Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is an Indian herb (Indian Ginseng) known for its adaptogenic benefits; it is a valuable part of Ayurvedic Medicine. (Singh et al., 2011) You’ll find it in stress or adrenal supplements or used as a standalone herb. Many ashwagandha benefits help heal the body and work together to regulate your natural body processes.
Ashwagandha works to create balance in the body as other adaptogenic herbs do. It helps lower cortisol and reduces stress, and it also gives you energy if you are fatigued. But on the other hand, it has anxiolytic effects, and it increases GABA naturally, which is a very calming neurotransmitter.
A study compared the use of Ashwagandha in reducing anxiety versus the use of psychotherapy alone. According to the Hamilton Anxiety Scale, the results showed that the Ashwagandha decreased feelings of anxiety even more than psychotherapy alone. Therefore, the combination of Ashwagandha and psychotherapy could significantly reduce feelings of anxiety. (Pratte et al., 2014)
Cortisol is the hormone that helps wake us up in the morning, but constantly high cortisol levels throughout the day can be fatiguing. As shown in the research, Ashwagandha lowers cortisol and improves overall resistance to stress. (Chandrasekhar et al., 2012)
2. Supports Children’s Cognitions
As parents, we often assume that our children are just not listening and being “bad” or “ignoring” us. However, on the flip side, we could look at it from their perspective that they may be dealing with stress and the inability to focus. Therefore they are being punished for something negatively affecting them that is essentially out of their control.
Ashwagandha’s anti-stress benefits and its cognitive promoting effects helped children improve their memory. (Singh et al., 2011) Stress or trauma can contribute to poor memory function, and children are vulnerable to stress and anxiety and adults. Ashwagandha can benefit children who struggle with ADHD as memory is typically a concern.
One of Ashwagandha’s unique benefits is that it improves immediate memory and overall memory function. Not to mention it improves attention and information processing speed, helping adults and children be able to understand and respond more effectively. (Choudhary et al., 2017)
Inflammation can come from stress, poor diet, injury, exercise, and other sources. However, many mental health illnesses improve by reducing brain inflammation as well. Ashwagandha is an effective anti-inflammatory with properties shown to be effective against airway inflammation by downregulating inflammatory cell infiltration. (Zhao et al., 2019) It reduces the activation of the NLRP3 inflammasome, which causes the maturation of inflammatory cytokines and other inflammatory responses. (Sharma et al., 2021)
Cancer is the second cause of death in the US; Ashwagandha has antitumor benefits for multiple forms of cancer, including breast, prostate, ovarian, lung, colorectal, and other forms of cancer. It activates p53 in tumor cells to create apoptosis (cell death) and slow growth.
In breast cancer, Ashwagandha has anti-estrogen and anti-metastatic behaviors. In colorectal cancers, there is an anti-carcinogenic effect from the use of Ashwagandha, and it is said to have chemopreventive benefits by shrinking tumor cells by 59%, according to research. Ashwagandha induces apoptosis (cell death) in non-small cell lung cancer, which around 85% of all lung cancer cases are. (Dutta et al., 2019)
5. Improves Memory
As mentioned above, Ashwagandha can improve a child’s memory, but it is also beneficial for adults. Research shows that supplementing with 300mg of Ashwagandha twice daily for eight weeks significantly increased memory in participants. The Wechsler Memory Scale III was used to assess memory and executive functioning. (Choudhary et al., 2017)
Despite common beliefs, all genders have testosterone and need it for muscle mass, cardiovascular health, and energy. A patented form of Ashwagandha (KSM-66), a water-based extraction process, was used in a study. It increased testosterone levels significantly in eight weeks by supplementing 600mg per day. It raised serum testosterone levels in the study participants. (Smith et al., 2021)
Ashwagandha boosts energy and endurance by significantly improving VO2 max (max aerobic capacity). The Recovery-Stress Questionnaire for Athletes (RESTQ) assessment showed that the participants improved their fatigue recovery, lack of energy, fitness analysis, and even their antioxidant levels. (Tiwari et al., 2021)
High antioxidant levels are essential in recovery because although exercise is a healthy form of stress, it still causes oxidative stress. In addition, just living, breathing, and our daily bodily functions contribute to the oxidative stress in our bodies and the toxins we breathe in, etc.
If you have insomnia, it could be anxiety or depression, physical pain, or ailment. However, not being able to go to sleep or fall asleep can be a problem. Most people take melatonin to help them sleep, but you may have tried it and are looking for something else. Sleep is critical for healing, mental health support, and energy. Ashwagandha helps by improving sleep duration and quality, making it easier to fall asleep.
9. Heart Health
Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States, and there are many things we can do to improve our heart health. Including exercising, improving sleep habits, changing our thoughts and perspectives, and adding Ashwagandha to increase our body’s antioxidant levels to protect our heart. Stress contributes to many health conditions, especially heart conditions.
