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Ashwagandha For Migraines: Pros and Cons

Ashwagandha For Migraines

Ashwagandha is an herb commonly referred to as Indian ginseng or withania somnifera.

It’s well known for increasing focus and clarity. This article reviews the pros and cons of ashwagandha for migraine prevention.

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Ten Reasons Why Ashwagandha May Prevent Migraines

1. Migraine Case study

A case study of a 45-year-old woman found that her migraine disability went from a MIDAS grade of 2 (Mild Disability) to a 1 (little or no disability) after two months of ashwagandha use.

Her pain score went from a four-out-of-four down to a one (case study).

This case study is anecdotal evidence that needs to be repeated in large placebo-controlled trials.

Unfortunately, with migraine drugs being a 3-billion-dollar market, it’s unlikely that anyone will fund a trial for a cheap herbal alternative to medication.

2. Anti-inflammatory Effects

Ashwagandha produces anti-inflammatory effects (1, 2, 3, 4).

A recent study found that 250 mg or 500 mg of ashwagandha per day significantly reduced pain and stiffness in patients with knee joint pain (study).

Migraines and migraine triggers are associated with inflammation (full article).

Anti-inflammatories are underrated migraine treatments. Research shows that 1000 mg of aspirin is as effective as 100 mg of sumatriptan for immediate migraine relief (13 studies).

3. Oxidative Stress

Ashwagandha protects the brain against oxidative stress and glutamate toxicity (study).

Ashwagandha turns on a switch (nrf2) in the body that releases antioxidants to fight oxidative stress (study).

Oxidative stress may be responsible for triggering all migraines (full article).

Glutamate toxicity is also a migraine trigger (full article).

4. Stress Reduction

An ashwagandha study from 2012 reduced depression, anxiety, and stress by a massive 71 percent (study).

The study administered 300 mg of ashwagandha twice per day to 64 chronically stressed patients for 60 days.

Cortisol (stress) blood levels were also reduced by 27 percent, which is a larger drop than many medications and consistent with other ashwagandha studies (study 1, 2).

The study concluded that “ashwagandha safely improves an individual’s resistance towards stress.” Similar results have been replicated in other studies (study).

Emotional stress is the most common migraine trigger (study).

Depression increases the risk of migraines (full article, #5).

The stress reduction from relaxation techniques has the same reduction in migraines as popular medications (study).

Ashwagandha may directly reduce migraines by controlling stress. Read more about controlling stress and migraines here.

5. Weight Loss

An ashwagandha study published in 2016 found that patients significantly reduced body fat, perceived stress, cortisol levels, food cravings, and increased their happiness levels (based on the Oxford happiness questionnaire score) (study).

The study administered 300 mg of ashwagandha twice per day for eight weeks to 52 overweight patients with chronic stress (study).

Obesity is associated with oxidative stress and increases migraine risk by 81 percent (study ).

6. Focus, Memory, and Brain Function

A placebo-controlled study increased focus, concentration, and improved reaction times between the brain and motor functions (study).

The cognitive success was measured after 500 mg of ashwagandha was administered for 12 days to 20 healthy male adults.

The study also noted evidence that ashwagandha improves memory in rats (study 1, 2).

More than half of migraine sufferers report a 50 percent or more loss of work productivity (NHF, study). Memory problems are common during and after migraines.

Alzheimer’s disease and brain lesions are also more common in migraine sufferers (full article, #13).

Ashwagandha reversed the buildup of plaque that is associated with Alzheimer’s and brain lesions in a study of human cells (study).

Long-term memory problems are debatable in migraine sufferers, although migraine support groups on Facebook have hundreds of migraineurs questioning if migraines are responsible for their long-term memory loss (study) (Migraine Support Group Facebook).

It’s difficult to tell what is causing memory loss because migraine medications such as topiramate cause memory loss as a side effect.

Ashwagandha is a potential treatment for reducing brain lesions and memory problems in migraine sufferers.

7. Epilepsy

Research shows that ashwagandha prevents seizures in mice, possibly by blocking glutamate (study 1, 2).

One study on epileptic rats found that ashwagandha almost completely reversed oxidative stress buildup and memory impairment (study).

Epilepsy increases the risk of having migraines. The medications for epilepsy that block glutamate are also commonly used for migraine prevention (study 1, 2).

8. Thyroid Function

Studies on mice show that ashwagandha improves thyroid function (study).

A small study on people with bipolar disease found that ashwagandha improved thyroid function (study). One patient had hypothyroidism before the study and became “normalized” by the end of the eight-week study.

Hypothyroidism is several times more likely in migraine patients and vice versa (full article, #1).

Thyroid hormones are responsible for regulating metabolism, energy, and reducing oxidative stress (study).

Low thyroid hormones could lead to fatigue, weight gain, sensitivity to the cold, and migraines.

9. Increased Strength

One study found a significant increase in muscle strength with less fatigue after eight weeks of ashwagandha use (study).

The men given ashwagandha were able to bench press 74 percent more weight than those given a placebo. I had to double check the study because that level of increased strength is hard to believe. It’s almost scary.

Another study found an increase in leg and back strength despite no exercise (study).

A study conducted in 2010 found that ashwagandha increased the speed and cardio strength of runners (study). The runners increased the amount of oxygen (VO2 max) that their bodies could utilize. The study concluded that ashwagandha may “therefore be useful for generalized weakness.”

Migraines are associated with generalized weakness and fatigue. In fact, 82 percent of those with chronic fatigue also have migraines (full article, #17).

Ashwagandha has even reduced chemotherapy-induced fatigue in a study of 100 cancer patients (study).

Muscular fatigue can trigger migraines by increasing total levels of inflammation in the body (full article). Ashwagandha’s ability to increase oxygen may decrease inflammation and prevent migraines (study).

Exercise studies that increase muscular and cardiovascular strength show a large reduction in migraine frequency (full article).

Increased cardiovascular strength may prevent heart attacks. Migraine sufferers are at a 50 percent higher risk of cardiovascular attacks (full article, #26).

Migraine attacks are also associated with a decrease in brain perfusion (blood and oxygen supply) (study). Improved cardiovascular output could possibly reduce this problem.

10. Reduced Blood Sugar Levels

An ashwagandha study conducted in 2013 reduced high levels of blood sugar in patients with schizophrenia (study).

Patients received 400 mg of ashwagandha several times per day for a month.

The patients started with an average fasting blood sugar level of 106 mg/dl. Over 100 mg/dl of blood sugar is considered prediabetes (diabtetes.org). The blood sugar average for the group went down to a healthy 92 mg/dl by the end of the study.

An earlier study on people with diabetes found that ashwagandha could decrease blood glucose in a comparable way to diabetic medications (study).

Having high blood sugar on a constant basis is bad because it can lead to insulin resistance and hypoglycemic (low blood sugar) attacks.

Migraines are often triggered by low blood sugar attacks from skipping a meal. Reducing high blood sugar levels will improve the body’s ability to utilize sugar even when you skip a meal.

Diabetic patients with hypoglycemic attacks are more likely to have migraines (full article, #10).

Insulin resistance (the decreased ability to utilize sugar) is more likely the longer duration a patient has migraines (study).

Obesity increases migraine risk and can affect both insulin resistance and glucose levels (full article, #29).

Controlling blood glucose levels may be why the ketogenic diet is so effective at reducing migraines (full article).

Ashwagandha’s ability to control blood sugar may help reduce migraines.

Who Shouldn’t Take Ashwagandha

The studies mentioned here suggest that ashwagandha is safe with no serious side effects (study). However, studies are limited on the safety of ashwagandha.

Ashwagandha can affect medications for thyroid disorders, surgery, autoimmune diseases, diabetes, and may be unsafe for pregnancy (WebMD).

Allergic Reactions

Allergic reactions to ashwagandha are rare, but any herb is a possible personal allergen and migraine trigger.

Before You Try Ashwagandha

Speak with your doctor or nutritionist before taking any new supplement.

Ashwagandha is not the first migraine supplement you should try. Butterbur, coenzyme Q10, feverfew, and ginger have more robust research in migraine prevention (full article).

What to Buy

Supplements are not regulated by the FDA and many are fake (NYT article). Ensure that your brand is from a reputable company.

Dosage:

Most studies discussed here used 250 mg to 600 mg of ashwagandha per day. However, the correct dosage required to help with your migraines is unknown.

Disclosure: I have no affiliation with any supplement company. It’s best to do your own research because many companies sell fake supplements.

Examples of supplements on Amazon:

Now Foods 450 mg Ashwagandha is from a GMP (ensures high quality under FDA guidelines) certified facility. Now Foods is validated through an independent testing company called Labdoor.com.

Jarrow 300 mg ashwagandha is from a GMP certified facility that has all of their products tested by a USDA accredited third-party tester. They also have a good rating on labdoor.com.

It’s common for good supplement manufacturers to have small particles of other supplements that are not on the label, as reviewed by labdoor.com above. This is from cross contamination of shared equipment. However, this is different from the products that are completely fake as reviewed in the NYT article.

Pure Encapsulations—500 mg ashwagandha—is an elite tier of supplement companies that sell directly to health practitioners. Their facility is FDA inspected, GMP certified, free of common allergens or contamination, and has an A rating through Labdoor. The down side is that they are more expensive, but you get what you pay for.

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Ashwagandha is considered to be a traditional stress reliever. It is also being investigated for its potential to enhance memory and immune function. But what does the science say about all its purported health benefits and are any supported by decent evidence? Read on to find out!

Does Ashwagandha Have Health Benefits?

Precautions

Like most supplements, ashwagandha is not approved by the FDA for any purpose. The evidence presented here is considered preliminary and insufficient to justify medical use .

To avoid unexpected interactions or other adverse events, talk to your doctor before incorporating ashwagandha into your daily regimen.

Snapshot

Proponents:

  • May combat the effects of stress on the mind and body
  • May stimulate the immune system
  • Believed to reduce pain, inflammation, and oxidative damage
  • Promising research into potential cognitive and metabolic benefits
  • Associated with improved heart, gut, and adrenal health

Skeptics:

  • Has unpleasant taste
  • May increase thyroid hormones
  • May cause digestive issues
  • Not enough clinical testing to justify medical use
  • Insufficient evidence for a lot of claims
  • No safe & effective dose has been determined
  • Long-term side effects unknown

Potential Benefits of Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha supplements have not been approved by the FDA for medical use and generally lack solid clinical research. Regulations set manufacturing standards for them but don’t guarantee that they’re safe or effective. Speak with your doctor before supplementing.

