Flow is our latest product in our quest for making lives more effective through nutritional solutions. Where our complete meals (shakes + bars) only provided you with the essentials, the Flow is here to give you that extra positive effect. In our introduction, we explained what it does. And from there you can look at what each ingredient does. This blog will explain the part in-between, how the ingredients lead to the positive effects. I will take you on a journey through some of the most seminal research papers and explain it in an understandable way.
Today: How the Flow reduces Anxiety/Stress and Improves Motivation (as a result)
Our main ingredient that increases focus is Ashwagandha (also called Withania somnifera). Each serving of Flow has 750mg Ashwagandha.
There are three main research papers that look at the effects of Ashwagandha on reducing stress.
- A study of safety and efficacy of Ashwagandha in reducing stress and anxiety 
- An evaluation of the efficacy of Ashwagandha 
- Naturopathic care for anxiety: A randomised controlled trial 
The Queal Flow improves cognition and motivation, by means of reducing anxiety and stress. The addition of Ashwagandha in Flow provides several bio-neurological compounds that have been shown to reduce cortisol levels, the most well-established marker for stress and anxiety.
Paper 1: Safety and efficacy of Ashwagandha 
In this study, the researchers looked at the safety and efficacy of Ashwagandha. Their aim was to find out if Ashwagandha is safe to take, and what effect it has (if any) on reducing stress. They found that Ashwagandha safely and effectively improves an individual’s resistance towards stress. Here are the details:
- Stress: Stress is a condition arising from external physical or mental overload. It can make a person feel embattled, nervous, anxious or otherwise less capable of full and normal response to environmental demands. Prolonged exposure to stress can unbalance the mental and physiological state of a person, thereby leading to other illnesses like depression, high blood pressure, cardiac diseases and metabolic disorders.
Stress has a direct effect on the body and the chemical processes that take place there. There are herbs that help the body cope with stress. These are called adaptogens.
- Adaptogen: A natural substance considered to help the body adapt to stress and to exert a normalising effect upon bodily processes. Next to Ashwagandha, Ginseng is also a widely known example.
The participants of the study were 64 men and women who experienced a lot of stress. They were free from other mental and physical problems. They were randomly assigned to the placebo or test group. The people in the test group consumed 600mg of Ashwagandha per day, for 60 days.
The study was randomised, double-blind, and placebo-controlled. The participants were tested at the start and at the end of the 60 days.
- Randomised: People are allocated at random (by chance alone) to receive the placebo or Ashwagandha (test group)
- Double-blind: Both the researchers and the participants are unaware of who is in the test and placebo group (who gets what)
- Placebo-controlled: One of the two groups gets a placebo (that looks visually the same as the Ashwagandha)
The participants completed the perceived stress scale (PSS), the general health questionnaire (GHQ), the depression anxiety stress scale (DASS), and cortisol levels were measured at the start and end of the research (day 60).
- PSS: The most commonly used psychological scale for assessing self-perceived level of stress
- GHQ: General health questionnaire with four subsets about stress (somatic, anxiety and insomnia, social dysfunction, severe depression)
- DASS: Questions related to depression, anxiety, and stress
- Cortisol levels: Serum cortisol (the stress hormone) is a biological marker of stress
The research was unique in that it looked at different measures of stress (both questionnaires and biological markers). On all the measures Ashwagandha reduced levels of stress.
Ashwagandha improves an individual’s resistance towards stress and thereby improves the self-assessed quality of life. Ashwagandha can be used safely as an adaptogen in adults who are under stress.
Paper 2: Evaluation of the efficacy of Ashwagandha 
In a patient group with an ICD-10 anxiety disorder, Ashwagandha was tested to see what the efficacy was. Ashwagandha was found to be both safe and effective. Note that this study was done with people who suffer from anxiety disorder (15% of the population has it once in their lifetime), which means that the found effects are most probably larger than in the general population.
The participants in the study were 39 men and women of around 41 years of age. The experiment group took between 2 and 10 tablets of 250mg of Ashwagandha extract per day.
The study was double-blind and placebo-controlled. The participants were tested at 2 and 6 weeks after starting the treatment. From both groups, some participants dropped out, both for similar reasons. The most pronounced effects of Ashwagandha were found after 6 weeks.
During the research, the participants were tested with the Hamilton Anxiety Scale, Global Rating Scale (level of symptoms), and the Systematic assessment for treatment-emergent effects (SAFTEE) symptom checklist.
Ashwagandha was well tolerated by the people in the experimental group. They improved their scores on the Hamilton Anxiety rating. Thus, Ashwagandha appeared to have several of the advantages but none of the disadvantages of conventional anxiolytic drugs such as the benzodiazepine.
The results of the current study confirm that Guarana can improve cognitive performance and mood in healthy young adults. The study provides the first demonstration of effects of Guarana on mood with dose-dependent increases in alertness and contentedness. Because the Guarana extract contained only 11–12% caffeine, it seems unlikely that the effects seen here can be solely attributed to Guarana’s caffeine content.
A big caveat of this study is that it was sponsored (in part) by a research grant from a manufacturer of Ashwagandha. This puts into question the full scientific scrutiny that might have taken place. At the same time, newer research confirms the results, as we will see in the papers below.
Paper 3: Naturopathic cafe for anxiety: A randomised controlled trial 
The third study looks at the effects of Ashwagandha on anxiety. They compared the effects of naturopathic care (NC) with a standardised psychotherapy intervention (PT). The test scores of the NC group were significantly better, as well as measures of mental health, concentration, fatigue, social functioning, mental health, and quality of life.
- Naturopathic care: A primary health care that emphasises prevention and the self-healing process (but does include scientific measurements and use of medication if needed).
- Psychotherapy intervention: Directed counselling and cognitive behavioural therapy.
75 participants completed the study, which took 8 weeks to run. In both conditions, they improved on measures of anxiety and stress. The participants completed 4 questionnaires of which the primary one was about their anxiety (Beck Anxiety Inventory, BAI).
The study was placebo-controlled and blinding was applied to both the participants and the researchers. Because both groups had an intervention, you can’t speak of a truly double-blind study (where no-one knows who undergoes what treatment during the study). But both participants and the researchers were not told who was in which group.
The participants in both groups significantly improved their test scores. This shows that both counselling and the added use of Ashwagandha have a positive effect on anxiety. Ashwagandha appears to be safe and effective, with a benefit over standardised psychotherapy.
See here for a similar study: A Standardized Withania Somnifera (Ashwagandha) Extract Significantly Reduces Stress-Related Parameters in Chronically Stressed Humans: A Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Study.
Or learn more about fertility and Ashwagandha: Withania somnifera Improves Semen Quality in Stress-Related Male Fertility.
These three studies are only a small sampling of the research out there. I hope that they have highlighted the robustness of their methods. And that you feel even more confident that the Flow can help you be more productive.