If your anxiety is at an all-time high at the moment, you’re not alone!
The Office for National Statistics reported that almost half (49.6%) of UK residents reported high anxiety anxiety scores during the pandemic. And although levels of anxiety fell after the beginning of lockdown, they have rebounded again as lockdown has continued.1
So, if you’re dealing with anxiety, what are your options?
If you go to your GP, you may be offered a type of antidepressant called an SSRI, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor. Common types of SSRIs include citalopram, dapoxetine, fluoxetine, sertraline, with names like Cipramil, Priligy, Cipralex, Prozac or Oxactin, (among others).2
What are SSRIs and how do they work?
SSRIs work by increasing serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, or messenger chemical that carries signals between nerve cells in the brain. It’s thought to have a good influence on mood, emotion and sleep.
After carrying a message, serotonin is usually reabsorbed by the nerve cells (known as “reuptake”). SSRIs work by blocking (“inhibiting”) reuptake, meaning more serotonin is available to pass further messages between nearby nerve cells. Anxiety and depression are associated with fluctuating serotonin levels.3
How effective are SSRIs?
SSRIs work on roughly half of the patients to whom they are given. Studies show that about 40 to 60 out of 100 people who took an antidepressant noticed an improvement in their symptoms within six to eight weeks.4
How dangerous are SSRIs?
A study published in Medical News Today found that in the general population, those taking antidepressants had a 33 percent higher risk of dying prematurely than people who were not taking the drugs. Additionally, antidepressant users were 14 percent more likely to have an adverse cardiovascular event, such as a stroke or a heart attack.5
So in summary – SSRIs work half the time, and increase your risk of premature death by 33%.
If you don’t like those statistics, what are your other options?
There’s always Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, yoga, meditation etc, all of which are safe and have been found moderately effective.
But what if you want a more direct fix?
If you’re a fan of the natural approach to health, you might want to consider ashwagandha, or Withania somnifera. Ashwagandha is an ancient medicinal herb that is classified as an adaptogen, meaning that it can help your body manage stress. Ashwagandha also provides numerous other benefits for your body and brain. For example, it can boost brain function, lower blood sugar and cortisol levels, and help fight symptoms of anxiety and depression.6
How does ashwagandha help with anxiety?
Ashwagandha has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety in both animal and human studies.7 Clinical trials have shown that ashwagandha “ significantly reduces experiential and biochemical indicators of stress without adverse effects.”8
Ashwagandha works inside your body by reducing cortisol, which is the stress hormone released by your adrenal glands.9
What does the science say?
In one study in chronically stressed adults, those who supplemented with ashwagandha had significantly greater reductions in cortisol, compared with the control group. Those taking the highest dose experienced a 30% reduction, on average.10
In another 60-day study in 64 people with chronic stress, those in the group that supplemented with ashwagandha reported a 69% reduction in anxiety and insomnia, on average, compared with 11% in the placebo group.11
In another 6-week study, 88% of people who took ashwagandha reported a reduction in anxiety, compared with 50% of those who took a placebo.12
Who can take Ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha is a safe supplement for most people. It is not recommended for pregnant and breastfeeding women.People with autoimmune diseases should also avoid ashwagandha unless authorized by a healthcare provider. This includes people with conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, and type 1 diabetes.
Additionally, those on medication for thyroid disease should be careful when taking ashwagandha, as it may increase thyroid hormone levels in some people.
It may also decrease blood sugar and blood pressure levels, so medication dosages may need to be adjusted if you take it.
The recommended dosage of ashwagandha depends on the type of supplement. Extracts or “tinctures” are more effective than crude ashwagandha root or leaf powder.13 The Recommended dosage of a high-quality herbal tincture is 15-20 drops in 200 ml of water, twice daily.
If you have questions about whether ashwagandha is right for you, feel free to get in touch with our Nutritional Therapists on live chat, 8 am to 8 pm weekdays.