Nootropics for Stress Relief and Anxiety Part 2: Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is an anxiety-crushing adaptogenic plant often referred to as a “royal herb”1 due to the many rejuvenating benefits it gives the body. It’s mainly known for its beneficial effects on stress, anxiety, and depression.

I wouldn’t call Ashwagandha a true nootropic, more like a “nootropic assister.” Meaning the effects it has on the brain are due to it’s ability to decrease cognition-damping mechanisms (i.e. cortisol and anxiety).

Remember how I said that Rhodiola is a super adaptogenic herb for stress in part 1? Add Ashwaganda to your list.

Interesting facts:

  • Called the “King of Ayurveda”
  • Ashwagandha means “smell of horse1“. It’s named that for 2 reasons:
    1. Fresh roots of it smell like a horse
    2. It’s believed by eating it, one gains the strength and virility of a horse1


  • Very strong anti-anxiety and anti-stress effects (for chronic/long-term stress, not acute) 1,2,3
  • Significantly decreased cortisol in healthy individuals (with an effect much larger than many other supplements) 1,5,6
  • Significantly decreased C-reactive protein (inflammatory biomarker associated with CVD and artery-hardening)5
  • Slight increases in sociability1,4
  • Slight decrease in depression1,3
  • Neuroprotective7,8,9

How it works and what it does:

Well the main active ingredients,

“Sitoindosides and acylsterylglucosides in Ashwagandha are anti-stress agents. Active principles of Ashwagandha, for instance the sitoindosides VII-X and Withaferin-A, have been shown to have significant anti-stress activity against acute models of experimental stress (Bhattacharya et al., 1987).”11

  • Seems to enhance GABA-A signalling (which may be responsible for anti-anxiety effects) and may mimic GABA’s actions 11
  • It acts on various parts of the body and mind through multiple mechanisms, you can see all of them here 10

Here’s a brief explanation of how it works from

Ashwagandha is highly antistress, and this antistress effect seems to be related to corticosterone signalling as well as suppressing neuronal excitation (nNOS and glutamate) in response to stress. There are also anxiety reducing effects secondary to the anti-stress properties, but perhaps also some inherent ones (serotonergic and GABAergic signalling)

Research-Proven Effective Dosages:

  • 300-500mg: “The lowest effective dose for acute usage” 10
  • 6000mg: the optimal dosage according to Examine. Take 2000mg 3x/day

Should be taken with meals (at breakfast, if only taken once daily)


Highest safe dosage I seen while researching this was 2 grams for 60 days. There was one case where 5 grams per day for 10 days was taken and this happened:

During this period, he experienced a burning and/or itching sensation as well as discoloration of the skin/mucous membrane confined to the penis. He had a similar type of eruption at the same site 6 months prior while taking ashwagandha.13

When I take the stuff I stick to less than 2 grams per day. The dosages used in the stress and anxiety studies cited above never went higher than 600mg a day (300mg, twice a day).

Best Ashwagandha to Buy:

Nootropics Depot Sensoril capsules (90 or 180 ct.) (I take 1 capsule at night because they’re slightly sedative to me. Get the KSM-66 below if you don’t want the sedative effect)

Nootropics Depot KSM-66 capsules (90 or 180 ct.)

Nootropics City Ashwagandha Root extract sample pack (20 capsules)

Runner Ups:

  • Any brands made with KSM-66 or Sensoril
  • Organic India Ashwagandha Formula Capsules
  • Life Extenson Ashwagandha Extract Veg Capsules
  • Nutrigold Ashwagandha Gold (Organic)

Till next time,