Ashwagandha is a renowned adaptogenic herb that may help your body and mind better adapt to stress. It is also well known for its properties of increasing energy and immunity. In this article, we'll discuss the top benefits of ashwagandha in detail.
What Is Ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), also known as "Indian ginseng" or "Indian Winter Cherry," is an adaptogenic herb with many powerful health benefits. Numerous clinical studies show that the root of the ashwagandha plant has many medicinal health benefits. Ashwagandha positively affects energy levels, immune system health, stress levels, and much more.
Ashwagandha has a history as a natural remedy in Ayurveda, India's traditional medicine system. In Sanskrit, ashwagandha means "the smell of a horse." This strange name refers to the distinct smell of ashwagandha and a belief that ashwagandha can provide someone with the strength and vitality of a wild horse.
What Does Ashwagandha Do?
In traditional Ayurvedic medicine, ashwagandha is considered a "Rasayana," an herb that provides rejuvenation and longevity.
Ashwagandha increases vigor and strength, relieves pain, reduces inflammation, treats insomnia, and enhances immunity. Today, ashwagandha is most commonly utilized for its adaptogenic properties and improving athletic performance.
What Are the Benefits of Ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha is a popular herb with many health benefits. Some of the top Ashwagandha benefits include:
Ashwagandha Is a Powerful Adaptogen
Ashwagandha is perhaps most widely consumed for its adaptogenic benefits. Adaptogens are a select group of herbs that support the body's natural ability to deal with stress. These herbs are adaptogens because they aid our bodies in adapting and responding to, or recovering from, both short-term and long-term physical or mental stress.
Modern research on adaptogens has discovered that they affect the brain at a molecular level by regulating a balance in the hypothalamic, pituitary, and adrenal glands—important glands that are all involved in the stress response. So essentially, adaptogens work by "hacking" the stress response in the body.
Whenever we experience stress, whether physical or psychological, our bodies go through general adaptation syndrome (GAS). This response includes three distinct stages: alarm, resistance, and exhaustion. Adaptogens have a stimulating effect that helps us fight off tiredness and fatigue and stay in the resistance phase longer. This effect helps us better adapt to stressful situations and overcome them rather than experiencing burnout or fatigue.
Ashwagandha May Enhance Immunity
Research on ashwagandha has found many benefits for the immune system. Because of its powerful adaptogenic qualities, ashwagandha helps enhance the body's natural resilience to stress.
According to a study published in the National Library of Medicine, "ashwagandha improves the body's defense against disease by improving the cell-mediated immunity."
In addition to enhancing cell-mediated immunity, ashwagandha also has powerful antioxidant properties that help to protect the body from cellular damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are molecules with an uneven number of electrons. This uneven number makes them unstable and reactive.
Free radicals create a process called oxidation. While oxidation is a natural process, too much oxidation without enough antioxidant activity can lead to oxidative stress, which can begin to damage the health of your cells.
Antioxidants can donate an electron to free radicals, thus making them more stable and preventing oxidation. By consuming antioxidant-rich foods and herbs regularly, you can better protect your body from the damage caused by oxidative stress.
Ashwagandha May Enhance Athletic Performance
Studies on ashwagandha have found that it may be beneficial for enhancing athletic performance. Its positive effect on athletic performance has several components. First, the adaptogenic properties of ashwagandha help the body better adapt to physical and mental stress and support both a calm and relaxed body while also offering a boost of energy and stamina.
Ashwagandha has a long history of use as a tonic for improving energy and strength. Some recent studies support this traditional use. For example, one study involving male participants practicing resistance training found that those supplemented with 600 mg of ashwagandha each day for eight weeks had significantly more muscle strength and mass than the men in the placebo group.
Further research exploring ashwagandha's ability to improve athletic performance found that ashwagandha may increase the body's efficiency at consuming oxygen. A review of 12 different studies involving both men and women supplementing with ashwagandha found that ashwagandha significantly enhanced maximum oxygen consumption during physical activity.
