Smoking is a well-known cause of numerous health issues, including heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer[^1^]. Despite the awareness campaigns and various methods available to help quit smoking, it remains a challenging habit to break. This article will discuss the use of ashwagandha to quit smoking and how this natural remedy can help curb your cravings, reduce stress, and improve your overall health.
WHAT IS ASHWAGANDHA?
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is an ancient medicinal herb that has been used in Ayurveda, the traditional Indian system of medicine, for over 3,000 years[^2^]. The plant, also known as Indian ginseng or winter cherry, is native to India and parts of Africa. Ashwagandha is classified as an adaptogen, meaning it can help the body cope with stress, and it has been shown to possess numerous health benefits, including:
- Reducing anxiety and depression[^3^]
- Boosting brain function and memory[^4^]
- Improving physical performance and strength[^5^]
- Balancing blood sugar levels[^6^]
ASHWAGANDHA AND SMOKING: HOW ARE THEY RELATED?
Nicotine, the addictive substance in cigarettes, causes the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of pleasure and reward. When a person tries to quit smoking, they experience withdrawal symptoms, such as irritability, anxiety, and cravings, as the brain adapts to the absence of nicotine[^7^]. Stress is also a significant factor that contributes to smoking addiction and relapse[^8^].
Ashwagandha’s adaptogenic properties can help the body manage stress and anxiety, potentially making it a valuable ally in the journey to quit smoking. Here’s how ashwagandha may be beneficial for those looking to quit:
BENEFITS OF ASHWAGANDHA IN QUITTING SMOKING
REDUCES STRESS AND ANXIETY
Ashwagandha has been shown to effectively reduce cortisol levels, the body’s primary stress hormone[^9^]. High cortisol levels can lead to increased stress, anxiety, and a weakened immune system. By reducing cortisol levels, ashwagandha may help alleviate the stress and anxiety that often accompany smoking cessation.
CURBS NICOTINE CRAVINGS
Research suggests that ashwagandha can help reduce cravings for nicotine[^10^]. This may be due to its ability to regulate dopamine levels, which play a role in addiction and reward-seeking behavior. By helping to balance dopamine levels, ashwagandha may minimize the cravings associated with nicotine withdrawal.
IMPROVES MOOD AND EMOTIONAL WELL-BEING
Ashwagandha has been found to possess antidepressant properties, which may be beneficial in improving mood and emotional well-being during the challenging process of quitting smoking[^3^]. As mood disturbances are common among individuals trying to quit, ashwagandha’s mood-enhancing effects can provide valuable support.
BOOSTS COGNITIVE FUNCTION
Quitting smoking can temporarily affect cognitive function and memory[^11^]. Ashwagandha has been shown to improve cognitive function and memory in both healthy individuals and those experiencing cognitive decline[^4^]. This may help counteract the temporary cognitive effects of nicotine withdrawal.
PROMOTES BETTER SLEEP
One of the withdrawal symptoms associated with quitting smoking is insomnia[^12^]. Ashwagandha has been found to improve sleep quality and promote restful sleep[^13^]. Getting adequate sleep is essential for overall health and can help make the process of quitting smoking more manageable.
HOW TO USE ASHWAGANDHA TO QUIT SMOKING
Ashwagandha is available in various forms, including capsules, powders, and extracts. Here are some ways to incorporate ashwagandha into your smoking cessation plan:
- Ashwagandha capsules or tablets: These can be taken as a daily supplement, typically in doses ranging from 300 to 500 mg per day[^14^]. Always follow the recommended dosage on the product label and consult a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement regimen.
- Ashwagandha powder: The powdered root can be mixed with warm water, milk, or a beverage of your choice. You can also add it to smoothies or yogurt.
- Ashwagandha extract: Liquid extracts can be added to water, juice, or tea. Follow the recommended dosage instructions on the product label.
It is essential to choose a high-quality, standardized ashwagandha product to ensure that you receive the maximum benefits. Consult with a healthcare professional before beginning ashwagandha supplementation, especially if you are pregnant, nursing, or taking medications.
POTENTIAL SIDE EFFECTS
While ashwagandha is generally considered safe for most individuals, some potential side effects may occur, including:
- Gastrointestinal issues (diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting)
- Drowsiness or sedation
- Allergic reactions
If you experience any adverse effects, discontinue use and consult a healthcare professional. Additionally, individuals with thyroid disorders, autoimmune diseases, or those taking medications should consult a healthcare professional before using ashwagandha.
In conclusion, ashwagandha can be a valuable natural remedy for those looking to quit smoking. Its adaptogenic properties can help reduce stress, anxiety, and cravings associated with nicotine withdrawal, while also promoting better mood, cognitive function, and sleep. While ashwagandha is generally considered safe, it is essential to consult with a healthcare professional before beginning supplementation.
: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2014). The Health Consequences of Smoking—50 Years of Progress: A Report of the Surgeon General. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health.
: Singh, N., Bhalla, M., de Jager, P., & Gilca, M. (2011). An overview on ashwagandha: A Rasayana (rejuvenator) of Ayurveda. African Journal of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicines, 8(5S).
: Chandrasekhar, K., Kapoor, J., & Anishetty, S. (2012). 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 Journal of Psychological Medicine, 34(3), 255-262.
: Choudhary, D., Bhattacharyya, S., & Bose, S. (2017). Efficacy and Safety of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera (L.) Dunal) Root Extract in Improving Memory and Cognitive Functions. Journal of Dietary Supplements, 14(6), 599-612.
: Wankhede, S., Langade, D., Joshi, K., Sinha, S. R., & Bhattacharyya, S. (2015). Examining the effect of Withania somnifera supplementation on muscle strength and recovery: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 12, 43.
: Anwer, T., Sharma, M., Pillai, K. K., & Iqbal, M. (2008). Effect of Withania somnifera on insulin sensitivity in non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus rats. Basic & Clinical Pharmacology & Toxicology, 102(6), 498-503.
: Benowitz, N. L. (2010). Nicotine addiction. New England Journal of Medicine, 362(24), 2295-2303.
: Kassel, J. D., Stroud, L. R., & Paronis, C. A. (2003). Smoking, stress, and negative affect: Correlation, causation, and context across stages of smoking. Psychological Bulletin, 129(2), 270-304.
: Auddy, B., Hazra, J., Mitra, A., Abedon, B., & Ghosal, S. (2008). A standardized Withania somnifera extract significantly reduces stress-related parameters in chronically stressed humans: A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study. Journal of the American Nutraceutical Association, 11(1), 50-56.
: Kulkarni, S. K., & Dhir, A. (2008). Withania somnifera: An Indian ginseng. Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry, 32(5), 1093-1105.
: Durazzo, T. C., Mattsson, N., & Weiner, M. W. (2014). Smoking and increased Alzheimer’s disease risk: A review of potential mechanisms. Alzheimer’s & Dementia, 10(3 Suppl), S122-45.