Possibly Effective For:

Of all of the potential benefits of ashwagandha, this has the most robust body of evidence to support it, but it hasn’t been approved by the FDA! It’s important to talk to your doctor before taking ashwagandha for any reason.

Ashwagandha is traditionally used as a tonic to calm the nerves. In two studies of 116 chronically-stressed people, the root extract improved stress, well-being, and happiness; it also reduced cortisol levels .

In a study of 39 people, ashwagandha extract was slightly effective for people with anxiety. Although these results are promising, the effectiveness of ashwagandha in people with anxiety remains to be determined in larger, better-designed trials .

In several animal studies, Ashwagandha was helpful against anxiety and depression and for improving stress tolerance .

Ashwagandha is best known for combating stress, which is supported by decent studies. Its purported ability to relieve anxiety is insufficiently researched.

Ashwagahda Benefits with Insufficient Evidence

The following purported benefits are only supported by limited, low-quality clinical studies. There is insufficient evidence to support the use of ashwagandha for any of the below-listed uses. Remember to speak with a doctor before taking ashwagandha, and never use it in place of something your doctor recommends or prescribes.

2) Memory

Ashwagandha root extract improved memory in 50 people with mild cognitive impairment. The extract also improved working memory in another study of 53 people .

In rats, Ashwagandha protected against memory impairment due to PTSD and the lack of oxygen (hypoxia) .

3) Weight Loss & Muscle Growth

Ashwagandha root extract reduced food cravings, eating, and body weight in a study of 52 people .

In three studies with over 100 people, ashwagandha extract in combination with resistance training :

  • Reduced body fat
  • Increased muscle strength
  • Boosted testosterone
  • Reduced body fat

4) Endurance

In a trial of 49 healthy athletic adults, Ashwagandha extract improved endurance and self-reported physical health after 12 weeks .

It had the same effect on 40 elite cyclists after 8 weeks of supplementation .

5) Diabetes

In a small trial of 12 people, Ashwagandha decreased blood sugar levels as effectively as diabetes medication, without significant adverse side effects .

Ashwagandha also reduced blood sugar in several animal studies. In some of these studies, HbA1c (a measure of long-term blood sugar) and insulin levels improved as well .

In other animal studies, Ashwagandha reduced the severity of complications from diabetes, such as testicular dysfunction, cataracts, and nerve pain. Supplementation also improved antioxidant status; this is helpful because excess glucose creates oxidative stress .

Ashwagandha has helped with diabetes by reducing blood sugar and insulin levels and enhancing antioxidant defense, but more research is required to determine whether it’s effective for this purpose.

6) Heart Health

Ashwagandha is believed to reduce blood pressure and cholesterol and prevent atherosclerosis, thus improving heart health, but clinical evidence is limited. In one human trial, adding ashwagandha to conventional anti-ischemic drugs improved outcomes compared to the conventional treatment alone .

In animal studies, Ashwagandha reduced the risk of stroke and heart attacks. It also decreased triglyceride levels and protected against oxidative damage due to chemotherapy .

7) Infections

Antibacterial Activity

In a study of 133 people with tuberculosis, Ashwagandha and other herbals in combination with antibiotics relieved coughing and fever better than antibiotics alone. In another study of 99 people with tuberculosis, Ashwagandha improved symptoms, inflammation, and body weight .

In mouse and cell studies, Ashwagandha has inhibited or killed bacteria such as Salmonella and Staphylococcus aureus .

Antiviral Activity

An herbal remedy containing Ashwagandha sped up recovery from viral hepatitis in 29 patients .

Ashwagandha has also shown antiviral activity against HIV, herpes, and Infectious Bursal Disease virus in cell-based studies .

Antifungal Activity

Ashwagandha inhibited the growth of multiple species of fungus (Aspergillus flavus, Fusarium oxysporum, and Fusarium verticillioides) in a cell study .

Anti-Parasitic Activity

Ashwagandha has shown anti-parasitic activity against Leishmania and Malaria in animal studies .

Cell studies indicate that ashwagandha may help fight bacteria, fungi, and viruses. However, more studies in animals and, eventually, in humans will be required.

8) Symptoms of OCD & ADHD

OCD

In a study of 30 people with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), Ashwagandha extract taken with standard treatment reduced their symptoms more than medication alone .

Ashwagandha also effectively treated the symptoms of OCD in mice .

ADHD

ADHD is usually treated with psychostimulants, such as Ritalin. However, their long-term safety has been questioned in several studies. A safer alternative would be preferable for many parents .

An herbal mix containing Ashwagandha, peony, Gotu Kola, spirulina, bacopa, and lemon balm improved response time, impulsivity, and focus in a study of 120 children with ADHD, with no adverse side effects reported .

No studies have yet investigated the effect of Ashwagandha alone in ADHD.

Ashwagandha may reduce symptoms of OCD and ADHD, but more trials are needed to confirm its effectiveness.

9) Schizophrenia

In a pilot trial of 11 people, Ashwagandha reduced the severity of sensory problems experienced by schizophrenia patients .

However, it did not help with feelings of isolation or depression in another study of 25 schizophrenic patients .

10) Pain

Ashwagandha reduced pain, stiffness, and disability in 60 people with knee joint pain. Ayurvedic treatment containing ashwagandha reduced pain, joint tenderness, and swelling in a study of 86 people with rheumatoid arthritis .

In another study of 42 people, an herbal mixture containing Ashwagandha, Indian frankincense, turmeric, and zinc reduced pain from osteoarthritis. Ashwagandha also relieved pain in three rodent studies .

11) Reproductive Health

Women

Ashwagandha may reduce the complications of menopause. In a trial of 51 menopausal women, ashwagandha reduced symptoms such as hot flashes, mood fluctuations, sleep issues, irritability, and anxiety .

In 50 healthy women, Ashwagandha improved self-reported measures of sexual function such as arousal, lubrication, orgasm, and satisfaction .

Ashwagandha with Tribulus terrestris restored hormone balance in rats with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) .

Men

In a clinical trial of 150 men, Ashwagandha reduced oxidative stress, increased testosterone, and lowered FSH. These hormonal changes encourage the production of new sperm cells. It also improved sperm count and mobility .

In 46 men with low sperm count, Ashwagandha increased :

  • sperm count, by 167%
  • semen volume, by 53%
  • sperm motility, by 57%

It recovered semen quality in 180 infertile men .

Ashwagandha has the potential to improve reproductive health in both women and men by normalizing hormone levels, semen quality, and sexual function. However, more studies will be required to confirm any benefit.

12) Sleep

The root or whole plant extract has been used as a sleep agent in Ayurveda. A mouse study found that triethylene glycol is the active component of Ashwagandha responsible for sleep induction .

Ashwagandha improved sleep quality in 6 out of 18 healthy people. It also improved sleep in rats through activating the GABA pathway .

Sleep loss is unhealthy and leads to increased levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and cell death in the brain. Interestingly, Ashwagandha prevented the negative effects of sleep deprivation in rodents, likely through antioxidant mechanisms .

Ashwagandha may help people fall asleep and improve sleep quality. It may also reduce the consequences of sleep deprivation. However, as usual, more studies are required.

13) Immunity

In a small trial of 5 people, Ashwagandha extract improved the immune response by activating white blood cells. In two other trials (a total of 142 people), an herbal mix containing Ashwagandha increased the activity of natural killer cells, white blood cells specialized to fight tumors and viruses .

In mice, Ashwagandha extract enhanced immunity by activating bone marrow cells, macrophages, and lymphocytes .

It increased the levels of Th1 cytokines and prevented the depletion of white blood cells in stressed mice .

Finally, in a combined mouse and cell study, Withaferin A inhibited the activity of myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs). These dysfunctional immune cells can stimulate tumor growth and prevent the immune system from attacking cancer cells .

Ashwagandha may stimulate the immune system to fight infections and cancer, but more clinical trials are needed.

14) Gut Health

In a single case report, an Ayurvedic medication containing Ashwagandha helped treat constipation, stomach pain, and vomiting .

An enema of Ashwagandha restored the health of the intestinal lining in rats with IBD .

Note, however, that one animal study and a single case study of an herbal blend cannot be considered strong evidence. We need additional studies before making any definitive claims about Ashwagandha’s effect on the digestive system.

15) Adrenal Function

Congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH) is an inborn dysfunction of enzymes that control hormone production in the adrenal gland. It results in a deficiency of cortisol and aldosterone and an excess of male hormones. Symptoms include excess facial hair, acne, hair loss, menstrual irregularity, and infertility.

In two case studies, Ashwagandha improved the symptoms and hormone levels of elderly women with CAH .

Controlled trials will be needed to confirm this benefit.

Ashwagadha Uses Lacking Evidence

No clinical evidence supports the use of ashwagandha for any of the conditions listed in this section.

Below is a summary of the existing animal and cell-based research, which should guide further investigational efforts. However, the studies listed below should not be interpreted as supportive of any health benefit.

16) Oxidative Stress

Withanolides, the Ashwagandha active compounds, are potent antioxidants. In a study on human cells, Ashwagandha improved markers of age-related oxidative stress (FOXO3A and SIRT3), suggesting it may prevent premature aging .

In rat studies, Ashwagandha boosted the body’s antioxidants, including superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase, and glutathione. It also prevented kidney injury due to dehydration and oxidative damage due to chemotherapy .

Longevity Studies

Ashwagandha’s antioxidant properties may potentially increase longevity. It increased the antioxidant enzymes and reduced markers of oxidative stress in a study of 30 people .

In three studies, Ashwagandha extended the lifespan of a worm (C. elegans) often used to study models of longevity .

Ashwagandha increases the body’s natural antioxidant capacities, which may promote longevity.

17) Brain Health

In cell studies, Ashwagandha promoted the growth of brain cells and stimulated neuronal regeneration .

