Ashwagandha & Depression: A Viable Natural Remedy?
By: Robert Porter
Updated March 08, 2021
Depression is more than feeling sad, it can affect a person’s work, relationships, family, and daily life. Trying to get through 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 whenever possible.
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 does it work 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, also 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. Similarly, please 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 plant’s odor 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 over 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 specifically. 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 determine any risks given your medical history and compare ashwagandha’s usefulness compared to anti-anxiety and other medications. Always consult with your doctor or primary care physician before considering any medication options.
Other Natural Cures For Depression
While the medical community conducts additional research into how ashwagandha impacts depression, the good news is that there are effective treatment options readily available that don’t require medication. Here are a few examples taken from the BetterHelp article entitled What Are The Natural Cures For Depression? Consider trying these approaches to boost your mood.
- First off, relaxation is a way to manage depression. Relaxation helps you unwind, and that will improve your mood altogether. Relaxation would help you to sleep well.
- Exercise regularly. Talking walks, yoga, or other forms of movements or workouts raise the dopamine level in the brain, which subsequently lifts one’s mood. Avoid strenuous exercises like running that could wear you out quickly.
- Do something you love to do. You can avoid being alone or lose interest in previously pleasurable activities. Instead, you can work at it to make it feel like fun again. Go to the beach, read a book, go for dinner, do some baking, etc. With time, you will love your favorite activities again.
- Accept responsibilities. Depression may want you to go into isolation and move away from responsibilities at work and at home. However, doing your office works or house chores may provide you little time to brood over worrying thoughts.
- Draw up a routine. For some reason, depression could take away your well-structured daily plans. Setting a daily routine of the things you will like to do each day and sticking to it can help manage depression.
- Talk to someone. Seeking help is never a sign of weakness, and this is usually underestimated. Talking to someone can go a long way in recovering from depressive moments. At BetterHelp, professionals are well seasoned to help with such trying moments.
- Have a support group. Meeting people and sharing your experience may help in your way to recovery. Having a trusted person to share your difficult time with is a good way to healing quickly.
Seek Traditional Treatment If You're Feeling Depressed
As mentioned above, seeking the support of a medical professional can be a wonderful way to ease the stresses of depression and develop a plan on action toward long-term wellness. If you're going through a bout of depression, consider reaching out to your doctor to discuss your health. Your doctor understands how to treat depression and can make a proper diagnosis. Your doctor might suggest using certain antidepressant medications, or, may suggest you enlist the help of a skilled therapist. Getting the right treatment makes a living with depression easier, and you'll be able to cope much better.
When you have the right support system in place, depression is going to seem far more manageable.
Online Therapy Is Great for Helping To Alleviate Depression Symptoms
Therapy is a great tool to alleviate depression symptoms and is an excellent place to start. A study in the Journal Nature finds 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 you’re 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 so much 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 text messaging therapy, or via e-mail therapy. 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 a 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.”
If you're going through a bout of depression, consider working with 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.
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