Ashwagandha for Anxiety

A few weeks ago a friend of mine mentioned that she was taking an herbal supplement called ashwagandha. I remembered having heard this strange word before, but couldn’t remember what it was exactly. It seemed to be vaguely associated in my mind with things like acai or chia seeds, different health fad type things. I was intrigued though so I asked her what it was supposed to be for. I was surprised when she told me that it was suppose to help you manage stress and cortisol levels. Was there really something out there for anxiety that I hadn’t found and tried already? She had piqued my interest.

Although I was hopeful, it seemed too good to be true. Before going out and getting any ashwagandha for myself, I decided to do some research. I was surprised to find I didn’t have to dig very hard to find actual scientific evidence from double blind studies that showed ashwagandha was better at lowering stress levels than a placebo. Here’s an excerpt from one such study:

The treatment group that was given the high-concentration full-spectrum Ashwagandha root extract exhibited a significant reduction (P<0.0001) in scores on all the stress-assessment scales on Day 60, relative to the placebo group. The serum cortisol levels were substantially reduced (P=0.0006) in the Ashwagandha group, relative to the placebo group. The adverse effects were mild in nature and were comparable in both the groups. No serious adverse events were reported…

The findings of this study suggest that a high-concentration full-spectrum Ashwagandha root extract safely and effectively improves an individual’s resistance towards stress and thereby improves self-assessed quality of life.

K. Chandrasekhar, Jyoti Kapoor, and Sridhar Anishetty

Having read lots of research during my time at university, it is quite stunning to find any conclusions as strongly worded as this. I couldn’t believe my eyes. How had I not heard of this amazing substance before? Apparently it is an ancient medicinal herb that has been used for centuries in Eastern medicine. It seems like I’m going to have to invest in some literature on alternative eastern medicine given the amount of amazing stress relievers I’ve found involved in it recently like ashwagandha and acupressure.

Needless to say, I went out the next day and bought two bottle of ashwagandha supplements and began taking it with my other daily vitamins. It has only been around two weeks now since I’ve been taking it. The study I cited above allowed the participants to take the extract for two months before measuring stress levels. I’m unsure if this is significant or not. Some things take time before creating any noticeable effects. However, even after the first day, I felt a difference in my anxiety levels. At this stage it may just be due to the fact that I truly believe it is working. That does not, however, take away from the fact that it does have proven benefits.

I also want to briefly address the false information about this supplement circulating on social media sites. My sister came to me a few days ago saying I had to stop taking ashwagandha. She said that it has negative interactions with SSRIs which I also take for anxiety. She went on to tell a ludicrous tale about it frying your serotonin receptors, leading to a complete mental breakdown. I was alarmed, but highly skeptical. After a quick google search, I assured her that her fears were completely unfounded. There is no scientific evidence of ashwagandha having any negative interactions with SSRIs. So if you have happened to find this false information online, just know that antidepressents and other SSRIs won’t prevent you from also enjoying the benefits of this amazing plant.

I am overjoyed to have discovered this amazing new tool in my anti-anxiety arsenal. I am also happy to be able to share this information with as many people as I am able. If you are someone who suffers from stress or anxiety, I highly recommend giving this natural herbal remedy a try.

Ashwagandha: Everything You Need to Know Before You Try It | Eat This Not  That

Acupressure & Yoga

I’ve been reading a book recently called Acu-Yoga: The Acupressure Stress Management Book. In the past I didn’t really think much about acupressure/acupuncture. I didn’t know very much about it, so I never really had an opinion of it. I had believed it was somewhat controversial regarding whether or not it was considered “real” medicine or pseudoscience. However, never having tried it or read anything about it myself, I withheld judgement. Only recently did I become interested in the subject. I stumbled upon the topic in a very unusual way, but have practically become obsessed with learning more since then.

I had been watching a YouTube documentary about the history of drugs in the black community. (Unfortunately I am unable to find it now to provide the link.) To my surprise, through this documentary, I learned that acupressure and acupuncture were actually originally brought to the US by the Black Panther Party. In their effort to dismantle institutionalized racism in this country, the Black Panthers utilized these forms of Chinese medicine to help members of the black community detox from drugs like crack and heroin. The most surprising thing of all is that it actually worked.

Given my psychology background, I learned a lot about drugs and withdrawal. So I know how serious detoxing off of hard drugs can be. It’s one of the reasons that make it so hard for people to stop using. The idea that something as simple and holistic as acupressure could get people through their detox absolutely astounds and fascinates me. That was all I needed to hear to believe that there must really be something to this acupressure stuff. Since then I have been researching the practice and reading everything I can find on the subject.

Coincidentally around the same time, my yoga studio got a new book, the one I mentioned earlier. I was so excited to borrow it and learn how to incorporate acupressure into my yoga practice. I have come to find out that acupressure and yoga go hand in hand. They compliment one another. There are many acupressure points I have been hitting without realizing it, simply by doing different yoga poses. However, the second half of the book really goes into more detail about how you can target specific conditions or address certain physical/mental/emotional needs by including acupressure more intentionally into your daily practice.

After a week or so of practicing what I’ve learned, I finally decided to share it with my yoga students in class today. Only one person showed up this morning, sadly, but she did seem to really enjoy the flow I planned. I had to stifle my laughter as she got pretty vocal towards the end. Moaning and sighing from sheer bliss. Hearing these types of sounds from students is probably the best compliment you can receive as a yoga teacher. I was honored to pass on my newly acquired knowledge.

I had never really connected the dots until now, but I have actually been a lot less anxious since adding this new aspect into my practice. It could be a coincidence, but acupressure is supposed to be extremely helpful for anxiety. One of the best things about it is that you can use it anywhere. Even though it’s possible to do yoga anywhere, like in your car or at your desk during work, it can be somewhat distracting or embarrassing if you know other people can see you. A lot of acupressure points can be pressed without drawing any attention at all. For example, one of the points that is good for anxiety is the fleshy space between your thumb and pointer finger. Pinching this area with the opposite hand is something that you can do without anyone else even noticing.

Whatever your opinion of acupressure, I would highly recommend giving it a try for yourself, even if it’s only pressing a few hand points as you wait in line at the grocery store. It has definitely been a valuable addition to my daily yoga practice and to my life in general. If any of you have any experience with acupressure or acupuncture, I would love to hear from you! How long have you been using it? Has it helped you? How so? Where did you first learn about it? I’m eager to learn all I can so that I may pass it on to others.

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