10 Science-Backed Health Benefits of Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha has truly incredible benefits as a healthy medicinal herb. It is primarily known as an "adaptogen" due to its ability to help your body manage stress.
Ashwagandha is one of the most popular herbs in the world.
Ashwagandha has many other powerful benefits for your brain and body. Its ability to fight depression and anxiety, reducing cortisol (stress), lowering your blood sugar levels, and boosting primary brain functions.
Commonly known as Indian ginseng, poison gooseberry, and Indian winter cherry, this herb is an adaptogen herb that is one of the most popular herbs in Ayurvedic medicine. This herb is botanically known as Withania Somnifera and belongs to the Solanaceae (nightshade) family.
A Brief History of Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha has been used to heal a variety of ailments ever since ancient times. In fact, it has been in use in India for over 3,000 years for the treatment of conditions such as rheumatism, hormone balance, joint inflammation, and many other conditions. The herb is native to India's drier regions like the Madhya Pradesh's Mandsaur district, Sindh, Gujarat, Kerala, Punjab, and Rajasthan. Therefore, you will sometimes hear the herb is frequently referred to as the Indian ginseng. However, today, the herb is also cultivated in areas with a milder climate like China, Yemen, and Nepal.
It is important to note that now, there is no standard dosage that has been studied by modern clinical trials. However, there are the general dosages recommended to give you an idea of how to take Ashwagandha. The optimum dosage and the way to use Ashwagandha would depend on the user's health, age, and what he or she would want to treat. Generally, it is recommended that you consume between 450-500 mg of KSM-66 Ashwagandha in a day when you consume it for general wellbeing. However, if you want to treat a specific disease then it is advisable to first consult a medical professional for the dosage.
The herb is commercially available in the form of capsules, powders, and a liquid extract in the supplement stores. If you are wondering when to take Ashwagandha, it is best to use it during the evening. Additionally, the herb can be made into infusion water for oral consumption. If you want to do this, take about 2 g of Ashwagandha root and let it simmer in distilled water for about 15 minutes. After this, let it cool and infuse for an additional 10 minutes. It is recommended that you don't drink more than 2 cups of the infusion water in a day.
10 Evidence-Based Health Benefits of Ashwagandha
Having been used for many centuries to treat various conditions, the healing properties of Ashwagandha have aroused the curiosity of modern medical science. This, in turn, has led to an interest in researchers investigating the medicinal properties of this her. So far, there are many studies that have proved the presence of potential therapeutic abilities in this herb. Below are some of the scientifically backed health benefits of Ashwagandha.
1. Lowers Blood Sugar
A high blood sugar level is one of the conditions that affect very many people n the world. This herb has been studied in both clinical and human trials to determine its impact on diabetic patients. The effect of this herb on blood sugar level has been traced to the presence of compounds in the herb that are known as withanolides. In one specific study (Source), the researchers found that withanolides that are extracted from the leaves of Ashwagandha produced a more significant increase in the body's glucose uptake. Although the leaf extracts seem to do more than the root extracts when it comes to diabetes, you can still benefit from using the roots.
2. Enhances Brain Function
Nootropics are just a class of compounds that demonstrate some higher ability to affect our cognitive performance. Some help brain performance while others help protect it from damage. After being studied for years, researchers have concluded that Ashwagandha is a very powerful neuroprotective nootropic. Nootropics are a class of compounds that have the ability to improve your cognitive performance. Ashwagandha specifically has the ability to protect and also repair damaged brain cells (Source). In addition to that, it has also been found to have the ability to lower the levels of the brain's amyloid plaques which is generally attributed to a lower risk of Alzheimer's disease (Source).
3. Kills Cancer Cells
Generally, your body cells usually go through a process called apoptosis which refers to the death of cells. However, this is a very natural process that helps in regulating a variety of processes in our bodies. When this process is disrupted, it can easily lead to the growth of a tumor. The ability to re-establish apoptosis signaling has been thought to be the most promising approaches when it comes to the treatment of cancer. Thankfully, in various animal studies, this herb has demonstrated to have this ability to signaling cancer cells death (Source). In fact, various in-vivo (mostly using tissue samples) have shown greater chances of the herb being effective for prostate and breast cancer therapy.
4. Reduces Stress and Anxiety
You will agree that stress and anxiety have many causes and manifest themselves in many ways. The main way that doctors and researchers have always used to determine the level of stress in a person is by measuring the person's levels of Cortisol hormone or Stress Hormone. Generally, lower levels of cortisol hormone translated to lower levels of stress and vice versa. In a certain study (Source), the researchers found that the herb was able to lower the level of this hormone significantly over a 60-day study period. The researchers also found out that the participants of the study scored very low on stress assessment tests which conclude that Ashwagandha is effective in lowering stress levels.
5. Testosterone and Libido
A person's sex hormone and libido are interrelated in that an increase in one is likely to result in an increase in another. In a study (Source) that was conducted on 68 infertile men, the herb was discovered to have the ability to improve a person's testosterone, sex drive, and sperm count. The study was done using an exclusive root extract that was given to the participants at a dosage of 225mg two times a day.
6. Improved Muscle Mass
The ability to build muscles is a physiological process that is often influenced by many things. Genetics, workout frequency, nutrition, and, optimal sleep (related article) are some of the main elements that determine how quickly you can build new muscle. A study (Source) found that Ashwagandha has the ability to increase the levels of testosterone as well as various other anti-oxidant compounds which are often attributed to anabolic muscle growth. In another study, it was discovered that taking Ashwagandha a few weeks before engaging in a resistance training program was very effective compared to not taking the herb.
7. Lowers Cholesterol
In a study (Source) done to investigate the benefits of Ashwagandha, the researchers discovered that the herb was able to significantly lower the level of cholesterol in the body. Although the study was done using only 18 participants, it produced some very positive results. Apart from being able to lower cholesterol, the herb was also found to increase nitrogen and serum creatine which are both very effective when it comes to strength training.
8. May Help Treat Depression
Depression is a health condition that is often diagnosed in many patients alongside anxiety. While the co-occurrence of these conditions is usually appreciated, it is still not-fully-understood. This means that if someone is able to stumble upon anything that will cure anxiety, they will follow up by also looking at its ability to cure depression. Ashwagandha being able to lower the level of cortisol hormone which in turn lower stress, it makes it a potential anti-depressant. In a study that was done on mice, the researchers found out that the herb can have antidepressant effects on the body similar to pharmaceuticals products like Lorazepam (Source).
9. Fights Insomnia
Insomnia is a condition that is often caused by various physical and physiological factors. If you are one of those people suffering from this condition, Ashwagandha may be the solution for you. In a 2017 study (Source), the researchers found out that this herb can fight insomnia thanks to the presence of triethylene glycol in it. Triethylene glycol is a sleep-inducing active compound that is found in the leaves of the Ashwagandha herb. This finding is a clear indication that Ashwagandha could be used to fight insomnia.
10. Fights Skin Inflammation
When it comes to dealing with skin disorders like inflammation and acne, Ashwagandha is one of the most trusted Ayurvedic healers. This is because of the presence of the compounds known as with anolides that help inhibit the growth of Staphylococcus aureus bacteria which is responsible for a wide range of inflammatory skin infections. The herb was traditionally used to cure acne, wounds, leprosy, and vitiligo which is characterized by patches of skin that have no color. In a 2010 study (Source) that was done on humans, the researchers found out that the herb increases those activities of the natural killer cells. These are the immune cells of the body that helps you to fight infection hence make you stay healthy. The herb has also been shown to decrease inflammation markers like the C-reactive protein (CRP).