FREE Thyroid Report & Newsletter

Ashwagandha- a plant that can help you handle stress

Adaptogens can be defined as substances that increase the body’s resistance to stress. Know anyone who is under any stress these days?  Ashwagandha, known scientifically as Withania somnifera and as Indian ginseng has been used for over 3,000 years as an adaptogen and was believed to benefit the thyroid, the adrenal glands and the nervous system, especially during times of stress.4 It is also used being investigated as an adjunct to chemotherapy, boosting the immune system and protecting healthy cells. Ashwagandha also acts to help to support the nervous system, prevent dementia and cognitive decline1-3 AND as an anti-aging substance and even an aphrodisiac.2,4 Ashwagandha can boost the immune system directly by increasing the total number of immune cells and by increasing the number of oxygen-carrying red blood cells. 2,4

Stress—there’s more than one kind of stress

There are two kinds of stress that we know can result in thyroid diseases.  The first kind is the day-to-day stress we all encounter and often may feel overwhelmed by.  It’s the stress of getting the kids to school on time, dealing with a difficult spouse or boss, wondering if we will be able to pay the bills this month, finding out the car needs another expensive repair job and not getting enough solid nutrition or enough sleep.  That sort of tension and worry can overwork the adrenal glands—which can then affect the thyroid.  In medical school, doctors learn about the glands as separate entities—but in reality, the hormonal glands all work together in a network—and when one gland begins to fail or has to overcompensate, then it can lead to a sort of glandular domino effect and the first failing gland affects the next one and then another and then another.  This is a common problem with people who are hypothyroid and with Wilson’s Temperature Syndrome- often, it is not only the thyroid that has been affected, but the adrenal glands and other systems as well.

The other kind of stress—oxidative stress

The second kind of stress is found at the level of individual cells and is called oxidative stress.

Normal biochemical reactions produce substances that are called free radicals.  These substances are normally “sopped up” by various anti-oxidant systems in the body.  But, when cells are overworked by stress, environmental toxins and other factors—and when you don’t get adequate nutrition and/or enough sleep, the normal anti-oxidant systems in the body are simply overwhelmed and the levels of free radicals in your cells can begin to damage and disrupt the normal biochemical pathways and can even damage the DNA.  This is the reason so many doctors are recommending the use of anti-oxidants—to help the natural anti-oxidant systems deal with the high levels of free radicals.

Ashwagandha acts as anti-oxidant, decreasing the levels of free radicals, but also directly affects the thyroid, increasing the levels of T4.2,4,5

As an added bonus, ashwagandha also helps lower blood sugar levels, decreases cholesterol and LDL levels in the blood. 2

So, ashwagandha supports both the thyroid and adrenal glands to help you adapt to the stresses in your daily life.

If you are looking for a doctor to help with your healing process, make sure to check out our list of WTS referral doctors.  You can check our WTS referral list for professionals here.


1.         Ven Murthy MR, Ranjekar PK, Ramassamy C, Deshpande M. Scientific basis for the use of Indian ayurvedic medicinal plants in the treatment of neurodegenerative disorders: ashwagandha. Central Nervous System Agents In Medicinal Chemistry 2010;10:238-46.

2.         Anonymous. Withania somnifera. Alternative Medicine Review 2004;9:211.

3.         Alzheimer’s Disease and Ashwagandha. Quarterly Review of Natural Medicine 1995:297.

4.         Jacks B. Botanicals to battle stress: Adaptogens put up a good fight. Alive: Canada’s Natural Health & Wellness Magazine 2011:55-8.

5.         Bhattacharya A, Ghosal S, Bhattacharya SK. Anti-oxidant effect of Withania somnifera glycowithanolides in chronic footshock stress-induced perturbations of oxidative free radical scavenging enzymes and lipid peroxidation in rat frontal cortex and striatum. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 2001;74:1-6.

About the Author:

Denis Wilson, MD described Wilson 's Temperature Syndrome in 1988 after observing people with symptoms of low thyroid and low body temperature, yet who had normal blood tests. He found that by normalizing their temperatures with T3 (without T4) their symptoms often remained improved even after the treatment was discontinued. He was the first doctor to use sustained-release T3.

One Comment

  1. debra April 11, 2013 at 8:47 am - Reply

    Hi, I am hypothyroid and currently taking T3 and Erfa thyroid. I however suffer from chronic chronic insomnia, and have done for the past 9 years, when I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease (IBD), my body is under stress and I feel that I have high cortisol levels at night, I am never sleepy, not in the day not at night, I am wide awake until I take prescription medication to help sleep. I have read that Rhodelia Rosea can reduce cortisol levels, and just wondered your thoughts on is this better than Ashwaganda?
    Also I was originally doagnosed hypothyroid with a TSH of 43!!! Given thyroxine and felt so will, which is why I am taking T3 – 40mcg, I still have a lot of symptoms and do feel that I may have thyroid resistance. Can you help? Many thanks

Leave A Comment