Nutrition Market

The Health Benefits of Ashwagandha: Harnessing the Power of an Ancient Herb

The Health Benefits of Ashwagandha: Harnessing the Power of an Ancient Herb

Introduction

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is a revered herb in Ayurvedic medicine, with a rich history of use spanning thousands of years. This small evergreen shrub, native to India and parts of Africa, is renowned for its adaptogenic properties, which help the body cope with stress and promote overall wellbeing. The roots of the ashwagandha plant contain a variety of beneficial compounds, including withanolides, alkaloids, and sitoindosides, which are believed to contribute to its therapeutic effects.

In recent years, ashwagandha has gained significant attention from the scientific community, with numerous studies investigating its potential health benefits. From reducing stress and anxiety to improving sleep quality, enhancing physical performance, and supporting cognitive function, the research on ashwagandha is both extensive and promising. This article aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the science-backed health benefits of ashwagandha, exploring the mechanisms behind its effects and the practical implications for those seeking to incorporate this ancient herb into their wellness routine.

Stress and Anxiety Reduction

Ashwagandha has been extensively studied for its potential to alleviate stress and anxiety. A systematic review of human trial results by Pratte et al. (2014) concluded that ashwagandha helps lower stress levels. The review analysed seven studies, five of which were randomised controlled trials, and found that ashwagandha significantly reduced stress and anxiety scores compared to placebo.

In a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study by Lopresti et al. (2019), 60 stressed but otherwise healthy adults received either 240 mg of ashwagandha extract or a placebo daily for 60 days. The ashwagandha group experienced significant reductions in perceived stress, anxiety, and depression scores compared to the placebo group. Additionally, the ashwagandha group had lower cortisol levels, a stress hormone, at the end of the study period.

Another randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study by Chandrasekhar et al. (2012) investigated the safety and efficacy of a high-concentration full-spectrum ashwagandha root extract in reducing stress and anxiety in adults. The study involved 64 subjects with a history of chronic stress, who received either 300 mg of ashwagandha or placebo twice daily for 60 days. The ashwagandha group showed significant improvements in all stress assessment scales compared to the placebo group, and serum cortisol levels were substantially reduced in the ashwagandha group.

The potential mechanisms behind ashwagandha’s stress-reducing effects may involve its ability to regulate the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which plays a crucial role in the body’s stress response. Ashwagandha may also have GABA-mimetic effects, promoting relaxation and reducing anxiety (Lopresti et al., 2019).

Dosages and Practical Implications

In the studies mentioned above, the dosages of ashwagandha extract ranged from 240 mg to 600 mg per day, with treatment durations of 60 days. These dosages were well-tolerated and found to be effective in reducing stress and anxiety. However, it is essential to consult a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement regimen, as individual needs may vary.

Incorporating ashwagandha into a daily routine may help individuals manage stress and anxiety, promoting a sense of calm and resilience. Ashwagandha supplements are available in various forms, such as capsules, powders, and tinctures, making it easy to find a suitable option for different preferences and lifestyles.

Improved Sleep Quality

Sleep disturbances and insomnia are common issues that can have a profound impact on overall health and well-being. Several studies have investigated the potential of ashwagandha to improve sleep quality and alleviate insomnia symptoms.

A double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled study by Langade et al. (2019) evaluated the efficacy and safety of ashwagandha root extract in insomnia and anxiety. The study involved 60 participants who received either 300 mg of ashwagandha or placebo twice daily for 10 weeks. The ashwagandha group experienced significant improvements in sleep quality, sleep onset latency, and total sleep time compared to the placebo group. Additionally, the ashwagandha group had reduced anxiety levels and improved quality of life.

In another randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study by Salve et al. (2019), 50 adults with insomnia received either 300 mg of ashwagandha root extract or placebo twice daily for 8 weeks. The ashwagandha group showed significant improvements in sleep quality, sleep efficiency, and total sleep time compared to the placebo group. The study also found that ashwagandha was well-tolerated, with no reported adverse effects.

A meta-analysis by Cheah et al. (2021) reviewed five randomised controlled trials investigating the effect of ashwagandha on sleep. The analysis concluded that ashwagandha had a small but significant positive effect on sleep quality, sleep onset latency, total sleep time, and sleep efficiency. The effect was more pronounced in individuals with insomnia.

The potential mechanisms behind ashwagandha’s sleep-promoting effects may involve its ability to regulate the levels of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and GABA, which play a role in sleep regulation (Langade et al., 2019). Additionally, ashwagandha’s stress-reducing properties may contribute to improved sleep quality, as stress and anxiety are common causes of sleep disturbances.

