How To Use Ashwagandha for Occasional Anxiety

Published on January 02, 2023

By Kristen Boye BS, Natural Health

Kristen Boye

Kristen Boye is a natural health expert, writer, copywriter, and editor. Kristen was raised on an organic farm in British Columbia which inspired her life’s work. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Natural Health, is a Certified Natural Foods Chef, co-owner of a medicinal herb farm, and is a natural foods and children’s health advocate. Kristen lives with her husband and two children on their medicinal herb farm in Western North Carolina.

Experiencing occasional anxiety due to stress, lack of sleep, or challenging circumstances is a normal part of life.REF#200

However, just because it’s “normal” doesn’t mean it’s not disruptive—especially for those who need to perform at their best.

This is why some have turned to traditional herbs, like Ashwagandha, for anxiety support for centuries.*

This article will explore the history and science behind Ashwagandha for anxiety and how it may help you cope.*

What is Ashwagandha?

Ashwagandha is an ancient plant used extensively in Ayurveda, the traditional wellness practice of India, for over 3,000 years.

Also known as “Indian Ginseng” or “Winter Cherry,” it is derived from the Sanskrit words “Ashwa,” meaning horse, and “Gandha,” meaning smell or odor.

The meaning behind the name refers to its scent and its traditional use to impart “horse-like” strength, stamina, and resilience to body, mind, and spirit.*

Ashwagandha is arguably the most revered plant in Ayurveda and has an extensive history of traditional uses, which includes:

Ashwagandha is considered an adaptogen and a nervine in herbology.*

Adaptogens are a class of herbs that support a healthy response to stress, including Ginseng, Mushrooms, Tulsi, Rhodiola, and Astragalus.* 

Nervines are a class of herbs such as Passionflower, Ashwagandha, Skullcap, and Lemon Balm that support a calm mind and healthy nervous system.*

Modern medicine has taken notice of Ashwagandha and conducted numerous studies to examine its potential benefits for physical, mental, and emotional well-being.*

Here’s what we know about how Ashwagandha may work for occasional anxiety and mood support.*

1: Ashwagandha Helps The Body Better Adapt to Stress*

A key to understanding how Ashwagandha may help anxiety lies in understanding its adaptogenic actions.

As previously mentioned, Ashwagandha is considered an adaptogenic herb, meaning it helps the body adapt and better respond to physical, mental, and emotional stressors.*

Adaptogens regulate homeostasis via their actions on the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis.*

The HPA axis is the communication center of the hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenal glands and governs many aspects of our endocrine (hormonal), cardiovascular, and metabolic systems, as well as behavior and reproduction.REF#201

It’s also the primary mediator of our central stress response system, which controls vital mediators of the stress response, such as heat shock proteins (a family of proteins produced by cells in response to stressful conditions) and stress hormones like cortisol and nitric oxide.REF#101

Therefore, when the HPA axis becomes imbalanced due to stress or illness, it can negatively impact physical, mental, and emotional well-being.REF#62

Numerous scientific studies have validated Ashwagandha’s adaptogenic properties.REF#202REF#103

One 2021 double-blind placebo-controlled study published in Evidence-Based Complementary Alternative Medicine found subjects receiving Ashwagandha had an 83.4 greater probability of achieving control over their stress versus the placebo group. The Ashwagandha group also had “significantly lower serum cortisol levels” than the placebo group (cortisol is your body’s master stress hormone).REF#104

Another 2009 animal study found Withania somnifera, an active plant compound in Ashwagandha, has neuroprotective benefits during stressful times via its actions on nitric oxide production.REF#108

Despite a lack of modern scientific resources, traditional Ayurvedic practitioners have utilized Ashwagandha for stress support for centuries.* 

Thankfully, modern science is starting to catch on to the potential power of adaptogens.

2: Ashwagandha Supports The Thyroid*

Did you know occasional anxiety and mood swings may be related to thyroid function?

