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Published on May 20, 2021

11 Health Benefits Of Ashwagandha (Backed By Science)

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11 Health Benefits Of Ashwagandha (Backed By Science)

I’ve been taking ashwagandha for about three years now, starting with liquid ashwagandha and more recently, consuming the supplement in pill form. I’ve cycled through different brands over the years to determine which brand I prefer and which form to consume the supplement in. Moreover, I’ve made a couple of videos on my YouTube channel discussing the benefits of ashwagandha and other similar supplements.

What Is Ashwagandha?

This powerful plant is a member of the Solanaceae family with over 4,000 years of traditional use in its native India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Ashwagandha is classified as a Medharasayan, which is the Ayurvedic category of foods and nutrients that promote learning and memory retrieval.

Sometimes referred to as “Indian Ginseng,” it is traditionally used in conditions of debility, emaciation, impotence, and premature aging. The translation of Ashwagandha roughly is “the smell and strength of a horse”, alluding to its aphrodisiac properties. This plant is also considered a Tonic and an Adaptogen. Due to the potential benefits of ashwagandha in sleep, it is used to help promote normal sleep patterns and encourage a healthy inflammatory response in the Middle East.

11 Science-Backed Benefits of Ashwagandha

Here are the 11 science-backed benefits of Ashwagandha.

1. Reduces Stress and Anxiety

Researchers have reported that Ashwagandha blocked the stress pathway in the brains of rats by regulating chemical signaling in the nervous system. In a 60-day study in 64 people with chronic stress, those in the group that supplemented with ashwagandha reported a 69% reduction in anxiety and insomnia, on average, compared with 11% in the placebo group.[1]

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In another 6-week study, 88% of people who took ashwagandha reported a reduction in anxiety, compared with 50% of those who took a placebo.[2]

2. Anti-Cancer Properties

Several studies have shown ashwagandha contains compounds that may help fight certain types of cancer. Researchers aren’t sure how as of yet, but extracts in the herb seem to limit or inhibit the activity of cancer cells in breast, colon, prostate, ovarian, lung, and brain cancers. It does the same for thyroid, gastrointestinal, cervix, and skin (melanoma) cancers.[3]

Ashwagandha is also generally considered safe to use with traditional cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation. Some experts say it may ease certain side effects, like a weak immune system. However, most of these studies have been done on cancer cells specifically or animals with cancer, and not humans.[4]

3. Reduces Cortisol Levels

Cortisol is widely known as a stress hormone given that your adrenal glands release it in response to stress as well as when your blood sugar levels get too low. In one study in chronically stressed adults, those who supplemented with ashwagandha had significantly greater reductions in cortisol compared with the control group. Those taking the highest dose experienced a 30% reduction, on average.[5]

4. Reduces Blood Sugar

Several studies have shown that ashwagandha reduces blood sugar levels. In a 4-week study in people with schizophrenia, those treated with ashwagandha had an average reduction in fasting blood sugar levels of 13.5 mg/dL, compared with 4.5 mg/dL in those who received a placebo.[6]

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5. Reduces Inflammation

Several animal studies have shown that ashwagandha 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.[7][8]

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 with a 6% decrease in the placebo group.[9]

6. Increases Testosterone in Men

In a study containing 75 infertile men, the group treated with ashwagandha showed increased sperm count and motility, which lead researchers to believe Ashwagandha supplements may have powerful effects on testosterone levels and reproductive health. In another study, men who received ashwagandha for stress experienced higher antioxidant levels and overall improved sperm quality. After just 3 months of treatment, a whopping 14% of the men’s partners had become pregnant.[10]

7. Increases Strength and Exercise Performance

In a study with healthy young adults who took 500 milligrams of ashwagandha daily for 8 weeks, it determined they had more speed and strength during exercise than people who took a placebo. They also demonstrated better breathing, taking in more oxygen. In a study to determine a safe and effective dosage for ashwagandha, healthy men who took 750–1,250 mg of pulverized ashwagandha root per day gained muscle strength after 30 days.[11][12]

