Ashwagandha is known as the king of medicinal herbs. Traditionally, it has been used to help improve energy levels, boost health and longevity. Also known as Withania somnifera, Indian ginseng or winter cherry, it is frequently used in Ayurvedic (traditional Indian) medicine.
Research now suggests that this unique herb may also help to reduce chronic disease.
In Sanskrit, Ashwagandha means “the smell of a horse” and is said to provide the power and stamina of a horse upon consumption.
Ashwagandha is also known as an adaptogen. This means, it can adapt to your body’s needs by balancing out levels such as hormones and immune cells. It is used to help the body cope with daily stress and reduce the effects of physical, chemical and biological agents.1
In this article, we take a deep dive into the health benefits of this unique and powerful herb.
- It helps to alleviate stress and anxiety
Stress is a state of mental or emotional strain. It strongly impacts immunity, brain and sexual function. Stress can also cause an increase in the hormone cortisol, also known as the “stress” hormone.
This unique adaptogen has been shown to have promising effects at combating stress. Not only is it hard to mentally and emotionally deal with but constant stress can cause wear and tear on the body and damage our vital organs and body systems. Studies have shown that Ashwagandha safely and effectively improves an individual's ability to respond to stress.
In one study, 64 people with high stress levels were enrolled into a placebo group or asked to take one capsule of 300mg high concentration Ashwagandha plant twice per day for two months. The group that was provided the herb showed a significant reduction in stress levels and a substantial reduction in serum cortisol levels.2
2. It can help to support brain concentration/focus/mental clarity
Ashwagandha is traditionally known to have memory-enhancing and brain functioning properties.
One randomised, placebo-controlled study investigated this claim on reaction time. It found that participants provided 1000mg of Ashwagandha daily for two weeks had significant improvements in their reaction time compared to those who didn’t.3
Other studies have found this medicinal herb to improve memory, attention and the ability to process information.4 The science is still emerging but so far Ashwagandha has shown positive effects on cognition and exerts neuroprotective properties for brain health.
3. It can provide a boost of strength to exercise performance
Ashwagandha supplements may be a useful addition to any exercise regime. It can help to improve speed, muscle strength and hand-eye coordination.
A study of forty healthy individuals looked at the effect on power, strength, and blood pressure. It found that over the eight weeks, Ashwagandha lowered blood pressure and improved strength and power.5
Another study looked at the effects on endurance in elite cycling athletes. The study prescribed 500mg twice per day for eight weeks. It found that using the supplement provided significant improvements in strength and time until exhaustion on the treadmill.6
Some early stage research indicates that supplementation may also help to increase muscle mass.7
It is thought that this may be the result of three of ashwagandha’s bichemical effects:7
- It can cause increases in testosterone, which leads to muscle growth.
- It can also decrease cortisol levels, which as a catabolic (break down) hormone, it detracts from muscle mass.
- As an anti-anxiety agent, it may help to promote focus, causing better coordination of muscles.
4. It can help to minimise fatigue and improve sleep
Ashwagandha has been shown to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-stress and adaptogenic properties. It’s chemical component, the alkaloids are considered to be sedative and provide a sleep-inducing potential.
Studies show that it may help to reduce fatigue related to cancer. A study found that patients who were prescribed a dose of 2g every 8 hours throughout the course of chemotherapy experienced reduce fatigue levels.8
Sleep deprivation significantly disrupts sleep patterns and can cause poor quality of sleep. Ashwagandha can help to decrease sleeplessness associated with stress and reduce the symptoms of restless sleep.9
Clinical trials in animals have also shown that Ashwagandha has a sleep promoting effect in those in a sleep deprived state.
5. It may help to improve fertility and testosterone in men
Some studies suggest that Ashwagandha has a beneficial influence in male fertility.10
In one controlled study, 75 infertile men took a 5g supplement each day. After a three month period, sperm count and motility were significantly increased.11
Stress has also been reported as a factor linked with male infertility. Another study found that treatment with Ashwagandha resulted in decrease in stress, improved sperm quality and pregnancy of 14% of the partners of the patients studied.12
5. It helps to support healthy emotions and mood balance
Ashwagandha can help to support a calm mood and relieve irritability. It has a calming anxiolytic effect. Traditionally it is used in Ayurvedic medicine as a nervous system relaxant.
