Ashwagandha is one of the prominent herbs in Indian Ayurvedic medicine. Now because of its benefits, it has become a popular supplement. Extracts of the ashwagandha plant, with anolides, work in many different ways in the body. It has an apparent neuroprotective impact to the brain which helps memory retention and cognitive function in the same breath also calming the mind and reducing anxiety. The ashwagandha herb is believed to reduce inflammation in the body, which could protect you from a slew of illnesses, including heart disease and cancer. The chemical compound in ashwagandha also seems to reduce blood pressure and in turn strengthens the immune system.(1)
1. Stress and Anxiety
Studies have shown that the consumption of Ashwagandha may help with reducing production of Cortisol. Why is that important? Cortisol is known as the stress Hormone that is released from the adrenal gland in response to stress, low blood sugar levels, (2),(3)
There was a randomized 8 week place-bo study of the stress-relieving effect of Ashwagandha root extract was investigated in stressed healthy adults. The study included 60 male and female participants with a baseline of a high stress level. They received 125mg capsules of Ashwagandha extract. Out of the 60 participants, 58 of the participants completed the study. The studies showed that the participants who finished the studies saw a significant improvement of sleep quality and in turn reducing overall stress and anxiety levels from the Ashwagandha root aqueous extract.(4)
Inflammation is the body's natural response to infection, stress, chronic inflammation but over time has been linked to toxins, cancer, arthritis , heart disease, and bowel disease.
From the current findings from the effect of ashwagandha on inflammation, it is believed to be concluded that ashwagandha has some marked anti-inflammatory results against denaturation of protein in vitro. The effect was likely due to the alkaloid and withanolide content of ashwagandha .(5)
Clinical studies show some results of Ashwagandha relieving the pain of rheumatoid arthritis. When the actual ashwagandha root was given to a set of RA patients for a time span of four weeks, at least half or more experienced pain relief. A few of the patients were free of pain and swelling after thel treatment.(6)
3. Heart health
If your blood pressure is high for a long period of time, it can be very damaging to your blood vessels.
This damage done to your body can result in life-threatening consequences. Conditions such as Hypertension, vision loss, heart failure, stroke, and kidney disease to name a few.
If you are experiencing some of these symptoms, ashwagandha may be for you. Studies have shown that the ashwagandha herb has anti-inflammatory properties that will help improve heart health by reducing cholesterol and triglyceride levels. (7)(8)
4. May reduce sugar levels
There are several studies that suggest ashwagandha reduces blood sugar levels.
One study shows that ashwagandha actually increases your insulin secretion and improves insulin sensitivity in muscle cells.
As well as the increased insulin, actual human studies have shown that it can reduce blood sugar levels in people who are healthy people and people with diabetes.(9)(10)
In another small study, 6 people with type 2 diabetes that were supplementing with ashwagandha for 30 days were able to lower their fasting blood sugar levels. The study however did not include a controlled group making the findings of the results inconclusive(11).
5. May help fertility in men and increase testosterone
Ashwagandha supplements can have effects on testosterone levels and reproductive health in a positive way.
Stress has been reported to be a factor for male infertility. Ashwagandha has been documented in Ayurveda and Unani medicine systems for its stress-combating properties
In a study of 75 infertile men split up into 3 categories, heavy smokers, men under psychological stress, and men with infertility of unknown etiology. The participants in this study were given ashwagandha at a rate of 5g per day for 3 months. This resulted in a decrease in stress, improved the level of antioxidants, and improved semen quality in a significant number of individuals. The treatment also helped in the pregnancy in the partners of 14% of the patients.(12)(13)(14)
6. Can increase muscle mass and strength
A study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition shows that ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) may improve muscle size, strength, and recovery in adults that engage in resistance training.
Studies have found that healthy adult males who take the ashwagandha root extract coupled with resistance training for eight weeks experienced significant gains in their muscle strength and size over a placebo group, and had a greater reduction of exercise-induced muscle damage leading to faster recovery times and reduction of body fat percentage.(15)(16)
7. Can help improve brain function and memory
Several studies have shown the healing properties and calming properties of ashwagandha. Its effects on the human brain are starting to reveal itself as more and more studies continue. This is a herb that supports long life and helps the mental capacity. With neuroprotective qualities, experts say that it improves memory, increases spatial and visual memory, decreases oxidative brain stress and helps prevent nerve cell degeneration. This will support and maintain our brains throughout life and especially as we age.(17)(18)
It is unknown whether ashwagandha can prevent Mental decline or dementia in adults. In a small clinical trial, supplementation at 250 mg twice daily for 2 weeks improved reaction time in healthy men. Another study was performed on patience with bipolar disorder. The participants were given 500mg per day and experienced improvements in a specific type of working memory, reaction time, and social cognition, compared to those receiving placebo.(19),(20)
The herb that is ashwagandha is an ancient herb that has stood the test of time. With that range from stress reduction to assistance with brain function, it is no wonder that the use of ashwagandha has continued to increase over time. If you suffer from any of the conditions discussed in this article, you may find (with professional guidance) that ashwagandha might be the supplement you’ve been looking for to improve your quality of life!