In another study, those who took ashwagandha had significantly greater gains in muscle strength and size. It also more than doubled their reductions in body fat percentage, compared with the placebo group.[13]

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8. Reduce Depression

This has not been thoroughly studied, however, limited research done has shown that ashwagandha possibly has a positive effect in reducing depression. In one controlled 60-day study in 64 stressed adults, those who took 600 mg of high-concentration ashwagandha extract per day reported a 79% reduction in severe depression, while the placebo group reported a 10% increase.[14]

9. Lower Cholesterol and Triglycerides

In addition to its well-known and documented anti-inflammatory effects, ashwagandha may help improve heart health by reducing cholesterol and triglyceride levels. In particular, animal studies have found that it significantly decreases levels of these blood fats. One animal study in rats found that it lowered total cholesterol and triglyceride levels by 53% and nearly 45%, respectively.[15]

In a 60-day study in chronically stressed adults, the group taking the highest dosage of standardized ashwagandha extract experienced a 17% decrease in LDL (bad) cholesterol and an 11% decrease in triglycerides, on average.[16]

10. Improve Memory

Several test-tube and animal studies have suggested that ashwagandha may mitigate memory and brain function problems caused by injury or disease, and it promotes antioxidant activity that protects nerve cells from harmful free radicals. In one study, rats with epilepsy that were treated with ashwagandha had nearly a complete reversal of spatial memory impairment. Likely this was caused by a reduction in oxidative stress.[17]

11. Improve Sleep

I’m big on sleep quality (as some readers may already know), which means I examine multiple ways exercise, hydration, diet, and supplementation can improve sleep. Ashwagandha may improve sleep according to one study with humans that showed taking 300 milligrams of the herb two times daily improved sleep. Another study on animals found that the triethylene glycol in ashwagandha is what brings sleep on.[18]

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How to Take Ashwagandha

It’s best to take Ashwghanda with food twice daily. Personally, I prefer to take the first dose in the morning and the second in the evening. On days when I’m fasting, I’ll take both doses in the afternoon and evening once I have broken fast.

Conclusion

It may be worth considering adding Ashwghanda to your supplement regimen. However, I do suggest checking if there is any potential conflict with existing supplements or medications you may be taking.

Often, it’s best to check with your doctor if it makes sense for you to begin taking Ashwagandha. However, it’s worth noting from my personal experience with doctors that many of them have no clue about holistic or natural herbs and remedies, so doing your own diligence/research may be more beneficial when considering taking Ashwagandha.

More on Energy Boosting

Featured photo credit: Bankim Desai via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Healthline: Ashwagandha Dosage: How Much Should You Take per Day?
[2] Healthline: 12 Proven Health Benefits of Ashwagandha
[3] WebMD: Ashwagandha Benefits
[4] NCBI: Withania somnifera: from prevention to treatment of cancer
[5] PubMed.gov: Hypoglycemic, diuretic and hypocholesterolemic effect of winter cherry (Withania somnifera, Dunal) root
[6] Healthline: When Is the Best Time to Take Ashwagandha?
[7] PubMed.gov: Protective effects of Withania somnifera root on inflammatory markers and insulin resistance in fructose-fed rats
[8] PubMed.gov: In vivo enhancement of natural killer cell activity through tea fortified with Ayurvedic herbs
[9] Healthline: 12 Proven Health Benefits of Ashwagandha
[10] PubMed.gov: Withania somnifera Improves Semen Quality in Stress-Related Male Fertility
[11] WebMD: Ashwagandha Benefits
[12] NCBI: Effects of eight-week supplementation of Ashwagandha on cardiorespiratory endurance in elite Indian cyclists
[13] NCBI: Examining the effect of Withania somnifera supplementation on muscle strength and recovery: a randomized controlled trial
[14] PubMed.gov: 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
[15] Healthline: Does Ashwagandha Improve Thyroid Health?
[16] PricePlow: A Standardized Withania Somnifera Extract Significantly Reduces Stress-Related Parameters in Chronically Stressed Humans: A Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Study
[17] Healthline: Does Ashwagandha Improve Thyroid Health?
[18] WebMD: Ashwagandha Benefits

More by this author

Adam Evans

BioHacker, competitive athlete, researcher in many fields including health and fitness, science, philosophy, metaphysics, religion.

