Can Ashwagandha supplementation significantly decrease anxiety and stress, and if yes, does supplementing more of it lead to better outcomes or is there a point of diminishing returns?
What did they test? The authors looked at the current available literature to explore the effect of Ashwagandha on stress and anxiety.
What did they find? Ashwagandha was found to be effective at significantly reducing both stress and anxiety with doses of 600mg per day being near-optimal for both outcomes.
What does it mean for you? If you live a stressful lifestyle, it may be worth supplementing with Ashwagandha. Although not a solution to stress, it may help significantly reduce stress and anxiety without any major side effects.
What’s the Problem?
At this stage, we’ve made it clear that supplements will probably not be a game changer as far as increases in muscle mass and strength go. A 2019 study 1 even showed that many popular supplements that promise muscle and strength gains are probably close to useless, with some even leading to adverse effects. Sure, there are supplements like Creatine that are probably worth taking if maximizing adaptations is of interest. Still, overall there is nothing legal that you can currently buy which will skyrocket your muscle and performance gains. However, aside from supplements that directly impact muscle growth and performance, plenty of supplements on the market aim to support physical and mental health. For example, fitness-oriented individuals often take supplements like fish oil, vitamin D3, valerian and melatonin to improve overall health, reduce anxiety and aid in sleep. Now, we’re not going to do a deep dive on the above and whether they’re worth your money, I just wanted to highlight that being a fit individual also requires one to be healthy and manage stress appropriately. Additionally, even if supplements like the above don’t have a direct effect on muscle mass, improving one’s physical or mental health is still something that can improve quality of life –
Ashwagandha is a supplement that has been (re)gaining popularity in the last few years. Ashwagandha is a type of herb that thrives in regions of Asia and Africa, and is commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine, an Indian system of medicine. In Ayurvedic medicine, Ashwagandha is known for its ability to improve stress and anxiety and it has also been purported that it can also help with reducing inflammation as well as improve blood pressure 2. Certain studies have even indicated that Ashwagandha may have a comparable effect to anti-anxiety medications but without the adverse side effects 3. Some of these studies have shown that Ashwagandha may help lower cortisol, ie: the stress hormone, and decrease stress levels, while others have not observed significant changes when compared to a placebo group 4. Ashwagandha has also received attention from the lifting community, not just for its anxiolytic effects but also for its potential positive effects on testosterone as there is evidence showing that Ashwagandha may help increase testosterone, although such increases may not necessarily translate into greater muscle mass or performance gains 5.
Now, for some, reductions in stress and anxiety may not be as exciting as increases in muscle mass or aerobic fitness, but given the importance of recovery for progressing in the gym and being healthy, a supplement that can help stress management without adverse effects may be a worthy addition to one’s supplement stack. Given the somewhat conflicting evidence on Ashwagandha, it’s worth looking at the literature as a whole and seeing whether Ashwagandha actually has a positive effect of stress management and anxiety or whether the “hype” it has received is somewhat unjustified.
This systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials investigated exactly that, ie: “Does Ashwagandha supplementation have a beneficial effect on the management of anxiety and stress?”.
Purpose & Hypothesis
As the title of the study implies, its aim was to gather the current literature on Ashwagandha and explore its effect on stress and anxiety in adults. The authors also specifically explored the dose-response relationship between Ashwagandha and stress and anxiety to understand whether specific doses are associated with more favorable outcomes.