Beat holiday weight gain with this ancient herb

Yesterday I told you about how to recover from one type of holiday indulgence — alcohol. But that’s not the only thing we tend to go overboard with during December. Food (especially sugar- and carb-laden junk) is everywhere you turn this time of year, and sometimes it’s hard to say no.

Add to that the stress of all the gift giving, tense family situations, and a jam-packed social calendar, and it’s a recipe for unhealthy habits. Which, for many people, translates into weight gain.

And stress doesn’t just drive us to comfort foods that pack on the pounds. Stress itself causes physiological changes in the body that make us gain weight. Not to mention all the other health concerns it contributes to — heart disease, decreased immunity, insomnia, and depression, just to name a few.

To stay healthy, happy, and fit this holiday season, stress management is essential. But it also seems impossible this time of year, doesn’t it?

Well a recent study points us to an easy way to manage stress — and stress-related weight gain — even when you’re up to your neck in wrapping paper and family obligations.

The Ayurvedic herb Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) has a long history of use as an adaptogen. It also has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety. Based on previous research showing Ashwagandha’s ability to reduce stress and anxiety, combined with the fact that stress is linked to weight gain, researchers wanted to see whether supplementing with Ashwagandha could help people manage stress-related weight gain.

In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study (the gold standard in medical research) 52 adults were given either Ashwagandha root extract (300 mg) or placebo twice daily. At the start of the study, and again at 4 and 8 weeks, the researchers checked the participants’ cortisol levels (the stress hormone), body weight, and BMI, as well as measures of stress, happiness, and food cravings.

They found that Ashwagandha not only reduces cortisol levels and other physiological and psychological indicators of stress, but it also reduces food cravings and improves eating behaviors.

Now get this — the Ashwagandha group also experienced a statistically significant reduction in BMI and weight.

Of course, I still recommend you stay away from the sugary treats and stick to my motto of moderation … But with Ashwagandha in your holiday-survival toolbelt, that goal becomes much easier. I recommend 150 mg three times a day.