8 surprising benefits of Ashwagandha
Millions of people around the globe are enjoying the benefits of Ashwagandha. Ashwagandha is a shrub belonging to the nightshade family and goes by the names of 'Withania Somnifera', 'Winter Cherry' or 'Indian ginseng'. It has been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic medicine (traditional Indian medicine) due to its active constituent called ‘withanolides’ which have numerous therapeutic properties.
We explain the often surprising benefits of Ashwagandha and why it has become one of the most popular herbs in the western world.
Benefits of Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb, which means it helps to balance the stress response, lower cortisol levels (the stress hormone) and help your body to deal with stressful situations, increase emotional resistance and improve relaxation.
Cortisol is released by the adrenal glands which sit on top of the kidneys. The adrenal glands are not only in charge of the stress response, but also productivity, reaction time and emotional stability.
Stress can manifest as emotional, mental, or physical problems and affects overall wellbeing. It also lowers your immune function and can interfere with appetite and sleep. Lowering cortisol levels with Ashwagandha may have a profound effect on stress related conditions. You may enjoy our blog ‘Foods and vitamins to help relieve anxiety’.
2. Anxiety & Depression
Stress plays a major role in anxiety and depression, and a reduction in cortisol may improve anxiety and depressive symptoms. Ashwagandha is a powerful antioxidant, and any oxidative stress in the brain and nerve tissue that is contributing towards anxiety and depression may be improved.
There are a number of studies on patients with anxiety and depressive symptoms that have shown Ashwagandha to have positive results. However, if you are on any prescription medication for depression, it is important to speak to your healthcare provider before taking Ashwagandha or any supplements for depression.
You may be interested in our blog: ‘6 big signs of stress’.
High cortisol levels can interrupt sleep and prevent the onset of sleep. Due to its cortisol-lowering effects, people who suffer from insomnia often find some relief through Ashwagandha, often alongside other sleep supplements.
Ashwagandha can also be helpful for insomnia because it contains a compound called triethylene glycol which helps to trigger the onset of sleep. If you are taking Ashwagandha for sleep, try taking it two to three hours before bed to help reduce a restless night.
Have you read our research into ‘The Sleep Problem: More than 1 in 3 people suffer from poor sleep’?
4. Brain Function
Ashwagandha may help to boost brain function due to its potent antioxidant properties that provide some protection to the nerve cells from free radical damage.
Free radicals are created by the body itself as well as coming from the environment such as poor diet and exposure to toxins. The body relies on antioxidants to counteract the free radicals, and excess free radicals can damage cells and DNA, and hence they can impair brain function.
The antioxidants provided by Ashwagandha help to balance the free radical-antioxidant ratio and promote healthy brain tissue and function. The antioxidants in Ashwagandha also protect the blood vessels from damage, ensuring good blood flow to the brain, needed for optimal cognitive function. In some studies, Ashwagandha improved a type of memory called spatial memory and others show an improvement in reaction time.
You may be interested in our blog ‘Foods & vitamins to improve your brain’.
5. Improving testosterone levels
Ashwagandha may help to improve testosterone levels in men affected by stress.
Cortisol and testosterone are created from the same substances in the body. Lowering cortisol levels allows more of the substances to be made into testosterone, and improving testosterone levels has a positive effect on sperm count and motility.
You may also enjoy our blog: 'Why is testosterone important for women'.
6. Blood sugar levels
Ashwagandha may help to balance blood sugar levels. These benefits may apply to both diabetic and non-diabetic individuals. Studies show Ashwagandha increases insulin secretion and increases the cells sensitivity to insulin. Muscle cells may become especially sensitive to insulin after consumption of Ashwagandha.
7. Muscle mass
Ashwagandha may help to increase muscle mass and strength. The increase in testosterone seen in men who supplement with Ashwagandha directly increases the rate at which muscle is built, helping improve physical stamina and endurance. It also encourages the burning of fat stores, increase the rate at which fat is lost.
8. Heart health
Ashwagandha can also have positive benefits for heart health as some studies have shown it may reduce cholesterol by 53% and triglycerides by 45%.
Ashwagandha’s potent antioxidant properties also help to prevent any cholesterol in the arteries from oxidising and becoming hard, as seen in the development of atherosclerosis. The antioxidants also protect the health of the blood vessels, needed to maintain good blood flow and normal blood pressure.
Both the Ashwagandha root and leaves can be taken in supplement form, and both contain the active constituent Withanolides. However the concentration of withanolides is much greater in the root, which has been used for centuries in traditional Indian medicine.
Ashwagandha KSM-66 is the most clinically trialled and world-wide acclaimed form of this 'wonder-herb', as it is a full-spectrum extract which the highest concentration of withanolides, and the extraction process does not involve any chemicals, alcohol or solvents.
Discover our range of vegan vitamins & supplements.
Want to hear more from our nutritionists? Sign up to our email newsletter for insights and exclusive offers: