Have you found yourself feeling stressed at times? This stress might be creeping into the very things that used to bring you joy. Maybe you find that it’s clouding your creativity or even making it trickier to collaborate and enjoy time with others?
Rest assured, we’ve been there, too. It’s increasingly common for those of us who play, work, or create in digital worlds to acknowledge experiencing stress and anxiety. But that doesn’t make these feelings any less sucky. (Hey, writing this article has even brought about some stress and anxiety for us—we don’t want to let you down).
So, how do you get back to doing what you love without so much stress? You tap into tools and habits that nourish your mental well-being so that you can reconnect with the best parts of yourself. And that’s why we formulated Patch with ashwagandha, one of the oldest holistic remedies for managing stress and anxiety.
Ashwagandha has been used for thousands of years and, in recent times, science has finally started to catch up in explaining why this herbal remedy works so well. Let’s dive in!
Ashwagandha, scientifically known as Withania Somnifera, is a shrub native to Asia and Africa. For thousands of years, ashwagandha was a significant component of East Indian Ayurvedic medicine (one of the oldest medicinal systems in the world) based on the principles of natural healing through the use of plants and herbs.
What gave ashwagandha its central position in Ayurvedic medicine was it’s status as an adaptogen. While the concept of adaptogens is relatively new (the term was coined in the late 1940s), their use dates back to early human civilizations around the world. In essence, adaptogens are herbal substances that have been used for millennia to alleviate stress and anxiety by helping the body adjust or adapt to stress. Other common adaptogens that you might be familiar with include licorice, ginseng, and basil.
In Ayurvedic practices, the entire ashwagandha plant from the root to the fruit were used as remedies. The leaves provided relief for external injuries or conditions, an extract from the berry for eye ailments, and the powdered root consumed for general wellness. Today, modern ashwagandha supplements typically use a powdered form of the root.
How does Ashwagandha work?
Let’s quickly dive into the basics. Ashwagandha contains two biologically significant components: glycosides and withanolides. Both glycosides and withanolides are molecules that play vital roles in living organisms, particularly in antioxidant and antiinflammatory activities.
The glycosides found in ashwagandha, Sitoindosides VII and VIII, have been shown in preliminary animal studies to produce anti-stress activity in the brain and to also stimulate immune responses.. Withaferin A, the withanolide present in ashwagandha, has been shown to have properties that can fight inflammation and tumor growth, although further research is needed to flush out the full pharmacological benefits for humans.
Mental Wellness Benefits of Ashwagandha
With its powerful combination of glycosides and withaferin A, ashwagandha offers a remarkable range of health benefits. The benefits that stood out to us in formulating Patch, and that we’ll highlight here, include its ability to reduce cortisol levels, alleviate stress, anxiety, and depression symptoms, and even improve memory.
#1: Reduces Cortisol Levels
Cortisol is the hormone released by the adrenal glands in response to stress, and along with adrenaline, is the primary “stress hormone”. With increased stress, cortisol and adrenaline levels rise, which is associated with an increased heart rate, higher blood sugar levels, and a breakdown of fats as your body attempts to increase its energy output to take “flight or fight.” In the short term, this rise in energy output is beneficial. In the long term, if stress continues and becomes chronic along with high levels of cortisol, the body can become more prone to health issues, from high blood pressure to depression and anxiety.
It’s in the reduction of cortisol that ashwagandha can prove especially helpful. Consider that, in a 2008 study of chronically stressed adults, supplementing with ashwagandha over a 60 day period resulted in significantly greater reductions in cortisol levels (as well as other markers of heightened stress) by as much as 30% compared to the group that received a placebo.
More recently in 2019, a 60-day, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial evaluated the effects of ashwagandha extract on stress, anxiety, and hormone production in 60 healthy adults. The results showed that ashwagandha was associated with measurable reductions in anxiety, depression, and morning cortisol levels compared with the placebo.
The findings of these studies suggest that ashwagandha positively influences the hypothalamic-pituatary-adrenal axis. The “HPA axis,” as it's commonly referred to, describes the interaction between the hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenal glands. It’s mission control for how our bodies react to and process stress. In the context of this study then, the results suggest that ashwagandha helps mitigate the stress response that would otherwise speed up and down the HPA super highway.
#2: Reduces Anxiety
But what about anxiety? Well, there’s an increasing body of evidence suggesting that ashwagandha is indeed quite effective in alleviating anxiety.
Most notably, in two separate studies of 60 healthy adults—Medicine (Baltimore) 2019 and Cureus 2019—ashwagandha was found to significantly reduce stress and anxiety when compared to a placebo based on the Perceived Stress Scale and Hamilton-Anxiety Scale.
Likewise, in multiple studies involving animal subjects, Ashwagandha’s capabilities in stress reduction have been comparable to that of prescription drugs. One such study compared the effects of ashwagandha to lorazepam in reducing stress and anxiety. After being exposed to stressful situations, the subjects were tested for tribulin (a marker of clinical anxiety) and both the lorazepam group and the ashwagandha group showed similar reductions in anxiety.
#3: Reduces Symptoms of Depression
As with all topics involving mental health, depression is particularly complex. And there’s so much more work yet to be done here, both from a health and societal standpoint. But what’s encouraging is that initial evidence indicates that ashwagandha can be helpful in reducing the symptoms of severe depression. More specifically, in a 60-day study of 64 “stressed adults,” those who took a concentrated dose of ashwagandha reported a 79% reduction of severe depression compared to just a 10% decrease in the control group.
Likewise, a study of the efficacy of ashwagandha in reducing depression symptoms in animals showed that ashwagandha was similarly effective in treating depression as a popular tricyclic antidepressant known as imipramine. Of course, we recognize that this is an animal study, but given how many of us have at one time or another experienced depression, we nonetheless find these results encouraging in regards to ashwagandha’s therapeutic potential.
#4: Improves Neuroregulation and Memory
Last but not least, there’s been a fair amount of recent research into the benefits that ashwagandha may lend to brain function. In one controlled 8-week study of 50 healthy adults, those taking ashwagandha daily showed significant improvements in general memory, executive function, sustained attention, and information-processing speed.
In a study that placed mice in conditions which negatively impair spatial memory and cause neurodegeneration, exposure to ashwagandha prior to and during the stressful conditions inhibited oxidative stress. In other words, the findings here suggested that Ashwagandha prevented memory impairment and neurodegeneration by working as an antioxidant.
A dosage of 125 mg has consistently yielded significant and positive results in the aforementioned studies. And in some studies, higher doses of 300 mg have been necessary to experience optimal benefits. Patch has been thoughtfully formulated with 150mg per serving to provide a therapeutic dose with one serving—and a more substantial dose with two.
What is Ashwagandha’s ultimate role in supporting mental health?
With all the listed benefits and studies you might be wondering why more people aren’t talking about ashwagandha, especially as folks give their mental health the prioritization it deserves.
The truth is, as much research as there is on ashwagandha’s benefits, there aren’t many large-scale human studies to confirm or peer review the benefits. More human-focused studies are needed to fully validate and map out ashwagandha’s therapeutic benefits. That said, we found the available research combined with millennia of continual use to be compelling enough to include this powerful adaptogen as a key ingredient in Patch. Ashwagandha has withstood the test of time with thousands of years of medicinal use to back it up and we believe that it’s role in modern medicine is only just beginning to materialize.
Was this helpful? Share with someone who might find this interesting.