Ashwagandha is an evergreen shrub growing in India, the Middle East, and parts of Africa.
It goes under many names, including Indian ginseng and winter cherry.
Its botanical name is Withania somnifera.
It’s an adaptogen, which means it can help the body cope with stress.
Ashwagandha provides the body and brain with amazing health benefits.
It can, for example, lower blood sugar levels, reduce cortisol, improve brain function, and aid in the treatment of anxiety and depression symptoms.
It can also prevent cancer cells from spreading.
In This Article
Reduces Stress and Anxiety
It also inhibits the activity of your body’s hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which governs your stress response (2).
Several studies have found that ashwagandha pills can aid with stress and anxiety relief.
In a brief trial of 58 people, those who took 250 or 600 mg of ashwagandha extract for 8 weeks had considerably slowed levels of subjective stress and the stress hormone cortisol compared to those who took a placebo (1).
When compared to the placebo group, people who used ashwagandha supplements had much better sleep quality.
Another trial of 60 people revealed that taking 240 mg of ashwagandha extract per day for 60 days resulted in significant reductions in anxiety when compared to those who received placebo therapy (2).
As a result, the preliminary study suggests that ashwagandha may be a beneficial supplement for stress and anxiety.
A recent assessment of the research concluded, however, that there is insufficient data to agree on the best optimal dosage and type of ashwagandha for treating stress-related neuropsychiatric disorders such as anxiety (3).
Improves Brain Functions
Using ashwagandha may improve cognitive performance. According to one assessment of five pieces of clinical research, there is preliminary evidence that ashwagandha may improve cognitive functioning in specific populations, including older adults with mild cognitive impairment and people with schizophrenia.
It may improve cognitive processes such as executive functioning, attention, response time, and cognitive task performance (4).
In a study of 50 adults, ingesting 600 mg of ashwagandha extract per day for 8 weeks resulted in substantial improvements in the following metrics when compared to a placebo (5).
It increased, for example, immediate and general memory, attention, and information processing speed.
According to the researchers, chemicals present in ashwagandha, such as WA, have antioxidant effects in the brain, which may aid cognitive health (5).
More research, however, is required before specialists can draw firm conclusions.
Decreases Symptoms of Depression
According to some research, ashwagandha may help ease symptoms of other mental health problems, including depression, in certain populations.
Researchers examined the effects of ashwagandha on 66 people with schizophrenia in one trial (6).
They discovered that taking 1,000 mg of ashwagandha extract for 12 weeks resulted in greater decreases in depression and anxiety than taking a placebo.
Another study found that ingesting ashwagandha may help improve overall symptoms and perceived stress in people with schizophrenia (7).
According to preliminary studies from 2013, ashwagandha may help ease cognitive impairment in patients with mental health conditions. More research, however, is required (8).
A 2012 study showed that stressed people who took 600 mg of ashwagandha extract for 60 days experienced a 77% reduction in depressive symptoms, whereas the placebo group experienced a 5% reduction (9).
However, because just one individual in this study had a history of depression, the implications of the findings are unclear.
Although some research suggests that ashwagandha may have antidepressant effects, for certain people, it should not be used as a replacement for antidepressant drugs.
If you are suffering from symptoms of depression, consult with a healthcare practitioner.
Ashwagandha includes chemicals, such as WA, that may aid in the reduction of inflammation in the body (10).
WA has been discovered to target inflammatory pathways in the body, including signal molecules known as nuclear factor kappa B (NF-B) and nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (NF-ERF2) (Nrf2).
WA has also been shown in animal studies to help reduce levels of inflammatory proteins, such as interleukin-10 (IL-10) (10).
There is some evidence that ashwagandha may aid in the reduction of inflammatory markers in humans as well.
They gave adults experiencing stress ashwagandha extract for 60 days in one 2008 trial (11).
As a result, individuals had much lower levels of C-reactive protein, an inflammatory marker, as compared to those who received a placebo.
In another trial, patients with COVID-19 were given an Ayurvedic medication including 0.5 grams of ashwagandha and other herbs twice daily for 7 days (12).
This reduced individuals’ levels of the inflammatory markers CRP, IL-6, and TNF- when compared to a placebo.
The treatment formulation also contained 1 gram of giloy ghanvati (Tinospora cordifolia), 2 grams of swasari ras (a traditional herbo-mineral formulation), and 0.5 grams of tulsi ghanvati (Ocimum sanctum).
Despite these encouraging findings, research on ashwagandha’s potential anti-inflammatory benefits is lacking.
