Ashwagandha is one of the most important herbs in Ayurveda, which is a traditional form of alternative medicine based on Indian principles of natural healing.
Here are the benefits of ashwagandha, based on research.
1- Help reduce stress and anxiety
Ashwagandha is perhaps best known for its ability to reduce stress. It’s classified as an adaptogen, a substance that helps the body cope with stress.
Ashwagandha appears to help control mediators of stress, including heat shock proteins (Hsp70), cortisol, and stress-activated c-Jun N-terminal protein kinase (JNK-1)..
It also reduces the activity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, a system in your body that regulates the stress response.
Several studies have shown that ashwagandha supplements may help relieve stress and anxiety.
In a small study with 58 participants, those who took 250 or 600 mg of ashwagandha extract for 8 weeks had significantly reduced perceived stress and levels of the stress hormone cortisol compared with those who took a placebo.
What’s more, the participants who took the ashwagandha supplements experienced significant improvements in sleep quality compared with the placebo group.
Another study in 60 people found that those who took 240 mg of ashwagandha extract per day for 60 days had significant reductions in anxiety compared with those who received a placebo treatment.
2. Support athletic performance
An analysis of five studies found that taking ashwagandha significantly enhanced maximum oxygen consumption (VO2 max) in healthy adults and athletes
Additionally, ashwagandha may help increase muscle strength.
3. Help reduce symptoms of some mental health conditions
a study from 2012 found that stressed adults who took 600 mg of ashwagandha extract per day for 60 days reported a 77% reduction in symptoms of depression, while the placebo group reported a 5% reduction
4. Help boost testosterone and increase fertility in men
In one study, 43 overweight men ages 40–70 who had mild fatigue took tablets containing ashwagandha extract or a placebo daily for 8 weeks.
The ashwagandha treatment was associated with an 18% greater increase in DHEA-S, a sex hormone involved in testosterone production. Participants who took the herb also had a 14.7% greater increase in testosterone than those who took the placebo.
Additionally, a review of four studies found that ashwagandha treatment significantly increased sperm concentration, semen volume, and sperm motility in men with low sperm count.
5. Help reduce blood sugar levels
A review of 24 studies, including 5 clinical studies in people with diabetes, found that treatment with ashwagandha significantly reduced blood sugar, hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), insulin, blood lipids, and oxidative stress markers
6. Help reduce inflammation
Ashwagandha contains compounds, including WA, that may help reduce inflammation in the body.
Researchers have found that WA targets inflammatory pathways in the body, including signal molecules called nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB) and nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2).
In another study, researchers gave people with COVID-19 an Ayurvedic drug containing 0.5 grams of ashwagandha and other herbs twice per day for 7 days. This reduced participants’ levels of inflammatory markers CRP, IL-6, and TNF-α compared with a placebo
7. Help improve brain function, including memory
A study in 50 adults showed that taking 600 mg of ashwagandha extract per day for 8 weeks led to significant improvements in the following measures compared with taking a placebo.
- immediate and general memory
- information-processing speed
Researchers note that compounds found in ashwagandha, including WA, have antioxidant effects in the brain, which may benefit cognitive health.
8. Help improve sleep
Many people take ashwagandha to promote restful sleep, and some evidence suggests it may help with sleep issues.
For example, a study in 50 adults ages 65–80 found that taking 600 mg of ashwagandha root per day for 12 weeks significantly improved sleep quality and mental alertness upon waking compared with a placebo treatment.
Additionally, one review of five high quality studies found that ashwagandha had a small but significant positive effect on overall sleep quality.
Taking ashwagandha reduced people’s anxiety levels and helped them feel more alert when they woke up
Ashwagandha is a safe supplement for most people.
A review of 69 studies found that ashwagandha root appears to be safe and effective for managing certain health conditions, including stress, anxiety, and insomnia
One study in 80 healthy men and women showed that taking 600 mg of ashwagandha daily for 8 weeks was safe and did not cause any adverse health effects in participants
The bottom line
Ashwagandha is an ancient medicinal herb with multiple possible health benefits.
Study findings suggest that it may help reduce anxiety and stress, support restful sleep, and even improve cognitive functioning in certain populations.
Ashwagandha is considered relatively safe for most people. However, it’s not appropriate for everyone, so it’s important to talk with a healthcare professional before adding ashwagandha to your routine.