Stress & Anxiety in 2020

Overview

If you have been feeling overstressed during this Coronavirus pandemic, you are not alone! According to The American Institute of Stress, 33% of people report extreme feelings of stress, and 77% of people experience stress that impacts their physical health. With talk of COVID-19 and stress-related diseases on the rise, it is no surprise that most people are showing interest in herbal supplements that are said to reduce stress and improve overall health.

While using herbs for medicinal purposes is gaining traction in America and Britain, this idea been prominent in the rest of the world for centuries. It is estimated that 80% of the world's population still uses herbal medicine for their primary healthcare needs. India and China are the greatest users of these natural remedies, but herbal medicine is widely used globally.

History

For thousands of years, ashwagandha has been used in traditional Indian medicine. Ashwa means horse, and gandha means odor and the name ashwagandha is derived from the translation, "smell of horse." This is because the herb smells a little like a horse, and it is supposed to give you the virility and strength of a wild horse.

Ashwagandha is classified as Rasayana in traditional Indian medicine, and it is believed to lengthen a person's lifespan. This herb is said to reduce stress, support metabolic and immune function, and restore hormonal balance. However, it is classified as an adaptogen that carries a wide range of benefits in modern medicine. 

Adaptogens are natural substances considered to help the body adapt both physical and chemical effects of stress. Adaptogens do not cause your body one thing or the other but are said to bring your body back to balance. For instance, if you have low cortisol, an adaptogen will help restore balance. For this reason, ashwagandha's most celebrated benefits is an apparent reduction in stress and feelings of anxiety all the while boosting your overall mood. 

As researchers began to understand the importance of hormones, studies started to surface that the herb possesses a direct ability to reduce cortisol (the stress hormone). 

Ashwagandha is also classified as bhalaya in Ayurvedic medicine. This signifies a belief that it increases strength.

What Is Stress And How Do We Become Stressed Out?

Stress is a feeling of not being able to cope with events and demands such as financial pressure, relationships, work, ETC. Stress is our body's natural defence against danger and predators. Sometimes it is essential for survival. However, when you experience too many stressors at one time, your body's physical and mental health can be undermined.

When you become stressed, your body produces hormones that prepare you to face danger safely. As a result, your body releases large quantities of chemicals, epinephrine, cortisol, and norepinephrine. These chemicals then trigger physical reactions such as alertness, increased blood pressure, and sweating. 

During this pandemic, some of the stressors you are likely to experience are lack of routine, reduced social support, and increased uncertainty. This is because there is a need for rapid adaptation, there are significant life changes, and you may have new responsibilities in order to adapt. 

How Ashwagandha Works

Ashwagandha has a diverse chemical makeup. It has thousands of unique chemical compounds that do everything for example supporting storage and energy generation to providing resistance to environmental stressors. 2 classes of these compounds called metabolites are active in humans. Polyphenols carry antioxidant properties, while terpenes help the herb to survive in its environment. 

Often, the two compounds carry structures that are similar to the hormones in our bodies. Researchers suggest that adaptogens such as ashwagandha contain bioactive chemicals; therefore, they activate various pathways to reduce stress. Adaptogens are also sensitive to markers of inflammation and oxidative stress and will trigger a stress response if necessary.

Precautions When Using Ashwagandha Capsule Supplement

Ashwagandha is a nontoxic herb that is generally safe when taken in moderate amounts. It has been used for centuries without any major incidents. Nonetheless, everyone responds differently to herbs, and in some cases, it can lead to undesirable side effects such as gastrointestinal problems or nausea when taken in excess. 

Since ashwagandha belongs to the solonaceae family of plants, those who are sensitive to nightshades should avoid it. You should also use caution if you suffer from hyperthyroid condition because it can increase your thyroid hormone levels. It is recommended to consult with your health practitioner if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Ashwagandha can cause sedation, so you should consult with a doctor before supplementing it along with your sedatives. 

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can Ashwagandha Help With Depression?

Yes. Stress is the leading cause of depression. Stress increases the release of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), which increases cortisol levels in the body. Ashwagandha is an adaptogen that improves a person's ability to cope with stress. It also reduces the levels of serum cortisol and minimizes stress-related problems such as depression.

2. Can Those With Autoimmune Illnesses Use Ashwagandha?

Ashwagandha capsules can boost the immune system, but it may cause problems for those with autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and sclerosis. The capsules can stimulate your immune system, thus intensifying the symptoms of autoimmune disorders. 

3. Can Those With Diabetes And Heart Disease Take Ashwagandha?

Ashwagandha can lower blood glucose levels; therefore, it is recommended to regularly monitor your sugar levels if you are taking Ashwagandha capsules along with anti-diabetic drugs. These capsules can also lower blood pressure. Hence, you should consult with your doctor if you want to supplement it along with your anti-hypertensive drugs. 

4. Who Should Not Take Ashwagandha?

The following groups of people should not take ashwagandha:

  • Women who are breastfeeding or pregnant.
  • People with low or high blood pressure.
  • Those suffering from diabetes.
  • People with stomach ulcers.
  • Individuals who are scheduled to undergo a surgery.
  • Those with thyroid disorders.
  • Those with autoimmune conditions.

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