Ashwagandha can reduce oxidative damage from drugs and protect against excess glutamate. It helped control epileptic seizures in mice and treat dyskinesia (involuntary movement) in rats .

Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia caused by deposits of beta-amyloid proteins and loss of brain cells. Ashwagandha improved cognitive function and reduced beta-amyloid deposits in mouse models of Alzheimer’s .

Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disease involving progressive loss of dopamine neurons. In a mouse model of Parkinson’s, Ashwagandha normalized dopamine levels and reduced free radical damage to brain cells .

Huntington’s Disease

Huntington’s disease is a genetic disorder that causes oxidative damage and a progressive breakdown of brain cells .

In rat studies, Ashwagandha protected against oxidative stress and mitochondrial dysfunction, suggesting it could be useful in diseases such as Huntington’s .

Ashwagandha may protect against nerve damage and improve the symptoms of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Clinical studies should confirm these benefits.

18) Bone Health

Bone health issues often arise after menopause, when low levels of estrogen disrupt bone structure. In mice with estrogen deficiency, Ashwagandha prevented bone loss and stimulated new bone formation .

It improved bone building in calcium-deficient rats and chickens and increased bone collagen in arthritic rats .

In cell studies, Ashwagandha stimulated bone formation and protected cartilage .

According to animal studies, ashwagandha may prevent bone loss due to menopause and calcium deficiency. This potential benefit has not yet been studied in humans.

19) Kidney Damage

In rat studies, Ashwagandha protected the kidneys against toxicity of several chemicals, including:

It also protected against kidney damage caused by dehydration .

20) Liver Health

Ashwagandha protected the liver against damage from radiation and heavy metals in rats .

It increased the bile content in rats with high cholesterol and decreased certain liver enzymes that indicate tissue damage .

21) Respiratory Health

Polysaccharides extracted from Ashwagandha suppressed coughing in guinea pigs as effectively as codeine .

In baby rats, withaferin A also protected the lungs against inflammation and oxidative stress caused by toxic bacterial lipopolysaccharides (LPS). Future trials will clarify whether Ashwagandha or its compounds may be helpful against respiratory infections .

22) Autoimmunity

Lupus is an autoimmune disease that involves high levels of inflammation. In a mouse study, Ashwagandha reduced inflammatory markers that tend to be high in lupus and other autoimmune diseases, including IL-6 and TNF-alpha .

23) Traditional Use as a Venom Antidote

In India, Ashwagandha is used to treat snake bites and scorpion stings. A compound from Ashwagandha inhibits cobra and viper venom in mouse and cell studies .

24) Morphine Dependence

Ashwagandha may help prevent people from developing a dependence on morphine, and it may help people who are already dependent wean themselves off of morphine without severe withdrawal symptoms .

In a rat study, Ashwagandha extract reduced withdrawal symptoms and prevented morphine dependence. In neurons exposed directly to morphine, Ashwagandha extract prevented the downregulation of opioid receptor activity. Thus, Ashwagandha may be useful to prevent dependence when opioid painkillers are necessary .

25) Mild Hypothyroidism

Mild hypothyroidism, or low thyroid hormones, occurs in 3-8% of people and is especially common in women over 55. Treatment with levothyroxine, a synthetic form of the thyroid hormone T4, often comes with more risks than benefits; thus, many people with mild hypothyroidism go untreated .

In a trial of 50 people with mild hypothyroidism, Ashwagandha extract normalized TSH and thyroid hormones (T3 and T4) .

It also increased thyroid hormones in hypothyroid rodents and reduced oxidative stress and inflammation .

Ashwagandha is believed to increase thyroid hormones, but the available research is scarce.

Cancer Research

Ashwagandha improved fatigue and quality of life in a trial of 100 cancer patients receiving chemotherapy .

Several animal and cell studies have shown that the constituents of Ashwagandha, in particular withaferin A, inhibit or destroy cancer cells .

What’s more, Ashwagandha can make the chemotherapy drug paclitaxel more effective against lung cancer, according to mouse studies .

In cell and animal studies, Ashwagandha has slowed or reversed the growth of several cancers, including:

Ashwagandha may support chemotherapy and improve quality of life. Cell and animal studies are investigating if it can block the growth of different cancers, but much more robust research will be required.

Further Reading

  • How To Take Ashwagandha + Dosage, Reviews, Side Effects

Takeaway

Ashwagandha is a versatile traditional herb that’s traditionally thought to relieve anxiety and stress. Its active components have been investigated for cognitive and emotional benefits; they may also help manage neurological conditions from Alzheimer’s to schizophrenia, but more research is needed.

The antioxidant properties of ashwagandha are hypothesized to protect the liver, lungs, brain, and kidneys. It may also prevent hormonal imbalances and improve sexual function in both men and women, but larger trials are required to verify its effectiveness and safety.

Benefits of ashwagandha

Modern studies have shown that ashwagandha might be beneficial for a number of uses. But a lot is still unknown about how the herb reacts within the human body. A majority of the studies so far – while very promising – have been done on animals.

Anxiety

It’s possible that ashwagandha has a calming effect on anxiety symptoms when compared to the drug lorazepam (a sedative and anxiety medication).

A study published in the journal Phytomedicine showed that the herb had the ability to reduce anxiety levels. In fact, the two treatments were found to offer a similar level of relief from anxiety as the above medication, suggesting ashwagandha might be as effective for reducing anxiety.

Arthritis

Ashwagandha is considered a pain reliever that acts on the nervous system to prevent pain signals from being sent. It’s also thought to have some anti-inflammatory properties. For this reason, some research has shown it to be effective in treating forms of arthritis.

One study in the found the herb to have Indian Journal of Medical Research strong potential as a treatment option for rheumatoid arthritis.

Heart health

Ashwagandha may have a variety of benefits to heart health, including treating:

  • high blood pressure
  • high cholesterol
  • chest pain
  • heart disease

One human study published in the International Journal of Ayurveda Research found that using the herb for heart health (in combination with another Ayurvedic herb) was helpful in improving muscle strength and endurance.

Alzheimer’s treatment

According to the African Journal of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicine, several studies have examined ashwagandha’s ability to slow or prevent loss of brain function in people with diseases like Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s, and Parkinson’s.

As these diseases progress, parts of the brain and its connective paths become damaged, which leads to loss of memory and function. Research suggests that ashwagandha, when given to mice and rats during the early disease stages, may be able to offer protection.

Cancer

A few very promising studies found that ashwagandha might be able to stop cell growth in certain cancers. Animal research showed the ability to decrease a lung tumor. There are encouraging findings that suggest the herb has potential to slow human cancers including breast, lung, kidney, and prostate.

Weight loss: Here’s how ashwagandha can help you lose weight

Ashwagandha, also called Indian ginseng is an Ayurvedic supplement used for its medicinal purposes. It helps in dealing with a number of problems including lack of sleep, anxiety, depression, sexual problems, weakness, neurogenerative disease and arthritis. Not just Ayurveda, Ashwagandha is also used in Unani medicine, Siddha medicine, African medicine and Homeopathic medicine for treating various ailments.
Not just this, it is also said that ashwagandha can help you in losing those extra kilos. So, if you are looking to lose weight all naturally, this article is a must-read for you.

Here are seven ways ashwagandha can help you lose weight:
1. Boosts immunity
When you have weak immunity, your body’s energy is directed towards protecting itself from sickness. Ashwagandha helps in boosting your immune system and thus redirecting your energy back on the weight loss process. The herb also helps fight inflammation due to its anti-bacterial properties.
2. Rich in antioxidants
Ashwagandha is full of antioxidants that are essential for weight loss and overall well-being. These antioxidants speed up your metabolism, decrease inflammation and thus help in burning the stored fat in your body.
3. Helps in managing stress
One of the main causes of weight gain these days in the increased level of stress or high cortisol levels. One of the main causes of weight gain these days is the increased level of stress or high cortisol levels. When stressed, people tend to binge eat as increased cortisol levels trigger hunger by stimulating glucose production. This makes your body crave foods to replenish energy. Ashwagandha helps in relieving stress and thus promotes weight loss.
4. Increases energy levels
Ashwagandha regulates the adrenal glands and cortisol levels, which ultimately benefits the nervous system. This increases your overall energy and helps you during your intense workouts. Ashwagandha also decreases fatigue and increases endurance. It is rich in iron, which improves your blood circulation.
5. Helps in building muscle mass
Muscle mass is essential for any weight loss programme as it boosts your metabolism. High muscle mass is also related with good and sustained health.
6. Helps you sleep better
Not getting enough good quality sleep can lead to hormone imbalance and increased stress, both of which can lead to weight gain. Ashwagandha can help people suffering from insomnia by improving their quality of sleep.
How to consume ashwagandha for weight loss:
While ashwagandha is also available in capsule form, it’s more effective to consume it in powder form made from dried ashwagandha leaves. You can mix a teaspoon of it in a glass of milk and add some honey for enhancing the taste. You can also add cardamom to enhance taste, boost metabolism and improve digestion.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article should not be considered as a substitute for a physician’s advice. Please consult your treating physician for more details.

Could adaptogen superstar ashwagandha be the next great weight-loss aid?

This past June, I was a guest speaker at the the International Society of Sports Nutrition Conference in Clearwater, Florida. The topic of my education session was “Ashwagandha for Focus, Performance and Muscle Development.” During the session I discussed human clinical studies on the benefits of supplementation with ashwagandha. Much of the research I presented had been conducted using a full-spectrum root extract of ashwagandha called KSM-66, a branded ingredient from Ixoreal Biomed. About half of the studies focused on sports-related benefits, with the other half on other health benefits.

The demonstrated sports-related benefits were:

  • Increased total testosterone 136 percent compared to placebo in healthy, resistance-trained men (600 mg/day).
  • Increased bench press muscle strength 54 percent compared to placebo in healthy, resistance-trained men (600 mg/day).
  • Increased arm muscle size 51 percent compared to placebo in healthy, resistance-trained men (600 mg/day).
  • Improved cardiorespiratory endurance over placebo in healthy athletic adults, assessed by 108-110 percent increase in VO2 max (600 mg/day).

