Ashwagandha has been a highly recognized herb in the Indian medical system- ‘Ayurveda’. Ayurveda has been a great source of medicine and tonics throughout the history of the Indus Valley. It still plays a vital role in treating many physical ailments in the Indian Subcontinent. Ayurveda follows natural healing processes by using nature’s gifts to us.
Ashwagandha holds an important place and has been used for thousands of years according to Indian History. People use it to treat stress, increase energy, and improve their mental focus for better work results and healthy relationships. It also helps in curing anxieties and fertility challenges.
Ashwagandha is a Sanskrit word that means ‘Smell of the Horse’. The herb has its name because of its strong smell and powerful medicinal qualities. This herb is also used for increasing energy. It is famous in the areas of Southern Asia, especially India. It is a very small plant with yellow flowers on it and is called ‘Indian Ginseng and ‘Winter Cherry. Ashwagandha is also called ‘Withania Somnifera’ in its botanical name.
In this article, we will discuss the health benefits of Ashwagandha which are scientifically proven, and how to take Ashwagandha.
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It Helps Reduce Stress & Anxiety:
For hundreds of years, we have known Ashwagandha as a stress reliever herb. A small study was conducted among 58 people having mental stress and anxiety ailment. Half of them took 250 or 600 mg of Ashwagandha for 8 weeks every day. The results came in the favor of people who took the herb regularly. Results showed a significant reduction in stress and low cortisol levels in their bodies. Another study shows that anxiety levels decreased by a significant amount among 60 people who regularly took 240 mg of this herb.
Ashwagandha has a substance ‘Adaptogen’ which helps in relieving stress. The herb also controls cortisol, stress-activated C-Jun N-terminal protein kinase (JNK-1), and heat shock proteins (HSP 70). Ashwagandha also deals with the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis stress response.
It Helps in Enhancing Athletic Performance:
Indian Ginseng has proved its potency in enhancing the athletic performance of the players. It is advised and consumed by players. Research shows that athletes (men & women) who took 250 mg – 1250 mg of herb each day have shown increased muscle performance, enhanced physical & mental strength, and show a high level of oxygen in their bodies.
An analysis of 5 studies draws out the fact that this herb helps to increase VO2 in the human body. VO2 is the maximum amount of oxygen a person uses while he is in intense physical activity. In simple words, Ashwagandha increases the consumption of oxygen in the human body. Lower VO2 leads to many heart diseases.
Reduces the Symptoms of Mental Ailments:
Although this effect of Ashwagandha is not much clear, some studies show that it is helpful in lowering the symptoms of mental ailments like depression and others. However, none suggest Ashwagandha as a substitute for anti-depression medicines.
A study shows that Ashwagandha has shown immense effect in a group of 66 people who took it as their regular diet. All these people were suffering from ‘Schizophrenia’ and experiencing depression & anxiety.
In 2013. A group of scientists who researched Ashwagandha found that it leaves a significant effect on people with bipolar disorder. Another researcher’s team concluded that people who have consumed 600 mg of Ashwagandha every day results in 77% of decrement in the symptoms of depression.
However, still, the effects of Ashwagandha in treating mental ailments are doubtful. Hence before consuming it as an alternative, one must take suggestions from an expert.
Helps in Boosting Testosterone & Increase Fertility in Men:
Ayurveda also mentions Ashwagandha as one of the medicines to increase male fertility factors. In research among 43 men who were overweight, were in 40-70 years of age, and were having mild fatigue started using the herb capsules each day for 8 weeks, and the results came in positive sides. The participants who were using the herb supplement capsules notably witnessed an 18% increment in their DHEA-S hormone. Another study shows that Ashwagandha is highly beneficial and significantly increases the concentration of sperm and also the motility of sperm in men.
Helpful in Reducing Blood Sugar Levels:
There are limited research papers, but all the limited sources approve of the anti-diabetic properties of the Ashwagandha. The pieces of evidence have shown the effects of the herb on people who were suffering from high blood sugar levels.
Ashwagandha herb has a Withaferin A (WA) substance that helps stimulate your cells to take glucose from the blood of your body.
There are 24 study papers including 5 clinical studies of people having Blood Sugar confirm that Ashwagandha significantly reduces blood sugar, blood lipids, insulin Hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), and oxidative stress markers.
May Reduce Inflammation:
In a study on animals, the WA compound has been proven helpful in lowering inflammation. Notably, Ashwagandha also contains the compound WA that helps in reducing the ailment. In research from 2008, people who have been given the herb Ashwagandha for 60 days regularly, have shown a remarkable decline in C-reactive proteins which are inflammatory makers.
WA compounds target inflammatory pathways in the body. They also target the nuclear factor kappa-B commonly known as NF-kB, and the nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2).
May Improve Memory & Other Brain Functions:
To a surprise, Ashwagandha is also a beneficiary of the cognitive functions of the brain. The compound WA present in Ashwagandha helps in processing the information more quickly and clearly.
5 clinical studies show that Ashwagandha has its effects on the brain’s improved cognitive functions in a larger population including older people and people suffering from Schizophrenia.
A study on 50 adult men & women shows that consuming 600 mg of Indian Ginseng leads to better cognitive activities in comparison to those who didn’t consume it. They showed improvements in the following factors.
– Executive Functioning
– Reaction Time
– Processing Speed of the brain
– General Memory and Immediate Memory.
Helps Improve the Sleep Cycle:
Many Ayurvedic firms promote Ashwagandha as a medicine to improve sleep quality and sleep cycle. Doctors also suggest it; as the evidence shows the same results.
A study was considered among 50 adults, men & women of age 65-80. The results were amazing as people who were taking the herb for 12 weeks every day significantly reported improvement in their sleep quality and alertness when they were awake.
Taking the herb also decreases stress in the mind and lowers the symptoms of anxiety in people.
Relatively Safer Alternative:
It is quite safer than other medicines. However, medical science does not know its long-term effects. While it helps in reducing stress, anxiety, and insomnia, it also has some side effects of Indian Ginseng that we will talk about below. The research study of 69 people shows zero adverse health effects in them after consuming 600 mg of it for 8 weeks regularly.
However, certain people must not take Ashwagandha as it may cause additional health problems for them.
– Pregnant women must not take it as it may lead them to lose their child.
– Ashwagandha has side effects like gastrointestinal discomfort, drowsiness, and diarrhea.
– People with thyroid problems must consult with an expert before consuming it.
Ashwagandha is a very important herb in Ayurveda. However, people are yet to recognize its beauty and benefits. Nonetheless, the medical community is also recognizing the health benefits of this herb. Although doctors are still doubtful about this natural medicine, you can start consuming it after in-depth consultation with an expert in the field.