An Overview On Ashwagandha:
The name “Ashwagandha” comes from Sanskrit and it is a combination of two words, namely “Asha” meaning horse, and “Gandha” that means smell. Ashwagandha’s root has got a strong aroma that is explained as “Horse-like”. Ashwagandha, in Ayurvedic, Unani and Indian Medicine, is described as ‘Indian ginseng”.
The botanical name of Ashwagandha is Withania somnifera and it is also known by various other names such as Indian ginseng and winter cherry. The plant of Ashwagandha is a small shrub having yellow colored flowers that is quite native to North Africa and India.
Ashwagandha is used since past 3000 years for relieving stress, improving concentration and increasing energy levels. (1)
It is even used in traditional African medicines for treating several health ailments included arthritis, bipolar disorder, anxiety, ADHD, OCD or obsessive compulsive disorder, balance, insomnia, tuberculosis, tumors, asthma, leukoderma, hypothyroidism, and chronic liver diseases. Ashwagandha is also used in reducing the side effects of medicines that are used for treating schizophrenia and cancer. It is also used for reducing levels of sugar and fat in the blood.
Ashwagandha is also beneficial in treating conditions like backache, bronchitis, menstrual issues, fibromyalgia, hiccups, and improving strength. Ashwagandha is applied on the skin for treating wounds, back pains, and hemoplegia or one-sided paralysis.
Many of the health benefits of ashwagandha are attributed to its rich concentration of withanolides, which are known to fight against tumor growth and inflammation. (1)
Health Benefits Of Ashwagandha:
It Is Beneficial in Enhancing Immunity:
Our immunity is worn down by several factors daily and in this modern day and age it’s often intrinsic factors, like stress, inflammation and lack of sleep. By improving on all of those and boosting overall physical health and stamina, ashwagandha has improved our immunity significantly. It also was found to improve the activity of natural killer cells, the immune cells that fight infection.
Ashwagandha May Reduce Inflammation:
Ashwagandha might help in reducing inflammation and there are several animal studies which have shown this. (2, 3, 4)
Studies in human beings have found that ashwagandha increases the activity of natural killer cells or the immune cells that fight against infection and aid you remain healthy.
Moreover, it has also been shown that ashwagandha is effective enough in decreasing markers of inflammation, like the CRP or C-reactive protein. This marking is associated with an increased risk of heart disease.
In a controlled study, it was found that the group that took 250 mg of standardized extract of ashwagandha regularly had a 36% of reduction in CRP, on average, as compared with a reduction of 6% in the placebo group.
Improved Heart Health Benefits of Ashwagandha:
Are you looking for something that could help you improve your heart health? Well! Ashwagandha could be one such source that might help you in this. It can significantly reduce the cholesterol levels and the levels of triglycerides in your bloodstream; and both, the animal as well as human studies have confirmed this. However, the effect is quite stronger in case of animals than in humans. However, it is still found that ashwagandha reduced cholesterol levels by an average of 17% and the triglyceride levels by an average of 11% in a study of 60 days in case of chronically stressed adults.
Ashwagandha Might Have Anticancer Properties:
Ashwagandha might also be beneficial because of it anticancer properties. Animal and test-tube studies have shown that withaferin or a compound present in ashwagandha aids in inducing apoptosis, which is known as the programmed death of cancerous cells. (5)
Ashwagandha also impedes the growth of new cancer cells in various ways. (5)
First thing is, withaferin present in ashwagandha is believed to promote the formation of ROS or reactive oxygen species found inside the cancer cells, disrupting their functions. Second this is that, it might also cause cancerous cells to become less resistant to the process of apoptosis. (6)
There are animal studies which have suggested that ashwagandha might treat various types of cancer, such as lung, breast, brain, colon, and ovarian cancers.
In a study, mice suffering from ovarian tumors when treated with withaferin alone or in a combination along with an anti-cancer drug, showed a reduction of the tumor growth by about 70% to 80%. The treatment even prevented the spread of cancer to various other organs. (7)
Thought there is no evidence that suggest that ashwagandha exert similar effects in humans, recent time’s research is quite encouraging.
Cholesterol And Triglycerides Lowering Benefit of Ashwagandha:
Ashwagandha is known for its anti-inflammatory effects; however, it might also help in improving heart health by reducing the levels of cholesterol and triglycerides.
There are some animal studies which have found that it decreases the levels of these blood fats quite significantly.
A study on rats has found that it lowered total levels of cholesterol and triglycerides by 53% and around 45% respectively. (8)
Though controlled human studies have no report on dramatic results, they have observed some improvements in these markers.ASA DOCTOR NOW
It Can Reduce The Levels Of Cortisol:
Cortisol hormone is known as a stress hormone that is released by your adrenal glands in response to stress, and also when the levels of your blood sugar get too low.