Dosages and Practical Implications

The studies mentioned above used ashwagandha root extract dosages ranging from 300 mg to 600 mg per day, divided into two doses, for 8 to 10 weeks. These dosages were found to be safe and effective in improving sleep quality and reducing insomnia symptoms.

For individuals struggling with sleep issues, incorporating ashwagandha into their sleep hygiene routine may be beneficial. Taking ashwagandha supplements about an hour before bedtime may help promote relaxation and improve sleep quality. However, it is essential to consult a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement, especially if you have underlying health conditions or are taking medications.

Enhanced Physical Performance and Strength

Ashwagandha has been studied for its potential to enhance physical performance and strength, making it an attractive option for athletes and fitness enthusiasts. A meta-analysis by Bonilla et al. (2021) reviewed 12 randomised controlled trials investigating the effects of ashwagandha on physical performance. The analysis found that ashwagandha supplementation significantly improved maximum oxygen consumption (VO2 max) and strength compared to placebo.

In a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study by Wankhede et al. (2015), 57 young male subjects with little experience in resistance training received either 300 mg of ashwagandha root extract or placebo twice daily for 8 weeks, along with a resistance training program. The ashwagandha group experienced significant increases in muscle strength and size compared to the placebo group. Additionally, the ashwagandha group had significantly reduced body fat percentage and increased testosterone levels.

The potential mechanisms behind ashwagandha’s performance-enhancing effects may involve its ability to increase muscle mass and strength by promoting anabolism and reducing catabolism (Wankhede et al., 2015). Ashwagandha may also improve endurance by increasing the body’s resistance to stress and fatigue.

Dosages and Practical Implications

In the studies mentioned above, the dosages of ashwagandha root extract ranged from 300 mg to 600 mg per day, divided into two doses, for 8 to 12 weeks. These dosages were well-tolerated and found to be effective in enhancing physical performance and strength.

Athletes and fitness enthusiasts looking to improve their performance may benefit from incorporating ashwagandha into their training regimen. However, it is crucial to consult a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement, especially if you have underlying health conditions or are taking medications. Additionally, ashwagandha should be used in conjunction with a well-designed training program and a balanced diet for optimal results.

Reproductive Health

Ashwagandha has been traditionally used to support reproductive health in both men and women. Modern research has begun to investigate the potential benefits of ashwagandha in this context.

In a pilot study by Dongre et al. (2015), 50 healthy women received either 300 mg of ashwagandha root extract or placebo twice daily for 8 weeks. The ashwagandha group experienced significant improvements in arousal, lubrication, orgasm, and satisfaction compared to the placebo group. The study suggests that ashwagandha may be beneficial for improving sexual function in women.

Several studies have investigated the effects of ashwagandha on male fertility. In a study by Gupta et al. (2013), 46 male patients with oligospermia received either 675 mg of ashwagandha root extract or placebo daily for 90 days. The ashwagandha group had significant improvements in sperm concentration, motility, and morphology compared to the placebo group.

Another study by Mahdi et al. (2009) investigated the effects of ashwagandha on semen quality in infertile men. The study involved 60 infertile men who received either 5 grams of ashwagandha powder or placebo daily for 3 months. The ashwagandha group had significant improvements in sperm concentration, motility, and morphology compared to the placebo group.

The potential mechanisms behind ashwagandha’s effects on reproductive health may involve its ability to regulate hormone levels, such as testosterone and luteinizing hormone, which play crucial roles in reproductive function (Lopresti et al., 2019; Wankhede et al., 2015). Ashwagandha may also have antioxidant properties that protect sperm from oxidative stress-induced damage.

Dosages and Practical Implications

The studies mentioned above used varying dosages of ashwagandha, ranging from 300 mg to 5 grams per day, for 8 to 12 weeks. These dosages were found to be effective in improving sexual function in women and semen quality in infertile men.

Individuals seeking to support their reproductive health may benefit from incorporating ashwagandha into their wellness routine. However, it is essential to consult a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement, especially if you have underlying health conditions or are taking medications. Additionally, ashwagandha should not be used as a substitute for medical treatment in cases of infertility or sexual dysfunction.

Cognitive Function

Ashwagandha has been studied for its potential to improve cognitive function and protect against age-related cognitive decline. A randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study by Choudhary et al. (2017) investigated the efficacy and safety of ashwagandha root extract in improving memory and cognitive function in adults with mild cognitive impairment. The study involved 50 participants who received either 300 mg of ashwagandha or placebo twice daily for 8 weeks. The ashwagandha group showed significant improvements in immediate and general memory, executive function, sustained attention, and information-processing speed compared to the placebo group.

