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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.

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) 21 Healthy Dinner Recipes to Lose Weight and Gain Muscle Strength 10 Natural Brain Boosters to Enhance Memory, Energy, and Focus

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1 Shift Work Disorder: 17 Ways to Manage it Better 2 What Is the Best Time to Take Your Vitamins? 3 Do Vitamins and Supplements Help With Energy? 4 7 Ways Regular Exercise Boosts Your Mood And Energy 5 How To Take a Cold Shower For the Best Health Benefits

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Published on July 15, 2021

Shift Work Disorder: 17 Ways to Manage it Better

Shift Work Disorder: 17 Ways to Manage it Better

Are you having trouble sleeping? Or do you feel like you can barely stay awake when you need to? Are you left tired and irritable, lacking the joy and motivation that life once brought? If these complaints are tied to your long or rotating work schedule, you may be suffering from shift work disorder—a common ailment among professions with schedules outside the typical 9 am to 6 pm range.[1]

Why does it matter? Let’s be honest—being tired stinks. It feels terrible and leaves you vulnerable to many health risks that well-rested people aren’t as susceptible to. Not only that, but it can also wreak havoc on your relationships and quality of life.

The good news is that there are plenty of ways to help manage this, and you can start trying them out today! Some of the solutions may not be what you expect. For instance, you might have linked improved sleep to exercise, but did you know that being compassionate with yourself can also have an impact?

Who Are Affected by Shift Work Disorder?

Twenty-five million people are shift workers in the country, so you are far from alone if you are struggling with this. Shift work disorder is a condition frequently affecting anyone who works a job where their schedule is outside standard business hours. Nurses, police officers, firefighters, and factory workers are common examples of professions with schedules that rotate around the clock.

Rotating shifts naturally leads to a change in one’s schedule, including sleep. As your sleep schedule becomes more chaotic, your body is unable to adjust and regulate itself and can result in having difficulty falling or staying asleep. This inevitably leads to less sleep, which is where some big problems can arise.

What Are the Symptoms?

Sleep is one of the most important (and underrated) aspects of our lives. Enough sleep and good quality sleep are critical to our emotional, mental, and physical health.

Insufficient sleep can lead to a significantly increased risk of physical health problems, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, and gastrointestinal disorders. Mentally, being tired contributes to having scattered concentration, difficulty processing information, and being more likely to make mistakes or have an accident. Emotionally, the fallout of being chronically exhausted is linked to poor emotional regulation including being irritated more quickly, as well as an increased likelihood of developing anxiety and depression.[2]

Any of this sound familiar? If so, keep reading for some scientifically-based tips to help you manage your sleep better and get your life back.

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17 Ways to Manage Shift Work Disorder Better

Quality sleep, or the lack thereof, impacts us physically, mentally, and emotionally. The most impactful plan of attack against shift work disorder and to regain quality sleep must also reflect that.

I suggest reading through all of the tips and formulating a plan based on what you think will work for you. Start by trying out one thing and build from there as you are able. Remember to construct a plan that addresses your physical, mental, and emotional health.

Let’s start in the most obvious place first:

Your Job

1. Make Your Schedule the Best It Can Be

Randomly rotating shifts has been found to have the worst impact on our health.[3] If you have to rotate your schedule, request to rotate shifts in a clockwise fashion.

For example: work the day shift, rotate to the nights, then to the early morning shift, then start back on the day shift. Sounds silly? It’s not. Studies show that our bodies more easily adjust to changes in schedule when completed in a clockwise manner.[4] This is because of something called our circadian rhythm—24-hour cycles that are part of the body’s internal clock that carry out essential functions. The most commonly known of these is sleep. It has been discovered that our circadian rhythm adjusts forward more easily than it does backward.

2. Speak to Your Manager About Keeping Your Workplace Bright

Special lights have been designed to assist with circadian rhythm. It turns out that absorbing bright light that is most similar to sunlight can positively impact regulating our circadian rhythm.[5]

3. Avoid a Long Commute to and From Work

Having a long drive home after working a rotating shift is statistically not in your best interest. It’s been shown that fatigued/sleepy employees are 70% more likely to have a workplace accident and 33% more likely to be involved in a traffic accident.[6]

To avoid putting yourself at risk by driving when you’re not at your best, catch a nap before leaving work, pull over to sleep, or stay at a friend’s house nearby.

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4. Speak to Your Manager About Your Concerns

Many companies that operate around the clock are willing and able to make accommodations to those working alternative shifts. Whether it’s helping you find a schedule that works best for you or connecting you with other programs designed to support your well-being, being in good communication with your employer is to everyone’s benefit.

Sleep Attitudes and Environment

5. Change Your Perspective and Start Prioritizing Sleep

Here’s the deal: despite some pretty well-known dangerous effects of not getting enough sleep, somewhere along the line, our society began to think of sleep as a luxury. Some even consider it a badge of honor to “power through” without much (or any) sleep. People have been made to feel embarrassed or lazy if they get the recommended amount of sleep each night.