However, in certain cases, cortisol hormone levels might become elevated quite chronically, which can result in high blood sugar levels and also in increased storage of fat in the abdomen.
Studies have shown that there might be a reduction in cortisol levels by using ashwagandha. In a study conducted in chronically stressed adults that those who were supplemented with ashwagandha, had significantly reduced the levels of cortisol, as compared with the control group. It was noticed that those who were taking the highest dose of ashwagandha had experience a 30% of reduction in cortisol levels, on an average.
Ashwagandha Can Reduce Blood Sugar Levels:
There are numerous studies that have shown that ashwagandha lowers the levels of blood sugar.
A test-tube study has found that ashwagandha increased the secretion of insulin and also improved insulin sensitivity in muscle cells. (9)
Moreover, there are various human studies that have suggested that ashwagandha can reduce the levels of blood sugar in both, the healthy as well as the people with diabetes.
In addition, in one 4-week study in case of people with schizophrenia, those who were treated with ashwagandha had an average reduction in fasting levels of blood sugar of 13.5 mg/dL, as compared with the 4.5mg/dL in people who received a placebo. (10)
Ashwagandha Might Reduce The Symptoms Of Depression:
Depression is a condition when a patient might suffer from several symptoms that can make the person feel quite frustrated. Although, there is no thorough study on this, a few studies have suggested that ashwagandha might help in alleviating symptoms of depression. (11, 12)
It Boosts The Testosterone Level In Men And Increase Their Fertility:
Ashwagandha supplements are known to have potential effects on levels of testosterone and reproductive health.
In a study conducted among 75 infertile men, the group that was treated with ashwagandha had shown increased sperm count and its motility.
This treatment led to a significant increase in the levels of testosterone. (13)
Researchers even reported that the group of people who took ashwagandha had increased levels of antioxidants in their blood.
In one more study, men who received the herb for stress had experienced higher levels of antioxidant and better sperm quality. After the treatment for 3 months, 14% of the men’s partners got pregnant. (14) This showed that ashwagandha helps in increasing testosterone levels and also enhances the sperm quality and fertility in case of men.
It Might help In Reducing Stress And Anxiety:
It is best known for its excellent ability of reducing stress and anxiety.
Researchers have reported that ashwagandha blocked the stress pathway in the rats’ brain by regulating chemical signaling in their nervous system. (15)
Even, various controlled human studies shown that ashwagandha can reduce stress and anxiety symptoms.
In a study of 60 days conducted in 64 people having chronic stress, the group of people those who were supplemented with ashwagandha reported around 69% of reduction in insomnia and anxiety, on an average, as compared to 11% in case of the placebo group. (16)
There was one more 6-week of study that showed that 88% of people who took ashwagandha, were found to have a reduction in anxiety, compared with the 50% of people in the placebo group.
Ashwagandha Might Increase Muscle Mass And Overall Strength:
Research has shown that ashwagandha might improve your body composition and also increase your strength.
In one study that was conducted for determining a safe and effective dosage of ashwagandha; healthy men who were supplemented with 750 mg to 1520 mg of pulverized ashwagandha root every day, gained enough strength of their muscles after 30 days. (17)
Ashwagandha Might Improve Brain Function, Including memory:
What could be better than knowing that ashwagandha might also benefit you in improving your brain function, including your memory? Test-tube as well as animal studies have suggested that this herb might mitigate memory and brain function problems that were caused by disease or injury.
Research shows that ahswagandha promotes antioxidant activity that in turn protects nerve cells from the harmful free radicals.
Although ashwagandha has been used traditionally to boost memory in Ayurveda, there is only limited human research that was conducted in this field.
In a controlled study, healthy men those who took 500 mg of standardized ashwagandha extract on a daily basis, reported some significant improvements in their reaction time and in their task performance, as compared with men in the placebo group. (18)
Ashwagandha is definitely one of the most effective ancient medicinal herbs having numerous health benefits. So, supplementing with ashwagandha might actually be an effective as well as an easy way to improve your health and overall quality of life.
Ashwagandha is generally a safe supplement for most of the people; however, its long-term effects are still unknown. So, you should consult with doctor before using it for treating any of your health condition. Apart from this, pregnant and breastfeeding mothers must avoid taking ashwagandha supplements. You also need to take care while using ashwagandha if you are taking any medication like those for thyroid diseases, as it might increase the levels of thyroid hormone in some people.
NOTE: Always consult with your doctor to know about the recommended dosage of ashwagandha as the dosage basically depends on the type of the supplement that you are taking.