It is not surprising that when we look at the evolution of natural medicine, we find herbs that have been serving humankind for thousands of years with great success.
Ashwagandha is no exception and is one of the best Ayurvedic herbs (*adaptogen) that has been used for over 3,000 years to create more vitality in humans. It is a close relative (believe it or not) to tomatoes, peppers and eggplant (Aubergine).
*Definition of adaptogen.: a nontoxic substance and especially a plant extract that is held to increase the body’s ability to resist the damaging effects of stress and promote or restore normal physiological functioning.
Ancient healers used this incredible herb to rejuvenate the body, in particular giving back strength and vitality. Ashwagandha is able to assist the body to provide resistance to a range of disease, including arthritis, asthma, bronchitis, cancer, fever, inflammation, nausea, rheumatism, diabetes, leukoderma, cancer and to improve cognitive function and stress/anxiety.
Moreover, Ashwagandha has also developed a solid reputation (recent research confirms this) as a sedative, a hypotensive, an antispasmodic, is antitumour, an analgesic, and is an intiinflammatory.
No person living on the planet should be without Ashwagandha, given the multiple benefits to the body, when using it as part of your nutrition protocol.
Here are 7 Health Benefits from using Ashwagandha:
1. Protection of the Immune System
Studies indicate that Ashwagandha impacts positively on our immune system, which is central to our health and wellness.
It has been shown to increase white blood cell production and also the number of macrophages (large white blood cells that consume bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites), in the body.
If you suffer from colds and flus regularly, then Ashwagandha can boost your immunity, giving your body the reboot that it needs.
It has also been recognized for its antioxidant potential, which supports our immune system. Compounds found in the plant (particularly the roots) can do some amazing things to assist with immunity. The antioxidant phytochemicals prevent free radical damage from happening.
Free radicals are the nasties that cause illness, speed the aging process and cause inflammation (which promotes a range of degenerative disease including Cancer). This negative effect causes the body to become weaker and to “unravel”.
Ashwagandha slows the process of free radical damage, allowing the body to become revitalized, meaning a better quality of life for longer. This boosts longevity, keeps disease away and slows the aging process.
2. Improved Memory, Concentration & Overall Learning
In a 2017 study published in the Journal of Dietary Supplements, found that Ashwagandha root extract contributed to improved memory in 50 people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI).
In this study, people received ashwagandha root for 8 weeks vs those who took a placebo. Those who took the Ashwagandha has significant improvements in:
• Short & long term memory
• Executive function
• Sustained attention
• Information-processing speed.
The sedative properties in Ashwagandha may lead to better cognitive function, since stress, anxiety & sleep disorders can affect normal cognitive function. Additionally, it was noted that Ashwagandha may assist the slowing down process of brain deterioration in people with dementia. Researchers found that it repaired brain cell damage and rebuilt neuronal networks and synapses.
This amazing herb may also assist with alleviating depression because of its ability to deal with mental and emotional stress. Additionally, because of the neuro protective characteristics of the bioactive compounds, located in the Ashwagandha leaf, it has been found to reduce brain cell degeneration.
3. Reduce Stress & Anxiety
Ashwagandha has anti-anxiety properties that may assist in induced stress and associated functional impairments. It’s stress reducing properties are very well known as ashwagandha helps the body reduce the production of cortisol (stress hormone) by up to 28%.
A 2012 study in the Indian Journal of Psychology found that perceived scores of stress dropped by 44% in a group of 64 people with a low sense of wellbeing and high sense of stress. The group taking the Ashwagandha root extract were given a dosage of 300mg twice a day for 60 days.
In another 2008 JANA Study, 98 people suffering from stress were given Ashwagandha or a placebo. Those on Ashwagandha had improved well-being at 30 and 60 days.
There was no improvement demonstrated in the placebo group on the Hamilton Anxiety Scale but there was significant improvement in the Ashwagandha group, shown by a decrease in the stress hormone cortisol as well a the blood pressure and pulse rate. Improvement was also demonstrated in blood glucose levels, markers of inflammation, as well as levels of cholesterol (LDL & HDL) and triglycerides.
