February 2023

Battling Stress with Ashwagandha and Adaptogens

Ashwagandha and other adaptogens continue to capture headlines and climb supplement sales charts. Stress is one of the top reasons people reach for these products. So what are adaptogens? Are they worth a shot?

Adaptogens are a class of natural substances that are believed to stimulate the body’s resistance to physical, environmental, and emotional stressors. Although many plants are traditionally referred to as adaptogens, only some plants have demonstrated these effects in clinical research. Ashwagandha, American ginseng, and astragalus are among the most widely used. They’re often marketed for a variety of purposes, including stress management and immune function.

Along with its popularity, the available evidence on ashwagandha continues to grow. A recent meta-analysis shows that taking ashwagandha 240-1000 mg by mouth daily for 8-12 weeks improves stress in people with chronic stress. There’s also evidence that it might improve stress management in college students, as well as stress-related weight gain. As for American ginseng, taking a specific extract called CVT-E002 200-400 mg twice daily throughout flu season might somewhat reduce the risk of developing symptoms of a common cold or flu in adults. There’s interest in using astragalus for a number of purposes, but there isn't enough reliable information to say whether it might be helpful.

Promising evidence for some adaptogens is on the rise, but there are also quality concerns related to the adaptogen product market in general. Adulteration and false advertising claims remain ongoing problems. And the increased demand for ashwagandha products specifically may incentivize manufacturers to cut corners on product quality.

Check out our adaptogens monographs to learn more about the safety and effects of specific ingredients, and refer to our Quality Certifications resource for guidance on evaluating product quality.

The information in this brief report is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions. Copyright © 2023 NatMed. Commercial distribution or reproduction prohibited. NatMed is the leading provider of high-quality, evidence-based, clinically-relevant information on natural medicine, dietary supplements, herbs, vitamins, minerals, functional foods, diets, complementary practices, CAM modalities, exercises and medical conditions. Monograph sections include interactions with herbs, drugs, foods and labs, contraindications, depletions, dosing, toxicology, adverse effects, pregnancy and lactation data, synonyms, safety and effectiveness.