12 Proven Health Benefits of Ashwagandha (Withania)

Ashwagandha is an ancient medicinal herb.

It’s classified as an adaptogen, meaning that it can help your body manage stress.

Ashwagandha also provides numerous other benefits for your body and brain.

For example, it can boost brain function, lower blood sugar and cortisol levels, and help fight symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Here are 12 benefits of ashwagandha that are supported by science.

1. Is an ancient medicinal herb

Ashwagandha is one of the most important herbs in Ayurveda, a form of alternative medicine based on Indian principles of natural healing.

It has been used for over 3,000 years to relieve stress, increase energy levels, and improve concentration.

Ashwagandha is Sanskrit for smell of the horse, which refers to both its unique smell and ability to increase strength.

Its botanical name is Withania somnifera, and it’s also known by several other names, including Indian ginseng and winter cherry.

The ashwagandha plant is a small shrub with yellow flowers that’s native to India and North Africa. Extracts or powder from the plant’s root or leaves are used to treat a variety of conditions.

Many of its health benefits are attributed to its high concentration of withanolides, which have been shown to fight inflammation and tumor growth.

SUMMARY

Ashwagandha is a prominent herb in Indian Ayurvedic medicine and has become a popular supplement due to its health benefits.

2. Can reduce blood sugar levels

In several studies, ashwagandha has been shown to lower blood sugar levels.

One test-tube study found that it increased insulin secretion and improved insulin sensitivity in muscle cells.

Also, several human studies have suggested that it can reduce blood sugar levels in both healthy people and those with diabetes.

Additionally, 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.

What’s more, in a small study in 6 people with type 2 diabetes, supplementing with ashwagandha for 30 days lowered fasting blood sugar levels. However, the study didn’t include a control group, making the results questionable.

SUMMARY

Limited evidence suggests that ashwagandha reduces blood sugar levels through its effects on insulin secretion and sensitivity.

3. Might have anticancer properties

Animal and test-tube studies have found that withaferin — a compound in ashwagandha — helps induce apoptosis, which is the programmed death of cancer cells.

It also impedes the growth of new cancer cells in several ways.

First, withaferin is believed to promote the formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) inside cancer cells, disrupting their function. Second, it may cause cancer cells to become less resistant to apoptosis.

Animal studies suggest that it may help treat several types of cancer, including breast, lung, colon, brain, and ovarian cancer.

In one study, mice with ovarian tumors treated with withaferin alone or in combination with an anti-cancer drug showed a 70–80% reduction in tumor growth. The treatment also prevented the spread of cancer to other organs.

Although no evidence suggests that ashwagandha exerts similar effects in humans, the current research is encouraging.

SUMMARY

Animal and test-tube studies have shown that withaferin, a bioactive compound in ashwagandha, promotes the death of tumor cells and may be effective against several types of cancer.

4. Can reduce cortisol levels

Cortisol is 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.

Unfortunately, in some cases, cortisol levels may become chronically elevated, which can lead to high blood sugar levels and increased fat storage in the abdomen.

Studies have shown that ashwagandha may help reduce cortisol.

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 (3).

SUMMARY

Ashwagandha supplements may help lower cortisol levels in chronically stressed individuals.

5. May help reduce stress and anxiety

Ashwagandha is perhaps best known for its ability to reduce stress.

Researchers have reported that it blocked the stress pathway in the brains of rats by regulating chemical signaling in the nervous system.

Also, several controlled human studies have shown that it can reduce symptoms in people with stress and anxiety disorders.

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.

SUMMARY

Ashwagandha has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety in both animal and human studies.

6. May reduce symptoms of depression

Although it hasn’t been thoroughly studied, a few studies suggest ashwagandha may help alleviate 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.

However, only one of the participants in this study had a history of depression. For this reason, the relevance of the results is unclear.

SUMMARY

The limited research available suggests that ashwagandha may help reduce depression.

7. Can boost testosterone and increase fertility in men

Ashwagandha supplements may have powerful effects on testosterone levels and reproductive health.

In one study in 75 infertile men, the group treated with ashwagandha showed increased sperm count and motility.

What’s more, the treatment led to a significant increase in testosterone levels.

The researchers also reported that the group who took the herb had increased antioxidant levels in their blood.

In another study, men who received ashwagandha for stress experienced higher antioxidant levels and better sperm quality. After 3 months of treatment, 14% of the men’s partners had become pregnant.

SUMMARY

Ashwagandha helps increase testosterone levels and significantly boosts sperm quality and fertility in men.

8. May increase muscle mass and strength

Research has shown that ashwagandha may improve body composition and increase strength.

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.

SUMMARY

Ashwagandha has been shown to increase muscle mass, reduce body fat, and increase strength in men.

9. May reduce 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.

SUMMARY

Ashwagandha has been shown to increase natural killer cell activity and decrease markers of inflammation.

10. May lower cholesterol and triglycerides

In addition to its anti-inflammatory effects, ashwagandha may help improve heart health by reducing cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

Animal studies have found that it significantly decreases levels of these blood fats.

One study in rats found that it lowered total cholesterol and triglyceride levels by 53% and nearly 45%, respectively.

While controlled human studies have reported less dramatic results, they have observed some impressive improvements in these markers.

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.

SUMMARY

Ashwagandha may help reduce the risk of heart disease by decreasing cholesterol and triglyceride levels.

