Ashwagandha is gaining recognition worldwide for its spectrum of health benefits. Health food stores and supplement manufacturers harnessing the benefits of ashwagandha in their products, so the sooner we get to know this herb, the better.
What is ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is the main herb used in Ayurveda, the traditional system of medicine on the Indian subcontinent. Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb meaning it helps the body adapt for challenging conditions.
The herb has significant psychological (reduction in stress & improved cognitive abilities) and physiological (Improved athletic performance & sleep quality) benefits.
Pharmacopeia publications in America, Britain, Canada, and India, as well as Ayurvedic practitioners and the World Health Organization, favor the roots of the plant for use in herbal supplements and products.
1) Stress & Anxiety Reduction
A study in the Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine showed that ashwagandha caused a significant reduction in cortisol levels. Cortisol is one of the main drivers of the human stress response. It also calms the activity of the pituitary gland deep in the brain, which is the area that regulates the stress response.
In this study, 60 participants consumed either a placebo or 240 mg of ashwagandha extract, , for eight weeks. Those taking ashwagandha showed far lower levels of cortisol compared to the placebo group and described significantly reduced perception of stress.
2) Better Immune Health
Ashwagandha contains withaferin A, and compounds working synergistically with it, that together can fine tune immune function by regulating inflammation.
When Inflammation becomes chronic, the constant immune response takes a toll on your body.
In 2008, one study examined adults experiencing stress who took ashwagandha extract for 60 days. Following this supplementation, they showed significant reductions in C-reactive protein, a key inflammatory marker, compared to a placebo group.
Another, more recent study showed that 500 mg of ashwagandha combined with other herbs taken twice per day for seven days reduced levels of inflammatory markers associated with a COVID-19 infection.
One study involving tea made with ashwagandha noted that after 2 months, many study participants had 60% more natural killer cells in their immune system compared to those who did not drink the tea.
3) Enhanced Brain & Cognitive Function
An article in the Journal of Dietary Supplements reported that in otherwise healthy individuals, ashwagandha can significantly improve memory and cognitive functions executive function, attention, and information-processing speed.
Additional clinical studies noted that ashwagandha could improve cognitive functioning in certain populations, including older adults with mild cognitive impairment.
Another study had 50 adults taking 600 mg of ashwagandha extract per day for eight weeks. Their cognitive functions such as memory and information processing speed improved. Researchers posit this is due to in part to the effects of its antioxidant properties working on the brain.
4) Improved Mental Health
Ashwagandha may even reduce symptoms of some mental health conditions, such as depression, schizophrenia, and anxiety.
One study examined 66 people with schizophrenia who experienced anxiety and depression. Participants who took 1,000 mg of ashwagandha extract daily for three months had a reduction in depression and anxiety versus those who took a placebo.
Other findings show the herb help with symptoms and perceived stress in people with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.
5) Better Sexual Health
Research published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine shows that ashwagandha significantly increased semen volume, sperm concentration and motility, as well as testosterone levels in men.
In a study of more than 40 overweight men between 40 and 70 years of age experiencing mild fatigue, participants took ashwagandha tablets daily for eight weeks. The men showed an 18% increase in DHEA-S, a sex hormone that helps produce testosterone, which led to a 14.7% increase in testosterone versus those who took placebos.
For women, one study published by Biomed Research International showed improvements
in sexual health. It relied on metrics measured by gynecologists to assess desire, lubrication, arousal, satisfaction, and orgasm.
6) Improved Athletic Performance
Ashwagandha may enhance athletic performance.
One broad analysis of research involved a dozen studies in men and women. They took between 120 and 1,250 mg of ashwagandha daily. The results suggested that it may enhance physical performance, as supported by measurements in strength, endurance, and oxygen consumption. Oxygen consumption is a sign of heart and lung fitness.
7) Reduced Blood Sugar Levels
Limited evidence indicates that ashwagandha can benefit people with high blood sugar levels.
In a review of five clinical studies that involved people with diabetes, it was noted that ashwagandha significantly reduced blood sugar, hemoglobin insulin, blood lipids, and oxidative stress markers common to diabetes patients.
Researchers believe that compounds found in ashwagandha, specifically withaferin A, have powerful antidiabetic properties.
8) Better Sleep Quality
Some evidence suggests people can sleep better when taking ashwagandha.
One study of 50 adults between 65 to 80 who took 600 mg of ashwagandha per day for 12 weeks found that they had significantly improved sleep quality and mental alertness upon waking up.
In another study, involving people with insomnia who took a minimum 600mg daily for at least 8 weeks, researchers noted pronounced improvement in sleep quality.
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is the main herb used in Ayurveda, a traditional system of medicine in India. It is a powerful adaptogen whose benefits include:
- Reduction of stress and anxiety
- Better immune health
- Enhanced brain & cognitive function
- Improved mental health
- Better sexual health
- Improved Athletic Performance
- Improves blood sugar levels
- Better sleep quality
While the daily doses of ashwagandha extract varied anywhere from 120mg – 1250mg for the studies examined, it seems that by taking approximately, 600mg of ashwagandha extract daily, you will be able to obtain most of the benefits of ashwagandha mention above.
As always, before you begin a new regimen with any herbal supplement, check with your physician to make sure an herbal supplement is safe for you.