Ashwagandha for Anxiety & Stress

Anxiety affects over 40 million adults in the US. Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is an herb that balances the stress response, easing anxiety and supporting better energy levels and sleep quality.  …

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Written by: Siobhan Mendicino
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Medical Review by: Daniel Powers, MS
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Anxiety affects over 40 million adults in the US.

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is an herb that balances the stress response, easing anxiety and supporting better energy levels and sleep quality

In this article, we’ll discuss the top research on health benefits of ashwagandha for anxiety, how ashwagandha works in the body, as well as dosage and safety. 

ashwagandha for anxiety symptoms

Ashwagandha for Anxiety:

Indigenous to the dry areas of Nepal and India, ashwagandha is a therapeutic adaptogenic herb that has been used for centuries. 

Ashwagandha root is known for its high iron content and is often used to balance stress. Traditionally, ashwagandha was considered a Rasayana herb in Ayurvedic medicine, which is a botanical with health benefits that rejuvenates and boostes vitality.  

In a clinical trial involving individuals with schizophrenia, researchers found that ashwagandha eased feelings of depression and anxiety. Participants received 1,000mg of ashwagandha for 12 weeks and reported feeling an improvement in mood and less anxiety.

Another clinical trial discovered that ashwagandha significantly reduced anxiety in stressed adults. Ashwagandha supplementation also lowered morning cortisol (the stress hormone) levels by 23%, suggesting that the herb helped regulate the stress response. 

In another clinical study researchers found that ashwagandha supplementation significantly reduced cortisol levels and increased serotonin (the “feel good” chemical). Participants were able to multitask, concentrate, and make quicker decisions, and researchers noted that the active constituents (withanolides) were mainly responsible for this activity.  

A review of ashwagandha discovered that the herb has beneficial effects for those managing stress and anxiety. Researchers mention more high-quality trials need to occur to establish ashwagandha’s clinical efficacy. 

Summary:

Clinical research suggests that the herb ashwagandha ((Withania somnifera) may work to benefit stress and anxiety.

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is a psychiatric condition linked to the stress response. Research shows that it’s related to fear caused by a future-oriented mindset, which causes the stress response to become overactive.   

Some symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pressure or pain 
  • Increased breathing 
  • Increased heart rate 
  • Dizziness 

Anxiety may also lead to or increase mental issues and health conditions such as: 

  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • GI problems
  • Social isolation
  • Drug or alcohol misuse

Apart from herbs, gentle exercise, meditation, and whole-food diets are known to soothe symptoms of anxiety. 

How Does Ashwagandha Soothe Anxiety?

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) contains a variety of active constituents, including saponins (sitoindosides VII-X), steroidal lactones (withaferin-A), and alkaloids. Researchers believe these work to balance the stress response, which regulates the release of cortisol (the stress hormone) and help in reducing stress and anxiety.  

In addition to ashwagandha’s adaptogenic properties, the alkaloids are known to soothe inflammation in the body, support the immune system, and have antioxidant properties.   

Summary:

Ashwagandha is thought to benefit anxiety through active constituents that may work to balance the stress response, regulate cortisol release, and lower anxiety levels.
ashwgandha (Withania somnifera) for symptoms of anxiety

Ashwagandha Dosage:

Tincture (1:5): 2 – 4 mL (40 – 80 drops), up to 3x per day.

Decoction: Add ½ tsp of dried ashwagandha root to 8 oz. water. Gently simmer for 10 minutes, then steep for ½ hour. Take 4 oz 3x per day. 

You can also use 8 oz. of milk. Heat just below simmer, whisk to combine, then steep for 10 minutes. Take 4 oz 3x per day. 

Fresh or dried ashwagandha root can be used. The dried root starts to lose its potency after two years. 

Root Extract Capsules: 300–600 mg per day.

Whole Powder: 2-6 grams per day, divided into 1-3 doses.

Click here to learn more about the recommended dosage of ashwagandha.

Is Ashwagandha Safe? 

Ashwagandha is generally well-tolerated and has a relatively safe profile. 

Individuals with Solanaceae family sensitivities should avoid using ashwagandha. Those with hemochromatosis (excess iron) should also avoid using ashwagandha due to this plant’s high iron content. 

Ashwagandha may potentiate or increase the effects of thyroid medication and barbiturates.  

Is Ashwagandha Safe During Pregnancy & Lactation?

Safety Class: 2b (not to be used during pregnancy)

Although ashwagandha is used to promote lactation in Ayurvedic practices, it’s best to consult a healthcare professional using ashwagandha supplements due to a lack of data on efficacy and safety. 

Read More:

Below, we’ve put together several additional articles going over more information regarding the herb ashwagandha.

• Ashwagandha Benefits: Dosage & Safety

Ashwagandha Safety & Side Effects

Benefits of Ashwagandha for Men

Benefits of Ashwagandha for Sleep

• Benefits of Ashwagandha for Women

• Best Ashwagandha Supplements

anxiety benefits of ashwagandha

Conclusion:

Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb that has a calming effect on the body, suggesting it may be helpful for those with anxiety. Supplementation may support lower cortisol levels, work to reduce stress, and a higher quality of life.   

It’s important to consult with a healthcare professional before including ashwagandha in your daily regimen.   

Akhgarjand, C., Asoudeh, F., Bagheri, A., Kalantar, Z., Vahabi, Z., Shab-Bidar, S., Rezvani, H., & Djafarian, K. (2022). Does Ashwagandha supplementation have a beneficial effect on the management of anxiety and stress? A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Phytotherapy research : PTR, 36(11), 4115–4124. https://doi.org/10.1002/ptr.7598 

Chand SP, Marwaha R. Anxiety. [Updated 2023 Apr 24]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2024 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470361/

Gannon, J. M., Brar, J., Rai, A., & Chengappa, K. N. R. (2019). Effects of a standardized extract of Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha) on depression and anxiety symptoms in persons with schizophrenia participating in a randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Annals of clinical psychiatry : official journal of the American Academy of Clinical Psychiatrists, 31(2), 123–129.

Liao, J., Sun, A., Xing, H., Lu, J., Wang, C., Xu, C., ... & Wang, Z. (2019). An investigation into the stress relieving and pharmacological actions of an ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) extract: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Medicine, 98(37), e17186. https://doi.org/10.1097/MD.0000000000017186

Majeed, M., Nagabhushanam, K., & Mundkur, L. (2023). A standardized Ashwagandha root extract alleviates stress, anxiety, and improves quality of life in healthy adults by modulating stress hormones: Results from a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Medicine, 102(41), e35521. https://doi.org/10.1097/MD.0000000000035521

Singh, N., Bhalla, M., de Jager, P., & Gilca, M. (2011). An overview on ashwagandha: a Rasayana (rejuvenator) of Ayurveda. African journal of traditional, complementary, and alternative medicines : AJTCAM, 8(5 Suppl), 208–213. https://doi.org/10.4314/ajtcam.v8i5S.9

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About Siobhan Mendicino

Siobhan is a herbal researcher and writer. She has a bachelor of science in communications as well as having completed a post-baccalaureate certificate in herbal studies.