This plant is a member of the Solanaceae family and has over 4,000 years of traditional use in its native India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. It is a Medharasayan which is the Ayurvedic category of foods and nutrients that promote learning and memory retrieval. It is sometimes referred to as “Indian Ginseng” as it is traditionally used in conditions of debility, emaciation, impotence and premature aging. It is also sometimes referred to as Winter Cherry. The translation of Ashwagandha is roughly, “the smell and strength of a horse”, alluding to its aphrodisiac properties. This plant is a Tonic and an Adaptation. In the Middle East it is used to help promote normal sleep patterns and encourage a healthy inflammatory response.
What is Ashwagandha Used for?
Adaptogens support the ability of an organism to cope with stress and thereby conserve energy. Ashwagandha rejuvenates and tonifies the entire system, especially the endocrine and immune systems.
Ashwagandha is a plant. The root and berry are used to make medicine.
Ashwagandha has a lot of uses. But so far, there isn’t enough information to judge whether it is effective for any of them.
Ashwagandha is used for arthritis, anxiety, bipolar disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), balance, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), trouble sleeping (insomnia), tumors, tuberculosis, asthma, a skin condition marked by white patchiness (leukoderma), bronchitis, backache, fibromyalgia, menstrual problems, hiccups, Parkinson’s disease, under-active thyroid (hypothyroidism), and chronic liver disease. It is also used to reduce side effects of medications used to treat cancer and schizophrenia. Ashwagandha is used to reduce levels of fat and sugar in the blood.
Ashwagandha is also used as an “adaptogen” to help the body cope with daily stress, and as a general tonic.
Some people also use ashwagandha for improving thinking ability, decreasing pain and swelling (inflammation), and preventing the effects of aging. It is also used for fertility problems in men and women and also to increase sexual desire.
Ashwagandha is applied to the skin for treating wounds, backache, and one-sided paralysis (hemiplegia).
The name Ashwagandha is from the Sanskrit language and is a combination of the word ashva, meaning horse, and gandha, meaning smell. The root has a strong aroma that is described as “horse-like.”
In Ayurvedic, Indian, and Unani medicine, ashwagandha is described as “Indian ginseng.” Ashwagandha is also used in traditional African medicine for a variety of ailments.
Don’t confuse ashwagandha with Phyllis alkekengi. Both are known as winter cherry.
12 Proven Health Benefits of Ashwagandha
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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 (1Trusted Source).
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 withstands, which have been shown to fight inflammation and tumor growth (1Trusted Source).
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 (2Trusted Source).
Also, several human studies have suggested that it can reduce blood sugar levels in both healthy people and those with diabetes (3, 4Trusted Source, 5Trusted Source, 6Trusted Source).
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 (5Trusted Source).
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 (6Trusted Source).
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 (7Trusted Source).
It also impedes the growth of new cancer cells in several ways (7Trusted Source).
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 (8Trusted Source).
Animal studies suggest that it may help treat several types of cancer, including breast, lung, colon, brain, and ovarian cancer (9Trusted Source, 10Trusted Source, 11Trusted Source, 12Trusted Source, 13Trusted Source).
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 (13Trusted Source).
Although no evidence suggests that ashwagandha exerts similar effects in humans, the current research is encouraging.
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 levels (14Trusted Source, 15Trusted Source).
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
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 (16Trusted Source).
Also, several controlled human studies have shown that it can reduce symptoms in people with stress and anxiety disorders (14Trusted Source, 17Trusted Source, 18Trusted Source).
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 (14Trusted Source).
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 (18Trusted Source).
6. May reduce symptoms of depression
Although it hasn’t been thoroughly studied, a few studies suggest ashwagandha may help alleviate depression (14Trusted Source, 18Trusted Source).
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 (14Trusted Source).
However, only one of the participants in this study had a history of depression. For this reason, the relevance of the results is unclear.
7. Can boost testosterone and increase fertility in men
Ashwagandha supplements may have powerful effects on testosterone levels and reproductive health (15Trusted Source, 19Trusted Source, 20Trusted Source, 21Trusted Source).
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 (21Trusted Source).
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 (15Trusted Source).
8. May increase muscle mass and strength
Research has shown that ashwagandha may improve body composition and increase strength (4Trusted Source, 20Trusted Source, 22Trusted Source).
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
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
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%, respectivel
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 Advertisement Get Answers from a Doctor in Minutes, Anytime
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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 (32Trusted Source).