7 Reasons Why Your Body Feels Heavy And Tired Under the Weather? 13 Immune Boosting Foods for a Quick Recovery How to Break a Fast When You’re Intermittent Fasting 11 Health Benefits Of Ashwagandha (Backed By Science) Intermittent Fasting Diet for Beginners (The Complete Guide)

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Published on December 15, 2021

What Supplements Should I Take Daily To Stay Healthy?

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What Supplements Should I Take Daily To Stay Healthy?

Having quality nutrition every day is key to staying healthy and fit. Many people wonder if taking supplements is needed to supply their needs. The answer to this question lies in a lot of factors. Here’s the thing: there is no black and white approach when it comes to taking supplements, but if you’ve been wondering whether you need supplements or not, I will help clarify some of your concerns.

Sometimes, having too many options of supplements on the market can be overwhelming. If you’re still asking yourself what supplements to take, then keep reading.

What Supplements Should I Take?

When you reach for that bottle of vitamins or fish oil, for example, you wonder if any of these will work and if they are safe. Well, the main thing you should be asking yourself is if you need them in the first place. And the truth is, there are tons of supplements for different needs.

Our body requires all the necessary nutrients, like vitamins, minerals, protein, healthy fat, and fiber every day. The best source for these nutrients is real food. Nothing beats having a balanced lifestyle that includes quality whole foods. But the reality is that most people are not meeting the minimum requirements of certain nutrients, especially vitamins and minerals.

Even with fiber, people struggle to eat enough fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, for instance. That’s why you can see many symptoms like digestive issues and lack of energy.

Supplements come into the picture to help your body meet all the necessary nutrients. They also help avoid any deficiency. Supplements can even strengthen your body and enhance your metabolism. There are many benefits of taking supplements. The answer to whether you’ll need to take them depends on many other things.

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Should I Invest in Supplements?

Before I suggest a list of the types of supplements you should take, this is what you should bear in mind. Supplements are just an aid to a healthy eating lifestyle. In other words, you should always aim to eat healthier, vary your plate, and have enough whole foods in your diet. That is crucial to ensure that you are meeting at least the minimum nutrient requirements.

You shouldn’t invest in supplements to get your main nutrition. Always focus on quality foods before you supplement your diet. Now, supplements can reinforce what you’re lacking in your eating lifestyle. Because of that, I love to always have some sort of multivitamin complex.

In general, if you have a proper eating lifestyle, it’s not mandatory to invest in supplements. However, there are specific cases, for example, pregnant women, in which we recommend taking supplements. Always make sure that you check with your doctor or nutritionist before taking any form of supplement.

Why Do I Need Supplements? Which Ones Are Important?

Below are the most common reasons why you may need to take supplements and which ones you should try.

1. Restricting Eating Lifestyles

As a nutritionist, I rarely recommend anyone going through a restrictive diet. In fact, I discourage it altogether. The best thing is that you embrace a balanced eating lifestyle since this is the way to ensure you stay at a healthy weight and have a good metabolism. That’s the reason why I don’t like removing entire food groups from people’s diets.

However, I also understand diverse eating lifestyles. For example, there is a vast majority of people that are actively changing to a vegan lifestyle. If you’re a raw vegan or strictly plant-based, you may need to supplement certain vitamins. Because animal foods like dairy, certain meats, and poultry have essential vitamins and minerals like B12, iron, and folic acid, then you may have less intake of these in plant-based foods. There is much debate in this area related to plant-based diets, but basically, experts recommend taking supplements.

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As I said about restrictive diets, eliminating entire food groups can cause you to suffer certain problems like lack of energy, constipation, less muscle, and lower brain function.[1] Before you try any type of diet out there, make sure you have a better relationship with food and check with a health professional. Overall, a good multivitamin complex should be good enough to supply all your needs. Go for the ones that provide vitamin B complex and minerals like iron, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, and zinc.

