Magnesium and Ashwaganda for Stress Management
Feeling stressed out? You’re not alone. In an August 2021 survey, 3 in 10 Americans reported that the pandemic had negatively affected their mental health. Stress, anxiety, and depression topped the list of mental health issues. If you’re looking for supplements to reduce stress in your life, you should consider high-quality magnesium and ashwagandha.
Read on for everything you need to know about using magnesium and ashwagandha for stress management.
How the Body Responds to Stress
A young child runs in front of your car. The brakes grind your vehicle to a halt.
Immediately, your eyes and ears send data to the amygdala, a brain area that processes data emotionally.
The data triggers your amygdala to send a distress signal to the hypothalamus.
The hypothalamus talks with the rest of the body via the autonomic nervous system. This autonomic nervous system, which controls involuntary body functions like breathing, has two main parts.
The sympathetic nervous system
This system powers your body’s fight or flight response and provides quick energy to deal with the perceived danger.
The parasympathetic nervous system
This system acts to calm your body down after the danger has passed. It produces the “rest and digest” response.
When your amygdala receives a “danger” message, it immediately activates the sympathetic nervous system. Your body pumps adrenaline into the bloodstream, raises blood pressure, and sends extra oxygen to the brain. This puts your body on high alert so you can respond appropriately.
As long as you perceive the danger to be present, your body will continue to stay on high alert. Once the threat has passed, your parasympathetic nervous system will take over and relax your body.
When these systems work as designed, your body will experience stress and rest in healthy cycles.
However, many people have chronic low-level stress. This keeps part of the stress response system - the HPA axis - activated. The HPA axis includes the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland, and the adrenal gland.
Too much stress can hurt your body in the following ways.
- High cortisol increases appetite, which makes you eat more.
- Cortisol also increases the storage of excess nutrients as fat (particularly belly fat).
- Too much stress weakens the immune system and suppresses its natural cell functions.
- Chronic low-level stress leads to adrenal fatigue.
- Frequent epinephrine (adrenaline) increases can increase blood pressure and damage blood vessels. This raises the risk of strokes and heart attacks.
- Stress can negatively affect pregnancy and menstruation and decrease male fertility.
- Chronic stress can lead to gastric ulcers and internal bleeding.
Why Your Body Needs More Magnesium
One essential supplement to help relieve stress is magnesium. The 4th most common mineral in the human body, magnesium is essential for optimal health.
According to a 2017 scientific review published in Open Heart, magnesium deficiency is a principal contributing factor for heart disease. It has been linked to high blood pressure, irregular heartbeats, atherosclerosis, and heart failure.
Almost half of Americans (48%) consume less magnesium than the RDA (recommended daily amount) of magnesium.
Magnesium plays a vital role in the following processes in your body.
- Synthesis of proteins, DNA, and RNA
- Cell growth and reproduction
- Storage and production of energy
- Muscle contractions
Plus, it is a co-factor that is necessary to activate over 300 enzymes in your body.
Clearly, magnesium is essential to keep your body running smoothly.
How Magnesium Helps Reduce Stress Levels
During stressful episodes, magnesium helps calm down the sympathetic nervous system. It regulates the fight or flight response.
Once the danger has passed, it allows the parasympathetic nervous system to start working and minimize the effect of stress in your body.
Magnesium also helps suppress the activity of the HPA-axis and reduces the surge of stress hormone ACTH.
In addition, studies have shown that magnesium positively affects several mental health conditions. For example, it improved symptoms of depression in a 2017 study.
A 2017 scientific review suggested that magnesium had a positive effect on reducing anxiety in people particularly vulnerable to it (those dealing with PMS, post-partum, high blood pressure, etc.)
Magnesium is needed for many brain pathways and chemicals that regulate mood. That’s why low magnesium increases your risk for depression.
Magnesium also improves sleep quality by interacting with melatonin and GABA. Melatonin helps regulate the body’s circadian (24-hour) rhythms of waking and sleeping. GABA is a neurotransmitter that reduces neuron activity and puts the nervous system to sleep.
Overall, magnesium benefits us by turning down the stress response and regulating mood and sleep. If you are experiencing stress, you should consider supplementing with magnesium to support your body’s stress response.
What Is Ashwagandha, and How Does It Work?
Ashwagandha is a medicinal plant (scientific name Withania somnifera) from the nightshade family that is native to Africa and India. It’s a tiny evergreen shrub with small greenish-yellow flowers and orange, seed-filled fruit. For thousands of years, Ashwagandha has been used in African, Ayurvedic, Unani, and indigenous medicine. It is also called “Indian Ginseng” and “winter cherry.”
Traditionally, the roots of this plant are used to make the Ayurvedic tonic ashwagandha, meaning “smells like a horse.”
Scientists have isolated over 62 different chemical compounds in the root in modern times. Its potent effects on health are likely the result of the interaction of these compounds in their natural form.
Health Benefits of Ashwagandha
As a dietary supplement, ashwagandha offers some incredible health benefits.
Fifty of the naturally occurring compounds in this plant are classified as withanolides. These naturally occurring steroids act as antioxidants and suppress cancer cells and free radicals. Other research suggests that withanolides could regenerate nerve cells.
Studies show that the herb either limits or inhibits cancerous cells in various cancers, including breast, lung, brain, skin, colon, and other cancers.
