Life has a way of stressing us out and zapping our energy, leaving us feeling burnt out. During these times, our bodies produce unnatural levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. This stress increase from everyday life gets in the way of a lot of things, our ability to focus on important tasks, regulate our mood, and worst of all sleep. We all understand the performance of sleep. When you wake up not rested, you can't be your best self. The good news is, Mother Nature gave us a natural way to support our bodies and mind when life is stressing us out and keeping us up at night, its name is Ashwagandha.
Ashwagandha helps to counteract the negative effects of cortisol as it promotes "the balance needed for the correct function of immune, cardiovascular, and nervous systems, as well as the protecting the brain, muscles, and joints." (1) We're diving into how this stress-fighting adaptogen can support your wellness.
How does our body react to stress?
The Cleveland Clinic defines stress as, "the body's reaction to any change that requires an adjustment or response." The reaction our bodies have when we experience stress can be emotional, mental, or physical. Our bodies are designed to handle stress, and our innate "fight or flight response" triggers when we are stressed. What happen is our body's "autonomic nervous system" sends a rush of adrenaline through our body to deal with the situation at hand. When the stress subsides, our bodies go into healing mode, and we recover quickly.
What happens in long term stress situations?
Chronic stress is called "distress, or a negative stress reaction." When our bodies are in chronic distress our internal equilibrium is upset, potential resulting in anxiety, depression, and burn-out. Obviously this is not good for our wellness or our ability to reach our full potential. Not to be an alarmist, but knowing how to deal with stress is critical. According to the Cleveland Clinic, "Stress is linked to six of the leading causes of death."
Since modern life is stressful, learning how to deal with day to day stress can drastically help your overall wellness. With some mindfulness hacks and practices, like these, you can more easily deal with stress.
- Practice positive thoughts. It's easy to get in a negative thought spiral when the stress starts building up, but recognizing those thoughts and actively retraining your brain to focus on positivity is a great coping mechanism.
- Practice mindfulness. Yoga, meditation, and tai-chi are all popular way to ways to let go of stress.
- Exercise as often. It's not only good for stress relief, but it promotes overall good health.
- Eat a healthy diet to nourish your body and your soul. Sharing a fresh and delicious meal with a loved one is also a great way to relax.
- Adding the right supplements, like Ashwagandha, to your routine helps to build up the body's resistance to stress.
How does Ashwagandha help with stress?
According to WebMD, "Ashwagandha is used as an adaptogen to help the body cope with daily stress." Adaptogens are, "herbs, plants, and other substances that help the body resist stressors of all kinds; physical, biological and chemical." Many scholarly articles published on the US National Library of Medicine and on the National Institutes of Health website, speak to the benefits of using Ashwagandha. One article by Panossian and Wikman states, "A number of clinical trials demonstrate that adaptogens [like Ashwagandha] exert an anti-fatigue effect that increased mental work capacity against a background of stress and fatigue, particularly intolerance to mental exhaustion and enhanced attention."
What exactly is Ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha is a herb in the nightshade genus family of plants. It is generally cultivated in drier regions in India but can be found growing in China, Nepal, and Yemen. Ashwagandha is a pretty shrub with velvety branches and dark green elliptic leaves. The bell shape flowers reveal orange-red berries when ripe. The berries and the roots of the Ashwagandha plant are ground into a powder and then used to make natural supplements.
How does Ashwagandha work?
In purely scientific terms, the active biological components of Ashwagandha are: "alkaloids and steroidal lactones." But how do these components help to relieve stress and the symptoms caused by stress?
- Alkaloids. Alkaloids are found in flowering plants such as poppy, buttercup, amaryllis, and nightshade. When ingested, the body processes alkaloids in a way that creates medicinal benefits. Some examples of common alkaloids used in prescription medicine are Codeine, that is made from a poppy species, and it offers excellent analgesic properties; Quinidine, that is made from the cinchona species, and it is used to treat irregular heartbeat rhythms; and Ephedrine that is from the ephedra species and is used to relieve discomfort from asthma, common colds, and hay fever.
- Steroidal lactones are a grouping of over 300 naturally occurring steroids, and they occur as a secondary metabolite primarily in the nightshade family of plants. This property of Ashwagandha acts as an anti-inflammatory by suppressing proteins in the body that cause inflammation. (2)
Adding a natural supplement like Ashwagandha to your nighttime routine can be beneficial to your sleep health. It will help calm your mind and let you slip into a deep relaxation, so you can fall asleep faster and get a more restful night of sleep. We're always looking for the best of Mother Nature, so we didn't stop with just Ashwagandha. FOCL Rest blends 5 other soothing botanicals to guarantee you a great night's rest.
Always be sure to consult your doctor before trying any new supplements.
- Mahdi, A.A., Shukla, K.K., Ahmad, M.K., et al. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine Volume 2011, Article ID576962, 9 pages. Doi: 10.1093/ecam/nep138.
- Braun, Lesley; Cohen, Marc (2015-03-30) Herbs and Natural Supplements, Volume 2: An Evidence-Based Guide. Elsevier Health Sciences ISBN 9780729581738