2. Reinforcing Nutrient Intake

It’s true that eating the right foods is essential for your body. Apart from that, certain processed foods, like dairy, cereals, and others are fortified with certain vitamins and minerals. Take advantage of these types of healthy foods as well.

If you feel like you could lack a certain nutrient, then taking multivitamins is a good option. Not only because it will help you meet your goals, but it will also ensure that your body has more energy and better performance. Therefore, there is nothing wrong with taking a supplement to reinforce your healthy eating lifestyle. Apart from multivitamins, you could also take fiber supplements in case you struggle with digestive issues or you feel like you’re not eating enough plant-based foods.

3. Special Conditions

There are certain cases or stages in life when you may need to take supplements. For instance, pregnant women require higher amounts of certain vitamins and minerals, like iron and folic acid.[2] Elderly people should also consume some supplements since their body absorbs less nutrients compared to younger people.[3] That’s why certain protein drinks, multivitamins, and omega-3 are prescribed to this age group. Also, people who have certain chronic health problems or underwent surgery may need supplements.

Women going through menopause are also often required to take supplements.[4] If you belong to this age group, you may need to talk to your doctor about supplements to balance off your hormone levels. Remember that not all supplements are made equally, and some ingredients may have side effects. This is especially true if you’re on prescriptions. Always check first.

4. Fitness Goals

Who doesn’t want to boost their fitness results? People that train at the gym often ask if they need to have protein supplements. It all goes down to the basics: eat healthily and put that as a priority. However, you can also take supplements based on your goals.

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Whether you want to burn some fat, build muscle, or are an athlete, supplements can reinforce and speed up your results. But here’s the thing: you should always do it the right way and not rely only on supplements for fitness results. Everything goes hand in hand, and it’s a matter of balance and moderation.

Now, here are some supplements you can take to improve your muscle performance, growth, and fat burn:[5]

  • Whey protein
  • L-glutamine
  • Branch chain amino acids
  • Multi-vitamin complex and fish oil
  • MCT oil

These supplements, coupled with a good diet, help provide steady muscle development, shed fat, and keep a healthy metabolism for better results. You have to be active to see their benefits, though. This will ensure your body is using up the nutrients effectively and not stored as fat.

There are some other great supplements made to boost energy levels and increase muscle efficiency. Here are some examples:[6]

  • Guaraná
  • Gingko biloba
  • Ginseng
  • Creatine
  • Citrulline

These are natural energy boosters. Caffeine also does a good job when it comes to improving your energy levels. These supplements should be a compliment to a healthy diet, or if you struggle with low energy performance when working out.

Speaking of energy, sometimes, simple lifestyle habits like sleeping better can make a huge difference in how you feel. So, make sure you are also working on these other areas of your life and not relying exclusively on supplements.

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5. Beauty and Self-Care

You can also find supplements for personal care. Some help to enhance your skin health, others are for hair and nails growth.

For example, collagen and multivitamins are commonly used for beauty and skincare. Because collagen is our skin’s main protein, we need to ensure our body has enough to stay glowing and healthy. Collagen also has powerful effects on skin beauty and anti-aging. You can easily add this protein to your drinks and foods to enhance your own skin’s collagen.[7]

If you didn’t know, adding collagen to your regimen after you’re 25 can help slow down the effects of aging. At that age, our skin produces less collagen, and we lose skin elasticity. Therefore, it’s a nice addition to your supplements and skincare routine.

Final Thoughts

You should always aim to have a healthy eating regimen before thinking about what supplements you need. Second, assess what are your lifestyle and health goals. Also, determine if your health and/or fitness condition requires you to add supplements.

Remember that your objective is to get enough protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. If your diet lacks any of these, look for an assessment on how to get these nutrients.

More Tips on Taking Supplements

Featured photo credit: Mika Baumeister via unsplash.com

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Reference

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