13 Proven Health Benefits of Ashwagandha

rita-moore

Reviewed by Sam Thomas, Bsc Biology (Hon.) – Written by Rita Moore

Last updated: October 7, 2019

Ashwagandha is one of the most versatile medicinal herbs on the planet. Ashwagandha falls into the “adaptogen” class of herb, which is defined as a non-toxic plant that helps your body to stabilize physiological processes, as well as regulate stress.

Ashwagandha’s botanical name is Withania Somnifera, but nutritionists and dieticians alike may also refer to it at times as Indian ginseng or winter cherry.

Ashwagandha benefits and uses trace back as far as 6000BC, where records of its use as a tonic, aphrodisiac, thermogenic, and stimulant were mentioned in the traditional system of Indian medicine called Ayurveda (1).

Ashwagandha to this day yields a wide range of health benefits.

For example it’s use in promoting mental health is observed through its ability to help lower cortisol, regulate stress, reduce anxiety, help with depression, and aid with sleep.

Ashwagandha also helps support areas of physical well being too, such as weight loss, thyroid health, gut health, hair growth, and even sexual and reproductive health. (2).

Truly a remarkable list of health benefits — let’s take a closer look at the scientific evidence that supports the 13 Ashwagandha benefits below.

Ashwagandha Benefits

1 Ashwagandha to help lower cortisol

Cortisol is also commonly referred to as the “Stress Hormone” as it is naturally secreted from your adrenal glands when your body is responding to stress.

However, if there is an imbalance and too much cortisol is released, this can lead to high stress, nervousness, and anxiety.

One double-blind placebo study of adults with chronic stress suggested that consuming 300mg of full-spectrum Ashwagandha root extract, safely and effectively improves an individual’s resistance towards stress and thereby improves self-assessed quality of life (3).

You can see by observing the graph below, that all self-assessment indicators showed that the Ashwagandha group had significantly reduced levels of stress and anxiety. Also, what’s more remarkable is that the cortisol serum data of the Ashwagandha group displayed a 30% reduction in cortisol levels. (4).

Researchers concluded that Ashwagandha was significantly effective in helping to reduce cortisol levels, and was likely helpful in reducing stress and symptoms of anxiety.

placebo vs ashwagandha for stress

Percentage change from baseline in PSS, GHQ-28, DASS, Serum cortisol

 

Summary: Ashwagandha may be effective in helping to reduce, regulate, and lower cortisol levels. This may help to reduce stress, anxiety, and improve overall mental health.

2 Ashwagandha for anxiety

Anxiety is by far the most common form of disruption to mental health, with it being prevalent in nearly 30% of people in the United States (5).

Ashwagandha helps to reduce cortisol levels — which when secreted by the adrenal gland in excessive amounts, is linked to heightened stress and anxiety.

A systematic report of 5 clinical studies was conduction in 2014 to observe Ashwagandha’s benefits and it’s uses in the treatment of anxiety.

Within the 5 clinical studies observed, the self assessment models used to measure the anxiety in patients included the Hamilton Anxiety Scale (HAS), Beck Anxiety Inventory (BAI), and the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS).

Of the 5 studies, all of them indicated a significant reduction in patient anxiety with the consumption of Ashwagandha compared to the placebo (6).

Summary: Several clinical studies of Ashwagandha indicate that it may be effective in reducing anxiety and stress in chronically stressed patients.

3 Ashwagandha benefits for weight loss

Ashwagandha, as we have mentioned above, helps to reduce cortisol levels that are secreted from the adrenal gland.

Having high levels of cortisol is also linked to an increase in appetite, which can lead to unintentional weight gain. This can be more common than you think, as an increase in cortisol can often occur from heightened stress.

One study, in particular, examined the effect of Ashwagandha on the bodyweight of people under chronic stress. 52 people participated in the double-blind placebo study with half being administered 300mg of Ashwagandha twice daily (7).

To measure the effectiveness of the Ashwagandha dosage on the participants, the Food Cravings Questionnaire–Trait (FCQ-T), Oxford Happiness Questionnaire (OHQ), and Three-Factor Eating Questionnaire (TFEQ) self-assessment scales were used.