Another study by Pingali et al. (2014) evaluated the effect of ashwagandha on cognitive and psychomotor performance in healthy adult volunteers. The study involved 20 participants who received either 250 mg of ashwagandha extract or placebo twice daily for 14 days. The ashwagandha group showed significant improvements in reaction time, card sorting, and choice discrimination tests compared to the placebo group.

A systematic review by Ng et al. (2021) analysed the clinical use of ashwagandha to ameliorate cognitive dysfunction. The review included five randomised controlled trials and found that ashwagandha significantly improved memory, attention, and information processing speed in healthy adults and those with mild cognitive impairment. The review also highlighted ashwagandha’s potential neuroprotective properties, which may be relevant in the context of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

The potential mechanisms behind ashwagandha’s cognitive-enhancing effects may involve its ability to reduce oxidative stress, inflammation, and the accumulation of beta-amyloid plaques in the brain, which are associated with age-related cognitive decline and neurodegenerative diseases (Ng et al., 2021). Ashwagandha may also modulate the cholinergic system, which plays a crucial role in learning and memory.

Dosages and Practical Implications

The studies mentioned above used ashwagandha dosages ranging from 250 mg to 600 mg per day, divided into two doses, for 2 to 8 weeks. These dosages were found to be safe and effective in improving cognitive function in healthy adults and those with mild cognitive impairment.

Individuals seeking to support their cognitive health may benefit from incorporating ashwagandha into their wellness routine. However, it is essential to consult a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement, especially if you have underlying health conditions or are taking medications. Additionally, ashwagandha should be used in conjunction with a healthy lifestyle, including a balanced diet, regular exercise, and mental stimulation, for optimal cognitive health.

Other Potential Health Benefits

Anti-diabetic Effects and Blood Sugar Regulation

Ashwagandha has been investigated for its potential anti-diabetic effects and ability to regulate blood sugar levels. A study by Andallu & Radhika (2000) found that ashwagandha root powder, when given to type 2 diabetes patients for 30 days, significantly reduced blood glucose levels, HbA1c, and serum insulin levels compared to the control group.

A systematic review and meta-analysis by Durg et al. (2020) analysed the effects of ashwagandha on diabetes mellitus. The review included 24 studies (5 human and 19 animal studies) and found that ashwagandha significantly reduced fasting blood glucose, postprandial blood glucose, and HbA1c levels in both human and animal studies. The review suggests that ashwagandha may be a useful adjuvant therapy for managing diabetes mellitus.

Anti-inflammatory and Analgesic Properties

Ashwagandha has been studied for its potential anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties. A randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study by Ramakanth et al. (2016) investigated the efficacy and tolerability of ashwagandha in patients with knee joint pain and discomfort. The study involved 60 participants who received either 125 mg of ashwagandha extract or placebo twice daily for 12 weeks. The ashwagandha group experienced significant reductions in knee pain, stiffness, and disability compared to the placebo group.

The potential mechanisms behind ashwagandha’s anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects may involve its ability to inhibit the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines and modulate the NF-κB signaling pathway, which plays a key role in the inflammatory response (Ramakanth et al., 2016).

Potential Anti-cancer Properties

Ashwagandha has been investigated for its potential anti-cancer properties, primarily in animal and in vitro studies. These studies suggest that ashwagandha may have anti-proliferative, anti-metastatic, and chemoprotective effects against various types of cancer, including breast, lung, colon, and prostate cancer (Dutta et al., 2019; Rai et al., 2016).

However, it is essential to note that the evidence for ashwagandha’s anti-cancer properties is primarily based on preclinical studies, and more human clinical trials are needed to confirm these effects. Additionally, ashwagandha should not be used as a substitute for conventional cancer treatment, and individuals with cancer should consult their healthcare provider before using ashwagandha or any other herbal supplement.

Limitations and Future Research

While the current research on ashwagandha’s health benefits is promising, there are limitations to the available evidence. Many studies have small sample sizes, short durations, and varying dosages and formulations of ashwagandha, making it difficult to draw definitive conclusions. Additionally, most studies have been conducted on specific populations, such as individuals with stress, insomnia, or cognitive impairment, and the results may not be generalisable to the broader population.

Future research should focus on conducting larger, well-designed, randomised controlled trials with standardised ashwagandha formulations and dosages to better understand its effects on various health outcomes. Long-term studies are also needed to assess the safety and efficacy of ashwagandha over extended periods.

