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our story   ·   09. Jun 2022

activating our third plant-based formulation: ashwagandha

less stress, more peace, and a natural chance at a better night’s sleep. 

Ashwagandha, commonly known as “Winter Cherry,” is a wonderful adaptogenic herb we are so excited to be activating on the sofi system. Adaptogens are a special class of plants known for their ability to stabilise physiological processes and better equip the body to deal with stress, anxiety, and fatigue.

While stress is an inevitable and naturally occuring part of life, adaptogens reduce the negative effects they have on our bodies allowing us to continue to function despite stressful events.  (1). 

For this reason, herbs like ashwagandha have been hailed by traditional medicine, for thousands of years, as a treatment for a wide range of medical and physical ailments - anxiety and insomnia being just two. 

Used as a ‘ Rasayana,’ meaning tonic, in Ayurvedic medicine for rejuvenation, disease prevention, and stress-relief, ashwagandha also holds the most prominent place among Ayurvedic Rasayana herbs (2)

Fun fact: the Sanskrit name of ashwagandha translates 'smell of horse' which some say refers to its ability to increase strength - and there's good reason for our ancient systems to hold this herbal adaptogen so dear! 

Ashwagandha has also been historically used by herbalists as part of a mixture of herbs to support people with: 

  • high blood pressure
  • lowered immunity
  • pain + swelling
  • fatigue + low mood
  • reproductive issues 
  • skin conditions
  • neurodegenerative diseases

ashwagandha for sleep and the treatment of insomnia

The popularity of ashwagandha has soared in the past 10 years and, due to many people’s increased interest in natural remedies, more individuals are turning to plants-based solutions and alternative therapies in place of pharmaceutical drugs. 

So how exactly does ashwagandha fare in comparison to manufactured sleeping pills and anti-anxiety drugs? 
Well, preliminary research indicates that results are comparable. In fact, several small experimental studies have shown that the powerful herb has a calming effect in the body equal to that of benzodiazepine lorazepam - an anxiety medication often prescribed to those who also struggle with their sleep (3). 

Another study found that people who took ashwagandha for eight weeks saw significant improvements in sleep quality, latency, and overall mental alertness, benefiting individuals with chronic insomnia the most out of all (4). 

With this being said, the compounds responsible for the healing properties of ashwagandha are still somewhat unknown as is often the case with herbal medicines. While plants used as herbal medicines such as ashwagandha have been tried and tested for thousands of years in many indigenous and ancient cultures, it is rare that many of them are ever taken into a lab. Only 15% of the 300,000 plant species on earth have been evaluated for their pharmacological potential in a lab (5)

In reality, ashwagandha’s effects are likely to be a mix of chemical constituents working in synergy together. Findings suggest that ashwagandha’s high content of triethylene glycol may be to credit for its effectiveness in inducing sleep, and decreasing stress. In addition, ashwagandha contains high levels of withanolides - a compound linked to our ability to healthfully cope with stress - and has a moderating effect on the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis (6).

This axis describes the interaction between the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland, and adrenal glands, and helps to regulate the complex signalling pathways between them. As we know there are at least two pathways in the brain, shared by both anxiety and sleep, it’s likely ashwagandha serves to support both. 

Not only can stress have direct negative consequences on sleep, but sleep difficulty or loss can also be a major source of stress. The two are inextricable in many ways. 

Although the need for further clinical research will always remain. ashwagandha is regarded as a well-tolerated medicinal herb with a high safety profile. The most common side effect of taking ashwagandha is a mild stomach ache or nausea if taken on an empty stomach - and many are unlikely to experience these symptoms at all (7).

You can find more safety information on ashwagandha by clicking here and please note that we always recommend consulting a healthcare professional before supplementing with any plant. 

With this in mind, however, it’s not surprising that ashwagandha makes the cut for our next plant formulation, and the first plant to be activated in our S3 Pioneer Program - coming soon!

how do I know if ashwagandha can work for me?

When it comes to a biological process as complex and complicated as sleep, we can expect our experiences to be unique; what works for one person may not work for another, and unfortunately, there is no guarantee. 

However, by carefully selecting the ashwagandha that we use in our plant-based formulations, and by fingerprinting every batch of our plants, we begin to compile the data necessary to identify the specific compounds and natural variations within ashwagandha that provide your body with the best natural tools for sleep. 

By better understanding the precise way our plant formulations work for different people — including exactly what, how much, and when — we’re able to create a system of personalised plant-based healthcare that’s 100% specific to you - and no one else.

Take our free quiz and discover which formulations for better calm and sleep sofi recommends starting your journey with.

Text References:

  1. Gerontakos, S. E., Casteleijn, D., Shikov, A. N., & Wardle, J. (2020). A Critical Review to Identify the Domains Used to Measure the Effect and Outcome of Adaptogenic Herbal Medicines. The Yale journal of biology and medicine, 93(2), 327–346.
  2. Singh, N., Bhalla, M., de Jager, P., & Gilca, M. (2011). An overview on ashwagandha: a Rasayana (rejuvenator) of Ayurveda. African journal of traditional, complementary, and alternative medicines : AJTCAM, 8(5 Suppl), 208–213. 
  3. Bhattacharya SK, Bhattacharya A, Sairam K, Ghosal S. Anxiolytic-antidepressant activity of Withania somnifera glycowithanolides: an experimental study. Phytomedicine. 2000 Dec;7(6):463-9
  4. Langade, D., Kanchi, S., Salve, J., Debnath, K., & Ambegaokar, D. (2019). Efficacy and Safety of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) Root Extract in Insomnia and Anxiety: A Double-blind, Randomized, Placebo-controlled Study. Cureus, 11(9), e5797. 
  5. De Luca V, Salim V, Atsumi SM, Yu F. Mining the biodiversity of plants: a revolution in the making. Science. 2012 Jun 29;336(6089):1658-61
  6. Lopresti, A. L., Smith, S. J., Malvi, H., & Kodgule, R. (2019). An investigation into the stress-relieving and pharmacological actions of an ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) extract: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Medicine, 98(37), e17186. 
  7. Langade, D., Kanchi, S., Salve, J., Debnath, K., & Ambegaokar, D. (2019). Efficacy and Safety of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) Root Extract in Insomnia and Anxiety: A Double-blind, Randomized, Placebo-controlled Study. Cureus, 11(9), e5797.

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