The demonstrated health-related indications were:

  • Sexual function
    • Infertile and/or middle-aged men (andropause) (675 mg/day):
      • Improved sperm/semen parameters
      • Increased testosterone
    • Women – Improvements in desire, arousal, lubrication and pain (600 mg/day).
  • Stress – Significant reduction compared to placebo 44 percent vs. 5.5 percent (600 mg/day).
  • Memory/cognitive – Significant improvement over placebo for immediate memory and general memory, executive function, attention, and information processing speed in adults aged >35 (600 mg/day).

I certainly found the research to be most interesting, and judging by the excellent turnout for the session, the audience did as well. However, there was one study on KSM-66–just published this year–that I did not review at the conference. The title of the study is, “Body Weight Management in Adults Under Chronic Stress Through Treatment With Ashwagandha Root Extract: A Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial.”

New weight-loss study

A total of 50 subjects under chronic stress received either KSM-66 (300 mg) or placebo twice daily for 8 weeks. The purpose of the study was to evaluate the efficacy of ashwagandha root extract compared with placebo in reducing markers of stress, and in controlling weight gain and improving general well-being in adults under chronic stress. The primary outcome measures were the Perceived Stress Score (PSS) and the Food Cravings Questionnaire-Trait (FCQ-T). The secondary outcome measures included the Oxford Happiness Questionnaire (OHQ), the Three-Factor Eating Questionnaire (TFEQ), serum cortisol levels, initial and final body weight. The results were as follows with the treatment group compared to the placebo group:

In summary, 600 mg/day of KSM-66 reduced food cravings and body weight more effectively than a placebo, while also reducing measures of stress and cortisol. And one out of five study participants were happier by the study’s end.

Since ashwagandha belongs to the herbal category of adaptogens, it’s no surprise that it offers benefits for stress. Even the sports, sexual and cognitive benefits are not that unusual for an adaptogen. This new research on weight loss, however, is something different. It makes me wonder if, perhaps, adaptogens in general may start entering into the weight-management category of dietary supplements. It’ll be interesting to see if more research of this kind starts popping up.

Is the weight-management category ripe for a new ingredient?

The ashwagandha benefits for women are numerous, and if you haven’t heard of the herbal adaptogen, now’s the time to inform yourself. Adaptogens are having a moment, but they have been used in the Ayurvedic traditions of India, as well as in traditional Chinese medicine, for centuries. Ashwagandha, also known as Indian ginseng and winter cherry, is an herb that is particular beneficial for women who are trying to lose weight or manage their stress levels. Read on to find out how ashwagandha can help you live your best life.

Experts believe that adaptogens help to bring the body back into balance by affecting the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis — the bodily system that regulates stress and the hormones associated with stress. Ashwagandha is an herb that adapts to your individual body’s needs and can help combat different things that put your body under stress, which in turn, can improve sleep quality and aid in weight loss.

The ashwagandha benefits are particularly important for women, since according to the American Psychological Association, they are more likely to report higher levels of stress than men. As we know, chronic stress can wreak havoc on our health, causing issues like insomnia, anxiety and weight gain. Supplementing with ashwagandha, luckily, has shown clinical efficacy in managing these issues. Plus, it’s an all-natural alternative without harmful side effects. Can you say miracle product?

Ashwagandha for Weight Loss

Chronic stress can cause elevated levels of the hormone cortisol, and studies show this can cause women to retain fat, particularly in the midsection. Since ashwagandha is a cortisol-regulator, it can be beneficial when trying to maintain or lose weight.

In a 2016 study of adults under chronic stress, 52 subjects received either 300 milligrams of ashwagandha twice daily or a placebo. The cortisol levels, BMI, and body weight were measured at the beginning of the trial, as well as after four and eight weeks of treatment. The group taking ashwagandha showed significant improvements in all three measurements.

Similarly, ashwagandha has shown to improve blood sugar and cholesterol levels, which can also affect weight loss. In one 2000 study, supplementation with ashwagandha significantly decreased blood sugar levels, LDL (bad) cholesterol, and triglyceride levels — all which influence weight!

Ashwagandha for Anxiety and Sleep

Ashwagandha is most known for its ability to reduce anxiety, thus improve sleep. In a 2012 study, 64 chronically stressed people experiencing anxiety were either supplemented with ashwagandha or a placebo. The group taking the ashwagandha experienced a 69 percent reduction in both anxiety and insomnia, while the control group only experienced an 11 percent reduction. What a difference!

Supplementing with this herb is a low-risk and all-natural solution for weight management, anxiety, and insomnia, as well as related conditions like high cholesterol and high blood sugar. What’s more, ashwagandha is relatively cheap. You can integrate it into your health regimen for under $15. Be sure to keep in mind that adaptogens work over time. You need to take them consistently so your body can get used to them, before you see results.

You can take ashwagandha in a few different ways. Powdered versions, like this one from Feel Good Organics ($14.49, Amazon), can be added to smoothies or mixed with warm milk and honey (as they do in Ayurveda!). Or you can take in capsule form, like these from Amazing India ($11.49, Amazon). As always, be sure to check with your doctor before starting any new supplement.

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The amazing Ashwagandha benefits for women

A lot of folks have been talking about Ashwagandha recently, and sometimes it is difficult to separate the hype from the science. So let’s take a good look at Ashwagandha benefits for women. There is a lot of ground to cover so first we’ll have a peek at the plant’s origins from both a cultural and biological perspective, and then investigate its therapeutic uses to separate fact from fiction.

1. What is Ashwagandha?

Before explaining in detail the most relevant Ashwagandha benefits for women, we will introduce you its ingredients and origin.

Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), is also widely known as Indian Ginseng and sometimes Winter Cherry. It is part of the Withania, or Nightshade, genus. The great news is that it has an array of potential benefits for women. There is no such thing as a wonder drug, but Ashwagandha boasts complex and subtle effects on the individual physiology and works on a subtle but measurable way on many of the body’s systems, giving wide ranging benefits which we’ll explore in more detail below. Think of Ashwagandha as your little helper. It is renowned as an adaptogen. Adaptogens are nature’s allrounders and can either stimulate or calm you down, depending on your need at the time. They respond to what your body needs in any given moment. Through these adaptogenic effects Ashwagandha promises hormonal balance above all, with subsequent benefits for women in particular, both mental and physical. The plant’s biology is complex, and on being consumed it releases a wad of antioxidants, and a cocktail of health boosting phytochemicals. Ashwagandha is well established in the Ayurvedic medicine tradition, and it is even said that it gives you “the strength of stallions”.

Just take a look at the cast list of Ashwagandha ingredients, there are so many antioxidants! Ashwagandha is full of good stuff like iron, fatty acids, glucose, nitrates, potassium, and tannins. The plant’s active compounds have some steroid effects too, and include anferin, sominine, somniferine, and withanolides. There are also a whole host of flavonoids.

The name Ashwagandha is derived from the Sanskrit word for horse, Ashva, hinting at the plants potent energising effects. Root, leaf, and berry all carry the active compounds, and these can be used therapeutically as an oil, or more commonly as a powder which is traditionally eaten when mixed with ghee, but there is nothing stopping you from whipping up a smoothie, tea, or a latte with Ashwagandha instead, if that is more your bag. Ashwagandha can be infused in a Sugar Cane alcohol tincture too, but to avoid taking too much or too little, and to ensure, the recommended dose, many people prefer to take capsules. There are some really high quality organic Ashwagandha capsules available on the market.

2. Therapeutic uses of Ashwagandha- Benefits for Women

First up an explainer: until relatively recently the West did not take Eastern traditional medicine very seriously, and it is only now that top scientists and medical professionals have got really excited about the how Eastern Medicine works, and treat these cultures with respect. The first rule of science being, after all, to keep an open mind. This means that research into Ayurvedic treatments like Ashwagandha are still in their infancy, and there is lots of research still to do. So while the Ashwagandha benefits for women are real, and tangible for thousands of women worldwide taking Ashwagandha regularly, and have been known about for centuries in India, never use Ashwagandha as a replacement for any medical treatment, unless advised to do so by a medical professional you trust. Here is what we can say with certainty about ashwagandha benefits for women:

  • Ashwaghanda the Menopause Balancer

The menopause, of course, affects women as their fertility cycle shifts down gears. Hormone levels can really peak and trough and this can spark psychological as well as physical changes. If approaching the menopause you may want to consider taking Ashwagandha regularly. The plant targets the endocrine system to balance hormone secretion, and also boost circulation, and reduce stress. These help counter the effects of the menopause, such as mood swings, hot flushes, sleep disturbance, and sexual issues. A study in India concluded that Ashwagandha can be used to mitigate against the effects menopause, with the vast majority if study participants reporting benefit and the alleviation of symptoms after following Ayuervdeic treatments.

Ashwagandha’s potency during the menopause comes from its stress reducing properties, while it promotes hormonal equanimity, and it is suggested to take it early and regularly when the menopause hits.

  • Ashwagandha the Mood Booster

Let’s face it, life can be really tough sometimes. There are the demands of work and family life, and loads of often unrealistic expectations projected onto us. This all leads to stress. Modern science recognises implicitly the damage that stress can do, upon the heart and nervous system. Medical conditions aside no-one needs reminding that stress is yuck. We know it. It makes real dents on the mood, as well our productivity. Not everyone knows however that stress actually has a hormonal foundation. It is all down to the hormone called cortisol, which you’ve probably heard of. This is where Ashwagandha benefits for women women, who lead such busy and complex lives. The plant targets cortisol production and stops it spiking. With cortisol balanced, energy and mood improve and this has a knock on effect on everything else. Don’t just take our word for it, the benefits of Ashwagandha on stress reduction were reported in the Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine.

If you are suffering from depression or anxiety, then Ashwagandha may be of benefit too. And it is a good idea to discuss with your GP the benefits supplementing any treatment with Ashwagandha.

  • Ashwaghanda the Energizer

Sometimes in life you just need a little bit of support, a boost to get you over that line as you juggle work and family, and struggle with that urgent deadline. There are stacks of solutions for this, but many of us don’t really like stimulants, flooding the body with caffeinated or sugary drinks which can be detrimental to health and quite unsettling if taken too much or relied on too often. As an adaptogen Ashwaghanda boosts energy and revitalises, but without the artificial highs. It boosts circulation, and studies have shown that it may even boost blood cell production. All of this is great news, as Ashwaghanda helps stimulate the body’s natural energy levels.