Natural extracts of this herb can reduce blood sugar levels, as shown in a 2010 study of diabetic rats. In the study, diabetic rats received these extracts daily for 8 weeks. After the treatment, blood glucose levels were significantly lowered in the rats.
According to animal studies, this herb significantly lowers these fat levels in the blood. One study of rats showed that ashwagandha lowered total cholesterol and triglycerides by 53% and 45%.
Ashwagandha also reduces overall inflammation in your body.
Consuming ashwagandha lowers inflammation markers such as C-reactive protein, which is a sign of increased heart disease risk. Ashwagandha suppresses inflammation and restores your body to homeostasis, meaning a state of balance.
It also increases the activity of your natural T-cells, which fight disease and keep you healthy.
How Ashwagandha Reduces Stress Levels
Ashwagandha has been widely accepted as an adaptogen, meaning a herb or mushroom that helps your body adjust to physical, chemical, or emotional stress. Adaptogens help your body respond to stress effectively and help it calm down and return to a balanced, calm state.
Specifically, ashwagandha reduces stress mediators in your body, such as cortisol, heat shock proteins, and c-Jun N-terminal protein kinase (activated by stress).
It’s from the nightshade family, whose Latin name is “somnifera,” meaning “sleep-inducing.” Ashwagandha improves sleep quality naturally.
This natural supplement has been shown to reduce anxiety, stress, and other mental health issues in multiple studies.
Studies About Ashwagandha and Stress
One 2008 double-blind study showed that ashwagandha extract “significantly reduces stress-related parameters in chronically stressed humans.” It reduced stress and anxiety; decreased cortisol levels, pulse rate, and blood pressure; and lowered cardiac risk.
Another study in 2009 showed that ashwagandha improves stress-related male infertility. Supplementation increased antioxidant levels, lowered stress, and improved semen quality in a significant number of participants.
A 2012 Indian study of 64 patients who suffered from chronic stress took either 300 mg of ashwagandha or a placebo for 60 days. At the end of the study, the patients given ashwagandha tested for significantly lower stress and cortisol levels.
More recently, a 2019 study measured the effects of ashwagandha extract on stress, cortisol levels, and sleep. After eight weeks, those who took ashwagandha experienced significant improvement in sleep quality, lowered cortisol levels, and reduced stress.
How Much Ashwagandha Should You Take?
Depending on your age and health status, you can take anywhere from 250-600 milligrams per day with good results and few adverse effects. Excessively large doses may cause gastrointestinal upset.
To reduce stress and anxiety, we recommend supplementing with approximately 250-300 mg/day.
Best Supplements to Reduce Stress
Let’s look at a few supplements – magnesium and ashwagandha for anxiety. They will help reduce stress levels and boost mood and sleep quality.
This organic, plant-based magnesium is specifically designed to support people with insufficient magnesium intake. It’s made from Swiss chard and buckwheat, which are grown on our certified organic farm in Wisconsin. Because it’s plant-derived, this magnesium is multi-form, making it much easier to digest.
Supplementing with magnesium will reduce stress levels by calming down the sympathetic nervous system and supporting the parasympathetic nervous system response.
Magnesium also helps regulate mood and support sleep quality, which reduces stress.
Designed to help your body deal with stress effectively and maintain optimal health, this complex includes ashwagandha, licorice, skullcap, and Korean ginseng. These herbs will help maintain healthy moods, increase stamina and energy, and promote overall wellbeing.
This particular combination includes naturally occurring alkaloids, flavonoids, and steroidal compounds. Specifically, ashwagandha contains cancer-fighting compounds called withanolides. They suppress free radicals and cancer cells and fight off multiple types of cancer in the body. Ashwagandha’s natural compounds also reduce inflammation and increase the activity of your immune system’s killer T-cells. This wards off infection and disease when they attack.
Other healthy ways to reduce stress levels
There’s a reason why great thinkers and statesmen of the past loved to go for long walks outdoors. According to a 2019 study published in Frontiers in Psychology, a 20-minute nature break can cause cortisol (stress hormone) levels to drop. Other studies showed that spending time in natural settings – whether urban woodlots or rural meadows – lowered stress in people.
Go to bed early
We all know experientially that insufficient sleep will generally raise stress levels. If we feel exhausted, our everyday problems may seem insurmountably huge.
However, a good night’s rest can make a huge difference in our emotional state. When we get plenty of rest (at least 7-8 hours for most people), we will feel refreshed when we wake up – not stressed!
Spend time talking to loved ones
Stress is harder to deal with when you feel isolated. That’s why talking to loved ones is a key habit to reduce stress in your life. Family and friends can offer support, compassion, and judgment-free listening. Spending twenty minutes chatting over a cup of coffee can lift a burden you didn’t realize you were carrying!
If you feel stressed and overwhelmed, there is hope. Consider supplementing with magnesium and ashwagandha together. These natural supplements will help reduce stress and anxiety and boost your overall mood.
Get expert help to reduce your stress levels.
Are you still struggling with overwhelming stress? Allow Dr. Ann Doggett of Wholebody Solutions to help.
Dr. Ann has 30 years of experience in chiropractic care, nutrition counseling, and holistic medicine. Her areas of expertise include applied kinesiology, whole food supplementation, and energetic muscle testing.
She received her degree at the New York Chiropractic College and completed her master’s in human nutrition at the University of Bridgeport. She also received a certificate in practical herbal therapy from the Australian College of Phytotherapy.
If you wish to uncover and address the underlying causes of your stress, contact our practice by calling 617.328.6300 or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org