Ashwagandha is a herb that is commonly used in Ayurveda—a system of natural medicine originating in India over 3000 years ago. The Ashwagandha plant is native to India and Southeast Asia. Some benefits of ashwagandha include stress and anxiety relief, improved sleep, and reduced inflammation.
Cannabidiol (CDB) is one of 113 cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant. CBD is known to provide relief from psychological disorders such as anxiety and depression and is a safe treatment option for chronic pain.
Benefits of ashwagandha
Stress and anxiety relief
Ashwagandha is classified as an adaptogen. Adaptogens are molecules that help the body cope with stress.
Ashwagandha is thought to control stress mediators in the body such as the hormone cortisol and stress-related proteins. This may result in relief from symptoms of stress and anxiety. However, more research is needed in this area to determine the best form and dose of Ashwagandha for anxiety and stress relief.
Research has shown that continuous use of ashwagandha for 12 weeks improves sleep quality in elderly people. Other studies have found that ashwagandha has positive effects on sleep in adults diagnosed with insomnia.
Ashwagandha contains a molecule called triethylene glycol, which is an active sleep-inducing compound. Levels of triethylene glycol naturally increase during non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep, which is the restorative stage of sleep. When ashwagandha is taken before bed, it may help increase the levels of triethylene glycol in the body, promoting a faster sleep onset and a night of more restorative sleep.
Ashwagandha may be a promising new treatment for depression. Research has found that ashwagandha reduces symptoms of depression in patients with schizophrenia significantly more than placebo. Unfortunately, there is not enough research in this area yet, and ashwagandha should not be used as a substitute for antidepressant medications.
Improved brain function
Cognitive dysfunction—such as dementia or other memory issues—is becoming increasingly more common, especially amongst the elderly population. In 2017, research showed that 300 mg of ashwagandha administered twice daily for 8 weeks significantly improved both immediate and general memory.
Additionally, a review study found that ashwagandha improved performance on cognitive tasks, attention, reaction time, and executive function in adults with mild cognitive impairment.
Increased male fertility
Ashwagandha is thought to increase testosterone by up to 14% when taken continuously for 8 weeks. Additionally, it may also increase DHEA-S by 18%. DHEA-S is a sex hormone that is involved in the production of testosterone. By increasing the amount of this hormone, the amount of testosterone produced may also increase.
Ashwagandha may also increase sperm count and sperm motility in men with oligospermia—a condition in which men have a low sperm count—after 90 days of treatment.
Improved athletic performance
Strength and oxygen use during exercise may be improved due to ashwagandha supplementation. It is thought that ashwagandha could improve maximum oxygen consumption during exercise in both athletic and non-athletic people. Maximum oxygen consumption is a measure of heart and lung health. The higher the maximum oxygen consumption of the lungs, the “fitter” the lungs are, improving athletic performance.
Additionally, ashwagandha may improve athletic performance by increasing muscle strength. One study found that ashwagandha supplementation was associated with significantly increased muscle strength and mass when compared to placebo.
Ashwagandha contains a compound called withaferin A (WA). This compound may help relieve inflammation and reduce pain. WA reduces inflammation by targeting inflammatory pathways, inflammatory proteins, and signaling proteins involved in causing the symptoms of inflammation. Most of this research has been conducted in animal models, but it shows promise for the treatment of inflammation in humans.
In 2008, a clinical study found that humans had significantly less C-reactive protein circulating in their blood than placebo after 60 days of treatment with ashwagandha. C-reactive protein in blood is a marker of inflammation. These results show that ashwagandha can reduce inflammation in humans.
Benefits of CBD
One of the most common medical uses for CBD is to relieve the symptoms of anxiety. CBD may help relieve anxiety symptoms in two ways:
Firstly, CBD may reduce the activity of the amygdala. The amygdala is the fear center of the brain. Often, people who experience anxiety disorders have an overactive amygdala causing fear and anxiousness even when there is no external fear stimulus. Research has suggested that CBD may interact with the amygdala and decrease its activity levels. This would result in a decrease or cessation of anxiousness.
Secondly, CBD may improve symptoms of anxiety through the binding of serotonin receptors. Low levels of serotonin in the body may cause symptoms of anxiety. CBD is a partial agonist of these serotonin receptors. This means that CBD molecules can bind these receptors in a similar manner to serotonin molecules, eliciting similar effects. When CBD binds to serotonin receptors it may help regulate your mood, relieving symptoms of anxiety.
Cannabis is known to be a potent pain reliever. CBD is an allosteric modulator of opioid receptors. Opioid receptors regulate the sensation of pain in the body. Opioids—such as codeine and morphine—bind to opioid receptors to stop the feeling of pain. However, opioids are addictive and are not recommended for long-term pain relief. CBD binds to opioid receptors and alters how the receptors respond to pain stimuli. This results in relief from pain.
As cannabis is not addictive and is thought to be safe for long-term pain treatment, CBD may be a good option for pain relief in patients with chronic pain conditions such as arthritis.
CBD is a wake-promoting agent. This means that, contrary to common belief about cannabis use, CBD does not cause sleepiness and instead may give you an energy boost. The exact mechanism behind this is not well understood. However, it is thought that CBD may cause an increase in protein synthesis in certain parts of the brain that promote wakefulness. The increased activity in these regions of the brain causes you to feel more awake and may potentially give a boost of energy.
Another common therapeutic benefit of CBD is the anti-inflammatory effect. CBD binds to CB2—a cannabinoid receptor found in the immune system—which regulates the immune response and as a result, reduces the effects of inflammation.
Similar to the mechanism described earlier for anxiety treatment, CBD can also relieve symptoms of depression.
Depression is caused by insufficient levels of serotonin. When binding to serotonin receptors, CBD molecules have a similar effect to serotonin molecules; CBD regulates your mood and decreases feelings of depression.
Improved brain health
Contrary to what some people may think, CBD use may result in better brain health. Research has found that CBD may reduce oxidative stress, improve mitochondrial function, and aid in removing damaged cells in the brain. Unfortunately, research in this area is scarce.
Allergy and flu relief
People who suffer from allergy conditions such as asthma may find relief from CBD products. One common symptom of allergy condition flare-ups is the excess production of mucus. CBD has been shown to reduce the production of mucus when used to treat allergies.
Additionally, CBD can relieve common symptoms of allergies and the flu by binding to the CB2 receptors throughout the immune system to regulate the inflammatory response. Some of the effects CBD can have on the inflammatory response include:
● Pain relief
● Reduction of swelling
● Reduced redness
● Bronchodilation—relaxing and widening of the airways to improve breathing
The bottom line
Both ashwagandha and CBD have therapeutic benefits, including relief from pain and symptoms of psychological disorders such as anxiety and depression.
Ashwagandha and CBD may be used together in some cases to provide more potent benefits. Both are naturally derived and safe for long-term use.
If you are looking to try either ashwagandha or CBD as a sole treatment for a medical or psychological condition, it is recommended to consult with your doctor first. Many of the benefits of these plants have limited clinical research and may not be suitable as a substitute for other medications.