  • Ashwagandha for a balanced hormones and thyroid

The thyroid gland is essential for the normal functioning of the body. It is an endocrine gland in the neck, just by the Adam’s Apple. It produces the essential T3 and T4 hormones which need to be balanced in order for all the cells in the body to work and perform as they should. The biology behind this is complicated, but basically an overactive thyroid will lead to problems associated with weight loss and mood, and an underactive thyroid will lead to weight gain and lethargy. There are very depleting conditions associated with both underactive and overactive thyroids too. In order to keep the thyroid working smoothly in a good rhythm Ashwagandha targets the endocrine system and helps regulate hormonal balance by preventing excessive hormone secretion. If suffering from established thyroid complaints then it is a good idea to discuss taking Ashwagandha with your GP first.

  • Ashwagahanda the aphrodisiac

Ashwagandha is mentioned as a powerful aphrodisiac in no other than the Kama Sutra. It has very well documented and potent effect on the male sex drive and fertility. But there are also some big benefits for women too. Studies have shown that taking Ashwagandha regularly enhances levels of female desire,stimulation, lubrication, and satisfaction.

  • Ashwagandha for blood sugar

Healthy and balanced blood sugar levels are really important to health. In humans’ blood sugar, glucose specifically, is the body’s main source of energy. The human brain will suck up 60% of the body’s glucose alone, which might go some to explaining why we sometimes crave sugars quite as much as we do. If blood sugar is too high we risk symptoms ranging from excessive thirst through to coma in diabetic disorders. Ashwagandha helps regulate blood sugar, and keep it on the lower side. A study has shown it to be as effective as certain oral medicines at reducing blood sugar. Never replace prescribed medicine without consulting with a medical professional.

  • Ashwagandha the anti-inflammatory

Whenever you get ill or hurt the body leaps into action to with fight off pathogens or repair itself. One of the side effects of this is inflammation. There is also lower level inflammation that you may not notice, as the body deals with the stresses it faces daily. Ashwagandha has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects, to aid the body’s natural healing. Studies have shown that Ashwagandha helps the body produce more ‘killer cells’ that fight infection and reduce proteins that cause unhelpful levels of inflammation.

  • Ashwagandha for healthy heart and circulation

Ashwagandha is great for a healthy and happy circulatory system. It has been shown to reduce cholesterol and triglycerides associated with heart disease, and while more effective at this in animals than humans more research is needed. Alongside a healthy diet and exercise there is real promise of Ashwagandha supplementation as a preventive measure against heart disease. Ashwagandha also boosts blood cell production, of both red and white blood cells, which can improve a number of disorders. This has led to Ashwagandha being investigated as a potential treatment for Anemia. Ashwagandha has also been proved in studies to improve the natural performance of elite athletes.

  • Anti-oxidising Ashwagandha for a healthy mind

The brain is a complex organ, and researchers have shown oxidisation has a negative effect on brain nerve performance. Just as an iron bar oxidises in the rain, elements in the brain can oxidise too. We all know the feeling of feeling ‘a bit rusty’, this is kind of literal as far as the brain is concerned. Ashwagandha releases a wad of antioxidants on consumption, and these reduce level of oxidising stresses on the brain, which operate on s seriously micro-level. In this way Ashwagandha improves memory and circulation. This is great news for for skin and anti-ageing too. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24497737

2.2 Ashwagandha benefits for women- Skin

We’ve talked about some of the medical uses for Ashwagandha, but what about the cosmetic uses? With all this adaptogenic biology going on whenever you take Ashwagandha there are some great benefits for the skin. And if DIY cosmetics are your thing you can make even make your own toner using Ashwagandha.

  • Anti-ageing

We’ve already talked about Ashwagandha’s anti-oxidising effects, and these a great for anti-aging too, as antioxidants smash the free radicals and agents caused by the Sun’s UV radiation that go on to that cause wrinkles and other signs of aging, like fine lines. You can apply Ashwagandha topically as well, to get all the benefits of antioxidants absorbed transdermally. Just mix a little Ashwagandha, about a teaspoon, or the powder from 4 capsules, with deionised water, or rose water. Add the water slowly until you get a fine paste that can be applied as as mask. After 15 mins rinse off- and voila- transdermal absorption complete.

  • Healing

The anti-oxidising effects of Ashwagandha, when combined with the subtle steroidal effects, can assist healing of wounds. Just make up a regular poultice using water and around a teaspoon of Ashwagandha to make a paste. Remember to use the polutice and do not apply direct to open wounds.

  • Ashwagandha for healthy skin

Ashwagandha has a range of anti-inflammatory properties that can help stave off infections, keeping skin healthy. When used daily in a water solution it also removes Keratin, when this has built up on the skin. This has been used as part of Ayurvedic medical practice. As already mentioned Ashwagandha is a hormone balancer too- so can boost flagging levels of estrogen and collagen, which gives skin that feminine glow. Stress also leads to wrinkles and dry skin, and as Ashwagandha reduces the stress hormone cortisol, to help keep you at your best. These positive effects just keep layering up.

We recommend keeping your skin toned and tip-top by using Ashwagandha as a toner- just infuse citrus fruits and a couple spoons of Ashwagandha powder in a cup of water, and keep in an airtight bottle. Use daily.

2.3 Ashwagandha benefits for women. Hair

  • Healthy hair

Ashwagandha reduces stress by nixing the so called stress hormone cortisol, and it can also boost blood cell production, and reduce inflammation and the effects of oxidisers. This all does wonders for your hair. When used regularly Ashwagandha can not only see-off hair loss and premature greying, but dandruff too. And that circulatory boost makes its way up to your scalp, to boost hair growth, and help your hair maintain natural oils.

  • Hair loss

As we have seen Ashwagandha reduces stress by zapping the so called stress hormone cortisol, and it can also boost blood cell production, and reduce inflammation and the effects of oxidisers and free radicals. All these factors play a part in hair loss, with stress, poor health and circulation, and the effects of toxins on the body, all contributing to incipient baldness in men, and hair loss in women. Ashwagandha can be used to prevent hair-loss, and Ashwagandha also has a range of cosmetic benefits for women.

Other information about Ashwagandha benefits

3. Extra ashwagandha benefits for women: Absorbing Ashwagandha – Ghee in Ayurveda

In Ayurvedic practice Ghee is way more than a high class cooking oil. The preparation of herbs and spices using ghee, and consumption of medicines with ghee, is highly recommended. This is because Ghee is a ‘catalytic agent’, and increases the efficacy of medicines taken with it, as the body loves the healthy fatty acids present in ghee, and therefore absorbs the nutrients alongside it in higher quantities. Think of it as your spoonful of sugar helping the medicine go down.

We recommend taking Ashwagandha with ghee. Making a dairy smoothie, or latte, could have similar effects, but this is not the Ayurvedic way. Get more information about Ghee and Ayurvedic Medicine.

4. Ashwagandha benefits for women vs Ashwagandha benefits for men

Ashwagandha is an adaptogen, which in means that the way it works on me will be different from how it works on you. It can boost energy, or calm, depending on your requirements. Similarly the effects on men and the effects on women are different. Some women have been concerned that as Ashwagandha boosts testosterone it may also boost the same hormone in women. It is important to remember that ultimately Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic hormone balancer- that targets the endocrine system, to get it firing on all cylinders. This helps stabilise hormone levels based on where they should be, so while it raises testosterone in men that need that, it can similarly raise estrogen in women that need it too. Ashwagandha is beneficial to both men and women, but the form those benefits take is different. This is the beauty of this powerful plant.

Check here more information about Ashwagandha benefits for men

5. Ashwagandha for women. Dosage and Precautions

Although we have seen many Ashwagandha benefits for women before, it’s important to consider the dosage and precautions.

It is recommended to take around 700mg of Ashwaganda daily. That is about a teaspoon of Ashwagandha powder or two capsules. It is possible to take up to 1200mg daily, but only over short periods, so we prefer to stay well within the limits of safety, while still dosing enough to see the benefits.

If taking Ashwagandha as a tea just prepare it with one to two teaspoons, in hot not boiling water.

Pregnant women and lactating women should only ever take Ashwagandha under medical supervision and advice. There is risk of abortion when taking Ashwagandha when pregnant.

Anyone waiting for an operation should avoid Ashwagandha.

It is not recommended to those with HIV, or multiple sclerosis.

Any supplement should be taken as part of a regular diet. Regular diet and exercise are the healthiest way to live, and healthy bodies process Ashwagandha the best, so eat well and exercise.

Never use Ashwagandha as a replacement for prescribed medicine, and discuss the supplement with your GP before hand if suffering from a chronic condition.

6. Where to buy Ashwagandha?

As a powerful and effective supplement Ashwagandha is widely available online or in health food stores, but not all sources are good quality. It is really important to ensure you are taking pure Ashwagandha from a good ethical source, with no non-organic toxins that may find their way in during the manufacturing process. We recommend finding a supplier with a sustainable supply chain, who can provide organic production certification for the product.

If you have any question about specific Aswagandha benefits for women or other questions related to this product, don’t hesitate to contact us.

Benefits of Ashwagandha for Women

When I think about some of the most common concerns of women today (stress, low energy and libido, menopause symptoms, brain fog) the herb Ashwagandha instantly comes to mind. It is somewhat of a magical superstar! This is because of its diverse nature of treating the “whole” person, especially females. First and foremost though (before I get too into it), let me tell you a little bit about this amazing plant.

Ashwagandha, or Withania somnifera, is an herb native to India and traditionally used in Aruvedic medicine. Thankfully, it has made its way to all parts of the world so we can also benefit from its amazing medicinal properties! I personally love this herb. In fact, I am sipping on tea of Ashwagandha right now. I have many of my female patients take it, and I would love to share with you why it can benefit so many women today.

The best way to describe Ashwagandha is to call it a “tonic” herb. What this means is that it helps tonify different body systems such as our adrenals (involved in the stress response), immune system, nervous system, and more. It is also referred to as an adaptogen, which describes perfectly what it does: helps us adapt to the world around us. Traditionally, it is used to rejuvenate debilitated people in mind, physical and sexual areas, induce sleep, and help with many other complaints such as cough, infertility, and weak eyes. Today, practitioners additionally use it for many reasons backed by research such as high cholesterol, high blood sugar, osteoarthritis and anemia, in addition to all the female-specific complaints….so let’s talk about those!

