If you are or know a college student who is just starting their next semester and already stressed, ashwagandha may be one way to naturally improve overall well-being. The Journal of Medicinal Food recently published research showing ashwagandha may improve the mental and emotional health of students.
Researchers from the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs (UCCS) wrote, “The Perceived Impact of Ashwagandha on Stress, Sleep Quality, Energy, and Mental Clarity for College Students: Qualitative Analysis of a Double-Blind Randomized Control Trial." The study was funded through the UCCS Helen and Arthur E. Johnson Beth-El College of Nursing and Health Sciences.
College students frequently report that stress, anxiety, depression, and exhaustion negatively affect their academic performance and overall well-being. Ashwagandha is popular in the U.S. for helping individuals counteract chronic stress, but related scientific studies are essentially non-existent.
Based on the results of this study, however, ashwagandha shows potential to help college students cope with stress levels. The assessment of 60 healthy college students, between the ages of 18 and 50, found that not only did the students experience improved health associated with mental clarity and sleep quality, but also fewer food cravings. This Ayurvedic remedy can be an inexpensive, safe, and proven way to help young people cope with the stressors of transitioning to independent living.
According to Jess Kirby, Assistant Professor of Health Sciences and research lead, "Our findings demonstrated that ashwagandha increased college students' perceived well-being through supporting sustained energy, heightened mental clarity, and enhanced sleep quality, through a moderate dose of ashwagandha for the course of 30 days." They also found that it took about 9-10 days for the daily ashwagandha supplement to take effect, though it takes a minimum of six weeks to fully impact stress and sleep.
Most research on ashwagandha has been in India. UCCS wanted to see how U.S. college students fared, seeing them as a unique population regarding stress. Ashwagandha grows in Africa and Asia and has been used for thousands of years to ease pain and inflammation, treat insomnia, and boost nutrition. Also known as "Indian ginseng" and "winter cherry," some believe it can benefit athletic performance and reduce blood sugar levels, though more research is needed.
"These findings bridge the gap between research and practice by providing valuable knowledge about the perceived impacts of ashwagandha supplementation, which reinforce observations in herbal nutrition practice previously absent in the literature, "says Kirby. The research team wants to next conduct the study on a larger sample size over a longer time frame to truly see the effect of ashwagandha on this highly stressed demographic.
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Ashwagandha: Anxiety and Stress Relief Champ
Baker, Cynthia; Kirby, Jessica B.; O'Connor, Jack; Lindsay, Keston G; Hutchins, Andrea; Harris, Margaret. Journal of Medicinal Food. "The Perceived Impact of Ashwagandha on Stress, Sleep Quality, Energy, and Mental Clarity for College Students: Qualitative Analysis of a Double-Blind Randomized Control Trial." 8/28/22. Accessed 3/1/23. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35984870/
Newell, Abby. Communique. "Could herbal supplements help students manage stress levels?" 2/16/23. Accessed 3/1/23. https://communique.uccs.edu/?p=145123