Ashwagandha, (Withania somnifera), also known as Indian Ginseng or Winter Cherry, is an incredibly healthy medicinal herb native to India and North Africa. It’s classified as an "adaptogen," meaning that it can help the body manage stress. Ashwagandha also provides numerous benefits for the body and brain.
It can lower blood sugar levels, reduce cortisol, boost brain function, help fight symptoms of anxiety and depression, boost testosterone and fertility in men, improve strength and muscle mass, and reduce inflammation.
Ashwagandha is one of the most important herbs in Ayurveda and has been used for over 3,000 years to relieve stress, increase energy levels and improve concentration. "Ashwagandha" is Sanskrit for "smell of the horse," which refers to both its unique smell and ability to increase strength. Many of its health benefits are attributed to its high concentration of withanolides, which have been shown to fight inflammation and tumor growth.
In several studies, ashwagandha has been shown to lower blood sugar levels. One test-tube study found that it increased insulin secretion and improved insulin sensitivity in muscle cells.
Also, several human studies have confirmed its ability to reduce blood sugar levels in both healthy people and those with diabetes. In a small study in six people with type 2 diabetes, supplementing with ashwagandha for 30 days lowered fasting blood sugar levels as effectively as oral diabetes medication.
Animal and test-tube studies have found that ashwagandha helps induce apoptosis, which is the programmed death of cancer cells. It also impedes the growth of new cancer cells in several ways. First, ashwagandha is believed to promote the formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) inside cancer cells, disrupting their function. Second, it may cause cancer cells to become less resistant to apoptosis. Animal studies suggest that it may also help treat several types of cancer, including breast, lung, colon, brain and ovarian cancer. In one study, mice with ovarian tumors treated with ashwagandha alone or in combination with an anti-cancer drug had a 70–80% reduction in tumor growth. The treatment also prevented the spread of cancer to other organs.
Cortisol, known as the "stress hormone,” is released in the adrenal glands in response to stress, as well as when your blood sugar levels get too low. In some cases, cortisol levels may become chronically elevated, which can lead to high blood sugar levels and increased fat storage in the abdomen. Studies have shown that ashwagandha may help reduce cortisol levels. In one study in chronically stressed adults, those who supplemented with ashwagandha had significantly greater reductions in cortisol, compared to the control group. Those taking the highest dose had a 30% reduction, on average.
Several controlled human studies have shown that it can effectively reduce symptoms in people with stress and anxiety disorders as well. In a 60-day study in 64 people with chronic stress, those in the supplemental group reported a 69% average reduction in anxiety and insomnia, compared to 11% in the placebo group. In another six-week study, 88% of people who took ashwagandha reported a reduction in anxiety, compared to 50% of those who took a placebo.
Ashwagandha supplements may also have powerful effects on testosterone levels and reproductive health. In one study in 75 infertile men, the group treated with ashwagandha showed increased sperm count and motility. What's more, the treatment led to a significant increase in testosterone levels. The researchers also reported that the group who took the herb had increased antioxidant levels in their blood. In another study, men who received ashwagandha for stress experienced higher antioxidant levels and better sperm quality. After three months of treatment, 14% of the men's partners had become pregnant.
Several animal studies have shown that ashwagandha also helps decrease inflammation Studies in humans have found that it increases the activity of natural killer cells, which are immune cells that fight infection and help you stay healthy. It has also been shown to decrease markers of inflammation, such as C-reactive protein (CRP). This marker is linked to an increased risk of heart disease. In one controlled study, the group who took 250 mg of standardized ashwagandha extract daily had a 36% decrease in CRP, on average, compared to a 6% decrease in the placebo group.
Just as Chinese Ginseng is referred to as a panacea, or “heal-all,” Ashwagandha, commonly known as Indian Ginseng, seems to fit this description as well. With a diverse amount of health benefits and medicinal uses, including the ability to fight the growth of cancer cells, lower blood sugar levels, reduce cortisol levels and inflammation in the body, improve fertility, increase energy, and help the body adapt to stress, ashwagandha is truly a medicine worth investigating if you are looking for ways to improve your health and well-being.
Our Zuma Nutrition team uses a water-soluble certified organic extract of Ashwagandha to help you get more absorption than from typical Ashwagandha supplements. Due to the amazing healing potential of this herb, our team formulates with Ashwagandha throughout our products. Get your daily dose of Ashwagandha today in our Biodynamic Turmeric Tonic Formula, Rejuvenation Formula, Cognitive Enhancement Formula, and our Relaxation Formula.