Outsmart stress for good with a single herb

It would be nice if you could just call a time out and take off on vacation whenever you felt overwhelmed by stress. But we all know the real world doesn’t work that way.

The fact is, everyone lives with stress—some of us more than others. That’s why it’s so critical to find practical ways to buffer its negative effects on your body.

And make no mistake. Stress does erode your health.

I delved into this problem in detail in last month’s issue. This month, I’d like to take a moment to zero in on one of the more effective solutions.

Train your body to “adapt”

Withania somnifera (also called ashwagandha) is a popular Ayurvedic herb, a potent antioxidant, and—bar none—one of your best bets for all-natural stress protection.

That’s because ashwagandha is an “adaptogen.” This classification refers to its ability to help your body adapt to difficult circumstances. This could be actual physical stress, like critical illness or surgery. Or it could be mental stress, like a high-pressure job or an ugly divorce.

I won’t go into the many ways that either form of stress can weigh down your health. I doubt I have to. If you’ve ever been at the mercy of your high-stress life, you already know the problems it can cause.

And what makes ashwagandha so incredible is that it addresses practically all of them.

For one thing, research shows this herb offers powerful anxiety-relief without prescription drugs.

In fact, one recent randomized, double-blind,  placebo-controlled trial showed that taking 600 mg of ashwagandha for just 60 days could cut depression and anxiety scores by as much as 72 percent. And it could slash cortisol levels by nearly 28 percent.1

This is important, because as I mentioned last month, chronically elevated cortisol levels can disrupt a long list of your body’s vital processes. Not least of all, its immune activity.

So it’s hardly surprising that research supports ashwagandha as a natural immune modulator and anti-inflammatory.2

I’m constantly warning about the insidious role that inflammation plays in disease development.

It’s a smoking gun behind arthritis, heart disease, diabetes…the list goes on.

And yes, ashwagandha may help to ward off all of these conditions to some degree.

The evidence for Ayurveda’s most versatile disease-fighter

Research on Withania somnifera extract—both alone and in combination  with other Ayurvedic herbs—indicate that it can strengthen cartilage in cases of osteoarthritis.3  And the few clinical trials available on the subject show that this translates to reductions in pain and increases in mobility.4-5

Rat studies also show that ashwagandha protects against heart damage after ischemia and heart attack—most likely due to its powerful antioxidant properties.6-7

Research has revealed similar protective properties against high blood sugar and cholesterol in diabetic rats.8-9

As it turns out, ashwagandha also exhibits strong neuroprotective qualities. And preliminary studies on this particular benefit—specifically in mice with Alzheimer’s disease—have garnered a lot of attention  in recent years.10

Of course, it only makes sense that scientists have started to investigate ashwagandha’s potential cancer- fighting powers, too.

So far, the jury’s still out. But the early evidence is promising.

Research indicates that ashwagandha might be useful for preserving bone marrow and boosting immune protection during chemotherapy treatments.11

Studies also show compounds from this herb may inhibit tumor growth in human lung, colon, and breast cancer cell lines.12

Obviously, these results aren’t conclusive, given the heavy reliance on laboratory and animal data.

But when you think about the ways stress and inflammation contribute to just about every modern disease epidemic, supplementing with an adaptogen like ashwagandha becomes more than just a smart move. It’s a potentially life-saving one.

So for all you stressed out readers, here’s my recommendation: Take 150 mg of ashwagandha, three times per day.

A natural shot of relaxation is the least of what you stand to gain.


1.”A prospective, randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study of safety and efficacy of a high-concentration full-spectrum extract of Ashwagandha root in reducing stress and anxiety in adults.” Indian J Psychol Med. 2012 Jul;34(3):255-62.

2.  “Scientific basis for the therapeutic use of Withania somnifera (ashwagandha): a review.” Altern Med Rev. 2000 Aug;5(4):334-46.

3. “Chondroprotective potential of root extracts of Withania somnifera in osteoarthritis.” J Biosci. 2007 Mar;32(2):299-307.

4. “Treatment of osteoarthritis with a herbomineral formulation: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over study.” J Ethnopharmacol. 1991 May-Jun;33(1-2):91-5.

5. “A 32-week randomized, placebo-controlled clinical evaluation of RA-11, an Ayurvedic drug, on osteoarthritis of the knees.” J Clin Rheumatol. 2004 Oct;10(5):236-45.

6. “Mechanisms of cardioprotective effect of Withania somnifera in experimentally induced myocardial infarction.” Basic Clin Pharmacol Toxicol. 2004 Apr;94(4):184-90.

7. “Withania somnifera provides cardioprotection and attenuates ischemia-reperfusion induced apoptosis.” Clin Nutr. 2008 Aug;27(4):635-42. doi: 10.1016/j.clnu.2008.05.006. Epub 2008 Jul 11.

8. “Antioxidant effect of dietary supplement Withania somnifera L. reduce blood glucose levels in alloxan-induced diabetic rats.” Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 2010 Jun;65(2):91-8. doi: 10.1007/s11130-009-0146-8.

9. “Hypoglycaemic and hypolipidaemic effects of Withania somnifera root and leaf extracts on alloxan-induced diabetic rats.” Int J Mol Sci. 2009 May 20;10(5):2367-82. doi: 10.3390/ijms10052367.

10. “Withania somnifera reverses Alzheimer’s disease pathology by enhancing low-density lipoprotein receptor-related protein in liver.” Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 Feb 28;109(9):3510-5. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1112209109. Epub 2012 Jan 30.

11. “Reversal of paclitaxel induced neutropenia by Withania somnifera in mice.” Indian J Physiol Pharmacol. 2001 Apr;45(2):253-7.

12. “Growth inhibition of human tumor cell lines by withanolides from Withania somnifera leaves.” Life Sci. 2003 Nov 21;74(1):125-32.