Ashwagandha May Lower Blood Sugar Levels
Studies on ashwagandha have found that it may be able to lower blood sugar levels. Blood sugar refers to the amount of glucose in your blood. High blood sugar levels mean that your body lacks insulin, a hormone that helps regulate metabolism.
Some research on ashwagandha suggests that it may benefit people with high blood sugar levels or diabetes. Several studies have found that participants supplementing with ashwagandha had significantly reduced blood sugar. There is a compound in ashwagandha called withaferin that may help to stimulate cellular uptake of glucose from the bloodstream, which could help in the management and treatment of diabetes.
Ashwagandha May Lower Inflammation
The compound withaferin found in ashwagandha may help reduce inflammation in the body. Inflammation is a natural response of the immune system and can benefit short-term healing. When inflammation becomes chronic, however, it can impair normal body functions and could lead to the development of numerous health issues. In addition, many health experts consider inflammation to be the root cause of several major diseases.
Keeping inflammation levels low is essential for health and longevity. Therefore, supplementing with ashwagandha may help provide anti-inflammatory benefits that could play a positive role in health.
Ashwagandha May Increase Testosterone Levels in Men
One of the top ashwagandha benefits for men includes ashwagandha's potential for enhancing testosterone production. Studies have found that ashwagandha may increase testosterone production and may benefit male fertility.
One 8-week study involving over 40 men between the ages of 40 and 70 found that ashwagandha provided a 14% increase in testosterone compared to the placebo-controlled group. The study also found an 18% increase in the sex hormone DHEA-S, a hormone involved in testosterone production.
Additional research has found that ashwagandha may increase sperm concentration, volume, and motility in men with a low sperm count.
Ashwagandha May Help to Balance Hormones
There are several ashwagandha benefits for women as well. Research on ashwagandha suggests that it can help to correct hormonal imbalances by strengthening the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands are essential for producing many of the body's hormones. Improving adrenal gland health may help support endocrine health and keep hormone production regular.
Hormonal imbalances are behind many female reproductive issues, including irregular periods, cramps, problems with fertility, and more. Supplementing with ashwagandha may help regulate the menstrual cycle and improve overall hormonal health.
What Are the Active Compounds in Ashwagandha?
The medicinal benefits of plants come from the active compounds. Ashwagandha includes numerous active compounds, but according to research, the compounds withaferin-A and withanone are the major biologically active constituents believed to be responsible for the majority of ashwagandha's health benefits.
What Are the Side Effects of Ashwagandha? Is Ashwagandha Safe?
Ashwagandha has been in use as a medicinal herb and rejuvenating substance for thousands of years. It has grown in popularity in recent years, and many studies have been performed on this herb. Ashwagandha is a very safe herb with minimal potential side effects. Some of the possible ashwagandha side effects include nausea, upset stomach, and diarrhea. Still, these ashwagandha side effects are rare and tend to only occur at high doses.
It is important to note that ashwagandha is not intended for use during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. In addition, there is some evidence that suggests ashwagandha may cause miscarriages.
Ashwagandha is a powerful herb with many health benefits. The name ashwagandha means "smell of the horse" and refers to both its distinct scent and the belief that it can give you the strength and vigor of a wild horse.
Ashwagandha does appear to have benefits for strength and vitality, but its most common use is its adaptogenic properties. Ashwagandha is a potent adaptogen that can help the body and mind better adapt to stress.
Ashwagandha has been used in traditional Indian medicine for thousands of years and is a very safe herb. However, it may cause some uncomfortable symptoms such as nausea, upset stomach, and diarrhea in high doses. Therefore, it is also not recommended to take ashwagandha. At the same time, pregnancy or breastfeeding, as some evidence suggests, may cause miscarriages.
It is recommended to speak with your primary healthcare provider if you consider supplementing with ashwagandha to find out if this herbal supplement is a supplement for you.