Ashwagandha is an Indian herb that commonly used in a method of medicine known as Ayurveda to promote strength. Ashwagandha is becoming increasingly more popular in the U.S. as a health supplement. Ashwagandha is classified as an adaptogen meaning that it is able to combat physical and chemical stress. In fact, this herb has been used to combat stress for over 3 millenniums. The Ashwagandha plant is native to India and North Africa. Extracts and powders can be formed from the root of the plant so it can be taken to for various health reasons. There are many reported benefits of Ashwagandha which we will cover in this article.
1. Managing Anxiety
One of the original used of Ashwagandha was for its anti-anxiety properties. In fact, the most significant body of research regarding the herb has been done in this area. Ashwagandha has been shown to reduce cortisol levels as well as the immunosuppressive effects of stress. Studies have found that taking ashwagandha can lead to a reduction in reported anxiety. These properties of ashwagandha make it a possible treatment for not only anxiety but depression and insomnia as well.
2. Cancer Fighting
Ashwagandha has also shown the potential to fight cancer cells. Certain studies have found that the herb can help induce cell death in cancer cells. Which is a mechanism that the cells typically are able to evade. Studies have also found that using Ashwagandha in conjunction with other cancer treatments can increase the reduction in tumor growth.
3. Lowering Blood Sugar
Studies have also demonstrated the ability of Ashwagandha to lower blood glucose levels. This has been found in not only healthy people but also those suffering from conditions involving elevated blood glucose such as diabetes. This is a significant benefit of the herb since high blood glucose has been shown to be beneficial for several progressive diseases.
4. Improved Blood Lipids
Irregular blood lipids can be a contributing factor to many diseases we face today. Ashwagandha has shown to not only decrease triglyceride levels but also lower total cholesterol levels. This has been shown primarily through the lowering of what is considered out bad cholesterol, LDL. Several studies have also found that Ashwagndha can improve blood lipids by increasing our good cholesterol, HDL.
5. Testosterone Booster
Ashwagandha can also aid in endocrine function, improving hormonal levels. In fact, research has found that men suffering from infertility were able to increase their sperm count through the supplementation of Ashwagandha. The hormonal effects of Ashwagandha also allows for reported increases in testosterone levels. This increase in testosterone is likely responsible for the increases in strength and muscle mass which have also been reported through the use of the herb.
6. Body Composition
As mentioned above, Ashwagandha has been shown to improve muscle mass, which may be potentiated by increases in hormones like testosterone. Additionally, there is now research coming out showing the herb may aid in weight reduction. This may be through increases in fat oxidation, which has also been shown in some studies. Increases in fat oxidation may be a result of lower blood glucose which can increase the body’s reliance on fat for energy.
7. Sports Performance
Of course, increases in muscle mass and testosterone can allow for improvements in sports performance. However, Ashwagandha may also provide a benefit in this area through reductions in muscle damage, which has been shown in studies. These studies have found that supplementing with this herb may reduce plasma creatine kinase levels, which is a systemic marker of muscular damage.
8. Improved Sleep
We reported earlier that the use of Ashwagandha may be a viable option for improving symptoms of insomnia. Women using Ashwagandha during chemotherapy have reported improved sleep while using the herb. This action of the herb may be potentiated by the decrease in cortisol, which can allow for better sleep.
9. Brain Function
Studies looking at the use of Ashwagandha in animals have found that the herb can help improve brain function in animals suffering from impairments from disease of injury. Studies have also been carried out in animals suffering from disorders like epilepsy. Additionally, studies in humans have found that Ashwagandha can improve reaction time and performance on various cognitive tasks. This makes the herb a possible option to help manage neurodegerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s Disease.
Another very powerful potential of Ashwagandha is the inflammation reducing properties. Research has found that the herb may be able to improve immune function and reduce systemic inflammation. Inflammation can aid in the progression of many diseases like Cancer and Alzheimer’s.
Ashwagandha is a natural herb and it has been shown to be save for most people except for women who are breastfeeding or pregnant. Additionally, individuals suffering from thyroid disease who are taking medication should avoid taking Ashwagandha since some research has shown that the herb can increase thyroid hormones. There has also been reports suggesting that individuals suffering from autoimmune disorders should consult with a doctor prior to using Ashwagandha. It is important to note that some of the reported benefits of Ashwagandha have been found to me more and less significant in different cases. Currently, research is being done with varying amounts of the herb so it may be challenging to find the best dose for your reason for taking the herb. However, the lowest effective dose of Ashwagandha has been reported to be around 300-500mg. Research has suggested that the optimal dose is 6,000 mg divided into three even doses. Supplement consumption appears best with food. While some websites suggest taking ashwagandha in the morning, I would suggest taking it several hours after you wake up since cortisol plays a significant role in our Circadian Rhythms. As mentioned earlier, Ashwagandha can be consumed in powder form, however, it is most commonly found in pill form that range from 100 mg capsules to 500mg and can be purchased at most supplement shops