Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), also known as Indian winter cherry or Indian ginseng, is a powerful adaptogenic herb with a long history in Indian Ayurvedic medicine.
As a supplement it is sold as ashwagandha extract and standardized to a certain percentage of withanolides which are the main bioactive compounds.
1. Stress, Fatigue and Adrenal Health
During periods of high stress the body can make too much cortisol which can increase a person’s stress response. Ashwagandha has been shown to to help reduce high cortisol levels as a response to stress and hence reduce a person’s stress response.1,2
In a 2012 study with 64 people with a history of chronic stress, researchers found that ashwagandha supplementation was able to substantially reduce cortisol levels and stress.3 Researchers in another study also found a reduction in cortisol levels in 130 chronically stressed people.4
Ashwagandha can also help elevate cortisol levels that are too low.5
Ashwagandha can help balance the adrenal glands to reduce stress and fatigue.
2. Thyroid Health
In a 2018 study on 50 people with sub-clinical hypothyroidism, researchers found that ashwagandha extract increased production of thyroid stimulating hormone and normalized levels of the thyroid hormones called T3 and T4. The researchers concluded that ashwagandha can help raise thyroid hormone levels in people with mild hypothyroidism.7
Ashwagandha may help raise thyroid hormone levels in people with hypothyroidism.
3. Increases Testosterone and Fertility
In a study involving 75 infertile men, researchers reported that ashwagandha supplementation increased levels of testosterone, LH and FSH which are good indicators of semen quality.11
Researchers concluded in another study that ashwagandha could be used for the management and treatment of infertility.12
Additionally, a 2013 study on 46 infertile men found that ashwagandha increased sperm count by 167%, semen volume by 53% and sperm motility by 57%.13
Ashwagandha may help improve male fertility and raise testosterone.
4. Helps Lower Cholesterol
Ashwagandha has been demonstrated to help lower cholesterol levels and help protect the heart.14
Ashwagandha may help lower cholesterol levels and improve heart health.
5. Improved Brain Function
A 2017 randomized double-blind placebo-controlled study on 50 adults with mild cognitive impairments found that ashwagandha improved information procession speed, attention and executive function.17
Another placebo-controlled trial found an increase in working memory from ashwagandha supplementation.18
Ashwagandha may help improve cognitive function.
6. Helps Weight Loss
Adrenal and thyroid hormone imbalances can lead to weight gain.
Ashwagandha helped to encourage fat loss in a randomized double-blind controlled trial of 52 people.19
Ashwagandha can help with weight loss by correcting adrenal and thyroid hormone imbalances.
7. Increases Physical Fitness
Ashwagandha has been shown to increase VO2 max and time to exhaustion in male cyclists.22
A 2010 study found ashwagandha could reduce general weakness, improve speed and increase muscular strength in a study on 44 people.23
Researchers in another study also found an increase in VO2 max with ashwagandha supplementation and they concluded it could be used to enhance cardio-respiratory endurance.24
In an 8 week study on 57 young males with little resistance training history, researchers reported that ashwagandha supplementation resulted in a 101 lb increase in strength on the bench press compared to 58 lbs with the placebo group. They concluded that supplementing with ashwagandha is associated with a significant increase in muscle strength and mass.25 A different study found a similar result.26
Ashwagandha may help improve endurance and increase strength.
8. Improved Female Libido
One study on 50 women found an improvement in arousal, lubrication, orgasms and sexual satisfaction at the end of 8 weeks of ashwagandha supplementation.27
Ashwagandha may help improve libido and sexual satisfaction in women.
9. Alleviates Anxiety
In a 2009 randomized controlled trial on 81 people with moderate to severe anxiety, researchers found a significant decrease in anxiety and improvements in quality of life after ashwagandha extract supplementation.28
Researchers in another study on 39 people also concluded that ashwagandha has anti-anxiety potential after 88% of participants experienced reduced anxiety because of it.29
Ashwagandha may help reduce anxiety.
Ashwagandha is an important adaptogen that may help improve adrenal health, increase thyroid hormones, help with weight loss, lower cholesterol and improve physical fitness it addition to other benefits.*
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