Social media has seen the rise of various trends, but when it comes to health trends, caution is necessary. One such trend is the use of ashwagandha, a herb claimed to provide stress relief, boost confidence, and increase libido. However, the accuracy of these claims and the potential risks associated with ashwagandha need to be examined.
Stress is a prevalent issue that can have a significant impact on overall health. With approximately 44% of workers worldwide experiencing high levels of stress, finding ways to alleviate it has become a priority. Ashwagandha supplements have gained popularity on social media, with influencers promoting its benefits, such as increased testosterone, improved libido, enhanced brain function, and stress relief. But what does scientific evidence say about these claims, and are there any risks involved?
To uncover the truth, Medical News Today interviewed seven medical experts. Ashwagandha, scientifically known as Withania somnifera, is an evergreen shrub native to India, Africa, and Southeast Asia. It has a long history of use in Ayurvedic and indigenous medicine. The root of the plant contains substances called withanolides, believed to be responsible for its effects.
According to Dr. David C. Leopold, ashwagandha belongs to a class of natural medicines called adaptogens, which support mental and physical well-being during times of stress. Laboratory studies suggest that ashwagandha can affect neurotransmitter pathways, the immune system, and stress response systems. However, most of the evidence supporting these effects comes from laboratory studies rather than clinical studies involving humans.
While ashwagandha may have potential stress-relieving effects, it should not be seen as a substitute for addressing deeper issues. It can be beneficial for stress, fatigue, and sleep-related conditions, but it should be used as a complementary approach. Several studies have shown a decrease in stress and anxiety levels, as well as improved sleep quality, in individuals who took ashwagandha supplements. However, consulting a healthcare professional before starting any supplement regimen is crucial.
Claims of ashwagandha’s effects on testosterone, libido, and muscle growth are supported by small studies with limited duration. Larger studies are needed to confirm these claims. It’s also important to consider potential risks and side effects. Ashwagandha may exacerbate autoimmune diseases, stimulate thyroid hormone production, and interact with medications used for hypothyroidism. It should be avoided by individuals with hormone-sensitive prostate cancer and during pregnancy. Reported side effects include gastrointestinal upset, drowsiness, and rare cases of reversible liver toxicity.
While ashwagandha may have its benefits, it is not suitable for everyone. Alternatives to relieve stress and anxiety include a healthy diet, mind-body practices, engaging in creative activities, getting enough sleep, and seeking support from mental health professionals.
In conclusion, the claims surrounding ashwagandha on social media should be approached with caution. While some studies support its potential benefits, more research is needed. Consulting a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement regimen and exploring alternative stress-relief strategies are advisable.