Safety and Side Effects

Ashwagandha is generally considered safe when consumed in recommended doses for up to three months. However, some individuals may experience side effects such as nausea, diarrhea, drowsiness, and headache (Pratte et al., 2014). In rare cases, ashwagandha may cause liver injury, particularly when consumed in high doses or for prolonged periods (Philips et al., 2019).

Certain populations should exercise caution when using ashwagandha or avoid it altogether. Pregnant women should not consume ashwagandha, as it may cause miscarriage or premature labor (Pratte et al., 2014). Individuals with autoimmune disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or multiple sclerosis, should consult their healthcare provider before using ashwagandha, as it may stimulate the immune system and worsen their condition (Pratte et al., 2014).

Ashwagandha may also interact with certain medications, such as sedatives, thyroid hormone medications, and immunosuppressants (Pratte et al., 2014). Individuals taking any medications should consult their healthcare provider before using ashwagandha to avoid potential interactions.

Dosage and Usage

The typical dosage of ashwagandha used in clinical studies ranges from 250 mg to 600 mg per day, usually divided into two doses (Lopresti et al., 2019; Salve et al., 2019). However, some studies have used higher dosages, up to 1,000 mg per day, for specific conditions such as infertility (Mahdi et al., 2009).

Ashwagandha supplements are available in various forms, including capsules, tablets, powders, and tinctures. The most common form is a standardised extract of the root, which is often used in clinical studies. When choosing an ashwagandha supplement, it is

Conclusion

The ancient herb ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) has emerged as a promising natural remedy for various health concerns, backed by a growing body of scientific evidence. This comprehensive review has explored the potential benefits of ashwagandha in reducing stress and anxiety, improving sleep quality, enhancing physical performance and strength, supporting reproductive health, and promoting cognitive function. Additionally, ashwagandha may offer other health benefits, such as anti-diabetic effects, blood sugar regulation, anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, and potential anti-cancer properties, although more research is needed in these areas.

The studies discussed in this article have demonstrated ashwagandha’s efficacy in improving various health parameters, with dosages ranging from 250 mg to 600 mg per day for most conditions. These findings suggest that incorporating ashwagandha into a daily wellness routine may help individuals manage stress, improve sleep, enhance physical and cognitive performance, and support overall health and well-being. However, it is crucial to consult a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement regimen, as individual needs may vary, and potential interactions with existing medications or health conditions should be considered.

While the current research on ashwagandha is promising, there are limitations to the available evidence, and further research is needed to fully understand its effects and determine optimal dosages for specific health outcomes. As with any herbal supplement, it is essential to choose high-quality, standardised ashwagandha products from reputable sources and to use them in conjunction with a balanced diet, regular exercise, and other healthy lifestyle practices. By harnessing the power of this ancient herb and leveraging the insights from modern scientific research, individuals may be able to unlock the potential health benefits of ashwagandha and enhance their overall well-being.

Key Highlights and Actionable Tips

  • Ashwagandha, a traditional Ayurvedic herb, has been shown to safely and effectively reduce stress and anxiety in adults
  • A high-concentration full-spectrum extract of Ashwagandha roots significantly reduced stress assessment scores and serum cortisol levels compared to placebo
  • Ashwagandha improves an individual’s resistance to stress and self-assessed quality of life
  • The study found the Ashwagandha extract to be safe and well-tolerated with only mild adverse events comparable to placebo
  • Consider incorporating a high-quality Ashwagandha supplement into your stress management routine, but consult with a healthcare professional first

What is the recommended dosage of Ashwagandha for stress reduction?

In this study, participants took 300 mg of high-concentration full-spectrum Ashwagandha root extract twice daily for 60 days. This dosage was found to be safe and effective for reducing stress and anxiety. However, optimal dosage may vary depending on the individual and the specific Ashwagandha formulation used. It’s best to follow the recommended dosage on the product label and consult with a healthcare provider before starting supplementation.

Can Ashwagandha be taken long-term for stress management?

The current study demonstrated the safety and efficacy of Ashwagandha over a 60-day period. Previous research, including animal studies, has also suggested that long-term use of Ashwagandha roots is safe. However, more research is needed to fully understand the effects of long-term Ashwagandha supplementation in humans. As with any herbal supplement, it’s recommended to take occasional breaks and consult with a healthcare professional for guidance on long-term use.

Are there any potential interactions between Ashwagandha and medications?

