General Health

11 Proven Health Benefits Of Ashwagandha

Many medicinal herbs stem from ancient times. These herbs have been used in medical practices for many years.

The herbs used in traditional ayurvedic medicine have been provided to patients long before the introduction of conventional and pharmaceutical inventions. Today, a large number of studies also show that these herbs hold potential benefits for the human body. 

Ashwagandha is one of these ancient herbs. It is considered a medicinal plant extract. There are many active compounds in the ashwagandha plant—these yield specific medicinal properties for the body.

When people take ashwagandha, they may experience an extensive range of health-related advantages. We take a closer look at the benefits of ashwagandha and how this herb may help people. 

1. Reduces Blood Sugar Levels

High blood sugar levels can cause many unpleasant effects on the body. When a person has uncontrolled blood sugar, they may develop insulin resistance. This causes insulin sensitivity to decline. The person is also at risk of developing diabetes when blood sugar levels are too high. 

Ashwagandha may help to improve blood sugar regulation. This herb has been shown to assist in increasing the amount of insulin released by the pancreas1. The insulin sensitivity of muscle cells also improved in previous studies that looked at the effect of ashwagandha on insulin and blood sugar regulation. 

Some studies show ashwagandha directly affects blood sugar regulation. In one study2, patients took an ashwagandha supplement each day. The study lasted for 30 days. Researchers noted a reduction in blood glucose levels. The effects of ashwagandha were similar to what patients experience when they take an oral drug for diabetes. 

Researchers reported other benefits in the study too. Participants in the study experienced a reduction in their cholesterol levels. Low-density lipoprotein levels were lower. Triglyceride levels also declined. 

2. Anti-Cancer Properties

Cancer is a very common disease. It causes many people to lose their lives every year. This is why scientists constantly try to find new ways to treat this disease. Current conventional treatments include the use of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. These treatments cause side-effects that make the patient feel unwell. 

Ashwagandha is a ayurvedic herb that seems to have potential when used as an anti-cancer treatment. The herb contains an active chemical called withaferin. According to one study3, withaferin causes a process called apoptosis to occur in the body. Apoptosis is described as the death of cancerous cells. 

By inducing this effect, ashwagandha might hold the potential to help in destroying cancer cells in patients. 

The same study shows that the withaferin compound helps to prevent the growth of more cancer cells. With this in mind, it means the patient is at a lower risk of experiencing a further increase in the severity of their cancer.

Studies find that ashwagandha may be useful in different types of cancers, including:

  • Colon cancer

  • Brain cancer

  • Ovarian cancer

  • Lung cancer

  • Breast cancer

3. Reduce Cortisol Levels

Cortisol is a hormone in the human body. It is often referred to as the stress hormone. This is due to the relationship between stress and cortisol. When the body is under stress, the adrenal glands produce cortisol.

The adrenal glands push the cortisol into the bloodstream. This causes a “flight-or-fight” response. Cortisol has negative effects on the body when levels of the hormone become elevated chronically. 

There is evidence that ashwagandha may offer help in reducing cortisol levels in the body. One study4 looked at how this herb interacted with cortisol levels among a group of participants. All of the participants were subjected to chronic stress. This was a double-blind control study. It is only one of the clinical trials to show the effects of ashwagandha on cortisol. 

There was a 30% reduction in cortisol levels among the people who took a high dose of ashwagandha extract. Those taking lower doses also had a reduction in their cortisol levels. The results were more significantly more impressive when compared to findings in the placebo group. 

4. Lower Stress And Anxiety

Stress is a common problem in the modern world. The statistics of stress are closely linked to that of anxiety. These are issues that millions of people face every day. Ashwagandha is one of the more common herbs used by people who suffer from chronic stress

Several studies show the potential of ashwagandha to relieve stress. Some studies also show that the herb may help to reduce symptoms of anxiety. In one study5, scientists show that ashwagandha works on the nervous system. It helps to regulate the signals sent between chemicals in a person’s nervous system. In turn, this may help to reduce the severity of anxiety. 

