Ashwagandha is a shrub with yellow flowers that blossom into a small red fruit. It is actually in the same family as the tomato! It is native to India, Northern Africa and the Middle East, but is also grown in the United States today.
Ashwagandha is on a very powerful adaptogen herb used in Ayurveda. Adaptogens help our bodies cope with external stresses (i.e. toxins in the environment) and internal stresses (i.e. anxiety and insomnia). They help us to ‘adapt’ by modulating our response to stress or a changing environment.to our environment.
This herb is most well-known for its restorative benefits. In Sanskrit Ashwagandha means “the smell of a horse,” indicating that the herb give you the vigor and strength of a stallion, and has traditionally been prescribed to help people strengthen their immune system after an illness. It doesn’t actually smell like a horse though!
So, how does this relate to sleep? Studies have been showing ashwagnandha can lower blood serum cortisol levels. Cortisol is a hormone released by the adrenal glands that give us that ‘flight or fight’ response. In this modern world, most of us are faced with stress that raises our coritsol. When we have constant stress, our levels of cortisol remain elevated in the body. These leads to the inability to relax and sleep naturally, increased cravings, increased abdominal fat, and even affecting our thyroid.
There has been a few studies done on humans that sound quite promising. According to research published in the July-September 2012 issue of “Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine.”, a study of 64 people with chronic stress were given either placebo pills or 300 mg twice daily of ashwagandha root extract. After 60 days, those taking ashwagandha had significant improvements in cortisol levels. A January 2014 paper published in “Pharmacognosy Research” showed that healthy men who were given 250 mg of leaf and root extract twice daily for 3 weeks had improvements in reaction time and task performance, compared to those taking a placebo.
Ashwagandha even is being studied in cancer prevention/cancer fighting. From the Memorial Sloan Kettering website: “Ashwagandha is a popular Ayurdevic herb. Studies show that it has anti-inflammatory effects. Ashwagandha also relaxes the central nervous system in animals. Laboratory studies found that ashwagandha kills some cancer cells and enhances some immune cells possibly by damaging the cancer cells’ ability to generate the energy it needs to reproduce. Ashwagandha also reduces the level of an important antioxidant in tumor cells, which may enhance the ability of radiation therapy to kill those cells. However, this herb may induce abortion, so pregnant women should not use it.”
So, how do we get our hands on some ashwagandha? I drink mine in my Shakeology .It is also found in the DoTerra Trimshakes. These are nice amounts and both shakes provide many other benefits as well. You may also take ashwagandha as a pill. To fall asleep, I also use DoTerra Serenity Oils as well. These also lower cortisol levels and help you to relax into sleep.
The research is promising and for me, I do need all the help I can to stay asleep. I have no problem falling asleep, but I would wake up and have trouble getting back. The combination of the ashwagandha (in my shakes) , my Serenity oil, and Yogi Bedtime tea has helped me.