Ashwagandha & Depression: A Viable Natural Remedy?

Updated January 24, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

If you find yourself struggling with mental health challenges or mental illness, it is natural to begin to search for remedies and resources that can help you navigate this experience. It may also be beneficial to look for scientific research to back these remedies, though. This can help you decide which avenues are worth exploring, and which are baseless trends. 

There Are Many Treatment Options For Depression

Depression is more than simply feeling sad. It can affect a person’s work, relationships, family, and daily life. Trying to live with depression on your own without medicine or therapy can be difficult. Even so, many people worry about the potential side effects of prescription drugs and are hesitant to take antidepressant medications. Instead, they may seek out holistic options.

One natural remedy known as ashwagandha has been gaining a lot of traction lately. Ashwagandha has been touted as a possible treatment for depression, but many people wonder if it works well enough to replace antidepressant medications. While ashwagandha may not be as effective as antidepressants, it does show some promise in several key areas. This article will shed a little light on what ashwagandha is and how it can play a role in your treatment plan.

What Is Ashwagandha And What Can It Do?

Before going any further, it’s helpful to understand more about the ashwagandha plant itself. Ashwagandha,  sometimes called Indian ginseng, poison gooseberry, or winter cherry, is a perennial nightshade shrub with small bell-shaped flowers and orange-red fruit.

For centuries, people have used the ashwagandha plant’s stem and berries to make medicines to treat a variety of ailments, including anxiety, arthritis, asthma, hiccups, and much more. The medical herb is commonly used in Ayurveda, the alternative medicine system that originated in India.

In the United States, ashwagandha extract is sold in health stores around the country, most notably because of the plant’s anti-anxiety benefits. Ashwagandha is an adaptogen, which means it supports the body’s natural ability to combat stress. Ashwagandha root extract, more specifically, is used to help reduce cortisol levels. Cortisol is a stress hormone, and having too much cortisol can lead to anxiety. Because it reliably reduces cortisol levels, ashwagandha is a useful natural option that may help those experiencing mild anxiety.

If you’re experiencing insomnia issues, then they might be related to elevated stress levels. Ashwagandha has also been used as a sleep aid. In fact, the plant’s species name—somnifera—means “sleep-inducing” in Latin. Talk with your doctor to determine if taking ashwagandha might help to reduce stress and make it easier for you to fall asleep.

Dietary supplements containing ashwagandha are also widely sold in the U.S., but evidence about their effectiveness in that arena is lacking. It may be best to consult with your doctor or primary care physician before considering ashwagandha.

This Plant Also Has A Strong Odor

Both ashwagandha and ashwagandha extract are quite potent and could be very off-putting to people who are sensitive to smells. To give you some idea of the herb’s odor, many have often compared the smell to that of a horse. In fact, the name ashwagandha comes from two words in Sanskrit that mean “horse” and “smell,” respectively. In the past, some thought that the plant could give you the same strength and virility as a horse. If you can’t get past the smell, then this might not be the ideal remedy for you.

Whether Ashwagandha Helps With Depression Is Unclear

Although some research like this double-blind study suggests ashwagandha can help resolve minor anxiety issues, more evidence is needed to determine whether it is also an effective option to treat depression. Claims that ashwagandha can treat depression are merely anecdotal at this point.

Consider speaking to your doctor about whether the medicinal herb is right for you. They will be able to review your medical history to determine any risks and compare ashwagandha’s usefulness against other anti-anxiety medications. 

Other Natural Cures

While the medical community conducts additional research into how ashwagandha impacts depression, there are effective treatment options readily available that don’t require medication. Consider trying these approaches to boost your mood:

  • Relaxation is one way to manage depression.Relaxation helps you unwind, and that can improve your mood. Relaxation may also help you to sleep well.

  • Exercise regularly. Taking walks, practicing yoga, or engaging in other forms of movements or workouts raise the dopamine level in the brain, which subsequently lifts one’s mood. If you’re just beginning, you may want to avoid strenuous exercises like running that could wear you out quickly.

  • Do something you love to do. Depression can make you lose interest in previously pleasurable activities. To combat this symptom, you may want to go to the beach, read a book, go for dinner, do some baking, etc. With time, you may begin to enjoy your favorite activities again.

  • Accept responsibilities. Depression may have you go into isolation and avoid responsibilities at work and at home. However, doing your office work or house chores may keep you preoccupied, providing you little time to brood over worrying thoughts.

  • Follow a routine. Depression symptoms may cause you to deviate from your well-structured daily plans. Setting a daily routine of the things you would like to accomplish each day and sticking to it can help you manage depression.

  • Talk to someone. Reaching out for help is sometimes seen as a weakness, but it takes strength to seek support. Talking to someone can go a long way in alleviating symptoms of depression. 

Seek Treatment If You’re Feeling Depressed

Seeking the support of a medical professional can be an effective way to ease the symptoms of depression and develop a plan of action toward long-term wellness. If you’re experiencing a bout of depression, consider reaching out to your doctor or mental health provider to discuss your health. These professionals understand how to treat depression and can make a proper diagnosis. Your doctor might suggest using certain antidepressant medications, or they may recommend you enlist the help of a skilled therapist. Getting the right treatment may make living with depression more manageable. 

Online Therapy To Alleviate Depression Symptoms

Therapy is another tool to alleviate depression symptoms. A  recent study found that cognitive therapy is as effective as antidepressant medication when it comes to treating depression and can result in longer-lasting results, too. The research suggests that patients who are first treated through therapy can learn repeatable strategies and skills with the potential to alter beliefs about themselves, tools they can employ long after medication-based treatment ends.

If symptoms of depression have you feeling apprehensive about reaching out to a therapist or are concerned about taking time away from work to travel to a therapy appointment, online therapy is a convenient option. BetterHelp’s counselors are fully licensed, which means you can trust they are in good standing within the medical community and respected leaders in their fields, helping people with depression symptoms, anxiety issues, and more. They have experience exploring treatment options focused on psychotherapy (talk therapy) to help change behaviors and overcome difficulties, often without the need for a prescription. And because BetterHelp’s therapists are just a click away, they’re available when you need them most and in the manner you’d prefer to talk, whether it be through video chat, by phone, through in-app messaging, or via e-mail. 

These forms of remote therapy are backed by scholarly research in the field of psychology. A recent study found online therapy to be effective in alleviating symptoms of depression, especially when conducted by a qualified therapist. This study revealed similar results for people experiencing anxiety. 

Read below for some reviews of BetterHelp therapists, from people experiencing similar issues:

“I love the experience I am having with Kimmil and I’m only a month in. She listens and provides ways to cope with my anxiety without jumping to ‘here’s the medication you need to take,” which is the one thing that keeps me here to find solutions outside of medications.”

“Laurie is helping me to take control of structures and routines in my life to help me overcome anxiety, ptsd, and manage my major depression. I have never been so pleased with a counselor as I am with her. Her first step with me was to ask about my sleep- which I have been waiting for a doctor to ask me about for years (instead of ‘here try this pill,’ her strategy is ‘let’s begin at square 1’). Laurie is logical, rational, smart, warm and understanding. I love working with her and feel her support in my corner because she always chats me back in a timely manner. I am truly so grateful for her guidance and care.”

There Are Many Treatment Options For Depression

Takeaway

If you’re experiencing a bout of depression, consider reaching out to an online therapist today. Together, you can develop a treatment plan that makes sense for your situation and helps manage your depression in a way that feels right for you.

You Don’t Have To Face Depression Alone. Our Experienced Counselors Can Help.

The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
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