In another study6, 64 people took a daily supplement that contained ashwagandha extracts. The study lasted for a period of 60 days. By the end of the study, 69% of patients experienced a reduction in anxiety symptoms. The participants also reported improvements in insomnia symptoms. Only 11% of people in the control group experienced improvements in anxiety symptoms. 

5. Reduce Symptoms Of Depression

People with depression may also benefit from using ashwagandha supplements. Some studies show the use of this herb may assist in alleviating the signs linked to this mental disorder. Evidence is somewhat limited on this subject. Still, the clinical trials conducted to date does show potential. 

One study6 introduced an ashwagandha supplement to 64 adults. One of the participants had a history of depressive symptoms. It is known that high-stress levels cause an increased risk of depression. Each participant took a 600mg daily dose of ashwagandha extract. A high-dose extract was used. 

There was a 79% improvement in symptoms associated with severe depression. In the placebo group, participants only experienced a 10% improvement. 

6. May Boost Testosterone

Testosterone is the main sex hormone in men. This hormone helps to regulate the libido in the male body. It also helps with other functions, such as fat distribution, heart health, and more. Men with low testosterone are at risk of certain health complications. 

Studies show that some men experience an increase in testosterone when they use ashwagandha supplements. This does not seem to affect all men who use the supplement, however. 

One study7 tested the effects of ashwagandha on semen quality in men. The study focused on finding how reproductive hormones were affected by the herb. Oxidative stress declined in men who took the ashwagandha supplement. Testosterone levels started to increase in the process. The researchers reported a significant increase in testosterone among some of the male participants. 

7. May Boost Fertility

Testosterone has a significant impact on the production of sperm. With this in mind, the use of ashwagandha may also be helpful for men with fertility-related problems. This can be the case among men who experience an increase in testosterone production

When testosterone levels increase, the quality of semen may improve. The higher levels of testosterone may also contribute to an increase in semen production. The result is a better chance of reproducing. This is a potentially helpful benefit for men who suffer from infertility – especially when they have low testosterone levels. 

8. Muscle Mass And Strength

Lean muscle mass is important. It has many benefits to offer both men and women. A lot of men tend to experience muscle weakness as they age. This is often accompanied by a reduction in lean muscle mass too. 

The use of ashwagandha may help increase muscle mass. This is partly due to the potential improvement in testosterone production. Studies also find that some men experience an increase in muscle strength when they use ashwagandha supplements. 

One study8 showed a significant increase in lean muscle mass gain when men took ashwagandha supplements. These men also experienced a boost in their muscle size and strength. Body fat percentage also declined among the men who took the supplement that contained ashwagandha extract. 

9. Reduce Inflammation

Inflammation can cause pain and interfere with bodily functions. While a natural response, chronic inflammation in the body can lead to serious complications. Lower-grade inflammation seems to have a link to many chronic diseases. This includes heart disease, diabetes, and even cancers

Ashwagandha root may hold the potential to help reduce inflammatory triggers in the human body. There are a few studies that show ashwagandha has anti-inflammatory properties. A majority of these studies were conducted on animal subjects. There are a few studies with human participants too. 

One study4 showed that ashwagandha root extract could help to reduce C-reactive protein in the body. Participants in the study experienced a 36% decrease in C-reactive protein. This protein is linked to pro-inflammatory triggers in the body.

When there is a large number of C-reactive proteins in the body, then inflammation is sure to develop. By reducing the number of these proteins, ashwagandha may help to produce an effective anti-inflammatory effect. 

10. Lower Cholesterol

Millions of people have cholesterol levels that are higher than what they should be.

High total and LDL cholesterol levels are the main concern that people need to focus on. LDL cholesterol, also called low-density lipoprotein, causes arteries to become clogged. This, in turn, raises a person’s risk of developing heart disease. Blood circulation can also decrease when cholesterol levels are high. 

