The Herb That Helped Me Overcome Anxiety
In India, the mind-boosting Ashwagandha is referred to as “Strength of the Stallion” – for me, it’s my go-to anti-anxiey herb. It has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for more than 2500 years and has had a place in my pantry since 2009. After years of biting my nails, failure to fall asleep, mood swings and an overwhelming feeling I can only describe as wanting to jump out of my skin, in 2005 I was diagnosed with anxiety. This diagnosis led to a prescription which marked the beginning of my experience with anti-anxiety medication.
The thing about anxiety is that, although it is common and probably an overused term, its raw and powerful form can trickle into every facet of your life. I felt like I was worrying constantly – I even felt anxious about why I felt anxious. Despite coming from a long line of self-proclaimed homeopaths, when the doctor prescribed me lorazepam, I took it – I was open to anything that would give me relief. Once I began taking the medication, I felt calm, but also numb. If you asked me to draw a picture to describe it, I would draw a straight line. So, problem solved; I didn’t feel anxious. But also, problem created; I didn’t feel anything.
I missed feeling. It is so wonderful to feel an excess of joy or to feel moved to tears and all of that stopped happening for me. Before medicating, I was known to have a loud laugh and bursts of giggles. I used to fall victim to misty eyes while watching a sad movie. But that all stopped. I felt nothing and it bothered me. I had to find a better way for me, and for my body.
The human body and the neuroscience of anxiety is complex. That’s where working with a doctor comes in to play. My instincts told me that while the prescription presented benefits, it may be possible to help myself holistically and get “me” back. I wanted the straight line to be curved because that is life and I wanted to feel alive.
So, I began to research. In 2009, PLOS One published a study about Ashwagandha, which was shown to be comparable to common pharmaceutical drugs like lorazepam, the pharmaceutical I had been prescribed. The study also noted that while results could be similar, side effects were not found. Drowsiness, insomnia and increased appetite are not fun, and those were all side effects I was experiencing thanks to lorazepam. I decided to give Ashwagandha a shot.
I purchased a jar of Ashwagandha powder which I began adding to my morning coffee. It was easy to incorporate into my daily routine. While I did not experience the instant gratification that came with my prescribed medication, over time, it did bring my anxiety to a controlled place. Now I feel calmer and am still able to experience my standard emotions. I no longer feel like I am filled with worry all of the time, but I do worry when there is really a reason to do so – it is a much more manageable way of living my life.
Ashwagandha has been a key part of my daily regimen since 2009, and I’m thankful that it lets me stay balanced and feel. In my research, I learned that it has been shown to lower cortisol levels and balance thyroid hormones, which helps to maintain homeostasis in your body even in times of high stress. In addition, this herb is helpful to boosting your immune system and assisting your body with stamina enhancement.
Playing “Holistic Practitioner” at home like I did takes patience, research, professional guidance, and trial and error. Before getting started with Ashwagandha, I tried St. John’s Wort, which is known to be great for mood management, but it didn’t work for me. I also experimented with essential oils, like lavender, and though I adore the scents, I didn’t find that the oils had a tangible effect on my anxiety. To find what works for you, it’s important to bring in the guidance of a professional, whether medical, holistic or both. I worked with both in tandem to develop my regimen. Finding the combination of herbs and supplements that is right for you takes time but once discovered, it is so worth it. This is YOUR quality of life that we are talking about, and YOU are worth the effort.