The results of the Ashwagandha administered group displayed a significant reduction in body weight and body mass index (BMI). Participants in this group also commented on a significant reduction in “Uncontrolled Eating” and “Emotional Eating” (8).

Summary: Clinical studies of Ashwagandha and its effect on weight loss indicate that it may significantly reduce body weight and body mass index (BMI) when administered at 300mg twice daily.

4 Ashwagandha for depression

Depression is a complex mental illness that can affect people with varying degrees of severity. In the United States, major depressive disorder (MDD) affects approximately 7% of the population (9).

There are several approaches for people to consider when tackling depression —one of which that we’ll be covering here is through your diet.

‘Adaptogens’ (non-toxic stress regulating herbs) such as Ashwagandha have frequently been studied for their efficacy in treating mental illnesses such as chronic stress, anxiety, and depression.

One study, in particular, examined the effects of daily-administered Ashwagandha on depression and anxiety symptoms in schizophrenic patients.

The 12 week, 66 people, double-blind placebo study concluded that Ashwagandha had a significant effect in reducing depressive signals, and anxiety symptoms in the Ashwagandha group compared to the placebo (10).

Researchers further concluded that Ashwagandha holds promise in its efficacy in the treatment of depression, although further research is necessary.

Summary: Ashwagandha may be effective in helping to reduce depressive signals and symptoms of anxiety. Further clinical research is needed to accurately conclude the results of the study.

5 Ashwagandha for sleep

Insomnia and difficulty falling to sleep is the most commonly cited condition from people with poor sleep health. 30% of adults in the United States have symptoms of insomnia (12).

The treatment of insomnia is often prescribed with sleep aid drugs that regularly have reported issues of dependency and other adverse side effects, so it is no surprise that many people seek natural alternatives.

Ashwagandha has been used for centuries in the traditional medicine system Ayurveda for its ability to induce sleep. Ashwagandha has also recently been studied for its ability to reduce the effects of insomnia, and support a healthier sleep cycle.

One study, in particular, examined the effect of Triethylene glycol (an active component in Ashwagandha leaves) on sleep induction.

The study demonstrated that Ashwagandha’s active component Triethylene glycol decreased the total wake time percentage as well as increased the total sleep percentage (13).

Researchers also concluded that Ashwagandha in the form of a leaf, root, or powder is also able to enhance the quality of sleep.

Summary: Ashwagandha leaves, root, and powder are effective in helping to improve sleep quality. Further clinical studies may be needed for a more definitive conclusion.

6 Ashwaganda for gut health

Gut and digestive health has been linked as a precursor for other areas of health such as your mood, energy, and stress levels (14).

Studies of Ashwagandha and its effect on the gut have revealed that it may actually improve the function of gut micobiota, the gastrointestinal tract, and the digestive and metabolic process.

One study in particular examined the effects of Ashwaganda’s active component Triethylene glycol on stress reduction.

The observations suggested that adaptogenic herbs such as Ashwagandha helped to increase the modulation of physiological functions of gut microbiota — essentially helping the gut to deal with stress and other areas of mental health (15).

The researchers further suggested that this might also contribute to other therapeutically bioactive pathways and benefits.

Summary: Ashwagandha is effective in helping to improve the function and bioavailability of the gut microbiome.

7 Ashwagandha for women

Sexual health is an important yet not necessarily openly discussed area of health for women. A lack of sexual arousal can affect the quality of life, self-esteem, and even interpersonal relationships (16).

The National Health and Social Life Survey conducted a study of 1749 women, which resulted in 43% of women indicating complaints of sexual dysfunction (17).

One study of Ashwagandha examined its effects on improving the sexual function in women.

The women in the study were split into two groups, one placebo, and one administered with 300mg of Ashwagandha twice daily for 8 weeks.

The results from the Ashwagandha group indicated a significant improvement in sexual function based on scores on the Female Sexual Function Index (FSFI).

Details of the improvements included an increase in sexual activity, sexual arousal, satisfaction in orgasm, lubrication, and overall attitude towards sex life (18).

Researchers concluded that Ashwagandha does have significant benefits for improving sexual function in women, and may be useful in the treatment of Female Sexual Dysfunction (FSD).

Summary: Ashwagandha studies indicate that, when taken at 300mg twice daily, helps to significantly improve sexual function for women.

