Have you ever heard of a herb that can benefit every aspect of your mental and physical health? No? Perhaps mankind has not yet found such a miraculous plant but there is one with this potential.
Ashwagandha (Withania Somnifera) is a widely praised herb native to India and Africa. The roots of this plant have been used by healers since the dawn of humanity.
While today its benefits are considered controversial due to the lack of clinical research on humans, people continue using it for literally dozens of ailments and health purposes.
Honestly, can you argue about the effectiveness of a herb simply because it has not yet been proven healthy by science? Even when it has been used by the first human cultures over 6000 years ago and since then has remained a part of these cultures.
Today, we are going to go in-depth in Ashwagandha, find out everything about this curious plant, how people use it, and how people should actually use it.
What is Ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha is a shrub that is green throughout the entire year. It is also known as winter cherry which causes some confusion since there is another plant (Physalis alkekengi) which is known by the same name.
Ashwagandha has been glorified as one of the main herbs in the Ayurvedic medicine system which has been practiced by healers in the Indian territories for thousands of years. In this system, Ashwagandha is known as one of the herbs that will maintain the youth of your body and spirit.
Today, anyone can get their hands on this plant in the form of supplements. While it has been used to heal people from certain sicknesses, one of its main purposes has always been stress relief.
Overall, the majority of miraculous herbs used in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years have not yet been sufficiently studied by modern medicine. No matter its long list of benefits, Ashwagandha should not be taken as a complete alternative to the medicine prescribed by your physician or doctor.
Science of Ashwagandha
Although the different brands manufacture Ashwagandha differently and the components vary, we can give you the natural biologically active constituents of this shrub.
- Steroidal Lactones
Besides those constituents, there are sitoindosides and acylsterylglucosides which make it such a strong stress reliever.
Health Benefits of Ashwagandha
The majority of health benefits come from the adaptogenic nature of this herb. As already mentioned above, it is widely known for its stress-lowering effects. Depending on the dosage, it reduces anxiety, can lower the chances of insomnia, and many others. It sufficiently lowers cortisol levels which decreases the levels of chronic stress in the long-term run.
Although this effect has not been entirely proven yet, there have been controlled studies that showed promising results.
A number of stressed adults were examined while taking 600mg of Ashwagandha extract for 60 days. Although only a single individual who was among these people had a history of depression the results showed a significant decrease in severe depression. Further research is required for this particular benefit.
Research has found that Ashwagandha has a range of cancer-fighting effects. It reduces angiogenesis which sufficiently slows down the development of tumors and at the same time it enhances the death of cancer cells. It supports the cell cycle regulation and possesses anti-inflammatory effects
Last but not least, it is known to help the recovery of women undergoing chemotherapy.
Testosterone & Fertility
Ashwagandha has been proven to enhance the fertility and overall sex desire of both men and women. For women, it has proven to be an amazing alternative therapy to female sexual dysfunction by restoring sexual desire and increasing libido.
At the same time, men who use this supplement get an increase in testosterone and sperm count. Overall, it is a healthy solution that increases fertility.
Muscle Mass & Strength
Although there are dozens of supplements men use to increase their muscle mass and strength while performing certain sports activities, they are rarely healthy. Ashwagandha, on the other side, has proven very useful in these endeavors with a daily dosage of 500mg.
Ashwagandha has also proven to be an incredible booster of immunity. It lowers inflammation which helps you fight all infections especially those that lead to health diseases.
Ashwagandha has been used as a treatment for brain injuries and diseases. In Ayurveda, it has been used to boost memory and it has proven to be somewhat successful scientifically but this effect is most certainly due to the overall decrease of stress.
Alzheimer’s & Parkinson’s
According to a wide range of studies, Ashwagandha successfully slows or stops neuritic atrophy and synaptic loss which are among the main causes of cognitive impairment which leads to the development of the diseases in the title.
Other possible benefits
It is controversial whether Ashwagandha can help people with arthritis and diabetes. There are claims that it improves the blood sugar but there is not enough research and proof.
Who Can Take Ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha is considered as one of the safest supplements for most people and is usually well-tolerated. Only individuals with certain conditions should reconsider using it.
For example, it is not safe for people with type-1 diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis although it has shown to be beneficial for people with type 2 diabetes and also arthritis due to its anti-inflammatory effects. Therefore, a consultation with a doctor is the safest way to know for sure.
Also, you need to consult with your doctor if you are on blood sugar and blood pressure medications.
Finally, pregnant and breastfeeding women should also avoid it.
Side Effects Of Ashwagandha
There has not yet been enough clinical research to establish all the possible side effects. Currently, the majority of studies have been made on animals. However, Ashwagandha is considered safe in small and medium doses.
Large doses can lead to certain conditions like abdominal pain and nausea. Since this herb comes in the form of supplement it is not that well regulated compared to pharmaceutical and food products.
You should not expect every brand on the market to offer the same product. In fact, recent research gave some unsettling results about a fair percentage of the supplements manufactured in both India and U.S. It showed increased levels of mercury and arsenic which are above the accepted limits for daily intake.
However, there have been no reports of any particular dangerous side effects other than one. It could lead to the early delivery of a baby. That is why pregnant women should avoid this supplement until they pass their pregnancy and breastfeeding periods.
Although there is no “correct dosage” that anyone can give you, there are known doses for particular purposes based on research. Typically, the safe dose is somewhere between 500 and 1000mg and the exact figures depend on the needs. Here are a few dosages that have been used in studies and have proven to be healthy and sufficient.
For example, 300mg of Ashwagandha per day has proven to improve the general memory. This is connected to the benefit connected to memory enhancement. Another controlled study compared men who received Ashwagandha and placebo. The results showed that 500mg of Ashwagandha per day improved the reaction time and task performance.
Research on the inflammatory effect of Ashwagandha showed that 12ml of root extract per day could increase your immunity. In addition, 250-500mg of Ashwagandha in the form of supplement in the span of at least two months lead to lower inflammation.
In connection with the increase in strength and muscle mass by using Ashwagandha, a study showed that a healthy man needs 750-1250mg per day and this is considered the healthy dosage.
Our recommendation is to always consult with your doctor before taking any kind of supplement. You can then find out the perfect dosage for the particular purpose you want to take it for. After all, there might be a widely accepted safe dose that you can receive per day but in the end, it all depends on your age and current health status.
Ashwagandha is a herb that continues to gain popularity in the western world under the form of a supplement. Although there is a lot of research to be undergone before we can be entirely certain about its benefits and side effects, it has proven to be sufficient as a remedy to various sicknesses and conditions.
Always follow the recommended doses on the packages and consult with your physician to find out if you can safely take it. There are other supplements and medicine that do not go hand in hand with Ashwagandha, as well as certain conditions under which it should be avoided but overall, it is a well-received supplement that has not shown any severe negative effects in people.
One thing is certain, Ashwagandha can truly help you with stress and anxiety.