Benefits of Ashwagandha in Our Smoothies
Our current lifestyle is riddling with stressors, both internal and external. We work hard, and many of us cannot wind down and refuel, so we spend most of our time running on fumes. Supplements can help us refuel to keep going but we must remember to take the time we need to support our body, mind, and spirit. Schedule time for self-care because it is vital to long-term well-being. You can’t pour from an empty jug. Stress contributes to many serious conditions such as anxiety, depression, panic attack disorder, impaired memory and cognition, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, autoimmune diseases, metabolic disease, and endocrine disorders, such as diabetes.1 There are a lot of options that we can use to increase our resilience, energy decreased stress, and live a more balanced life.
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is an Ayurvedic herb that has been used for centuries as a revitalizing tonic. It is known in naturopathic medicine as an adaptogenic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, neuroprotectant, memory-enhancing, blood-building, and calming herb. Ashwagandha increases vitality and general well-being.1 Ashwagandha can be used to decrease stress and the effects of stress because it decreases cortisol – which is the main stress hormone. As elevated cortisol decreases, the sensation of stress and our ability to cope with the stressor improves. Oxidative stress, inflammation, and cellular damage always accompany chronic stress. Ashwagandha can help combat these negative effects of stress because it is antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.1,2 Ashwagandha can also help combat fatigue through increased physical and mental endurance due to its ability to decrease cortisol and stimulate the nervous system.1,2 This herb also increases muscle mass and strength when used in conjunction with strength-building exercises such as weight lifting and resistance training.3
Mood and Anxiety
In several studies, ashwagandha is supported to have similar anxiolytic activity as lorazepam. It has an immense capacity to calm the mind and nerves of those who experience anxiety. Similarly, ashwagandha demonstrates similar effects to the anti-depressant drug imipramine.1,2 So not only does this powerful herb have the ability to stimulate the nervous system, but it also can calm the nervous system. This supports its historic use as a revitalizing tonic because it brings balance to the body, mind, and spirit. Bear in mind that this herb is not a magic cure-all. Speaking with your healthcare practitioner is recommended before starting new supplements to ensure you are being optimally and holistically supported.
A double-blind randomized placebo-controlled trial revealed that ashwagandha was effective at normalizing thyroid function in individuals with sub-clinical hypothyroidism. Dosing with ashwagandha for eight weeks significantly reduced elevated thyroid-stimulating hormone and improved diminished triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). Furthermore, the conversion from T3 to the more active thyroid hormone T4 was improved significantly.2,4 This supports the existence of an inverse relationship between the hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid (HPT) axis and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. The HPA axis in chronic stress increases cortisol which in turn inhibits the HPT axis thereby reducing T3 and T4. Treatment with ashwagandha lowers blood cortisol levels by downregulating the HPA axis which then up-regulates the HPT axis and normalizes thyroid function.4 Speaking with your healthcare practitioner is recommended before starting new supplements to ensure you are being optimally and holistically supported.
How Can I Use It?
There are many benefits to adding ashwagandha to our supplement routine but a fun and creative way to include this herb in our diets are through smoothies. Ashwagandha can be found in powdered form that is easily added to smoothies. There are a lot of different smoothie recipes online that work well with this herb. Here are some tips that I find useful when making smoothies. First, if you are having a smoothie as a meal, make sure that it is balanced with fats, carbs, and proteins. We always want to make sure that we are giving our body the nutrients it needs to keep being amazing. Second, add some cinnamon, ginger, or cayenne pepper to your smoothies. This is especially important for the colder months to maintain a warming effect on our bodies. From a Traditional Asian Medicine standpoint, cold foods can deplete our digestive power and cause digestive complaints. The third and final tip is to add fiber, such as hemp hearts, chia, or flax meal. This will slow the absorption of the natural sugars in smoothies so that your chilled treat keeps you energized for longer. Have fun and get creative with making smoothies with ashwagandha!