When blood circulation decrease, there are other side-effects that a person can experience. Blood helps to carry nutrients, as well as oxygen, to all areas of the body. 

Ashwagandha holds potential as a cholesterol-lowering agent too. Animal studies report significant reductions in both triglyceride and cholesterol levels. The effects on human subjects do not seem to be as significant. Still, some studies had shown an improvement in cholesterol when human subjects were given a daily ashwagandha supplement. 

11. May Improve Brain Function

The brain is an important part of the body. It is used to think, process information, and remember things. Many people experience a decline in brain function as they age. Even some of the younger people experience cognitive dysfunction. This may include poor memory, for example. 

There are a few studies that show ashwagandha may be beneficial for the brain too. One study9 gave healthy men a daily supplement of ashwagandha. The researchers report an improvement in task performance, as well as reaction times in these men.

The cognitive function of these men improved. There was an improvement in psychomotor performance too. While further studies are still needed, there is evidence that ashwagandha may improve memory and overall mental performance. 

Is Ashwagandha Safe To Use?

The safety of natural products is often a concern among people who want to try an alternative way of treating certain diseases. Pharmaceutical products are requested to provide a complete overview of possible side-effects. With a natural product, side-effects may not be listed. Yet, there are a few herbs that have been linked to adverse reactions. 

Ashwagandha is well-tolerated. It is important to take the supplement according to dosage recommendations. Taking too much of the product may increase the risk of side-effects. Most people who experience side-effects claim that they are mild. These side-effects include stomach upset, sleepiness, and headaches10. 

Conclusion

Ashwagandha is a commonly used medicinal herb. Its uses for various diseases date back to ancient times. The herb has been shown to reduce blood sugar and cholesterol. It also helps improve strength and muscle function while boosting brain health at the same time. We looked at the proven health benefits that have been associated with ashwagandha in this post. The herb is also considered relatively safe, as long as people know about the precautions. 

Sources

  1. Journal of Phytochemistry. (2015) Hypoglycemic activity of withanolides and elicitated Withhania somnifera. [online] Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25796090
  2. Indian Journal of Experimental Biology. (2000) Hypoglycemic, Diuretic and Hypocholesterolemic Effect of Winter Cherry (Withania Somnifera, Dunal) Root. [online] Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11116534/
  3. AAPS Journal. (2014) Molecular Targets and Mechanisms of Cancer Prevention and Treatment by Withaferin A, a Naturally Occurring Steroidal Lactone. [online] Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24046237/
  4. JANA. (2008) A Standardized Withania Somnifera Extract Significantly Reduces Stress-Related Parameters in Chronically Stressed Humans: A Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Study. [online] Available at: https://blog.priceplow.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/withania_review.pdf
  5. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. (2015) Direct Evidence for GABAergic Activity of Withania Somnifera on Mammalian Ionotropic GABAA and GABAp Receptors. [online] Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26068424/
  6. Indian Journal of Physiological Medicine. (2012) A Prospective, Randomized Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study of Safety and Efficacy of a High-Concentration Full-Spectrum Extract of Ashwagandha Root in Reducing Stress and Anxiety in Adults. [online] Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23439798/
  7. Journal of Fertility and Sterility. (2010) Withania Somnifera Improves Semen Quality by Regulating Reproductive Hormone Levels and Oxidative Stress in Seminal Plasma of Infertile Males. [online] Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19501822/
  8. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. (2015) Examining the Effect of Withania Somnifera Supplementation on Muscle Strength and Recovery: A Randomized Controlled Trial. [online] Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26609282/
  9. Journal of Pharmacognosy Research. (2014) Effect of Standardize Aqueous Extract of Withania Somnifera on Tests of Cognitive and Psychomotor Performance in Healthy Human Participants. [online] Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24497737/
  10. ConsumerLab.com. Ashwagandha Side Effects. [online] Available at: https://www.consumerlab.com/answers/side-effects-of-ashwagandha-supplements/ashwagandha-side-effects/

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