Ashwagandha is an Ayurvedic herbal remedy often recommended for anxiety and poor sleep. It is derived from the Withania somnifera plant common in various parts of India.

People with abnormal levels of cortisol may benefit from the use of ashwagandha as it helps to lower high cortisol and increase low cortisol. For this effect, it is known as a cortisol adaptogen.

Before you consider most therapies for adrenal fatigue, you should do testing to determine your cortisol levels.

We recommend that you run a series of four cortisol saliva tests for the most accurate understanding of your cortisol levels because they vary widely throughout the day in a circadian pattern in which cortisol is typically lowest at bedtime and highest at waking.

Unlike most adrenal fatigue therapies, ashwagandha appears to be safe for people with high, low, or mixed high and low cortisol levels.

Suspected Basis for Function

Ashwagandha has been found to have many antioxidant compounds. These may help reduce damage to cells, organs, and biochemicals in the body.

There are reports that it boosts the quantities of SOD (Super Oxide Dismutase), catalase, and glutathione perioxidase antioxidant compounds in the body.

Some believe that ashwagandha constituents include compounds that behave as GABA, an anxiolytic neurotransmitter. GABA receptors in the brain are a frequent target for anxiolytic medications and therefore ashwagandha components that behave similarly to GABA could explain the effects at reducing anxiety.

Ashwagandha is reputed to inhibit acetylcholinesterase, an enzyme that breaks down the neurotransmitter acetylcholine which is essential to human memory.

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Conditions For Which Use May Be Beneficial

Anaphylaxis (severe allergic reactions)
Eating Disorders: Anorexia Nervosa and Bulemia Nervosa
Sleep disorders

Abnormal cortisol levels (high or low) and related conditions:
Chronic fatigue syndrome
Memory problems
Muscle weakness and tension
Neurodegenerative disorders
PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)
Skin problems brought on by stress

Conditions For Which Use May Be Detrimental

Pregnancy — has been reported to result in abortions

Related Supplements

Licorice Root

Further Reading

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center: Ashwagandha


Acute Adrenal Crisis

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