Do you feel inexplicably exhausted, with a relentless fatigue not solved by “sleeping it off”? Is an uneasy sense of something being “not quite right” troubling you? That unpleasant feeling in the pit of your stomach, the tiredness, and a sense of being unwell may all just be your adrenal glands crying out for help. And Indian ginseng or Ashwagandha may be the elusive yet effortless solution you so desperately seek.
When Fatigue Is Not Just Fatigue
When your body’s fight or flight control center, the adrenal glands, experience what’s dubbed “adrenal fatigue” or simply “adrenal gland exhaustion,” the signs show up in all sorts of ways. But not all fatigue is adrenal gland linked. The challenge with adrenal fatigue is that it doesn’t have specific “symptoms,” but manifests as a range of fatigue and exhaustion issues.
When your adrenal glands are working normally, any stress trigger will cause cortisol, testosterone, and adrenaline to be excreted by these glands. These hormones are responsible for physiological changes collectively called a “stress response.” They make your heart beat faster, your blood pressure rise, your digestion slow down, and your executive brain functions shut down so you are in primal “flight or fight” mode. When the stressful moment passes, digestion and brain activity return to normal as hormones are restored to their regular levels.
For someone with adrenal gland exhaustion or adrenal fatigue, this isn’t the case. Common problems include trouble sleeping or staying asleep, fatigue when you wake up, low energy levels, anxiety, and weight gain.1
Ashwagandha For Adrenal Fatigue
Ashwagandha or Withania somnifera, a popular ayurvedic herbal remedy, is a powerful antioxidant and anti-stressor. Could ashwagandha – also known as Indian ginseng and used for a range of ailments and disorders – be tapped for treating your adrenal fatigue issue? The answer might well be a resounding yes.
Ashwagandha is already a celebrated treatment for stress, anxiety, and even depression. Its role in regulating stress-hormone cortisol levels in the body has made it a popular “adaptogen.”2 Adaptogens help improve and speed up recovery from stress. So when ingested, it can act to raise cortisol levels when they are low and lower cortisol when it feels levels are too high. Besides acting as a normalizer, it also improves your resistance to a range of biological as well as chemical and physical stressors. Studies on animal subjects show that it can counter the effects of changes in adrenal weight and cortisol levels associated with extreme stress.3
Separate studies on rats also revealed the ability of Withania somnifera to help boost stamina in swimming endurance tests. It also prevented the adrenal glands from producing cortisol and ascorbic acid under this stress. Due to the stress from chronic swimming, the animals had lowered levels of glutathione (GSH) and saw lipid peroxidation. Further, antioxidant defense enzyme levels also dipped. But when the herbal remedy was administered, their GSH levels were restored and lipid peroxidation also declined. Researchers inferred that oxidative stress had a critical part to play in chronic fatigue, making antioxidants like Indian ginseng a good line of treatment.4
Mounting evidence also shows the effectiveness of ashwagandha in treating adrenal fatigue-related issues. In one study of chronically stressed individuals, those who took Withania Somnifera saw their modified Hamilton anxiety scores, cortisol levels, pulse rates, blood pressure, and C-reactive protein levels decrease significantly compared to those who were on a placebo.5
By helping you cope better with stress and normalizing your condition when you stress out, the herbal remedy is in effect doing what your “exhausted” adrenal glands are no longer doing.
Side Effects Of Ashwagandha
While ashwagandha has been widely used in Ayurveda for centuries to treat stress and fatigue problems, it’s a herb that needs to be used with caution. Like any herbal remedy or medication, it needs to be taken at prescribed levels as recommended by a herbal medicine or naturopathy specialist or Ayurvedic practitioner. Up to 4 gm a day is generally safe, and side effects like stomach upsets or abdominal discomfort are typically seen only for larger doses of 10 gm and over.
|↑1||What are the symptoms of adrenal gland disorders?. National Institutes of Health.|
|↑2||Umadevi, M. “Traditional and medicinal uses of Withania somnifera.” The Pharma Innovation 1, no. 9 (2012).|
|↑3||Archana, R., and A. Namasivayam. “Antistressor effect of Withania somnifera.” Journal of Ethnopharmacology 64, no. 1 (1998): 91-93.|
|↑4||Singh, Amanpreet, Pattipati S. Naidu, Saraswati Gupta, and Shrinivas K. Kulkarni. “Effect of natural and synthetic antioxidants in a mouse model of chronic fatigue syndrome.” Journal of Medicinal Food 5, no. 4 (2002): 211-220.|
|↑5||Auddy, Biswajit, Phd Jayaram Hazra, and Phd Achintya Mitra. “A standardized Withania somnifera extract significantly reduces stress-related parameters in chronically stressed humans: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study.” (2008).|