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 (33Trusted Source).
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 (34Trusted Source).
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 thyroid, 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.
Ashwagandha has been extensively studied over its four millennia of use. This herb offers support similar to the adaptions Eleuthero (Eleutherococcus sententious, sometimes called Siberian ginseng) and Ginseng (both Pan ax ginseng and Pan-ax delinquents) for a healthy stress response.* Because of this, it is sometimes known as Indian “Ginseng,” although it is an unrelated species and provides calming and nourishing stress support, while Ginseng supports energy and stamina.*12
Top Ashwagandha Benefits
How Ashwagandha supports anxiety and Stress*
Cortisol is a stress hormone released from the adrenals that has evolutionarily helped the body to mobilize a “fight or flight” response to a perceived imminent danger, freeing up resources for a vigorous fight against an intruder or flight from danger. Cortisol naturally follows a daily rhythm, rising in the morning to help mobilize the body’s forces for the daily needs and lowering in the evening to allow the body to sleep and perform restorative processes. Cortisol is helpful as a short-term defense mechanism and as part of a natural daily rhythm.3
The stress of modern human culture chronically activates the cortisol stress response, which can impact delicate glucose and lipid balance as well as vascular integrity, gastrointestinal membrane integrity and nervous system function.
Ashwagandha has been shown to promote healthy levels of cortisol and the healthy inflammatory processes that are stimulated in the response to stress.* This promotes healthy function of the immune, cardiovascular and nervous systems, as well as the brain, muscles and joints.* Ashwagandha also supports the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis that controls cortisol release from the adrenals.* (A healthy stress response supports healthy function of the whole body, so the body doesn’t have to divert attention from other processes.) Healthy, normal cortisol output also supports the adrenal glands, which naturally allows the body to focus on reproductive health.7
Ashwagandha and the Nervous System
Ashwagandha seems to support the structure and function of the nervous system, and it is also considered to be a neurosupportive and nontropical herb.* (Nootropic herbs are those that promote healthy cognitive function.*12)
Ashwagandha supports healthy nervous system function, providing antioxidant support and naturally stimulating the pathways in the brain for GABA, a neurotransmitter that’s responsible for promoting calmness and regulating muscle tone.*2,7,8 Ashwagandha supports a calm and stable mood, and it helps to regulate natural cortisol rhythm.*2,3,4,7 Several studies also have shown that Ashwagandha supports healthy sleep.3,4,10
Ashwagandha and Reproductive Health
In the endocrine system, the adrenals play a “starring” role; their functions are necessary for our survival while reproduction is not. As such, the HPA axis and the stress response are naturally connected to sperm production and fertility in men and hormonal balance and fertility in women. The body produces cortisol from the same precursors used to make reproductive hormones, and, under stress, the body will preferably produce cortisol instead of testosterone, estrogen and progesterone.7,14
Maintaining healthy cortisol levels can free up those resources to be used for reproductive hormones. The HPA axis also interacts closely with the body’s production of thyroid hormones, and Ashwagandha seems to also support healthy thyroid function, although this has not been explored clinically.8
Potential Ashwagandha benefits for Men
In untrained healthy men performing resistance training for eight weeks, consuming Ashwagandha root supported healthy muscle strength and recovery.* Ashwagandha promotes healthy levels of creatinine kinase, which reduces the natural muscle damage that happens from exercise and promotes muscle recovery.*13 In men, Ashwagandha has also been shown to support a healthy stress response, healthy sperm levels and normal levels of testosterone.*7,13
Ashwagandha and Fitness
Metabolically, Ashwagandha seems to have an overall anabolic action, supporting weight gain during the natural growth phase.* Ashwagandha-fortified milk given to children helps support a healthy weight, as well as healthy total plasma proteins and hemoglobin levels.*8 It has been shown to support normal lean body weight and fat-to-muscle ratios.*10,13 Ashwagandha may also promote healthy fat oxidation and support healthy blood glucose and blood lipid levels within normal ranges.*3,10
Ashwagandha and Joint Health
Ashwagandha root has been studied for its support of a healthy inflammatory response and joint health.* In human studies, it has been shown to naturally mitigate levels of C-reactive protein, which is a systemic marker for the body’s inflammatory response.*3 Ashwagandha has been shown to support occasional joint pain, stiffness, swelling and discomfort in healthy men and women.*8,9
The History of Ashwagandha
The translation of Ashwagandha is roughly “the smell and strength of a horse,” which alludes to its traditional use to support a healthy sex drive.* Its species name, somnifera, means “sleep-inducing” in Latin. Somnifera indicates its traditional Ayurvedic use for supporting somnolence, or sleepiness.* In Sanskrit, the word “awash” means “horse,” while “gandha” means “smell.” Once ground, the herb smells like a horse and was thought to impart the power of one, too. Ashwagandha’s Hindi name is “asgandh,” another nod to its potent odor that’s reminiscent of horse sweat.4,12
This plant is native to the Indian subcontinent, specifically the drier areas of India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. It also grows in parts of Africa, and it can grow in temperate climates, including Western North Carolina, where Gaia Herbs is located. We grow Ashwagandha on our 350-acre Certified Organic farm in Boulevard, and we also source it from India. The root of the plant is the part used in herbal products, and we harvest Ashwagandha root in fall when constituents are at their peak.
