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I Took Ashwagandha Every Day for 3 Months and Now I’m a *Much* Less Anxious Human
Lex Goodman

Have you noticed that ashwagandha—an adaptogen known for its stress and anxiety-soothing properties—has been everywhere lately? It’s on your favorite wellness blogger’s feedIt’s in the pages of The New York TimesIt’s all Cassandra from book club can talk about (besides her love of Meg Wolitzer of course.) 

Even so, as someone who’s dealt with chronic anxiety for 16 years (ugh), I was skeptical at first. What makes this homeopathic remedy any different than all the others (read: crystal healing, tapping, etc.)Well, after planning my wedding, starting a new career and enduring a lot of boozy holiday parties, my 2018 New Year’s resolution was to find out. And guess what? Now I feel a hell of a lot better…or at least as good as someone who rehashes conversations from 2007 can feel. 

Wait, so what is ashwagandha anyway? Ashwagandha (say it with me: ash-wa-gone-duh) is an adaptogenic herb that’s popular in ayurvedic medicine, the Indian practice of healing the body with specific herbs and foods. The word is actually Sanskrit for “the smell of a horse.” Why, you ask? Because some people say its smell is reminiscent of horse sweat. Gross.

And it reduces anxiety? study by Phytomedicine showed that the herb can mitigate anxiety as much as pharmaceuticals like lorazepam or imipramine (the generics of Ativan and Tofranil) when taken twice a day over 60 days. In addition to curbing anxiety, a 2012 study suggests ashwagandha also lowercortisol levels (the chemical released into your body when you’re stressed) and reduces insomnia. Other studies claim the adaptogen balances hormones and decreases joint inflammation. Tons more research is required, but such is Eastern medicine life. Obviously every human body is different, and it’s essential to speak with a healthcare professional about your specific needs. 

OK, so how do you use it? You can get your ashwagandha fix with powder or capsules. I personally don’t think it tastes all that great (remember: horse sweat) so I take two capsules in the morning and two right before bed. If you’re pill averse, add a teaspoon of the powder into a green smoothie, tea or—if you’re really brave—water. Both capsules and powder cost about $10 to $25 for 120 capsules or 4 to 16 ounces, depending on the brand and quantity. 

And it really works? Well, for me at least. Like I said, anxiety has been my unwanted partner in over-thinking for a long time. It clouded my perception of my relationships, diminished my self-worth and made everyday tasks (like working, grocery shopping or watching The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills) daunting. Frankly it was exhausting, and I was desperate for a remedy that would make me feel chill, but not like a zombie (sorry, Xanax).  

I started taking ashwagandha in January of 2017 and within a couple of weeks I was breathing easier and my thought patterns were less shame-spirally (Is that a phrase? Now it is.) Fast-forward to two months in, when I was walking the aisles of Whole Foods with ease, no longer fearful that strangers were judging my cheese consumption. 

But the true test of was my best friends wedding in late March. See, normally I’d experience insomnia before a gathering of this nature and then be quiet for days after, replaying the event over and picking out things I could have done better. But much to my surprise I felt—dare I say?—at peace as my husband and I drove back home. So much so that he even expressed his surprise at how calm and easy-going (two qualities he rarely sees me exhibit) I seemed.

Now, don’t get me wrong. If I skimp on my regular usage I notice my old friend foe returning, but for the most part I’m feeling as calm, cool and collected as Jiff the Pomeranian. And really that’s all I’ve ever wanted.

RELATED: Adaptogens Are Trending (and Here are 9 Recipes You Can Make with Them)

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