Study: Ashwagandha effectively relieves chronic stress

By Matt Chittock

- Last updated on GMT

© iLexx / Getty Images
© iLexx / Getty Images

Related tags ashwagandha stress

Standardized root and leaf aqueous ashwagandha extract safely and effectively reduces stress in chronically stressed people, according to a new study.

Published in the journal Nutrients​, the research from India aimed to build and support evidence of the anti-stress effects and safety of Sensoril-branded ashwangandha in chronically stressed subjects. Sensoril is a standardized aqueous extract of root and leaf made by Ayurvedic extract supplier Natreon Inc, which funded the research.

Researchers designed the study to confirm the lowest clinically validated dose for stress management. They also sought to evaluate the extract’s effectiveness for boosting sleep and quality of life among chronically stressed people.

Long-term stress disrupts the balance of the body’s hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis. Adaptogens like ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)​ are commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine to ameliorate HPA-axis dysfunction. 

“Our findings demonstrate the stress-reduction capabilities of this well-characterized aqueous extract of WS (root and leaf) at the low dose of 125 mg/day, in a dose-dependent manner, via the modulation of the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis,” the authors noted.

Reducing stress, anxiety and depression

When stress occurs, what the authors call a “complex cascade of physiological responses” is set off, which activates the HPA axis​.

Chronic stress can disrupt the HPA axis’ balance, causing extended elevation of cortisol levels. This dysregulation can lead to adverse health problems, including anxiety, depression, metabolic disorders, immune dysfunction, cardiovascular disease and sleep difficulties​.

Clinical studies already show that WS extract is well-tolerated and may reduce stress, anxiety and depression in stressed subjects​. It achieves this by modulating cortisol​ and testosterone levels​.

However, the researchers noted that existing trials were limited by their small sample sizes and the variety of outcomes used to measure efficacy. Plus, the studies used divergent WS extracts with varied treatment doses​.

“More scientific evidence is needed to corroborate the anti-stress properties of ashwagandha using well-characterized and standardized extracts at defined dosages,” they wrote.

Study details

Researchers chose an eight-week, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study with a parallel-group design. Ninety-nine subjects were included in the final analysis. All participants lived with anxiety, depression and/or sleep disturbances related to chronic stress for more than three months.

The subjects were split into four groups: (1) subjects who consumed 125 mg/day of the WS extract, (2) subjects who consumed 250 mg/day (3) subjects who consumed 500 mg/day and (4) subjects who took a placebo. Every group was given a single capsule at night, approximately half an hour before bedtime.

Attenuation of chronic stress was measured using the 14-item Perceived Stress Scale (PSS) and biochemical-related stress parameters. 

The study concluded that Sensoril consumption at 125mg, 250mg and 500g doses for eight weeks safely and effectively reduced stress parameters in chronically stressed subjects.

These results were consistently observed in both validated questionnaires and stress-related biomarkers in a dose-dependent way, confirming the lowest dose for stress management (125 mg per day). The researchers also observed positive effects on the sleep and vitality of subjects.

“All of this, together with the fact that the study subjects did not suffer from adverse effects and that the WS extract was well-tolerated, supports the role of Sensoril as a safe and effective strategy for mild-to-moderate stress amelioration,” they concluded.

In terms of limitations, the study acknowledged that recruitment and follow-up was disturbed by the Covid-19 pandemic, resulting in a high drop-out rate, a longer time to complete the research and a lower-than-expected sample size.

Source: Nutrients​ 2024​, 16​(9), 1293
doi: 10.3390/nu16091293
“Effects of Withania somnifera​ Extract in Chronically Stressed Adults: A Randomized Controlled Trial.”
Authors: Strikanta Pandit et al.

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