How it Helps Women Thrive

Helps Us Adapt to Stress

I want to talk about this first because it is SO important in today’s society. Stress is definitely not contained to just women, but with anxiety disorders occurring TWICE as often in women, and many times leading to increased health problems, I would say this is something we need to address in a more holistic way. Luckily, we have an herb for that! Ashwagandha has been shown to lower your overall stress levels, and specifically lower the cortisol output from our adrenals. Cortisol is released in times of stress and causes that feeling of “running from the bear”.

It also provides a spike in blood sugar and potentially other outcomes such as trouble sleeping, fatigue, weight gain and a higher risk of ovarian cancer. We need cortisol, but not as much as most of us are cranking out. It’s confusing our poor bodies, and Ashwagandha can help mitigate this response.

“In my personal experience, Ashwagandha helps the stressors of our life just roll right off our shoulders, instead of land right on them” -Dr. Miller

Increases Energy

This herb is traditionally used in states of debilitation and the elderly; so, it should be of no surprise that it helps improve energy. It can work to do this in a few different ways depending on the root cause of energy loss:

  1. Improves sleep. Traditionally, clinically and in well-studied research, Ashwagandha has been shown to induce sleep and improve the sleep quality of insomnia sufferers.
  2. Lowers cortisol like we talked about above, thus allowing the person to fall asleep more easily
  3. Antioxidant effect. Some research implies that taking Ashwagandha significantly reduced the “immobile” period of mice models in a chronic fatigue state, with markers of increased antioxidation.
  4. Improves stressed and low moods associated with fatigue. There is a clear link between fatigue and depression, so instead of trying to treat the fatigue with more caffeine and sugar, let’s get back to the “adaptogen” potential this plant has and how it can regulate our perception of life’s stressors to a more positive outlook, and thus potentially lift our feeling of fatigue.

Reduces Menopausal Symptoms

Ah the beautiful transition of life…not so beautiful for some. Symptoms such as hot flashes, sleep disturbance, libido changes, headache, and changes in mood are just some of the effects, many of which we already discussed being improved with Ashwagandha! All of these symptoms can drastically affect the quality of life(QOL) of women in this period, but this study found QOL to improve significantly while taking Ashwagandha along with a couple other Ayurvedic herbs. This is huge news considering this change can last 10 years for some women!

Improves Memory and Clarity

Maybe you are getting older, just had a baby and have “mom brain”, or just feel a little foggy-brained lately. Well, you are definitely not alone and there is much to be done to help you feel more sharp. In addition to making sure you have a healthy diet and supplements supplying the nutrients you need (and we have worked on that stress and sleep part talked about above), Ashwagandha can be a great resource to try. A recent placebo controlled study was conducted on 50 adults with mild cognitive impairment which showed a significant increase in both immediate and general memory. They also were able to process information faster and had increased attention spans! 300 mg taken twice daily was all it took.

Prevents and Improves Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism, or a low functioning thyroid, is a common disorder that affects women 5 to 8 times more than men, especially women over 50 and sometimes during or after pregnancy. It is definitely a disruptive disease that causes low energy, weight gain, hair loss, dry skin, and the list goes on. The upside is that Ashwagandha can help! Doctors and herbalists privy to it’s effects use it often to help normalize thyroid hormones and see amazing results, and rigorous research backs this up. In a placebo-controlled study done on adults with subclinical hypothyroidism (their TSH was in the 4.5-10 range), Ashwagandha at 600mg/day was able to lower the TSH significantly in 8 weeks, with few, mild temporary side effects. I just love when we can implement a safe and low-force intervention to prevent what could become a more serious disease!

Eases Aches and Pains

Another great use of Ashwagandha is for controlling inflammation that causes pain. Its great antioxidant effect no doubt plays a part in this, as well as it’s confirmed anti-inflammatory action. A double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study of 42 patients with osteoarthritis found that ashwagandha, in conjunction with other herbs, reduced pain and disability significantly. This is great news since this is such a common condition!

Improves Sexual Function and Fertility

The translation of Ashwagandha is roughly, “the smell and strength of a horse”, alluding to its aphrodisiac properties. This study showed the improvement of arousal, lubrication, orgasm, and satisfaction after taking 300 mg twice a day for 8 weeks. Not only does it improve women’s experience sexually, it also has been shown to improve fertility by increasing semen quality and boosting testosterone in men, leading to a higher number of pregnant partners.

We now know a lot about the effects of Ashwagandha at lowering the stress response, and one paper put it nicely when they connected stress and fertility: “The hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis has been known to be involved in the stress response, and since HPA controls spermatogenesis, stress can be one possible contributor to the etiology of infertility”. Have you ever known someone to try to get pregnant so hard, then right when they stop trying it happens? It seems that this herb is able to take a multi-factorial approach to increasing a woman’s chance of becoming pregnant.

Now that we know it’s potential to heal, let’s talk about how to take it.

Usage

The root is the main part used in herbal medicine. It’s important to look for that in the ingredients in addition to an organic source with minimal to no fillers , gluten, or soy. I won’t bore you with the breakdown of active constituents (hint: there are many!), but know that the Alkaloids (specifically withanolides) are the most studied for their clinical success.

I love how diverse Ashwagandha is and how you can get creative in how you consume it during your day. Want some tea to start your day? Grab a cup with steeped tea bags, or simmer your own loose root (about 1-2 Tbsp/8oz water) for about 30min, strain and drink! Want to make a quick exit in the morning? Swallow some capsules or take a tincture with water and off you go! Feeling a bit hungry for a treat? Use some powder to make some delicious Adaptogen energy balls! It’s really up to you and you can totally mix it up. Most studies use about 600mg/day as a common dosage, but always talk with your Naturopathic Doctor, herbalist, or other qualified healthcare practitioner about what is right for you.

Cautions:

Overall Ashwagandha is a pretty safe herb, but there are some considerations to make before consuming it for certain people with the following conditions:

  1. Autoimmune disease. Remember how we talked about it upregulating the immune system and increasing white blood cells? This is a potential problem if you already have an overactive immune system in diseases such as Hashimoto’s or Rheumatoid arthritis.
  2. Pregnant or nursing: There are not enough studies currently to show a clear safety of taking this herb while pregnant or breastfeeding. Ashwagandha has long been used in the Ayurvedic tradition to support lactation, and although one study looks to support this notion, it was not a placebo controlled rigorous study, so more work to be done in this arena. Always talk to your doctor first before starting any supplement or herb during this important time of your and your babies life.
  3. Nightshade family sensitivities. If you don’t tolerate foods or herbs in this family such as potatoes, tomatoes or eggplant, start with a small dose or just steer clear all together.
  4. Low blood sugar or low blood pressure. Ashwagandha has been shown to lower both blood sugar and pressure (a good thing in many people!), but if you are diabetic or on blood-pressure lowering medications you need to monitor this closely.

I hope you can now see what an amazing herb Ashwagandha is and the benefits that it gives to women both in mind and body.

Lets recap:

  • Ashwagandha is a versatile herb native to Ayurvedic medicine but used all over the world
  • It helps our bodies “adapt” to life’s stressors by mitigating our cortisol release
  • It can improve: sleep, mood, energy, fertility, sex drive, memory and clarity
  • It decreases: thyroid abnormalities, aches and pains, and menopausal symptoms
  • The root is commonly used in many forms including tea, capsule, powder, and tincture

If you have more questions about how it can help you specifically, feel free to reach out to me at [email protected] and make sure to check out all of the great quality versions available here!

Ashwagandha root is an important herb in Ayurvedic medicine, where it has been used for around 3,000 years to support the body’s resilience in the face of stress. The botanical name for ashwagandha is Withania somnifera, and the herb is a member of the nightshade family of plants.

It is sometimes known as Indian ginseng, and its active constituents include saponins, steroidal lactones (such as withanolides and withaferins), and alkaloids (such as isopelletierine and anaferine).

As an adaptogen, ashwagandha helps us to better handle stress, but that’s not the only benefit of this herb. Adaptogenic herbs help to promote balance in key systems of the body, including the endocrine and reproductive systems, immune function, and overall energy metabolism.

In this post, we’ll take a look at the seven (7) key benefits of ashwagandha root.

What are the benefits of Ashwagandha?

Ashwagandha lowers stress levels

Chronic stress is a disease of modern society, with more than two thirds of all visits to primary care physicians related to stress and its negative effects on health.1 Unchecked, stress can contribute to depression, anxiety, gastrointestinal ulcers, impaired immunity, and even heart disease and other cardiometabolic conditions. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to manage stress naturally, including by using stress-busting adaptogenic herbs like ashwagandha.

One of Ashwagandha’s best known benefits is to reduce levels of cortisol, the stress hormone associated with the physiological effects of stress. While we need some cortisol to stay alive, chronic stress can lead to persistent or extreme elevations in cortisol, with adverse effects on blood glucose regulation, blood lipids, body composition, hormone balance, digestion, sleep, immune function, and cognitive health.

In a 2005–06 multi-phase, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial, people who took ashwagandha had a 30.5% reduction in serum cortisol compared to those who took placebo.2 They also had a 32.5% increase in levels of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), the hormone that counterbalances the activity of cortisol.

Ashwagandha was also associated with:

  • Increased energy and reduced fatigue
  • Improvements in sleep
  • Less irritability
  • Enhanced cognition
  • Enhanced overall feeling of wellbeing

Other studies have observed similar benefits for ashwagandha, including one placebo-controlled clinical trial involving 64 volunteers with a history of chronic stress. Those who took 300mg of ashwagandha twice a day had significant reductions in stress and a 27.9% decrease in serum cortisol levels after 60 days.3

As an adaptogen, ashwagandha helps to support the health of the adrenal glands, combating fatigue and enhancing energy levels. It also helps to reduce anxiety related to stress, and may enhance memory and cognitive function in general, while aiding relaxation. The anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effects of ashwagandha may be due, in part, to the ability of its constituent withanolides to mimic the activity of the calming neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). As such, the herb appears to wind down overactivity in neurons, acting as a nerve tonic that can help lessen anxiety, promote good sleep, and elevate mood.4

Ashwagandha supports energy levels

Thanks to its adaptogenic activities, ashwagandha helps to support normal energy metabolism as well as testosterone production and thyroid health. This makes it an especially useful herb for fighting fatigue associated with stress.

