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Published on May 20, 2021

11 Health Benefits Of Ashwagandha (Backed By Science)

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.

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Published on June 24, 2021

7 Ways Regular Exercise Boosts Your Mood And Energy

7 Ways Regular Exercise Boosts Your Mood And Energy

Have you ever woke up tired, under the weather, feeling heavy, or feeling off? Well, your mood and energy levels are most likely to blame. Did you know that the core of your body is made up of pure energy? That’s right, the core of your being—like all things in the universe—is 100% energy. It’s downright important, therefore, to prioritize your energy levels, as it regulates all other functions in your body, including your mood. And exercise, whether you like it or not, is the activity that will help get you there.

In this article, you’re going to learn the seven ways in which regular exercise boosts your mood and energy.

You see, the norm of society nowadays is the main culprit to lower mood and energy levels. In a world where sitting for long stretches at a time has become the new disease, it may come as no surprise that you feel lethargic regularly. Having said that, if you’re ready to get exercising for a minimum of 20 minutes a day, then you’re going to find out exactly how your life can take a turn for the better.

Now, exercise doesn’t necessarily have to be uphill sprints, running a marathon, or lifting heavy weights at the gym. While all the above are effective ways of keeping healthy, studies have found that a brisk walk and engaging in regular house chores can do it for you.[1]

Whatever regularly gets you off the couch is a winning strategy. Let’s dive into the ways regular exercise boosts your mood and energy.

1. Lowers Depression

Depression is an inflammatory condition and mood disorder, which can lead to all sorts of physical problems down the road. Luckily, studies have shown that simply an hour of low-intensity exercise a week was sufficient to possibly prevent future depressive episodes.[2]

Now, one hour is the lower side of the spectrum. If you increase your intensity to a moderate-to-vigorous one, such as running, or increase the time you spend exercising, your odds of keeping depression at bay increase.

How does it alleviate depression? Well, exercise such as running is proven to be as effective as anti-depressant medications.[3]

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How so? Exercise releases “happy” brain chemicals called endorphins, which are your body’s natural equivalent of morphine. Upon exercise, the flood of endorphins suppresses pain and boosts your mood.

You may have heard the term “runner’s high” being thrown around a few times. Well, as endorphins mask all pain your mind and body may be going through, you may be left with a feeling of euphoria.

2. Improves your Sleep

Whether you’re struggling to get enough hours of sleep at night, wake up feeling unrested, or suffer from broken sleep patterns, regular exercise boosts your mood and energy alright, but it also boosts your body’s wake-sleep cycle.

As you can imagine, exercise requires substantial physical exertion by your body, more so the more strenuous you choose to go. A moderate to vigorous run or workout, therefore, can leave you pumped and energized for a couple of hours afterward as endorphins flood your system.

But as you physically exert and tire your body out, a signal is also sent to your body to repair and recharge itself through sleep. Not only can the body signal to the brain a need to sleep at night by producing melatonin, the brain chemical that induces sleep, but the regular release of stress tension through exercise also aids and supports the release of this vital hormone.[4]

In fact, in a fast-paced, technological era, regular exercise can counter the effects of melatonin suppression as a result of increased stress levels and screen time. Having said that, it’s important to keep an eye on the time at which you carry out certain exercises.

For example, If you’re going for a brisk walk or engaging in house chores and other low-intensity exercises, then the time of day is not necessarily important. However, as a rule of thumb, if you’re going to go for a run or gym workout and engage in moderate to vigorous exercise at night, the increased energy and endorphins post-exercise may work out against you.

Exercise late at night can disrupt rather than promote the release of melatonin as your body remains agitated and energized for a while afterward. Hence, try to fit in your regular exercise in the mornings for the best quality sleep at night.

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3. Improves Your Self-Esteem

How does a sustainable shift in your confidence levels sound to you? Wouldn’t it feel great to believe you’re worth and capable of handling things you never before thought you would? That’s right, engaging in regular exercise can rewire your brain’s perception of self-respect and boost your beliefs in your own capabilities.

The simple act of completing one workout or run can leave you feeling a short-term sense of pride and accomplishment. Now, as you start feeling these feelings regularly through exercise, your body and mind will quickly start to recognize this as a habit. Like all habits, the body and mind will start to change to accommodate the new changes being experienced in your life.

