NMU 145 – Ashwagandha and Stress Study
Nutrition / Natural Medicine Update No 145 (September 25, 2019)
with Dr. James Meschino
Topic: Adaptogen Herb Show to Reduce Impact of Stress and Improve Quality of Life Scores
Source: Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine (2012)
I want to bring to your attention to an important study published in the Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine back in 2012. The study examined the effect of a popular anti-stress or adaptogen supplement, known as Ashwagandha on the impact of stress and quality of life in 64 human subjects, who had a history of chronic stress. Ashwagandha is a popular herbal medicine that has been shown to decrease the impact of stress on the body and brain and reduce the secretion of cortisol during periods of stress, but very few well-designed human studies have been carried out using this herbal supplement.
In this study 64 human subjects underwent a physical and laboratory exam at the beginning of the study and completed questionnaires evaluating their level of stress, depression, anxiety, and general well-being, using three different, extensively used sets of stress scales, as well as having their serum cortisol levels measured. Serum cortisol is a marker for stress, as the adrenal glands pump out higher levels of cortisol as our experience of stress increases or intensify. For a 60-day period, half the subjects ingested a supplement of 300 mg of Ashwagandha, twice per day, while the placebo group ingested a placebo pill, twice daily. It was a randomized, double-blind study, placebo-controlled study, so the participants did not know if they were ingesting the Ashwagandha pill or the placebo pill and neither did the health practitioners who followed their progress over the 60-day period. The subjects were interviewed by phone on day 15, day 30 and day 45 to ensure compliance with the program and track any adverse reactions to the supplements they were taking. On Day 60 the subjects retook all the tests. Astonishingly, compared to their initial baseline measurements, the Ashwagandha group showed a 70% reduction in feelings of stress, a 64% reduction in feelings of depression, a 76% reduction in feelings of anxiety and 44% improvement in general well-being and quality of life. The placebo group saw only 12%,10%,4% and 6% improvement in these same outcome measures, respectively. As the researchers concluded, overall, there was only a 6% reduction in the baseline Perceived Stress Scale scores in the placebo group, compared to a 44.0% reduction in the Perceived Stress Scale scores in the Ashwagandha group. In addition, the Ashwagandha group experienced a 28% drop in serum cortisol levels, compared to only an 8% drop in the placebo group.
As well, no serious adverse side effects were reported. As the researchers point out, “stress is a condition arising from external physical or mental overload. It can make a person feel embattled, nervous, anxious or otherwise less capable of full and normal response to environmental demands. Prolonged exposure to stress can unbalance the mental and physiological state of a person, thereby leading to other illnesses like depression, high blood pressure, cardiac diseases, and metabolic disorders. Such conditions, rooted in mental or emotional factors, are rapidly increasing in prevalence and emerging as major global diseases. It is not surprising, therefore, that an increasing fraction of the population is seeking medical help to overcome stress nowadays. ”To put things in perspective, I think we would all agree that the management of stress requires a multi-faceted approach that is personalized to the individual’s circumstances. But this study suggests that the addition of Ashwagandha supplementation may be a consideration as part of the treatment plan to help individuals better cope with the stress of life, during periods when it becomes excessive and is negatively impacting the feeling of well-being, including feelings of depression and anxiety.
I have included the research reference in the text below.
Chandrasekhar K, Kapoor J, Anishetty S. A prospective, randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study of safety and efficacy of a high-concentration full-spectrum extract of Ashwagandha root in reducing stress and anxiety in adults. Indian J Psychol Med. 2012. 34(3): 255-262 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3573577/
Eat Smart, Live Well, Look Great