Ashwagandha has been associated with increases in serum T4 (thyroxine), which suggests that the herb helps to support or enhance thyroid function, thereby promoting better energy levels as well as supporting mood and immune function.56

Ashwagandha supports immune function

Better energy and stress management have significant benefits for immune health, with studies showing that stress can dramatically reduce our ability to fight off infection.7 In addition to supporting our ability to handle stress, ashwagandha goes a step further by stimulating immune system cells themselves.

Studies show that the herb can stimulate lymphocytes (white blood cells) and macrophages, and increase white blood cell count, as well as increase hemoglobin concentration, red blood cell, and platelet counts. In one study, researchers found that phagocytosis (the immune system’s process of consuming and destroying infectious agents) decreased by 25% in mice subjected to stress. Giving the mice an ashwagandha extract helped to restore normal levels of phagocytosis, and also helped to stimulate production of two important cytokines involved in immune function, namely interleukin-2 and interferon-gamma.8

Ashwagandha also provides antioxidant protection and can have anti-inflammatory effects that influence immune system activity. 9

In several studies, ashwagandha has been seen to relieve joint inflammation related to infection in animals.10 And, in vitro research has found that an ashwagandha extract resulted in a 65% inhibition of the inflammatory enzyme 5-lipoxygenase (5-LOX), suggesting that it could be useful for managing inflammatory diseases.11

Ashwagandha may protect brain health

Several animal and in vitro studies suggest that the withanamides in ashwagandha exert neuroprotective effects, including against beta-amyloid-induced cytotoxicity and simulated traumatic brain injury (TBI). Constituents of ashwagandha may help to reduce expression of the cell death factor Bax, while reversing the injury-induced reduction in the length of neurites that project from neurons. These active constituents of ashwagandha can cross the blood-brain barrier and are being investigated as a therapeutic agent for stress-induced neurological disorders.1213

Ashwagandha has also been seen to enhance memory and other cognitive functions. In one study involving 50 adults, those who took 300mg of an ashwagandha extract twice daily for eight weeks, compared to placebo, had significant improvements in immediate and general memory including better scores on Wechsler Memory Scale III subtests:

  • Logical memory I and II
  • Verbal paired associates I and II
  • Faces I and II
  • Family pictures I and II

The volunteers who took ashwagandha also had significantly greater improvement in executive function, sustained attention, and information-processing speed, compared to those taking a placebo for 8 weeks.14

Ashwagandha can increase testosterone levels and support sexual function and fertility

Not only does ashwagandha help you feel more energized in general, it may also have positive effects on your libido, sexual performance, and fertility! In part, this is because of the antioxidant effects of ashwagandha. However, the herb also helps to regulate hormones, including enhancing testosterone levels in men.15

In one 8-week, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, men aged 18-50 years old with little experience in resistance training either took a placebo or 300mg of ashwagandha root extract twice daily while engaging in resistance training. Those taking ashwagandha had much greater increases in testosterone over the 8 weeks as well as in muscle size and strength, compared to placebo, and experienced greater reductions in exercise-induced muscle damage and body fat percentage.

Ashwagandha has also been seen to improve semen quality in infertile men. In a 3-month trial, infertile men who took ashwagandha had reduced levels of reactive oxygen species, leading to a reduction in sperm death, and significant improvements in important minerals in semen, including zinc, iron, and copper.16 Other studies have shown that ashwagandha may help regulate hormones important for male reproductive health.17

Women can also benefit from ashwagandha, with one study finding that healthy women who took 300mg of the herb twice daily for 8 weeks enjoyed significant improvements in arousal, lubrication, orgasm, satisfaction, and the number of successful sexual encounters and improvements on two psychometric scales, the Female Sexual Function Index (FSFI) Questionnaire and the Female Sexual Distress Scale (FSDS).18

Ashwagandha may have anti-tumor effects

The antioxidant effects of ashwagandha may help to protect against cancerous cell mutations, and the herb has also been seen to suppress the expression of oncogenes that promote ovarian cancer development. Ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer-related deaths among women in the United States. Current treatments include doxorubicin (which is toxic to the heart muscle) and cisplatin, which work by targeting cancer cells themselves. Unfortunately, these chemotherapeutic agents do not affect cancer stem cells, which makes it more likely that cancer will reoccur.

Several studies now show that withaferin, a constituent of ashwagandha, has beneficial effects that might help prevent the reoccurrence of ovarian cancer. Withaferin significantly reduces the expression, in a dose-dependent manner, of ALDH1 and Notch1, genes that influence the growth and renewal of cancer stem cells. Withaferin may, therefore, be a useful therapy, alone or in combination with chemotherapeutic agents for ovarian cancer.

DOXIL is a liposomal preparation of the chemotherapeutic agent doxorubicin. It is preferred over doxorubicin as a second line option treating recurrent ovarian cancer because it is less toxic overall. DOXIL has a much lower response rate though, only working in less than 20% of those treated, and it is still associated with toxic effects on the heart. Research suggests that combining withaferin with DOXIL could improve treatment response, reduce reoccurrence of ovarian cancer, and minimize side effects from DOXIL, improving survival rates for ovarian cancer.19

In one study in mice with ovarian tumors, those treated with a combination of DOXIL and withaferin had a 60-70% reduction in tumor growth, and complete inhibition of metastasis (the spread of cancer cells to other tissues), compared to control mice.20 In another study, mice bearing tumors grown from human ovarian cancer cells were treated with withaferin and cisplatin alone or in combination. Compared to controls, the treated mice had a 70-80% reduction in tumor growth, and metastasis to other organs was completely inhibited.21

Ashwagandha supports heart health

A healthy stress response is important for cardiometabolic health, as too much cortisol can raise your risk of insulin resistance, unhealthy weight gain, central adiposity (visceral fat), high blood pressure, and high cholesterol and triglycerides. Together, these increase your risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, arterial disease, heart attack, and stroke.

Ashwagandha has been shown to influence several of these risk factors for poor cardiovascular and metabolic health. In one study, volunteers who took an ashwagandha supplement had:

  • A reduction in fasting blood sugar
  • Reductions in total cholesterol, low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and very-LDL cholesterol
  • A reduction in triglycerides
  • An increase in HDL cholesterol

So, not only does ashwagandha help keep you energized so you actually feel like exercising, it also supports healthy metabolism and cardiovascular function in more direct ways.2

How to find good-quality ashwagandha

I like Gaia for herbs because they went on a transparency campaign a few years ago and disclose the sources for all of their supplements. The Meet Your Herbs section on the Gaia website is impressive; I would encourage all of our readers to visit.

As you can see from the photo below, Gaia lists a batch number (Herb ID) for its products.

When you visit the site and enter the Herb ID number, you are provided with a full report on where your ashwagandha came from, as well as a purity certificate that show status for heavy metals, bacteria and pesticides. I have included a portion of the report below.

Key takeaways on ashwagandha’s health benefits

As you can see, ashwagandha has a whole host of beneficial effects on human health. That said, anyone with myeloproliferative disorders (related to your blood) should talk to their health care practitioner prior to using ashwagandha, as should anyone taking medications or supplements with sedative qualities.

If you suffer from high blood pressure, one of the most important things to do is find a natural balance in your body and mind. Sometimes that might mean medication. But often, herbal remedies support that process in surprising and potent ways. One ancient herb – Ashwagandha – has an especially long history of use and many benefits. That list of benefits includes lowering blood pressure! Curious? Keep reading to get the whole story…

People have used ashwagandha for wellness and healing for thousands of years.

They regularly used this ancient herb in India, Middle East and some parts of North Africa for more than 2,000 years. Its benefits include supporting immunity, inflammation, memory, sexual function, fatigue, and stress. Really, it helps the human body in so many ways. The history and modern use of ashwagandha is astounding! And researchers today are just getting hip to this ancient medicine.

But how does ashwagandha help reduce blood pressure?

Well, it’s no surprise that it would help folks who have hypertension (that is, high blood pressure). As an “adaptogenic” herb, ashwagandha works in lots of non-specific ways. For example, it helps to increase general vitality and resistance. Also, it strengthens the body’s system.

In partiuclar, ashwagandha helps by reducing the impact of stress and anxiety. You probably know that stress and anxiety boost your blood pressure to unwanted levels. Well, this is one area where ashwagandha helps out! Studies find that people who take ashwagandha have decreases in both blood pressure and pulse rate.

One study published in the Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine shows that it greatly reduces stress, anxiety, and “serum cortisol levels.”1 Another study found that taking ashwangadha improved people’s anxiety, well-being, and overall health improved over 90 days.2 Ease your mind, and your body will follow!

So get started by taking a daily dose of ashwagandha – and take note of the results!

You might find ashwagandha in capsule form. Or you can purchase it as part of a specially blended formula. Either way, taking a dosage each day will help your body to find more strength and ease. It may take a few weeks, or even months, but change will happen.

Are you serious about lowering your blood pressure? Well, you should also be sure to eating healthy (the right foods to lower blood pressure) and choosing exercise that reduces blood pressure.

Each step that you take is towards a healthier future for your body and mind! Learn about choosing heart-healthy foods and exercising to lower blood pressure, as well as other supplements to reduce blood pressure. Your health is in your hands!

Disclaimer: Despite the references provided, the information on this site is intended for educational purposes only. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. Please refer for advise and treatment by a licensed physician.

Amazing Ashwagandha Benefits That Will Make You Want to Try This Adaptogen

Photo: eskymaks / Getty Images

Ashwagandha root has been used for more than 3,000 years in Ayurvedic medicine as a natural remedy to countless concerns. (Related: Ayurvedic Skin-Care Tips That Still Work Today)

Ashwagandha benefits are seemingly endless. “It’s a single herb that has so many positive effects and no known side effects when used properly,” says Laura Enfield, N.D., a naturopathic doctor in San Mateo, CA, and board member of the California Naturopathic Doctors Association.