8 Ashwagandha for men

Men’s health, particularly sexual health and vitality can be a growing concern with age.

In a study of the prevalence of male sexual health disorders, at least one sexual health disorder was reported by 81% of men between the ages of 18 to 60 (19).

Ashwagandha has been used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine as an aphrodisiac to treat male sexual dysfunction and infertility.

One study, in particular, examined the effect of Ashwagandha on men that had a low sperm count. The men split into 2 groups with one getting a placebo dose and the other given 225mg of Ashwagandha thrice daily for a period of 90 days (20).

The Ashwagandha group showed significant increases in sperm concentration, ejaculate volume, and motile sperm count.

Testosterone samples were also taken from both groups at the beginning of the study and after 90 days. As the figure below shows, the Ashwagandha group displayed a 17% increase in the serum testosterone sample.

testosterone comparison ashwagandha

The researchers concluded that Ashwagandha is an effective herbal remedy for stress and infertility. The data suggest that Ashwagandha helps to improve blood circulation throughout the body and enhances sperm quantity and quality naturally (21).

With sexual vitality benefits aside, intake of Ashwagandha may also help in improving the overall health and wellbeing in men, as it appears to relax nerve cells which can reduce the occurrence of various health disorders.

Summary: Ashwagandha is an effective herbal remedy in helping to increase sperm count, sperm quality, and increase testosterone when consumed in 225mg dosages thrice daily over 90 days.

9 Ashwaganda for thyroid health

Hyperthyroidism occurs when your thyroid gland produces an excessive amount of the hormone thyroxine. Hyperthyroidism may in some cases accelerate your body’s metabolism, causing unintentional weight loss, muscle weakness, fatigue and a rapid or irregular heartbeat. (22).

While examining research on the effect that Ashwaganda has on hyperthyroidism there are two studies in particular that help to highlight it’s benefits.

An 8 week double blind placebo study examined the effect of Ashwagandha on hypothyroidism when administered 600mg of Ashwagandha daily.

The group that was administered the Ashwaganda showed significant improvements in thyroid levels, compared to taking a placebo.

People in the Ashwagandha group displayed significant increases in triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4) levels of 41.5% and 19.6%, respectively. Furthermore, thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) levels decreased by 17.5% (23).

Ashwagandha’s cortisol-lowering effects also play a role in regulating thyroid levels. As mentioned above, stress increases cortisol levels, which can also lead to lower levels of T3 and T4.

Researchers commented that the consumption of Ashwagandha appears to stimulate your endocrine system, and help to boost thyroid hormone levels by reducing cortisol.

In the second double blind placebo 8 week study, Ashwagandha was administered to adults with bipolar disorder to examine its potential benefits in reducing cortisol levels. While three participants did experience significantly elevated levels of T4, this study was not as conclusive as the above (24).

Researchers did conclude that Ashwagandha does show promise in treating thyroid issues although further studies are needed to better understand the long-term effects of Ashwagandha on hypothyroidism.

Summary: Ashwagandhas effect on hyperthyroidism has shown to be significant in two studies. It is further helped by its cortisol reducing effect.

10 Ashwagandha for hair growth

Hair loss affects millions of men and women all over the world. While there are several treatments for this such a minoxidil and finasteride, these products may have unwanted side effects, so it is no surprise that many people are turning towards natural alternatives.

Ashwagandha has been known to help reduce hair loss and help to promote the regeneration of hair follicles.

One study, in particular, was conducted to observe the effect that Ashwagandha had on adrenal hyperplasia. What researchers found was that the patient that was treated using Ashwagandha for 8 months actually experienced a significant reduction in hair loss in their scalp. (25).

Ashwagandhas cortisol reducing effects may also further help to reduce the effect of hair loss, as stress is a known inhibitor of follicle health and hair growth.

While further research may necessary to accurately conclude that Aashaganda is effective in the treatment of hair loss, studies indicate that adaptogenic herbs such as Ashwagandha benefit hair growth and follicle health.

Summary: Ashwagandha may be effective in helping to reduce the effect of hair loss as well as promote hair growth. Further study is needed to accurately conclude if Ashwagandha can be used as a hair loss treatment.