Although this is not the case for everyone, more than one study has shown a connection between thyroid health and mental/emotional well-being.REF#203REF#204

With thyroid issues on the rise worldwide, accounting for approximately 30-40% of endocrine clinic patients, it’s worth being aware of this phenomenon.REF#205

Traditional wisdom and modern research show Ashwagandha may be a powerful herbal ally for thyroid support and occasional anxiety.*

For example, a 2017 double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study of 50 women ages 18 to 50, published in the Journal of Complementary and Alternative Medicine, showed that taking 600 mg of Ashwagandha daily resulted in significant improvements in thyroid hormone levels.REF#60

Although more research is needed to determine the cause of action, the action likely results from Ashwagandha’s beneficial effects on cortisol levels which affect thyroid hormones.*REF#61

How does this work?

Earlier, we discussed cortisol in relation to the HPA axis, which governs your body’s stress response. Let’s dive a little deeper.

Cortisol is your body’s master stress hormone secreted by the adrenals in response to stress.

We need cortisol to propel us into action during stressful times, like if a wild animal was chasing us and we needed to outrun it.

However, if cortisol is produced in excess due to chronic stress, pain, or illness, it leads to HPA axis dysfunction. 

As previously discussed, this has a negative downstream effect on several organs and systems, including the endocrine system, which includes the thyroid.REF#62

As an adaptogen, Ashwagandha supports normal cortisol production and balance, which may promote healthy thyroid function and in part, may help quell occasional stress and anxiety.*

To get started, you may want to consider Gaia Herbs’ Thyroid Support, an herbal formula with Ashwagandha, Brown Seaweed, Kelp, and Schisandra.

3: Taking Ashwagandha May Help You Sleep*

There’s no doubt about it; research has confirmed a lack of sleep can fuel occasional anxiety and vice versa.REF#206

If you’ve been caught in a dreaded sleep-anxiety cycle before, you understand how this works.

You have trouble sleeping for a night or two due to stressful circumstances, racing thoughts, hormonal shifts, and more.

This leads to feeling stressed about not being able to sleep, which causes more sleep deprivation, which leads to more stress, and so on.

It’s a vicious cycle that can be tough to break.

If you’ve been stuck on this rollercoaster before, Ashwagandha should have a place on your nightstand.*

Several studies, including double-blind placebo-controlled trials, have demonstrated Ashwagandha may promote better quality sleep by improving:REF#67REF#68

  • Mental alertness upon waking*
  • Sleep duration*
  • Sleep efficiency*
  • Sleep latency*
  • Sleep quality
  • Wake after sleep onset*
  • And overall quality of life*

3 Ways Ashwagandha Helps You Sleep*

  1. Ashwagandha leaves contain an active plant compound called Triethylene glycol, which is believed to promote calmness, relaxation, and sleep.*REF#69
  2. As a nervine, Ashwagandha has been traditionally used to support a calm and balanced nervous system.*
  3. Ashwagandha’s potential benefits to the HPA (hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal) axis may also affect sleep via the HPA Axis’ role in the cortisol awakening response.REF#70

The cortisol awakening response refers to the naturally higher levels of cortisol a healthy body produces after a sustained period of rest.REF#72

How to Use Ashwagandha for Sleep:*

As discussed in Ashwagandha Dosing, there has yet to be a scientific consensus on exactly how to dose Ashwagandha for sleep.

However, studies on Ashwagandha for sleep generally used 500 to 600 mg daily for ten weeks. This dose is typically taken as 250 to 300 mg twice daily. However, some experts recommend a larger dose before bed to help support the sleep cycle.REF#119

Ultimately, the right time of day and amounts to take for optimal sleep depend on the individual.

If unsure, try experimenting with dosage to see what works best. Always talk to your practitioner for specific recommendations.

Gaia Herbs offers several herbal formulas with Ashwagandha to support a healthy night’s sleep, including SleepThru®, Sleep Gummies, and Adrenal ® Health Nightly Restore.*

4: Ashwagandha Supports Your Mood*

Everyone experiences mood swings now and then, which can add fuel to those occasional bouts of anxiety.