Increases Fertility in Men
In certain trials, it has been proven that ashwagandha supplements improve male fertility and enhance testosterone levels.
In one study, 43 men aged 40–70 with mild weariness received ashwagandha extract or a placebo for 8 weeks (13).
The ashwagandha medication resulted in an 18% increase in DHEA-S, a sex hormone involved in testosterone production.
Participants who used the herb also exhibited a 14.7% higher increase in testosterone than those who took a placebo.
A meta-analysis of four studies discovered that ashwagandha administration significantly enhanced sperm concentration, volume, and motility in males with low sperm count (14).
In men with normal sperm counts, it also enhanced sperm concentration and motility.
The researchers concluded that there is presently insufficient data to validate the potential benefits of ashwagandha for male fertility and that more high-quality trials are required (14).
Reduces Blood Sugar Levels
According to limited research, Ashwagandha may have some benefits for people with diabetes or high blood sugar levels.
A meta-analysis of 24 research studies, including 5 clinical trials in persons with diabetes, discovered that ashwagandha medication significantly lowered blood sugar, hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), insulin, blood lipids, and oxidative stress markers (15).
Certain chemicals in ashwagandha, particularly one termed withaferin A (WA), are thought to have a potent anti-diabetic effect and may help encourage your cells to absorb glucose from your bloodstream (16).
However, research is currently limited, and more well-designed studies are required.
Increases Athletic Performance
Ashwagandha has been found in studies to improve athletic performance and may be a good supplement for athletes.
One study involved 12 individuals who took ashwagandha doses ranging from 120 mg to 1,250 mg per day (17).
The findings imply that the plant may improve physical performance, such as strength and oxygen utilization during exercise.
A review of five trials revealed that ashwagandha significantly increased maximum oxygen consumption (VO2 max) in healthy adults and athletes (18).
The maximum amount of oxygen a person can consume during strenuous exertion is referred to as “VO2 max.” It is a test of heart and lung fitness.
Having a high VO2 max is crucial for both athletes and nonathletes. Low VO2 max is linked to an increased risk of death, whereas high VO2 max is linked to a lower risk of heart disease (18).
Ashwagandha may aid in the development of muscle strength.
In one study, male volunteers who took 600 mg of ashwagandha daily and did resistance training for 8 weeks showed considerably larger improvements in muscle strength and size than a placebo group (19).
Improves Sleep Quality
Many people take ashwagandha to encourage restful sleep, and there is some evidence that it may help with sleep problems.
Research on 50 people aged 65–80, for example, discovered that consuming 600 mg of ashwagandha root per day for 12 weeks dramatically enhanced sleep quality and mental alertness upon rising when compared to a placebo treatment (20).
A meta-analysis of five high-quality trials discovered ashwagandha had a tiny but substantial favorable effect on overall sleep quality.
Taking ashwagandha helped people feel less anxious and more attentive when they woke up (21).
The outcomes were more obvious in people who had sleeplessness and in those who took over 600 mg daily for 8 weeks or longer, according to the researchers (21).
Possible Side Effects
Ashwagandha is thought to be safe. Diarrhea, sleepiness, headache, and nausea are among the most prevalent side effects of the herb (22).
If you have diabetes, a thyroid issue, or an autoimmune disorder such as rheumatoid arthritis, avoid using ashwagandha. If you are pregnant, avoid using ashwagandha.
As with any herbal product, consult your doctor before using ashwagandha (23).
Check with your doctor to see if ashwagandha may interfere with any drugs you are currently taking.
Selection and Preparation
Ashwagandha supplements are available in capsule, extract, powder, and liquid tincture forms. Ashwagandha supplements are available in quantities ranging from 150 mg to 2 g.
Your doctor can assist you in determining the appropriate dosage for you based on the reason you intend to take it.
Herbal supplements are made from several parts of the plant, but the root is the most commonly used. Traditionally, ashwagandha was consumed as a powder mixed with honey, milk, or tea.
Because the plant has a bitter taste, some people prefer to take it in pill form. To avoid stomach distress, take ashwagandha with food.
When shopping for ashwagandha, look for goods created with non-GMO ingredients and derived from organic ashwagandha.
A Certificate of Analysis (CoA) from a reputable vendor shows the product has been examined by a third-party lab to ensure its safety and potency.
Ashwagandha is a common herb with multiple health benefits.
It can ease anxiety and stress, help fight depression, improve men’s fertility and testosterone, and even enhance brain function.
Ashwagandha supplementation may be an easy and effective way to improve your health and quality of life.