Ashwagandha increases heart-protective antioxidants, and it helps repair the damage from heart attacks and ischemia (insufficient blood flow to an area of the body). It reduces myocardial injury and increases superoxide dismutase (SOD), glutathione, catalase, and peroxidase. (Gupta et al., 2004)
Ashwagandha Side Effects
There are possible interactions with other medications, such as diabetic medications, because Ashwagandha lowers blood sugar. (Chukwuma et al., 2019)
There is not much research done on the side effects of Ashwagandha; however, studies promote its safety unless you are taking medications that you would want to consult with your doctor. By knowing the benefits of Ashwagandha and the uses for drugs you are taking, you will have an easier time avoiding any side effects.
However, if you take Ashwagandha for stress, sleep, blood sugar, hormones, etc., your doctor may need to lower your dosage of any medications you are taking for those concerns over time.
How Much Ashwagandha Do I Take?
Most studies administered were for the included benefits listed above and used 300mg of Ashwagandha twice per day. Therefore 600mg of Ashwagandha per day for at least eight weeks is beneficial, according to the results of the research studies.
Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb that creates balance in our bodies to minimize stress and boost energy. It is beneficial for many health concerns, and it is continuously studied extensively. Check with your doctor if you are taking any medications working towards the same health goals as any medications you are on.
- Choudhary, D., Bhattacharyya, S., & Bose, S. (2017). Efficacy and Safety of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera (L.) Dunal) Root Extract in Improving Memory and Cognitive Functions. Journal of dietary supplements, 14(6), 599–612. https://doi.org/10.1080/19390211.2017.1284970
- Chandrasekhar, K., Kapoor, J., & Anishetty, S. (2012). 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. Indian journal of psychological medicine, 34(3), 255–262. https://doi.org/10.4103/0253-7176.106022
- Chukwuma, C. I., Matsabisa, M. G., Ibrahim, M. A., Erukainure, O. L., Chabalala, M. H., & Islam, M. S. (2019). Medicinal plants with concomitant anti-diabetic and anti-hypertensive effects as potential sources of dual-acting therapies against diabetes and hypertension: A review. Journal of ethnopharmacology, 235, 329–360. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2019.02.024
- Dutta, R., Khalil, R., Green, R., Mohapatra, S. S., & Mohapatra, S. (2019). Withania Somnifera (Ashwagandha) and Withaferin A: Potential in Integrative Oncology. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 20(21), 5310. MDPI AG. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/ijms20215310
- Gupta, S. K., Mohanty, I., Talwar, K. K., Dinda, A., Joshi, S., Bansal, P., Saxena, A., & Arya, D. S. (2004). Cardioprotection from ischemia and reperfusion injury by Withania somnifera: a hemodynamic, biochemical and histopathological assessment. Molecular and cellular biochemistry, 260(1-2), 39–47. https://doi.org/10.1023/b:mcbi.0000026051.16803.03
- Pratte, M. A., Nanavati, K. B., Young, V., & Morley, C. P. (2014). An alternative treatment for anxiety: a systematic review of human trial results reported for the Ayurvedic herb ashwagandha (Withania somnifera). Journal of alternative and complementary medicine (New York, N.Y.), 20(12), 901–908. https://doi.org/10.1089/acm.2014.0177
- Singh, N., Bhalla, M., de Jager, P., & Gilca, M. (2011). An overview on Ashwagandha: a Rasayana (rejuvenator) of Ayurveda. African journal of traditional, complementary, and alternative medicines: AJTCAM, 8(5 Suppl), 208–213. https://doi.org/10.4314/ajtcam.v8i5S.9
- Sharma, B. R., & Kanneganti, T. D. (2021). NLRP3 inflammasome in cancer and metabolic diseases. Nature immunology, 22(5), 550–559. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41590-021-00886-5
- Stephen J Smith, Adrian L Lopresti, Shaun Y M Teo, Timothy J Fairchild, Examining the Effects of Herbs on Testosterone Concentrations in Men: A Systematic Review, Advances in Nutrition, Volume 12, Issue 3, May 2021, Pages 744–765, https://doi.org/10.1093/advances/nmaa134
- Tiwari, S., Gupta, S. K., & Pathak, A. K. (2021). A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial on the effect of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera dunal.) root extract in improving cardiorespiratory endurance and recovery in healthy athletic adults. Journal of ethnopharmacology, 272, 113929. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2021.113929
- Zhao, H. M., Gao, Z. W., Xie, S. X., Han, X., & Sun, Q. S. (2019). Withaferin A attenuates ovalbumin-induced airway inflammation. Frontiers in bioscience (Landmark edition), 24(3), 576–596. https://doi.org/10.2741/4737
This article originally appeared on Wealth of Geeks.
Megan is the owner and founder of Holistic Momma. Her background is in the natural health industry and her education is in psychology and a current degree program in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. She writes about natural ways to cope with your mental health, in addition to how moms can communicate with and take care of their children in a loving and effective manner.