Stress can have devastating impacts on emotional and physical health
In a 2022 survey, 27% of Americans reported being so stressed most days that they can’t function.
Stress can leave us mentally lethargic and foggy. When stress becomes chronic, it can cause serious long-term damage, increasing risk for heart disease, diabetes, depression, anxiety, and sleep problems.
Searching for ways to reduce stress, researchers identified a plant extract that decreased feelings of stress by 62%-79%.
Researchers also identified a spearmint extract that boosted mental alertness and attention in two separate randomized controlled human studies.
Together, these plant extracts may lower stress while increasing mental focus.
The Dangers of Stress
Chronic stress inflicts severe impacts on the body.
Untreated, it can increase risk for health issues including:
- Heart disease and stroke,
- Gastrointestinal complaints,
- Mental health, including anxiety, depression, and insomnia, and
- Sexual dysfunction.
One way the body responds to stress is by releasing cortisol, a hormone that keeps the stress response activated during chronic periods of stress.
Research shows that an extract of the ashwagandha plant helps the body fight the negative effects of chronic stress.
Ashwagandha Lowers Cortisol
Ashwagandha has been used in traditional Indian medicine for over 3,000 years to promote whole-body health.
Chronic stress results in higher levels of cortisol, a hormone that helps regulate stress response. Chronically elevated cortisol levels can impact overall quality of life.
Cortisol is regulated by the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. Normal activation of the HPA axis is necessary for a healthy response to stress. However, chronic stimulation of the HPA axis can lead to an erratic stress response. This can result in constant levels of cortisol being released into the body contributing to weight gain, heart disease, impaired memory, and other health problems.
Ashwagandha acts as an adaptogen, a substance helping the body deal with physical manifestations of stress like the release of cortisol, while restoring balance.
Research suggests that ashwagandha inhibits cortisol release.
Impressive Clinical Results
To validate these effects, scientists designed a randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial.
They divided chronically stressed individuals into four groups.
One group took a placebo while the other three took ashwagandha root and leaf extract in one of three doses:
- 125 mg once daily,
- 125 mg twice daily (total 250 mg), or
- 250 mg twice daily (total 500 mg).
A commonly used anxiety scale showed that overall stress was decreased by 71% in the group that was given 125 mg of extract twice daily (250 mg total) for 60 days.
After 60 days, the 125 mg twice daily (250 mg total) group had significantly decreased:
- Serum cortisol,
- Serum C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation,
- Pulse rate, and
- Blood pressure.
All participants taking ashwagandha, compared to placebo, reported reduced feelings of stress and anxiety and significant improvements in:
- Appetite loss,
- Feelings of “impending doom,”
- Inability to concentrate,
- Forgetfulness, and
In the 125 mg twice daily (250 mg total) group, serum cortisol decreased by 24.2%.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Lower Stress, Boost Alertness
- Stress can have devastating impacts on emotional and physical health.
- In a clinical trial, ashwagandha extract lowered stress by 71% and reduced levels of the stress hormone cortisol by 24.2%.
- Stress can also lead to feelings of mental fogginess.
- A patented spearmint extract has been clinically shown to improve attention, alertness, and reaction times.
- Taken together, these two plant extracts may lower stress and boost mental focus.
Boosting Mental Alertness
Stress can make people feel mentally muddled. Often times, treatments for stress reduce alertness and induce drowsiness.
Researchers turned to spearmint which has been traditionally used to improve alertness and memory. They found a spearmint extract that uses a water process extraction method to preserve the high polyphenol content in this herb.
This polyphenol-rich spearmint extract contains a minimum of 14.5% rosmarinic acid and a combination of 24% total polyphenols that was shown to:
- Increase alertness and vigor, and
- Improve working and spatial working memory, two aspects of short-term memory.
In this human study, subjects with age-associated memory impairment who took 900 mg of this specific spearmint extract for 90 days had, compared to a placebo, had a roughly 15% improvement in working memory and a 9% improvement in spatial working memory. This suggests enhanced mental alertness.
In an open-label pilot trial, healthy adults taking 900 mg of spearmint significantly improved their attention and concentration just 2.25 hours after a single dose, demonstrating swift cognitive benefits.
Clinically Validating Spearmint
To elaborate on these findings, scientists conducted two randomized, placebo-controlled trials.
In one study, healthy, active individuals aged 18-50 years took 900 mg of spearmint extract or a placebo daily.
Volunteers were tested using a high-tech, 360-degree platform surrounded by towers with multiple lights. Subjects had to lunge to make hand or foot contact with targets on the towers as software counted the “hits.”
This test measures reaction times when sudden changes in direction or speed are needed. It also measures choice reaction times – an indicator of the cognitive, more than the physical, aspects of reactive agility.
Those taking the spearmint extract had significant improvements in “hits” after just 30 days, showing enhanced mental agility.
Improvements in Attention
Another placebo-controlled trial enlisted healthy, active volunteers aged 18-50 who took 900 mg of spearmint extract or a placebo daily.
This time, cognition was assessed by computerized cognitive tests.
After 30 days, the spearmint group had an 8.8% increase in sustained attention as compared to placebo. After 90 days, 11% improvement was reported.
No significant changes in sleep, mood, or quality of life were found, demonstrating that this spearmint extract does not disrupt these aspects of life.
Combining this spearmint extract with ashwagandha may help reduce stress and increase alertness, with no potential side effects.
Stress reduces quality of life and increases risk of chronic disease.
In clinical trials, ashwagandha lowered feelings of stress and reduced cortisol levels.
Mental fogginess, which may be stress-related, can impair cognition.
A water-processed spearmint extract improved reaction time, alertness, and sustained attention in clinical studies.
If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Wellness Specialist at 1-866-864-3027.