Ashwagandha is an Ayurvedic herbal medicine derived from the roots of a small shrub, Withania somnifera. Ashwagandha is classed as a rasayana (rejuvenation) adaptogen and revered as a ‘royal herb’ for its ability to improve physical and emotional health.
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Ashwagandha and high blood pressure
Ashwagandha contains unique alkaloids and steroidal lactones such as withaferin A, withanolide D, ashwagandhine, withanone, withanosides and somniferine. These have several beneficial effects on the heart and circulation, including acting as antioxidants to improve mitochondrial function and arterial reactivity. Ashwagandha’s main action in lowering a high blood pressure is due to its ability to reduce anxiety and stress, and to promote deep, restorative sleep.
The results from five clinical trials show that Ashwagandha is effective in improving anxiety, and can reduce Perceived Stress Scale scores by 44% compared with 5.5% with placebo. Ashwagandha is also more effective than psychotherapy, reducing anxiety scores by 56.5% compared with 30.5% with psychotherapy.
In adults experiencing long-term (chronic) stress, Ashwagandha lowered levels of cortisol hormone over 60 days, with a higher dose (250 mg Ashwagandha twice a day) reducing circulating cortisol levels by 30.5% compared with a 14.5% reduction at a lower dose (125 mg Ashwagandha per day) and a 4.4% increase in those on placebo. At the same time, blood pressure improved by 1.6/5.6 mmHg in those on the low dose, and by 3.3/6.4 mmHg in those on the higher dose, while blood pressure readings in those on placebo increased.
Another beneficial effect of Ashwagandha is in reducing weight gain that can accompany chronic stress due to comfort eating. When 52 with stress and anxiety took Ashwagandha at a dose of 300mg twice a day, or placebo, for 8 weeks, those taking the herbal medicine showed significantly improved scores on the Perceived Stress Scale, Food Cravings Questionnaire and Three-Factor Eating Questionnaire, and lost significantly more body weight than those taking placebo (2.32 kg versus 0.37kg).
Ashwagandha and other health benefits
Ashwagandha also has protective effects on the central nervous system, and boosts immunity against infection. Click here to read more about the health benefits of Ashwagandha.
A typical dose is 300mg to 600mg Ashwagandha, once or twice a day. Select a supplement standardized to contain 5% withanolides.
Ashwagandha side effects
Ashwagandha has been used for thousands of years with no serious side effects at usual doses. High doses may cause indigestion and excess may increase levels of thyroid hormones.
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