For those who suffer from occasional stress- or hormonal-related mood swings, Ashwagandha may help.

In addition to its stress-modulating properties, research from the Phytomedicine: International Journal Of Phytotherapy and Phytopharmacology found that ashwagandha acted as a mood stabilizer by helping reduce brain levels of tribulin, a marker of clinical anxiety.REF#174 

We’ve also covered how Ashwagandha may benefit sleep, thyroid function, stress response, and HPA axis function, which can all impact your mood.* 

More research is needed in the field of mood and occasional anxiety to make a direct correlation.

However, the combination of traditional, anecdotal, and scientific evidence suggests Ashwagandha may provide some benefit for mood and occasional anxiety.*

How To Start Taking Ashwagandha For Occasional Anxiety, Sleep, Thyroid Health, & More*

If you’re interested in trying Ashwagandha for occasional anxiety, sleep, mood, or stress, taking a supplement is the easiest way.* 

As leaders in the herbal products industry, we recommend the following criteria when choosing an Ashwagandha supplement:

  1. Certified organic Ashwagandha
  2. Third-party testing for identity, purity, and contaminants
  3. No artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, or fillers

Gaia Herbs offers several Ashwagandha supplements that meet this criterion, including:

Click the links above to learn more and/or talk to your healthcare practitioner about the right formula and dosage for you.

Want to learn more about herbs for occasional anxiety? Check out Beyond Ashwagandha: 5 Calming Herbs For Stress Support.


