The anxiety aid that Meghan Markle and Jennifer Aniston swear by

Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

From Red Online

There was a time where if you announced how many supplements and capsules you were taking, you were looked upon as if you had issues.

Nowadays, with a generation obsessed with wellness, buying vitamins from Holland and Barrett on your lunch break has become normal.

A trendy vitamin to take recently is ashwagandha. Said to be used by the likes of Meghan Markle, Emily Weiss, Jennifer Aniston and a growing list of celebrity names, this herb native to South Asian and North African countries, is credited with helping to reduce stress and anxiety.

But are the benefits behind ashwagandha more myth than magic?

Women's Health talks to specialists behind the rising use of this herb and works out what ashwagandha can really do for your mental health.

What is it ashwagandha?

Ashwagandha is a plant and the root and berry is used in Ayurvedic medicine for a variety of reasons. This ranges from tackling anxiety, bipolar disorder, balance, asthma, sleep issues as well as increasing the chances of fertility and one's libido.

Pukka Herbs’ medical herbalist, Katie Pande even said that 'ashwagandha can be taken safely with contraceptive pills, which can, for some women, can be a factor associated with low libido levels'.

Photo credit: Seksak Kerdkanno / EyeEm - Getty Images
Photo credit: Seksak Kerdkanno / EyeEm - Getty Images

Why has ashwagandha become more popular?

Stress has become a normal part of modern life, with many feeling anxious about political, social, environmental and technological changes.

74% of adults in the UK have admitted to feeling so overwhelmed in the past year, to the point where they feel like they can't cope, so many are looking for alternatives to manage stress.

Meditation, self-care and caring for your well-being has become more conscious in wider society that many people are now looking how they can change these feelings of stress and anxiety from the inside out.

How does Ashwagandha work?

Sasha Sabapthay, founder of Glow Bar, a wellness company, explains that 'the most famous form ashwagandha comes in is the powdered root, which is considered an adaptogenic herb.'

An adaptogen is a substance that can help your body to adapt to stress. When you're feeling anxious for example, the cortisol in your blood rises to combat your natural fight or flight mode that naturally kicks in.

If feeling anxious after a long period of time, anxiety and stress can cause you to become physically ill as those whose who suffer from mental health issues tend to also lose sleep and have digestion problems (the energy usually used for your gut is instead sent to manage the higher levels of cortisol in your blood).

Why can Ashwagandha help with anxiety?

Pukka Herb's medical herbalist Katie Pande, explains that 'the primary property in adaptogens like ashwagandha is that it helps to regulate cortisol levels in the body, and in turn helping to manage stress and adrenal fatigue issues'.

It can also help your cortisol levels if they are also too low says founder of Glow Bar, Sasha Sabapthay. 'Having imbalanced cortisol levels can cause a multitude of problems such as anxiety, depression and sleep issues'.

In a survey conducted by Pukka Herbs, over 300 public volunteers spoke about the efficacy behind ashwagandha. 'Emotional health improved by 42%, willingness to engage in social activities but ashwagandha also has the added benefit of strengthening and supporting our frazzled adrenals'.

How to take ashwagandha?

The dosage for ashwagandha varies however you can ingest the adaptogen.

Jennifer Aniston has been said to put the power form across her food and add a teaspoon into her tea for its calming effects.

Meghan Markle has been said to have used it when prepping for her wedding and taking it in capsule form.

You can also buy it in liquid extracts from health food or supplement shops.

Are there any side effects?

Though you can take ashwagandha while on contraception, pregnant women are not advised to take this adaptogen as it may induce early labour.

One study by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health Trusted Source also argued that Ayurvedic methods may contact lead, mercury or arsenic if not regulated and tested.

As it's also derived from ancient Ayurvedic methods, ashwagandha has been researched but not regulated so if you have any concerns or are worried about the effects of this supplement, please advise with your GP first.

Ashwagandha and reducing anxiety: the verdict

Though Ayurvedic methods may seem 'new-age' and though they are jumping on the wellness bandwagon, ashwagandha has a good reputation in calming nerves and helping those who are anxious and stressed.

To tackle bouts of anxiety instead of long-term mental health issues, ashwaghanda is recommended. For anything else, speaking to a professional and working with your GP would be the best option.

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