There's a reason that the botanical ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) has been prized as an herbal remedy for thousands of years, most prominently in Ayurvedic traditions. Extracts of the evergreen shrub fall under the adaptogenic category of herbs, meaning they promote resilience and help the body bounce back from stressors of all sorts.*
"Ashwagandha has a long history of traditional use as a natural aid to improve mood, energy, and general well-being,"* clinical researcher Adrian L. Lopresti, Ph.D., recently told mbg.
Modern research continues to reinforce these calming effects. In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study in 2019, adults who took 240 milligrams of Shoden® ashwagandha root and leaf extract daily reported lower overall stress levels than those who took a placebo after 60 days.* They also had lower levels of cortisol—one of the activating hormones the body releases during times of turmoil.*
In addition to helping keep cortisol in check, ashwagandha also seems to have a soothing effect on the mind. Its primary bioactive phytonutrient compounds, withanolides, have been shown in research to activate receptors of GABA—the brain's primary inhibitory neurotransmitter.* When a stressor sends the brain into overdrive, it's GABA's job to bring things back to a steady baseline.
Through these core pathways and targeted biological mechanisms, ashwagandha can help us stay calm, relaxed, and at ease during times when we might otherwise feel frazzled.* Experts note, however, that its effects aren't immediate, and it takes a while for these benefits to build.