Ashwagandha in Ayurveda
In Ayurveda, Ashwagandha is a rasayana, or a plant that promotes longevity, vitality and happiness. Rasayanas are traditionally given to small children and the elderly as a tonic to support overall well-being. The root is often dried and ground, then given as a powder mixed with ghee, honey and milk. (Ashwagandha can have a bitter taste.) This warm beverage is often consumed before bedtime.12 Ashwagandha is added to our Golden Milk to provide a feeling of relaxation and support relaxation.*
Ashwagandha is one of the most commonly used herbs for the “vata” constitution, which is associated with air and space. Balanced vata energy helps maintain supple skin and joints, a healthy body weight, vitality, healthy cognitive function and a healthy nervous system.6 Ashwagandha is used traditionally as a tonic for memory, vitality and hormonal function, which supports balanced vata energy.*14 It is also used to support sleep quality, and the ground powdered root can be applied topically to promote healthy, comfortable joints.*12
5 healthy benefits of Ashwagandha
Home / Wild Life / 5 healthy… Ashwagandha, also known as ‘Withania Somnifera’, was originally used in traditional Indian Ayurvedic medicine. This herb is becoming increasingly popular in the west and is most well known for its ability to reduce stress and promote a calmer and happier sense of being. A growing body of evidence is being collated around this powerful herb with an impressive variety of health benefits.
Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic meaning it can adapt to your body’s needs by balancing out levels, such as hormones and immune cells, to create stability in the body and support our immune system. Here are 5 key health benefits of this powerful adaptogenic:
1. Supports adrenal glands to reduce stress and anxiety
Ashwagandha has been shown to support the adrenals via Normalizing cortisol levels. This reduces the negative effects of high (or low levels) of this hormone. This is highly significant as ongoing stress can be detrimental to our health. Adrenal function is closely linked to thyroid function, therefore as Ashwagandha supports the adrenal glands, it has an indirect effect on improving thyroid function as well. Initial studies demonstrate Ashwagandha’s ability to positively impact thyroid function by stimulating thyroid hormone activity. Our Food-Grown® KSM-66 Ashwagandha Plus provides 500mg of organic ashwagandha root with Food-Grown® Magnesium to support the body’s resilience to physiological and psychological demand.
2. Increases energy, stamina and endurance
Ashwagandha has been shown to significantly impact athletic performance by improving heart and lung capacity while increasing energy levels. Not only is this useful for the purposes of exercise, it is also helpful for people who struggle with their energy levels or those with fatigue-related conditions.
3. Stabilises blood sugar
Ashwagandha has been shown to stabilize blood sugar levels, reducing blood sugar when it’s too high or increasing it if too low. This is an example of the herb’s adaptogenic effect. Considering the evidence of the impact on blood sugar levels in diseases such as depression and dementia, this herb can have a profound impact on health.
4. Combats neurodegenerative diseases
The active ingredients in ashwagandha, called sulfonamides, have shown protective effects against B-amyloid-induced plaques in Alzheimer’s Disease. This is thought to be due to the natural antioxidants found in ashwagandha that scavenge free radicals to prevent cell damage. Studies also show promising results of Ashwagandha’s protective effects against Parkinson’s Disease.
5. Immune boosting and anti-inflammatory
It has also demonstrated excellent immune-boosting effects on our immune system. It has been shown to encourage anti-inflammatory and disease-fighting immune cells that help to ward off illness. As Ashwagandha has potent anti-inflammatory properties it is very useful in painful conditions such as arthritis. As the herb is rich in iron it also contributes to red blood cell count.