Ashwagandha is healthy medicinal herb that is classified as an adaptogen. This means it helps your body manage stress. It also has a range of other proven health benefits for your body and brain.
Here are 8 benefits of ashwagandha:
- It’s an Ancient Medicinal Herb
Ashwagandha is used heavily in Ayurveda medicine, which is a form of alternative medicine based on Indian principles of natural healing. Ashwagandha is Sanskrit for ‘Smell of the Horse’ which refers to its unique scent and ability to return peoples vitality. Its botanical name is Withania Somnifera. It’s also known as Winter Cherry and Indian Ginseng.
This herb has been used for more than 3000 years as a stress relief, to improve concentration and to increase energy levels.
- Reduce Blood Sugar Levels
Ashwagandha has been shown to reduce blood sugar levels.
Several studies in humans have concluded that this herb can reduce blood sugar in diabetics as well as healthy people. In fact one small study of only 6 people with type two diabetes showed promising results. After supplementing with ashwagandha for 30 days they found that the fasting blood sugars were lowered with the same efficacy as oral diabetes medications.
- Anti Cancer Properties
Test tube and animal studies have found that ashwagandha can help induce apoptosis, or cell death, of cancer cells. They have also found that this herb impedes the growth of new cancer cells. One way it does so is through the generation of reactive oxygen species that are toxic to cancer cells.
A study on mice where their ovarian tumors were treated with the herb ashwagandha alone or in combination with a known anti-cancer drug. There was a 80% reduction in tumor growth. See more here.
While none of these studies are on humans to confirm the results, this research is promising.
- It provides stress relief
Cortisol is the stress hormone which your adrenal glands secrete in response to stress or when your blood sugar is too low. In some cases cortisol can be chronically elevated leaving to high blood sugar and an increase in the storage of fat around the abdomen.
Some studies have concluded that ashwagandha can help reduce chronically high cortisal levels. In a controlled study using adults suffering from chronic stress, one group used ashwagandha supplements and the control did not. Those using the supplements saw improvements in their cortisol levels. The group on the highest dose had a 30% reduction.
- Increase Testosterone and Boost Fertility for Men
The Ashwagandha herbal supplements can be extremely effective for male hormone levels and their reproductive health. One study concluded that the results suggest ashwagandha can be used as therapy for or treatment for infertility. Click these links for more details – one, two
One study took 75 infertile men, and those treated with the ashwagandha supplement saw an increase in sperm count and mobility. The treatment also saw significant increases in the male hormone testosterone. The researchers also reported that the group who took the herb experienced increased antioxidant levels in the blood and achieved better quality of sperm. In fact after 3 months of taking the supplement, almost 15% of the men’s partners fell pregnant.
6. Increase Mass and Strength of Muscles
Research using ashwagandha can help you improve body composition by increasing muscle mass and strength. One study looked into a safe and effective dosage for ashwagandha as a health supplement. Already healthy men consumed 750mg-1250mg daily for 30 days. This resulted in overall body fat percentage decreases and increased muscle activity. See here for the study details.
In another study, the group taking the ashwagandha supplement experienced almost double the loss of body fat percentage as well as greater gains in both the muscle strength and size compared to the placebo group. This study points out that the supplement is best used with a resistance training program, like lifting weights.
7. Lowers Cholesterol and Triglycerides
Ashwagandha can improve heart health by reducing cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the bloodstream. Animal studies showed the most extreme results with one study focusing on rats resulted in a reduction of cholesterol by up to 53% and triglycerides by up to 45%
Human tests were less dramatic but still showed improvements in both markers. One 60-day study saw the group taking the highest does of ashwagandha had a 17% decrease in LDL cholesterol and an 11% decrease in triglycerides. Overall the study concluded that this supplement “is a potential source of hypoglycemic, diuretic and hypocholesterolemic agents.”
8. Improves Memory and Brain Function
This study found that it promotes antioxidant activity, reducing harmful free radicals and protecting nerve calls.
Another study used epileptic rats who were then treated with ashwagandha. These rats suffered from a spatial memory impairment which was almost totally reversed through the use of this herbal root supplement. This was most likely due to a reduction in oxidative stress.
Ashwagandha has always been used traditionally to improve memory in the Ayurvedic practices, however currently there is only a small amount of human research in this arena.
One study we found, researchers gave 20 healthy men two 250mg of the herbal supplement daily over 14 days. They saw improvement inreaction time and task performance, compared to men who received a placebo however this test was fairly limited in both scope and scale.
Overall ashwagandha is a traditional medicinal herb with a wide variety of benefits from reducing stress, boosting fertility in men, acting as an antioxidant and improving brain function. This supplement doesn’t appear to have an adverse effects. The dosages in then studies ranged from 25–1,250 mg daily. Generally a higher dosage will produce the most dramatic improvements. If you are interesting in trying out the supplement, look for a root extract or powder and dose with at least 500mg per day.
As always with supplements, anyone with health conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and type 1 diabetes or anyone pregnant or breastfeeding needs to visit their doctor to decide if it is safe to use with your other medications.