to build muscle)

How to use Ashwagandha?

A classical way to use ashwagandha is to mix powdered root with warm, whole dairy or nondairy milk. Milk fat will help to deliver the herb into your nervous system more completely. Ayurveda also suggests infusing ashwagandha into ghee.

The easiest way of using Ashwagandha is to take it as a capsule/tincture or add powder to your smoothie/bakery.