11. May improve brain function, including memory

Test-tube and animal studies suggest that ashwagandha may mitigate memory and brain function problems caused by injury or disease.

Research has shown that 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. This was likely caused by a reduction in oxidative stress.

Although ashwagandha has traditionally been used to boost memory in Ayurvedic medicine, only a small amount of human research has been conducted in this area.

In one controlled study, healthy men who took 500 mg of standardized extract daily reported significant improvements in their reaction time and task performance, compared with men who received a placebo.

Another 8-week study in 50 adults showed that taking 300 mg of ashwagandha root extract twice daily significantly improved general memory, task performance, and attention.

SUMMARY

Ashwagandha supplements may improve brain function, memory, reaction time, and the ability to perform tasks.

12. Is safe for most people and widely available

Ashwagandha is a safe supplement for most people, although its long-term effects are unknown.

However, certain individuals should not take it, including pregnant and breastfeeding women.

People with autoimmune diseases should also avoid ashwagandha unless authorized by a healthcare provider. This includes people with conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, and type 1 diabetes.

Additionally, those on medication for thyroid disease should be careful when taking ashwagandha, as it may increase thyroid hormone levels in some people.

It may also decrease blood sugar and blood pressure levels, so medication dosages may need to be adjusted if you take it.

The recommended dosage of ashwagandha depends on the type of supplement. Extracts are more effective than crude ashwagandha root or leaf powder. Remember to follow instructions on labels.

Standardized root extract is commonly taken in 450–500-mg capsules once or twice daily.

It’s offered by several supplement manufacturers and available from various retailers, including health food stores and vitamin shops.

There’s also a great selection of high-quality supplements available online.

SUMMARY

Although ashwagandha is safe for most people, certain individuals shouldn’t use it unless authorized to do so by their healthcare provider. Standardized root extract is commonly taken in 450–500-mg capsules once or twice per day.

The bottom line

Ashwagandha is an ancient medicinal herb with multiple health benefits.

It can reduce anxiety and stress, help fight depression, boost fertility and testosterone in men, and even boost brain function.

Supplementing with ashwagandha may be an easy and effective way to improve your health and quality of life.

Ashwagandha is an ancient medicinal herb with multiple health benefits. It can reduce anxiety and stress, help fight depression, boost fertility and testosterone in men, and even boost brain function.

Supplementing with ashwagandha may be an easy and effective way to improve your health and quality of life.

Evidence Based – Full credit for this article goes to healthline.com

FIVE WAYS TO WELLBEING

Even if we’re rundown, tired or stuck in a bit of a rut, there are simple things we can do every day to feel good.

Feeling… blah! We’ve all been there, and as well as sapping our energy levels it can start to take the enjoyment out of life.

Rest assured most of us feel flat at times – it’s completely normal, and can be a sign that your mental health needs a bit of a boost. Just like eating well, sleeping well, exercising and staying hydrated boosts our physical health, there are also things we can do to boost our mental health. Let us explain…

Back in 2008, the British government contracted the New Ecomomics Foundation to come up with a set of actions that improve personal wellbeing. They wanted to develop the ‘5+ a day fruit and vege rule for wellbeing.

The rules were:

  • These had to be actions that anyone could do
  • There had to be evidence that they (when practised often) would make people feel better
  • The Foundation set off. They reviewed studies from around the world and conducted an enormous number of interviews.

In the end, they compiled a 27-page report that identified five key actions, which if done regularly are scientifically-proven to lift your wellbeing.

Connect, me whakawhanaungaWith the people around you. With family, friends, colleagues and neighbours. At home, work, school or in your local community. Think of these as the cornerstones of your life and invest time in developing them. Building these connections will support and enrich you every day.

Be Active, me kori tonu
Go for a walk or run. Step outside. Cycle. Play a game. Garden. Dance. Exercising makes you feel good. Most importantly, discover a physical activity you enjoy and that suits your level of mobility and fitness.

Take Notice, me aro tonu
Be curious. Catch sight of the beautiful. Remark on the unusual. Notice the changing seasons. Savour the moment, whether you are walking to work, eating lunch or talking to friends. Be aware of the world around you and what you are feeling. Reflecting on your experiences will help you appreciate what matters to you.

Keep Learning, me ako tonu
Try something new. Rediscover an old interest. Sign up for that course. Take on a different responsibility at work. Fix a bike. Learn to play an instrument or how to cook your favourite food. Learn te reo. Set a challenge you will enjoy achieving. Learning new things will make you more confident as well as being fun.

Give, tukua
Do something nice for a friend, or a stranger. Thank someone. Smile. Volunteer your time. Join a community group. Look out, as well as in. Seeing yourself, and your happiness, linked to the wider community can be incredibly rewarding and creates connections with the people around you.

So there you have it… The Five Ways to Wellbeing! They’re not a magic elixir that can wipe away our worries in an instant – but doing them frequently can, over time, lift our mood.

And the best thing is that looking after ourselves can make a big difference to our whānau, friends, and community.

If however, that blah feeling does stick about – do speak to an expert.

Ashwagandha is an ancient medicinal herb with multiple health benefits. It can reduce anxiety and stress, help fight depression, boost fertility and testosterone in men, and even boost brain function.

Supplementing with ashwagandha may be an easy and effective way to improve your health and quality of life.

Full credit for this post goes to Allright.org