I’ve been taking ashwagandha for about three years now, starting with liquid ashwagandha and more recently, consuming the supplement in pill form. I’ve cycled through different brands over the years to determine which brand I prefer and which form to consume the supplement in. Moreover, I’ve made a couple of videos on my YouTube channel discussing the benefits of ashwagandha and other similar supplements.
What Is Ashwagandha?
This powerful plant is a member of the Solanaceae family with over 4,000 years of traditional use in its native India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Ashwagandha is classified as a Medharasayan, which is the Ayurvedic category of foods and nutrients that promote learning and memory retrieval.
Sometimes referred to as “Indian Ginseng,” it is traditionally used in conditions of debility, emaciation, impotence, and premature aging. The translation of Ashwagandha roughly is “the smell and strength of a horse”, alluding to its aphrodisiac properties. This plant is also considered a Tonic and an Adaptogen. Due to the potential benefits of ashwagandha in sleep, it is used to help promote normal sleep patterns and encourage a healthy inflammatory response in the Middle East.
11 Science-Backed Benefits of Ashwagandha
Here are the 11 science-backed benefits of Ashwagandha.
1. Reduces Stress and Anxiety
Researchers have reported that Ashwagandha blocked the stress pathway in the brains of rats by regulating chemical signaling in the nervous system. In a 60-day study in 64 people with chronic stress, those in the group that supplemented with ashwagandha reported a 69% reduction in anxiety and insomnia, on average, compared with 11% in the placebo group.
In another 6-week study, 88% of people who took ashwagandha reported a reduction in anxiety, compared with 50% of those who took a placebo.
2. Anti-Cancer Properties
Several studies have shown ashwagandha contains compounds that may help fight certain types of cancer. Researchers aren’t sure how as of yet, but extracts in the herb seem to limit or inhibit the activity of cancer cells in breast, colon, prostate, ovarian, lung, and brain cancers. It does the same for thyroid, gastrointestinal, cervix, and skin (melanoma) cancers.
Ashwagandha is also generally considered safe to use with traditional cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation. Some experts say it may ease certain side effects, like a weak immune system. However, most of these studies have been done on cancer cells specifically or animals with cancer, and not humans.
3. Reduces Cortisol Levels
Cortisol is widely known as a stress hormone given that your adrenal glands release it in response to stress as well as when your blood sugar levels get too low. In one study in chronically stressed adults, those who supplemented with ashwagandha had significantly greater reductions in cortisol compared with the control group. Those taking the highest dose experienced a 30% reduction, on average.
4. Reduces Blood Sugar
Several studies have shown that ashwagandha reduces blood sugar levels. In a 4-week study in people with schizophrenia, those treated with ashwagandha had an average reduction in fasting blood sugar levels of 13.5 mg/dL, compared with 4.5 mg/dL in those who received a placebo.
5. Reduces Inflammation
Several animal studies have shown that ashwagandha helps decrease inflammation. Studies in humans have found that it increases the activity of natural killer cells, which are immune cells that fight infection and help you stay healthy.
It has also been shown to decrease markers of inflammation, such as C-reactive protein (CRP). This marker is linked to an increased risk of heart disease. In one controlled study, the group who took 250 mg of standardized ashwagandha extract daily had a 36% decrease in CRP, on average, compared with a 6% decrease in the placebo group.
6. Increases Testosterone in Men
In a study containing 75 infertile men, the group treated with ashwagandha showed increased sperm count and motility, which lead researchers to believe Ashwagandha supplements may have powerful effects on testosterone levels and reproductive health. In another study, men who received ashwagandha for stress experienced higher antioxidant levels and overall improved sperm quality. After just 3 months of treatment, a whopping 14% of the men’s partners had become pregnant.
7. Increases Strength and Exercise Performance
In a study with healthy young adults who took 500 milligrams of ashwagandha daily for 8 weeks, it determined they had more speed and strength during exercise than people who took a placebo. They also demonstrated better breathing, taking in more oxygen. In a study to determine a safe and effective dosage for ashwagandha, healthy men who took 750–1,250 mg of pulverized ashwagandha root per day gained muscle strength after 30 days.
In another study, those who took ashwagandha had significantly greater gains in muscle strength and size. It also more than doubled their reductions in body fat percentage, compared with the placebo group.
8. Reduce Depression
This has not been thoroughly studied, however, limited research done has shown that ashwagandha possibly has a positive effect in reducing depression. In one controlled 60-day study in 64 stressed adults, those who took 600 mg of high-concentration ashwagandha extract per day reported a 79% reduction in severe depression, while the placebo group reported a 10% increase.
9. Lower Cholesterol and Triglycerides
In addition to its well-known and documented anti-inflammatory effects, ashwagandha may help improve heart health by reducing cholesterol and triglyceride levels. In particular, animal studies have found that it significantly decreases levels of these blood fats. One animal study in rats found that it lowered total cholesterol and triglyceride levels by 53% and nearly 45%, respectively.
In a 60-day study in chronically stressed adults, the group taking the highest dosage of standardized ashwagandha extract experienced a 17% decrease in LDL (bad) cholesterol and an 11% decrease in triglycerides, on average.
10. Improve Memory
Several test-tube and animal studies have suggested that ashwagandha may mitigate memory and brain function problems caused by injury or disease, and it promotes antioxidant activity that protects nerve cells from harmful free radicals. In one study, rats with epilepsy that were treated with ashwagandha had nearly a complete reversal of spatial memory impairment. Likely this was caused by a reduction in oxidative stress.
11. Improve Sleep
I’m big on sleep quality (as some readers may already know), which means I examine multiple ways exercise, hydration, diet, and supplementation can improve sleep. Ashwagandha may improve sleep according to one study with humans that showed taking 300 milligrams of the herb two times daily improved sleep. Another study on animals found that the triethylene glycol in ashwagandha is what brings sleep on.
How to Take Ashwagandha
It’s best to take Ashwghanda with food twice daily. Personally, I prefer to take the first dose in the morning and the second in the evening. On days when I’m fasting, I’ll take both doses in the afternoon and evening once I have broken fast.
It may be worth considering adding Ashwghanda to your supplement regimen. However, I do suggest checking if there is any potential conflict with existing supplements or medications you may be taking.
Often, it’s best to check with your doctor if it makes sense for you to begin taking Ashwagandha. However, it’s worth noting from my personal experience with doctors that many of them have no clue about holistic or natural herbs and remedies, so doing your own diligence/research may be more beneficial when considering taking Ashwagandha.
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