  • 1. Sharma AK, Basu I, Singh S., "Efficacy and Safety of Ashwagandha Root Extract in Subclinical Hypothyroid Patients: A Double-Blind, Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial", J Altern Complement Med. 2018 Mar;24(3):243-248. doi: 10.1089/acm.2017.0183. Epub 2017 Aug 22. PMID: 28829155..
  • 2. Chandrasekhar K, Kapoor J, Anishetty S., "A prospective, randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study of safety and efficacy of a high-concentration full-spectrum extract of ashwagandha root in reducing stress and anxiety in adults", Indian J Psychol Med. 2012 Jul;34(3):255-62. doi: 10.4103/0253-7176.106022. PMID: 23439798; PMCID: PMC3573577..
  • 3. Stephens MA, Wand G., "Stress and the HPA axis: role of glucocorticoids in alcohol dependence", Alcohol Res. 2012;34(4):468-83. PMID: 23584113; PMCID: PMC3860380..
  • 4. Langade D, Thakare V, Kanchi S, Kelgane S., "Clinical evaluation of the pharmacological impact of ashwagandha root extract on sleep in healthy volunteers and insomnia patients: A double-blind, randomized, parallel-group, placebo-controlled study", J Ethnopharmacol. 2021 Jan 10;264:113276. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2020.113276. Epub 2020 Aug 17. PMID: 32818573..
  • 5. Abhijit Deshpande, Nushafreen Irani, Ratna Balkrishnan, Irin Rosanna Benny, "A randomized, double blind, placebo controlled study to evaluate the effects of ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) extract on sleep quality in healthy adults", Sleep Medicine, Volume 72, 2020, Pages 28-36, ISSN 1389-9457,.
  • 6. Mahesh K. Kaushik, Sunil C. Kaul, Renu Wadhwa, Masashi Yanagisawa, Yoshihiro Urade, "Triethylene glycol, an active component of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) leaves, is responsible for sleep induction", DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0172508.
  • 7. Auddy B, Hazra J, Mitra A, et al., "A standardized Withania Somnifera extract significantly reduces stress-related parameters in chronically stressed humans: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study", J Am Neutraceut Assoc 2008;11:50–6..
  • 8. Fries E, Dettenborn L, Kirschbaum C., "The cortisol awakening response (CAR): facts and future directions", Int J Psychophysiol. 2009 Apr;72(1):67-73. doi: 10.1016/j.ijpsycho.2008.03.014. Epub 2008 Sep 30. PMID: 18854200..
  • 9. Winston D, Maimes S, "Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief", Rochester: Inner Traditions/Bear & Co. Vol. 48. Rochester: Inner Traditions/Bear & Co; 2007; p. 53.
  • 10. Salve J, Pate S, Debnath K, Langade D, "Adaptogenic and Anxiolytic Effects of Ashwagandha Root Extract in Healthy Adults: A Double-blind, Randomized, Placebo-controlled Clinical Study", Cureus. 2019 Dec 25;11(12):e6466. doi: 10.7759/cureus.6466. PMID: 32021735; PMCID: PMC6979308.
  • 11. Gopukumar, K.Thanawala, S. Somepalli, V. Rao Sathyanaryana, T. S. Thamatam, V.B. Chauhan, S., "Efficacy and Safety of Ashwagandha Root Extract on Cognitive Functions in Healthy, Stressed Adults: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study", Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine/ Volume 2021/Article ID 8254344.
  • 12. Bhatnagar M, Sharma D, Salvi M, "Neuroprotective effects of Withania somnifera dunal.: A possible mechanism", Neurochem Res. 2009 Nov;34(11):1975-83. doi: 10.1007/s11064-009-9987-7. Epub 2009 May 15. PMID: 19444606.
  • 13. Deepak Langade, Subodh Kanchi, Jaising Salve, Khokan Debnath, and Dhruv Ambegaokar, "Efficacy and Safety of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) Root Extract in Insomnia and Anxiety: A Double-blind, Randomized, Placebo-controlled Study", Cureus. 2019 Sep; 11(9): e5797. Published online 2019 Sep 28. doi: 10.7759/cureus.5797 PMCID: PMC6827862PMID: 31728244.
  • 14. Whiskey E, Werneke U, Taylor D, "A systematic review and meta-analysis of Hypericum perforatum in depression: a comprehensive clinical review", Int Clin Psychopharmacol. 2001 Sep;16(5):239-52. doi: 10.1097/00004850-200109000-00001. PMID: 11552767.
  • 15. National Institute of Mental Health, "Anxiety Disorders", April 2022.
  • 16. Joseph DN, Whirledge S, "Stress and the HPA Axis: Balancing Homeostasis and Fertility", Int J Mol Sci. 2017 Oct 24;18(10):2224. doi: 10.3390/ijms18102224. PMID: 29064426; PMCID: PMC5666903.
  • 17. Bhatnagar M, Sharma D, Salvi M, "Neuroprotective effects of Withania somnifera dunal.: A possible mechanism", Neurochem Res. 2009 Nov;34(11):1975-83. doi: 10.1007/s11064-009-9987-7. Epub 2009 May 15. PMID: 19444606.
  • 18. Ittermann T, Völzke H, Baumeister SE, Appel K, Grabe HJ, "Diagnosed thyroid disorders are associated with depression and anxiety", Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol. 2015 Sep;50(9):1417-25. doi: 10.1007/s00127-015-1043-0. Epub 2015 Mar 17. PMID: 25777685.
  • 19. Sait Gönen M, Kisakol G, Savas Cilli A, Dikbas O, Gungor K, Inal A, Kaya A, "Assessment of anxiety in subclinical thyroid disorders", Endocr J. 2004 Jun;51(3):311-5. doi: 10.1507/endocrj.51.311. PMID: 15256776.. Endocr J. 2004 Jun;51(3):311-5. doi: 10.1507/endocrj.51.311. PMID: 15256776.
  • 20. Rashad, N.M., Samir, G.M., "Prevalence, risks, and comorbidity of thyroid dysfunction: a cross-sectional epidemiological study.", Egypt J Intern Med 31, 635–641 (2019).
  • 21. Hanson JA, Huecker MR., "Sleep Deprivation", [Updated 2022 Sep 9]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from:.