Some studies even suggest that its effect is comparable to anti-anxiety drugs.13 It is thought this is due to reducing brain levels of an anxiety marker known as tribulin.
The bottom line
Ashwagandha is available in a powder form made from the roots of the plant, as well as in teas and capsules. This traditional medicinal plant has a variety of health benefits. It can help reduce anxiety, alleviate stress, boost exercise performance and support mood balance.
Supplementing with Vitable’s Ashwagandha is an easy way to promote rejuvenation and support your health, wellbeing and longevity.
- Singh, N., Bhalla, M., De Jager, P. and Gilca, M. (2011). An Overview on Ashwagandha: A Rasayana (Rejuvenator) of Ayurveda. African Journal of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicines, 8(5S).
- Chandrasekhar, K., Kapoor, J. and Anishetty, S. (2012). A prospective, randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study of safety and efficacy of a high-concentration full-spectrum extract of Ashwagandha root in reducing stress and anxiety in adults. Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine, 34(3), p.255.
- Pingali, U., Pilli, R. and Fatima, N. (2014). Effect of standardized aqueous extract of Withania somniferaon tests of cognitive and psychomotor performance in healthy human participants. Pharmacognosy Research, 6(1), p.12.
- Choudhary, D., Bhattacharyya, S. and Bose, S. (2017). Efficacy and Safety of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera (L.) Dunal) Root Extract in Improving Memory and Cognitive Functions. Journal of Dietary Supplements, 14(6), pp.599-612.
- Sandhu, J., Shah, B., Shenoy, S., Padhi, M., Chauhan, S. and Lavekar, G. (2010). Effects of Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha) and Terminalia arjuna (Arjuna) on physical performance and cardiorespiratory endurance in healthy young adults. International Journal of Ayurveda Research, 1(3), p.144.
- Shenoy, S., Chaskar, U., Sandhu, J. and Paadhi, M. (2012). Effects of eight-week supplementation of Ashwagandha on cardiorespiratory endurance in elite Indian cyclists. Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine, 3(4), p.209.
- Wankhede, S., Langade, D., Joshi, K., Sinha, S. and Bhattacharyya, S. (2015). Examining the effect of Withania somnifera supplementation on muscle strength and recovery: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 12(1).
- Biswal, B., Sulaiman, S., Ismail, H., Zakaria, H. and Musa, K. (2012). Effect of Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha) on the Development of Chemotherapy-Induced Fatigue and Quality of Life in Breast Cancer Patients. Integrative Cancer Therapies, 12(4), pp.312-322.
- Kumar, A. and Kalonia, H. (2008). Effect ofWithania somniferaon sleep-wake cycle in sleep-disturbed rats: Possible GABAergic mechanism. Indian Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, 70(6), p.806.
- Gupta, A., Mahdi, A., Shukla, K., Ahmad, M., Bansal, N., Sankhwar, P. and Sankhwar, S. (2013). Efficacy of Withania somnifera on seminal plasma metabolites of infertile males: A proton NMR study at 800MHz. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 149(1), pp.208-214.
- Ahmad, M., Mahdi, A., Shukla, K., Islam, N., Rajender, S., Madhukar, D., Shankhwar, S. and Ahmad, S. (2010). Withania somnifera improves semen quality by regulating reproductive hormone levels and oxidative stress in seminal plasma of infertile males. Fertility and Sterility, 94(3), pp.989-996.
- Mahdi, A., Shukla, K., Ahmad, M., Rajender, S., Shankhwar, S., Singh, V. and Dalela, D. (2011). Withania somniferaImproves Semen Quality in Stress-Related Male Fertility. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2011, pp.1-9.
- Bhattacharya, S., Bhattacharya, A., Sairam, K. and Ghosal, S. (2000). Anxiolytic-antidepressant activity of Withania somnifera glycowithanolides: an experimental study. Phytomedicine, 7(6), pp.463-469.