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If you’ve been poking around the sleep wellness world for a bit, odds are you’ve heard the word ashwagandha tossed around in conversation. Indeed it seems to be everywhere these days, but don’t let its “trendy” status fool you. This ancient medicinal herb hailing from India is far more than a fleeting fad, and it packs in a hefty nutritional punch. Below, we break down what exactly it is, how it works to reduce levels of stress and anxiety, and, in turn, how it can work wonders on your sleep health and overall well-being.
Derived from the leaves and roots of the Withania somnifera plant, ashwagandha (also goes by the name Indian ginseng) is an adaptogen, which is essentially a fancy word to describe a group of herbs that have been used in Ayurveda (traditional Indian medicine) for thousands of years to support the body’s ability to naturally resist the effects of everyday stress and promote normal physiological functioning of the central nervous system.
As one of the most well-known adaptogens, ashwagandha contains bioactives that have been shown to promote longevity, enhance vitality, support a healthy immune response, enhance focus, and reduce everyday fatigue and stress levels.
Sensoril® Ashwagandha in particular makes use of the extracts from both the leaves AND the roots extracted using a specialized, water-based process. It’s standardized to three bioactives:
- Withanolide glycosides
About: A group of naturally occurring compounds found in a variety of plants
Benefits: Supports a healthy immune response + helps reduce everyday stress (1)
About: Chains of carbohydrates with simple sugar units linked together. Small amounts of oligosaccharides are naturally occurring in foods such as chicory root, Jerusalem artichokes, onions, leeks, garlic, legumes, and asparagus.
Benefits: Oligosaccharides are effective prebiotics, which serve to “feed” the probiotics and support the growth of healthy bacteria in the colon. As such, they improve immune system function, insulin sensitivity, and glucose metabolism. (2)
- Withaferin A
About: A natural product (known as a steroidal lactone) isolated from the Withania somnifera medicinal plant
Benefits: Supports heart health, brain health, + a healthy immune response (3)
Sensoril® Ashwagandha has been studied in 14 clinical studies. It has been shown to:
- Decrease cortisol (a key stress hormone)
A 2008 double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study (4) investigated the effects of standardized Withania somnifera root and leaf extract (aka WSE) on adults with a history of chronic stress. Stress levels were assessed on day 0, 30, and 60, and part of that assessment was serum cortisol concentration. For individuals with normal circadian rhythms, cortisol is generally high in the morning, only to decrease throughout the afternoon and reach its lowest point around 11pm. When you throw chronic stress into the mix, cortisol concentration peaks in the afternoon instead. Results led researchers to believe that WSE may offset this afternoon cortisol peak in stressed individuals, which contributes to the study’s conclusion that “the consumption of WSE significantly reduces experiential and biochemical indicators of stress without adverse effects.”
- Reduce malondialdehyde (MDA), a key marker of oxidative stress
Oxidative stress results from an imbalance between the formation and neutralization of free radicals. They develop due to exposure to things like X-rays, ozone, cigarette smoke, air pollutants, and industrial chemicals and are neutralized with the help of anti-inflammatory antioxidants. (5) Sensoril® Ashwagandha has been shown to decrease oxidative stress by reducing free radicals and MDA, increasing antioxidants such as glutathione (GSH), and reducing inflammatory cytokines and C-reactive protein (a key marker of inflammation). (6)
- Relieve occasional sleeplessness
Because sleep is directly related to stress (and specifically cortisol levels, which can disrupt the body’s natural balance), it makes sense why one clinical study (7) found that Sensoril® reduced occasional sleeplessness two times more than the placebo group.
Very few adverse effects have been observed with the adaptogenic herb ashwagandha. If they have, they're mild and include sleepiness and gastrointestinal discomfort.
Note that ashwagandha root extract may increase thyroid function and interfere with people undergoing testing for hyperthyroidism. It's best to seek medical advice from your healthcare provider if you're taking medication for hypertension since one of the effects of ashwagandha is a decrease in blood pressure levels.
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