It may take you a couple of months until your new weekly exercise routine starts to become automatic, but stay consistent and remind yourself of the feel-good feelings you experience after every workout. Once your new habit becomes hardwired into your nervous system, you’ll quickly start to realize a positive shift in your self-esteem, which can domino into other areas of your life, and another important area of your life worth mentioning is your diet.

Generally speaking, when you feel good and great in your body and mind, you’re more likely to want to maintain those feel-good feelings and reach out for healthy food choices. Don’t worry, your body generally knows what’s best for you. Every individual responds best to different healthy food choices.

In general, the lighter you feel, the more energy you’ll radiate and the higher your overall sense of well-being. From a place of high self-esteem and self-respect, you’ll find yourself more in control of your eating habits and make choices that suit your body best.

4. Increases Daily Energy

As already mentioned, your entire human body is made up of energy. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that the simple act of moving your body can do enough to move stagnant energies around to make you feel more alive. Regular exercise, however, can do way more than just move your stagnant energies.

Just to give you a short biology class, every single cell of your body is responsible for creating the energy you experience daily. This happens because each one of your cells has little structures within them called mitochondria. It’s these structures that are responsible for generating the energy for each one of your cells. They are in fact called the “powerhouse” of the cell.

Why is this important? Well, no energy, no life!

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You see, when you exercise regularly close to physical exhaustion, your body will start signaling to your cells that they need to generate more energy. This is done by signaling your cells to create more mitochondria. As more mitochondria are generated, the more oxygen your cells can absorb to accommodate your exercise routine and the more power and energy you will start to feel daily.

If you build up enough stamina with regular exercise, you can begin to feel like you can run an entire marathon!

Bonus Tip: Mitochondria feed off your food intake. So, keep an eye out for what you’re putting into your body for optimal energy levels.

5. Increased Resilience to Stress

Regular exercise doesn’t only lower the cortisol levels in your blood, but it can also increase your tolerance to the stressors in your life.

As you exercise, even at low levels, your muscles release chemicals that signal to your brain to effect some changes. These chemicals, known as myokines, not only reduce anxiety and depression, but they boost your mood and can also make your brain more resilient to stress.

This can be of great benefit to you if you get overwhelmed easily. The more you exercise, the more myokines are released into your bloodstream. As they pass through the blood-brain barrier, the more they can influence lasting structural changes in your brain for the better.

6. Better Focus and Memory

The release of endorphins in your system not only boosts your mood. Have you ever noticed how sharp you feel after a workout?

Well, regular exercise can, directly and indirectly, improve your cognitive functioning over the long term. Thanks to improved sleeping patterns and lowered stress levels in your body, your mental capabilities become sharper, increasing your attention span as well as your short-term memory.

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In a world where our attention spans are getting shorter over the years thanks to technology, exercise can be the perfect counterbalance. In fact, studies show that regular exercise can also directly encourage the production and growth of new blood vessels in the brain, boosting your thinking skills.[5]

7. Higher Consciousness

Yes, exercise can be a meditation in itself. For all of you thinking that meditation is all about mantra chanting, it’s not. It’s actually all about connecting to yourself, connecting your mind, body, and spirit. When you exercise, such as going for a run, you’re forced to focus on your breath. If you don’t, you can easily tire yourself out early and get a stitch.

Focusing on your breath is partly what meditation is all about. As you control your body’s breathing, your focus shifts off your mind and onto your body. Without knowing it, you’re engaging in mindfulness practice.

As you begin to become more aware of your breath and the movement of your body, in time, you’ll also come to experience the stillness of your mind. When your mind is still, it allows you to experience higher levels of consciousness, which is the holy grail to feeling better in mood and energy.

Higher levels of consciousness not only boost your energy but can also leave you feeling prolonged feelings of happiness, love, and joy in your life. In other words, you’ll get to feel more alive than you do right now.

Takeaway

So, what are you waiting for to get off the couch? You have so many benefits waiting for you.

No matter your age, you don’t have to start any vigorous routine immediately. Simply realizing regular exercise boosts your mood and energy and making it into a habit will allow everything else to take care of itself.

Remember, the best investment you can make in life is in yourself. So, invest in your future self today to truly come alive and feel great!

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Reference

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