Here’s the bottom line: sleep is not a luxury.

Let me repeat that—sleep is not a luxury, and getting a consistent and healthy amount does not make you a slacker. Sleep is actually when our body does a lot of repair work on itself—blood vessels, muscles, and other organs. Sleep also boosts our immunity.

If we could help people feel as proud about sleeping as we do about them working out regularly or sticking to a healthy diet, people might be a lot healthier.

6. Make Your Sleep Space as Conducive to Rest as Possible

This means tweaking your environment so it’s as enticing as possible for your body to go to sleep. Keep the room dark using blackout blinds, reduce the temperature (our body rests best when slightly cool), limit interruptions (phone calls, visitors, noise), and remove electronic devices.[7]

Set yourself up for success by supporting yourself through your surroundings. If you wanted to lose weight, you wouldn’t frequently surround yourself with cookies, cake, and ice cream, right? Same idea here.

Personal Habits and Choices

7. Stick to a Regular Sleep Schedule as Closely as Possible—on Workdays and Days Off

This is obviously difficult when your schedule changes on the regular, but the more consistent you can keep your bedtime, the easier time your body has getting to sleep and staying that way.[8]

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8. Allow Yourself Time to Catch Up on Sleep

Having enough days off to rest and recuperate is an important aspect of protecting your health. You wouldn’t expect to be able to drive across the country on one tank of gas, right? Filling your own personal gas tank is just as important.

9. Take Naps, but Don’t Overdo It

It’s recommended by the Cleveland Clinic to take a 90-minute nap just before starting your shift and then a 30-minute nap during your “lunch break” at work.[9] Again, this is all about keeping some gas in your tank and not allowing yourself to get to the point where you are running on fumes. Short naps will help you stay refreshed and alert on the job.

10. Limit Caffeine to the Start of Your Shift

Most of us love a good hit of caffeine, especially when we are tired. But overdoing it or having caffeine too late in your shift can negatively impact your ability to get to sleep when you finally have the time to do so. Moderate your intake to help yourself get some quality sleep.

11. Avoid Alcohol Before Bed

Unwinding after work with a drink can be tempting. It can make you drowsy, which many people mistakenly believe will help them get better sleep. Unfortunately, alcohol will actually keep you awake (or wake you up later). This obviously impairs your ability to get the quality of sleep you are looking for.

12. Don’t Smoke

Much like alcohol, people turn to nicotine to “calm their nerves” or help them relax. Also, like alcohol, nicotine has been shown to disrupt sleep.[10] Cut back or cut this habit out as able.

13. Eat Well and Eat Smart

Choose convenient nutritious meals and snacks. Nutritious food is the foundation from which our body creates the needed chemicals for quality sleep. Foods high in saturated fat and sugar have been shown to have the worst impact on sleep.[11]

Also, timing is everything as they say. Eating too much or not enough before your shift can cause you to feel tired.

14. Get Regular Exercise

According to numerous studies, exercise can be as effective in treating sleep disorders as prescription medication.[12] Yes, you read that correctly—regular exercise is the bomb!

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This one can be tricky to convince people to do, especially if they are already tired and short on time. If you don’t have the time to hit the gym, take a brisk walk, dance around your living room to your favorite song, or mow your lawn. Despite feeling tired, getting up off the couch and moving around (moderate to vigorous exercise) is best for reducing the time it takes to get to sleep and improving the quality of sleep.

Mental and Emotional

15. Establish Consistent Practices That Help You Relax Before Bed

This can include yoga, deep breathing, a warm bath, progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, meditation, and hypnosis. These are designed to reduce physical tension and quiet your mind from thoughts that are keeping you awake. There are lots of great apps and free videos that can help you with this.

16. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT as it’s known, works by helping you to identify thoughts and behaviors that make sleep worse and then developing new habits consisting of thoughts and behaviors that promote sleep. There are psychologists and life coaches who are specially certified in CBT that can help you with this.

17. Show Yourself Some Compassion

Sounds silly? Well, it’s not. A seven-year study conducted at the University of Mannheim concluded that the daily practice of self-compassion positively impacted people’s quality of sleep.[13]

The concept of showing ourselves compassion is foreign (and uncomfortable) to many of us. Try going easy on yourself for being grumpy, and give yourself some credit for the efforts you are making in tough circumstances. What would you say to your best friend if they were struggling with the same situation? I routinely ask my clients this question as it’s sometimes easier to be compassionate to others than ourselves. This tip might take some practice, but the effort could result in a better night’s sleep.

Final Thoughts

Okay, there you have it—17 different ways you can help yourself manage shift work disorder, feel more rested, more like yourself, and enjoy life again. To get started with your plan, pick out a few tips that you can implement today, but remember to choose a well-rounded approach—addressing the physical, mental and emotional.

Be patient with yourself. It takes time to build new habits. And show yourself some compassion and kindness—you might just be able to sleep better when you do.

Featured photo credit: Yuris Alhumaydy via unsplash.com

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Reference

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