Ashwagandha root-the most powerful part of the plant-is best known for reducing stress levels. But it’s a favorite among herbalists because its benefits really span all different conditions and diseases that impact many lives on a daily basis, says Irina Logman, a nationally board-certified herbalist and acupuncturist and the founder of Advanced Holistic Center in NYC.

Ashwagandha’s benefit largely comes from its ability to act as an adaptogen-or support the body’s adaptive response to stress and to balance normal body functions, Enfield explains. (Learn more: What Are Adaptogens and Can They Help Power Up Your Workouts?) Ashwagandha powder or a liquid capsule-the two forms easiest for your body to absorb-is so versatile, the herb can be found in pretty much every Indian household, similar to ginseng in China, adds Enfield. In fact, it’s commonly called Indian ginseng as well as Withania somnifera.

In short, the big benefit of ashwagandha is that it brings balance to the mind and body because of its many functions and adaptability.

Ashwagandha Benefits

Ashwagandha benefits cover most every serious concern. A 2016 study analysis in Current Pharmaceutical Design found the plant’s unique biochemical structure makes it a legit therapeutic form of immunotherapy and for treatment of anxiety, cancer, microbial infections, and even neurodegenerative disorders. Another study analysis in Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences adds fighting inflammation, stress, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes to that list.

“Anecdotally, ashwagandha has been used as a tonic to help emaciated children put on weight; an adjunct treatment for poisonous snake or scorpion bites; an anti-inflammatory for painful swellings, boils, and hemorrhoids; and as a treatment for increasing sperm count and motility, improving male fertility,” says Enfield.

Here, the science behind some of the most widely proven ashwagandha benefits.

Reduces Blood Sugar Levels

Ashwagandha can help increase insulin sensitivity in healthy people and in those with high blood sugar, says Logman.

A 2015 Iranian study found the root helped normalize blood sugar in hyperglycemic rats by reducing inflammation and improving insulin sensitivity, and an older study in humans with mild type 2 diabetes found ashwagandha lowered blood glucose similar to oral hypoglycemic medication.

Other bonuses: “Oftentimes we see diabetic patients have elevated lipid panels, and this study in humans also showed a significant decrease in total cholesterol, LDL, and triglycerides, so the benefit was multifold,” adds Enfield.

Reduces Stress and Anxiety

“Ashwagandha has been shown to decrease levels of cortisol and increase levels of DHEA, the hormone that counterbalances the activity of cortisol in humans,” says Enfield. The anti-anxiety effects of ashwagandha root may be due, in part, to its ability to mimic the activity of the calming neurotransmitter GABA, which helps decrease overactivity in other neurons, promoting good sleep and elevating mood, says Enfield. (Related: 20 Stress Relief Tips Techniques to Chill out ASAP)

And that dominos down to help more than just lower stress. If ashwagandha root prevents stress, then you’re overall health will improve, as stress is proven to cause many problems, such as headaches, stomach pain, fatigue, and insomnia, adds Logman.

May Increase Muscle Mass

A 2015 study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that men who coupled their strength training with 300mg of ashwagandha root twice a day for eight weeks, gained significantly more muscle mass and strength, and had less muscle damage, compared to the placebo group. Previous research has found similar (albeit, perhaps not as strong) results in women.

There are a few things at play here: For one, ashwagandha health benefits include increasing testosterone, but “because ashwagandha is an adaptogen it could be affecting so much more hormonally and biochemically,” adds Enfield. (Related: Take Advantage of Your Hormones to Sculpt Your Best Body Ever)

Improves Memory and Brain Function

“Many studies show that ashwagandha is very effective at supporting memory and brain function,” says Enfield. “It has been shown to slow, stop, or reverse the inflammation of nerves and synapse loss seen in brain degeneration.” Using it proactively can help support your brain function and increase your odds of preventing neurodegeneration.

Plus, its ability to reduce anxiety and improve sleep improves brain function and therefore memory, adds Logman. (Related: Adaptogen Elixirs for More Energy and Less Stress)

Lowers Cholesterol and Improves Heart Health

“Ashwagandha’s anti-inflammatory properties reduce cholesterol and decrease inflammatory markers that increase the risk of heart disease,” says Logman. Plus, ashwagandha increases muscle endurance which can indirectly improve the functioning of the heart, adds Enfield. It’s even more powerful for the heart when used in conjunction with another Ayurvedic herb called Terminalia arjuna, she adds.

Improves Immunity and Reduces Pain

“Ashwagandha also has an amazing ability to stimulate the immune system and reduce inflammation,” says Enfield. “The steroidal constituents in ashwagandha have been shown to have a stronger anti-inflammatory effect than hydrocortisone.” That goes for acute inflammation as well as chronic conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, she adds.

In rats, the extract has helped counteract arthritis and reduce inflammation, according to one 2015 study. And another 2018 Japanese study found that extract of ashwagandha roots can help reduce skin inflammation in humans.

May Help with PCOS

While Enfield says she uses ashwagandha to help women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), the medical jury is still out on this potential benefit of ashwagandha. PCOS is the result of high levels of androgens and insulin, which in turn negatively affect adrenal function and can result in infertility, she explains. “PCOS is a slippery slope: When the hormones are out of balance, one’s stress levels are increasing, which can lead to more dysregulation.” This makes sense as to why ashwagandha could be the perfect herb for PCOS, because it balances blood sugar, cholesterol, and sex hormones-just to name a few.

May Fight Cancer

Ashwagandha definitely boosts the immune system, which can help counteract the hit your natural defense takes during chemo and radiation treatment, says Enfield. But a 2016 study analysis in Molecular Nutrition & Food Research reports ashwagandha may actually have tumor-fighting abilities, making it a contender to help prevent the spread of cancer.

“There have been studies dating back to 1979 in animal models with tumors, where the size of the tumor has shrunk,” says Enfield. In one recent study in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, ashwagandha improved antioxidant activity and decreased inflammatory cytokines in cancer cells within just 24 hours.

Who Should Avoid Ashwagandha?

While, “for most people, ashwagandha is a very safe herb to take on a long-term daily basis,” says Enfield, you should absolutely consult your doctor before starting. There are two known red flags when it comes to taking ashwagandha:

There is not enough definitive research on the safety of ashwagandha for pregnant or nursing women or for those with specific pre-existing conditions. “Ashwagandha can aid in treating certain symptoms while making others worse,” says Logman. For example, it helps lower blood sugar levels, but if you’re type 1 diabetic, it could lower them to a dangerous level. Same with if you take it to lower your blood pressure but already take a beta-blocker or another med that’s supposed to lower blood pressure-the two together could reduce that number to dangerous levels. (Must read: How Dietary Supplements Can Interact with Your Prescription Drugs)

If you’re taking any medication or have any existing health condition, just run it by your doctor first so he or she can confirm you’re safe to take the supplement.

How to Take Ashwagandha Root

All parts of the plant can be used, but you’ll probably reach for the root. “Ashwagandha root has more of the active constituents-specifically the withanolides-which is most frequently used. However, it is not uncommon to use ashwagandha leaf for making a tea or using a combination of the two parts,” says Enfield.

The plant comes in many forms including tea and capsules, but ashwagandha powder and liquid are easiest for the body to absorb, and a fresh ashwagandha powder is thought to have the strongest effect, she adds. Logman says that the powder is easiest since you can just sprinkle it in your food, smoothies, or morning coffee and it doesn’t have a taste.

A safe starting dosage is 250mg per day, says Enfield, but it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor to get a more personalized (and safety-approved) dosage.

  • By Rachael Schultz @_RSchultz

Last updated by Dr Sarah Brewer on October 24, 2018

Ashwagandha is an Ayurvedic herbal medicine derived from the roots of a small shrub, Withania somnifera. Ashwagandha is classed as a rasayana (rejuvenation) adaptogen and revered as a ‘royal herb’ for its ability to improve physical and emotional health.

Quick links: These are the organic Ashwagandha herbal medicines I recommend on Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.

Ashwagandha and high blood pressure

Ashwagandha contains unique alkaloids and steroidal lactones such as withaferin A, withanolide D, ashwagandhine, withanone, withanosides and somniferine. These have several beneficial effects on the heart and circulation, including acting as antioxidants to improve mitochondrial function and arterial reactivity. Ashwagandha’s main action in lowering a high blood pressure is due to its ability to reduce anxiety and stress, and to promote deep, restorative sleep.

The results from five clinical trials show that Ashwagandha is effective in improving anxiety, and can reduce Perceived Stress Scale scores by 44% compared with 5.5% with placebo. Ashwagandha is also more effective than psychotherapy, reducing anxiety scores by 56.5% compared with 30.5% with psychotherapy.

In adults experiencing long-term (chronic) stress, Ashwagandha lowered levels of cortisol hormone over 60 days, with a higher dose (250 mg Ashwagandha twice a day) reducing circulating cortisol levels by 30.5% compared with a 14.5% reduction at a lower dose (125 mg Ashwagandha per day) and a 4.4% increase in those on placebo. At the same time, blood pressure improved by 1.6/5.6 mmHg in those on the low dose, and by 3.3/6.4 mmHg in those on the higher dose, while blood pressure readings in those on placebo increased.

Another beneficial effect of Ashwagandha is in reducing weight gain that can accompany chronic stress due to comfort eating. When 52 with stress and anxiety took Ashwagandha at a dose of 300mg twice a day, or placebo, for 8 weeks, those taking the herbal medicine showed significantly improved scores on the Perceived Stress Scale, Food Cravings Questionnaire and Three-Factor Eating Questionnaire, and lost significantly more body weight than those taking placebo (2.32 kg versus 0.37kg).

Ashwagandha and other health benefits

Ashwagandha also has protective effects on the central nervous system, and boosts immunity against infection. Click here to read more about the health benefits of Ashwagandha.

Ashwagandha dose

A typical dose is 300mg to 600mg Ashwagandha, once or twice a day. Select a supplement standardized to contain 5% withanolides.

Ashwagandha side effects

Ashwagandha has been used for thousands of years with no serious side effects at usual doses. High doses may cause indigestion and excess may increase levels of thyroid hormones.

Image credits: business-creations/

Ashwagandha lowers blood pressure

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