Ashwagandha may interact with certain medications, such as sedatives, thyroid hormone medications, and immunosuppressants. It can also potentially enhance the effects of other herbs or supplements with similar actions. If you are taking any medications or other supplements, it’s crucial to consult with a healthcare provider before adding Ashwagandha to your regimen to avoid potential interactions and ensure safety.

Who should avoid taking Ashwagandha?

Pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid Ashwagandha due to limited safety data. Individuals with autoimmune disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, should also exercise caution and consult with their healthcare provider before taking Ashwagandha, as it may stimulate the immune system. Additionally, people with known allergies to plants in the Solanaceae family (which includes tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplants) should avoid Ashwagandha.

How quickly can one expect to feel the stress-reducing effects of Ashwagandha?

The onset of stress-reducing effects may vary among individuals. In this study, significant improvements in stress assessment scores and cortisol levels were observed after 60 days of supplementation. However, some people may begin to notice benefits within a few weeks of consistent use. It’s important to remember that herbal supplements like Ashwagandha typically have a gradual, cumulative effect and may not provide immediate relief like pharmaceutical drugs. Consistency and patience are key when incorporating Ashwagandha into a stress management plan.

References

Andallu, B., & Radhika, B. (2000). Hypoglycemic, diuretic and hypocholesterolemic effect of winter cherry (Withania somnifera, Dunal) root. Indian Journal of Experimental Biology, 38(6), 607-609.

Auddy, B., Hazra, J., Mitra, A., Abedon, B., & Ghosal, S. (2008). A standardized Withania somnifera extract significantly reduces stress-related parameters in chronically stressed humans: A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study. Journal of the American Nutraceutical Association, 11, 50-56.

Bhattacharya, S. K., & Muruganandam, A. V. (2003). Adaptogenic activity of Withania somnifera: An experimental study using a rat model of chronic stress. Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior, 75(3), 547-555. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0091-3057(03)00110-2

Bhattacharya, S. K., Goel, R. K., Kaur, R., & Ghosal, S. (1987). Anti-stress activity of sitoindosides VII and VIII, new acylsterylglucosides from Withania somnifera. Phytotherapy Research, 1(1), 32-37. https://doi.org/10.1002/ptr.2650010107

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. https://doi.org/10.4103/0253-7176.106022

Chrousos, G. P. (2009). Stress and disorders of the stress system. Nature Reviews Endocrinology, 5(7), 374-381. https://doi.org/10.1038/nrendo.2009.106

Cohen, S., Kamarck, T., & Mermelstein, R. (1983). A global measure of perceived stress. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 24(4), 385-396. https://doi.org/10.2307/2136404

Ghosal, S., Lal, J., Srivastava, R., Bhattacharya, S. K., Upadhyay, S. N., Jaiswal, A. K., & Chattopadhyay, U. (1989). Immunomodulatory and CNS effects of sitoindosides IX and X, two new glycowithanolides from Withania somnifera. Phytotherapy Research, 3(5), 201-206. https://doi.org/10.1002/ptr.2650030510

Goldberg, D. P., & Hillier, V. F. (1979). A scaled version of the General Health Questionnaire. Psychological Medicine, 9(1), 139-145. https://doi.org/10.1017/s0033291700021644

Guyton, A. C., & Hall, J. E. (2006). Adrenocortical hormones. In Textbook of medical physiology (11th ed.). Elsevier Saunders.

Kulkarni, S. K., & Dhir, A. (2008). Withania somnifera: An Indian ginseng. Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry, 32(5), 1093-1105. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pnpbp.2007.09.011

Lovibond, S. H., & Lovibond, P. F. (1995). Manual for the Depression Anxiety Stress Scales (2nd ed.). Psychology Foundation.

Provino, R. (2010). The role of adaptogens in stress management. Australian Journal of Medical Herbalism, 22(2), 41-49.

Sharma, S., Dahanukar, S. A., & Karandikar, S. M. (1985). Effects of long-term administration of the roots of ashwagandha and shatavari in rats. Indian Drugs, 29, 133-139.

Shastry, J. L. N. (2001). Ayurvedokta oushadha niruktamala [Ayurvedic pharmacology and materia medica]. Chaukhambha Orientalia.

Singh, G., Sharma, P. K., Dudhe, R., & Singh, S. (2010). Biological activities of Withania somnifera. Annals of Biological Research, 1(3), 56-63.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Select the fields to be shown. Others will be hidden. Drag and drop to rearrange the order.
  • Image
  • SKU
  • Rating
  • Price
  • Stock
  • Availability
  • Add to cart
  • Description
  • Content
  • Weight
  • Dimensions
  • Additional information
Click outside to hide the comparison bar
Compare
Shopping cart close