Wellness

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Ask Gerda: I’m Stressed—
Can Ashwagandha Really Help?

Gerda Endemann

Gerda Endemann, our senior director of science and research, has a BS in nutrition from UC Berkeley, a PhD in nutritional biochemistry from MIT, and a passion for cherry-picking from our wellness shop. She spends a lot of her time interpreting research—established and emerging. And our wellness routines thank her for this. (Yours will, too. Send us your own questions for Gerda: [email protected].)

Dear goop, I don’t have life-and-death problems to deal with, so if I could just not get so stressed about the little things—you know, be a little more zen about my job and sitting in traffic—I think it would be good for my health and mood and outlook. People keep talking about ashwagandha for stress—should I try it?
—Rachel K.

Hi Rachel, The short answer is yes, if you’re feeling stressed by life, it’s worth trying ashwagandha. This herb has stood the test of time: It comes to us from Ayurveda, a practice of traditional medicine originating in India thousands of years ago. And its value is now also being demonstrated in clinical research. When I described the multiple benefits of

Hi Rachel, The short answer is yes, if you’re feeling stressed by life, it’s worth trying ashwagandha. This herb has stood the test of time: It comes to us from Ayurveda, a practice of traditional medicine originating in India thousands of years ago. And its value is now also being demonstrated in clinical research. When I described the multiple benefits of ashwagandha to my fiancé recently, he said that it sounded too good to be true. Ashwagandha has been used for so many purposes in Ayurvedic medicine and as a general tonic—a rasayana—to promote health and revitalize the body. It does all this by helping us deal with stress in a healthy way, which is why we call it an adaptogen.

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  2. ashwagandha to my fiancé recently, he said that it sounded too good to be true. Ashwagandha has been used for so many purposes in Ayurvedic medicine and as a general tonic—a rasayana—to promote health and revitalize the body. It does all this by helping us deal with stress in a healthy way, which is why we call it an adaptogen.

    Any kind of stress, whether it’s physical or mental, can result in feelings of anxiety and nervousness. Stress affects our ability to deal with life; it affects our immune system, our sex life, our brain. It makes sense that we’d feel better if we could better handle stress. And research has confirmed what traditional healers have known: that ashwagandha has benefits for stress, anxiety, sexual function, memory, and cognition. As a scientist, I’m not surprised by this, because plants are where we find the most interesting, complex molecules (exotic plants are a favorite source of new drugs for pharmaceutical companies), and a number of interesting biologically active molecules have been identified in ashwagandha.

Working with a traditional healer would be the best way to tap into the deep wisdom of Ayurveda. Commercially available preparations of ashwagandha vary in strength and quality, and the formulations used in clinical research also vary widely. If you decide to go with a commercial herbal supplement, look for the botanical name, Withania somnifera, on the back panel. Somnifera means sleep-inducing in Latin, so you may want to take this calming herb in the evening. I really like Sun Potion’s simple, organic, cold-water extract of ashwagandha root, which has no carriers or sweeteners. This product is generously sized, with eighty-eight servings—or twice as many if you’re like me and want to go with a half dose. The suggested serving is a half teaspoon, but I need only a quarter teaspoon. It tastes like a slightly molasses-y powerful plant extract, and I drink it straight in a little water, but you can put it in a smoothie or whatever else you like. You may feel its calming effects quickly—hence the recommendation to take it before bed—but give it a few weeks to achieve equilibrium.

This article is for informational purposes only, even if and to the extent that it features the advice of physicians and medical practitioners. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. The views expressed in this article are the views of the expert and do not necessarily represent the views of goop.

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