Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is a traditional medicinal herb that has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine, a holistic system of medicine originating in India. Also known as Indian ginseng or winter cherry, ashwagandha is a popular adaptogen, a type of herb that helps the body adapt to stress and promotes overall well-being. In this article, we will explore the benefits of ashwagandha and how it can help improve various aspects of your health.
1. Ashwagandha and Stress Reduction
One of the most well-known benefits of ashwagandha is its ability to reduce stress and anxiety. Studies have shown that ashwagandha can lower cortisol, a hormone that is released in response to stress1. Cortisol can cause numerous health problems when it remains elevated for prolonged periods, including weight gain, high blood pressure, and impaired immune function.
In one study, individuals who took ashwagandha supplements experienced a significant reduction in cortisol levels compared to those who took a placebo2. Another study found that ashwagandha improved symptoms of anxiety and stress in individuals with anxiety disorders3. These findings suggest that ashwagandha can be an effective natural remedy for managing stress and anxiety.
2. Ashwagandha and Improved Brain Function
Ashwagandha has been shown to improve cognitive function and memory. A study conducted on healthy adults found that taking ashwagandha supplements improved their reaction time and task performance4. Another study conducted on individuals with mild cognitive impairment found that ashwagandha improved their memory, attention, and information-processing speed5.
Ashwagandha also contains compounds called withanolides, which have been shown to have neuroprotective effects6. These compounds may help protect the brain from damage caused by free radicals, which can contribute to cognitive decline and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
3. Ashwagandha and Lower Inflammation
Inflammation is a natural response of the body to injury or infection, but chronic inflammation can contribute to many health problems, including heart disease, cancer, and autoimmune disorders. Ashwagandha has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects and may help lower inflammation levels in the body.
One study found that ashwagandha supplements reduced markers of inflammation in individuals with rheumatoid arthritis7. Another study found that ashwagandha improved symptoms of inflammation in individuals with asthma8. These findings suggest that ashwagandha can be a useful natural remedy for managing inflammation and associated health problems.
4. Ashwagandha and Improved Physical Performance
Ashwagandha has been shown to improve physical performance in athletes and non-athletes alike. A study conducted on healthy men found that taking ashwagandha supplements improved their strength and endurance during resistance training9. Another study found that ashwagandha improved the maximum oxygen uptake and endurance of elite cyclists10.
Ashwagandha has also been shown to increase muscle mass and reduce body fat. One study found that taking ashwagandha supplements increased muscle mass and strength in healthy young men11. These findings suggest that ashwagandha can be a useful natural supplement for improving physical performance and body composition.
Ashwagandha is a powerful adaptogenic herb that has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine to treat a variety of conditions. Modern research has begun to unravel the mechanisms behind ashwagandha's therapeutic effects, with several studies suggesting that the herb may have potent anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and stress-reducing properties. Additionally, ashwagandha may have the potential as a natural treatment for conditions such as anxiety, depression, cognitive impairment, and insomnia. However, more research is needed to fully understand the herb's effects and mechanisms of action. It is also important to note that while ashwagandha is generally considered safe, it may interact with certain medications and may not be appropriate for everyone. Therefore, it is always important to speak with a healthcare professional before adding any new supplement or herb to your regimen.
Incorporating ashwagandha into your diet may be a beneficial step towards promoting overall health and wellness. Whether taken as a supplement or in its natural form, this adaptogenic herb offers a variety of potential benefits. By reducing stress and inflammation, improving brain function, and enhancing physical performance, ashwagandha may help you to lead a healthier, more balanced life.
Chandrasekhar, K., Kapoor, J., & 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), 255–262. doi:10.4103/0253-7176.106022
Singh, N., Bhalla, M., de Jager, P., & Gilca, M. (2011). An overview on ashwagandha: A Rasayana (rejuvenator) of Ayurveda. African Journal of Traditional, Complementary, and Alternative Medicines, 8(5 Suppl), 208–213. doi:10.4314/ajtcam.v8i5s.9
Cooley, K., Szczurko, O., Perri, D., Mills, E. J., Bernhardt, B., Zhou, Q., Seely, D. (2009). Naturopathic care for anxiety: A randomized controlled trial ISRCTN78958974. PLoS ONE, 4(8), e6628. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0006628
Pingali, U., Pilli, R., Fatima, N., & Akka, J. (2014). Effect of standardized aqueous extract of Withania somnifera on tests of cognitive and psychomotor performance in healthy human participants. Pharmacognosy Research, 6(1), 12–18. doi:10.4103/0974-8490.122912
Choudhary, D., Bhattacharyya, S., & Bose, S. (2017). Efficacy and safety of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) root extract in improving memory and cognitive functions. Journal of Dietary Supplements, 14(6), 599–612. doi:10.1080/19390211.2017.1284970
Mishra, L. C., Singh, B. B., & Dagenais, S. (2000). Scientific basis for the therapeutic use of Withania somnifera (ashwagandha): A review. Alternative Medicine Review, 5(4), 334–346.
Chopra, A., Lavin, P., Patwardhan, B., & Chitre, D. (2001). A 32-week randomized, placebo-controlled clinical evaluation of RA-11, an Ayurvedic drug, on osteoarthritis of the knees. Journal of Clinical Rheumatology, 7(5), 292–297. doi:10.1097/00124743-200110000-00005
Usharani, P., & Prasad, S. K. (2015). Safety and efficacy of a novel Withania somnifera extract in the treatment of allergic rhinitis. Clinical Medicine Insights: Ear, Nose and Throat, 8, 7–12. doi:10.4137/CMENT.S19049
Wankhede, S., Langade, D., Joshi, K., Sinha, S. R., & 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, 43. doi:10.1186/s12970-015-0104-9
Raut, A. A., Rege, N. N., Tadvi, F. M., Solanki, P. V., Kene, K. R., Shirolkar, S. G., … Vaidya, R. A. (2012). Exploratory study to evaluate tolerability, safety, and activity of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) in healthy volunteers. Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine, 3(3), 111–114. doi:10.4103/0975-9476.100168
Mishra, L. C., Singh, B. B., Dagenais, S., & Hatta, D. (2001). Scientific basis for the therapeutic use of Withania somnifera (ashwagandha): A review. Alternative Medicine Review, 5(4), 334–346.
Winters, M. (2019). Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera): A systematic review of safety and efficacy in human clinical trials. Journal of Evidence-Based Integrative Medicine, 24, 2515690X19874218. doi:10.1177/2515690X19874218
Lopresti, A. L., Drummond, P. D., & Smith, S. J. (2019). A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study examining the cognitive and mood effects of ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) in healthy adults. Phytotherapy Research, 33(4), 935–941. doi:10.1002/ptr.6299