4. Improved Sleep Patterns
Traditionally, Ashwagandha has been used in Ayurveda as a sleep aid. The latin name of Ashwagandha (somnifera) means sleep-inducing and as such it has been recommended for regular sleep for centuries.
Researchers at the International Institute for Integrative Sleep Medicine at the University of Tsukuba, studied the effect on sleep in mice and found the water extract of Ashwagandha leaf, rich in triethylene glycol (TEG) significantly promoted non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep and changed rapid eye movement (REM) sleep slightly, while an alcoholic extract showed no effect on sleep at all.
The sleep created by TEG was very similar to normal sleep. Further to that, commercially available TEG also increased the amount of NREM sleep. Therefore, it was concluded that TEG is the active component that induces physiologically sound sleep.
5. Better Sex
Ashwagandha improves the function of the reproductive system thus promoting a healthy sexual and reproductive balance.
In double blind study, 46 infertile men were given 225gm of ashwagandha root extract a day or a placebo for 3 months. Sperm concentration improved by 167% versus 29% in the placebo group. Sperm mobility improved by 57% versus 9% in placebo group, semen volume improved 53% versus 20% in placebo group.
Testosterone also increased by 17% in the ashwagandha group versus 4% in the placebo group and lutenizing hormone increased by 34% versus only 8% in the placebo group.
(Evidence Based Complementary Medicine 2013)
Two other studies also showed significant improved results in infertile men including improved sperm concentration, testosterone and lutenizing hormone. Researchers concluded that ashwagandha “can be used as an alternative… therapy for the treatment… of male infertility.
(J Ethnopharmacol 2013)
In a 2015 study of 50 women with sexual dysfunction (underactive sexual desire disorder, female sexual arousal disorder, female orgasmic disorder, combined genital & subjective arousal disorder) were given a placebo or ashwagandha root extract of 300gm twice a day for 8 weeks.
The Female Sexual Function Index (FSFI) showed a significant improvement in the ashwagandha group, 13.63 to 23.86 versus the placebo group 13.57 to 20.06.
This Index measures improved arousal, lubrication, orgasm and satisfaction. All 4 areas showed more improvement in the ashwagandha group.
6. Increased Muscle Mass, Reduced Body Fat & More Strength
2012 study found that ashwagandha promotes muscle mass and
significantly improves muscle strength and stamina, while at the same
time decreasing body fat and increasing lean body weight.
(J Ayerveda 2012)
In another study done in 2015 57 men were given ashwagandha (300mg root extract twice a day for 8 weeks) or a placebo. This was a double blind study.
Over the 8 weeks they completed a resistance training programme. In the ashwagandha group upper body strength improved significantly more in this group than the placebo.
Upper Body Strength – Bench Press Increase
Lower Body Strength – Leg Extensions Increase
Increase in Muscle – Arms
Increase in Muscle – Chest
Additionally, the ashwagandha group recorded improved muscle recovery time and significantly reduced muscle damage, greater loss of body fat percentage and higher testosterone levels versus the placebo group.
7. Support of Cardiovascular Endurance
In a 2015 study by Choudhary, et al. athletes were given 600mg of ashwagandha to study the effect of this on the cardiorespiratory performance in athletes.
Their maximum aerobic capacity VO2 max) was measured during a 20 minute shuttle run test. Those individuals who consumed 600mg of ashwagandha has significant increases in VO2 max as compared to the placebo.
In another placebo controlled trial Shenay, et al. 2015, cyclists were given an aqueous extract of ashwagandha (500mg twice daily) for 8 weeks. They showed a significant increase of 13% in VO2 max, whereas the placebo group showed no increase at all.
Both males and females who took ashwagandha showed a significant increase in the time to exhaustion and higher VO2 max values of 10.7% & 4.7% and 16.1% & 9.0% respectively.