11 Ashwagandha for stress relief

Adaptogens such as Ashwagandha have amazing benefits when it comes to regulating stress levels. Cortisol or the “Stress Hormone” as it is sometimes referred to, is a hormone secreted by the adrenal gland and is responsible for dealing with external stresses. (26).

While it is essential to have cortisol as it is our body’s survival mechanism, it can cause serious problems such as anxiety when produced in excessive amounts.

One study, in particular, examined the effect that Ashwagandha had in reducing stress and anxiety.

The double-blind placebo study examined a total of 64 people that were split into 2 groups, one placebo and one administered with 300mg of Ashwagandha daily for 60 days.

After 60 days the result showed that the Ashwagandha group had a significant reduction in cortisol levels, and also a reduction in stress and anxiety indicators on the self-assessment scales (27).

Researches concluded that Ashwagandha is an effective adaptogenic herb for reducing cortisol levels and may be an effective treatment for anxiety and stress.

Summary: Ashwagandha is effective in helping to reduce, regulate, and lower cortisol levels. This may help to reduce stress, anxiety, and improve overall mental health.

12 Ashwagandha for diabetes

Ashwagandha may even help to benefit people with diabetes. Several studies have shown that Ashwagandha is effective in helping to lower blood sugar levels in the body.

One study, in particular, examined the hypoglycaemic effect of Ashwagandha. The results showed that Ashwagandha helped to increased insulin secretion and improved insulin sensitivity in muscle cells (28).

Several other studies have been conducted to examine the effect of Ashwagandha on reducing blood sugar levels.

A study of this was conducted in people with schizophrenia. The double-blind placebo consisted of two groups, one administered with Ashwagandha and one placebo. Of the Ashwagandha group, participants displayed an average reduction in fasting blood sugar levels of 13.5 mg/dL, compared to 4.5 mg/dL in those who received a placebo (29).

For a greater look into isolated study groups where the effects of Ashwagandhas are more conclusive in the treatment of diabetes, there was an additional study conducted to examine the effect of Ashwagandha on non-insulin dependent diabetes (type 2) patients.

The study showed that supplementing with Ashwagandha for 30 days lowered fasting blood sugar levels as effectively as an oral diabetes medication (30).

Further clinical studies are needed, although Ashwagandha defiantly shows promising sings in the treatment of diabetes.

Summary: Ashwagandha is effective in helping to reduce blood sugar insulin levels. Ashwagandha may be a beneficial treatment in helping to support people with diabetes.

13 Ashwagandha for adrenal health

As we have mentioned above, Ashwagandha benefits your stress and anxiety regulation as it helps to regulate the secretion of cortisol from the adrenal gland.

Cortisol is dubbed the “Stress Hormone” as it helps us to react to external stresses. While essential as our bodies line of defense in cases of “Fight of Flight”, if unbalanced can have serious mental health implications.

One double-blind placebo study of adults with chronic stress suggested that consuming 300mg of full-spectrum Ashwagandha root extract, helped to regulate the secretion of cortisol from the adrenal gland (31).

As a result of this, researchers concluded that Ashwagandha is effective in safely improving an individual’s resistance towards stress and thereby improves self-assessed quality of life.

Summary: Ashwagandha is effective in helping to regulate the adrenal gland and consequently lower cortisol levels. This may help to reduce stress, anxiety, and improve overall mental health.

Side Effects

1 Ashwagandha may not be safe to take while pregnant

While studies of Ashwagandha indicate that it is non-toxic and generally regarded as safe (GRAS) herbal ingredient, some physicians have noted that it should most likely not be consumed if pregnant (32).

This is possibly more of a precautionary measure than an explicit warning, based on the overwhelming evidence to suggest that Ashwagandha is safe to consume.

There is no clinical evidence to back up the statement that Ashwagandha is unsafe for pregnant women, however as with any treatment, whether it be natural, prescription or otherwise it is generally best to seek the advice of a doctor if you are unsure.

Summary: Overwhelming evidence suggests that Ashwagandha is safe to consume as it is non-toxic, and is on the GRAS list (generally regarded as safe), however, pregnant women should likely avoid consuming it without the supervision of a doctor.

2 Not all Ashwagandha products are organic

What are some times the case with natural and herbal remedies and supplements, in particular, is that the ingredients used in a formula may not be organic, tested for allergens, approved in an FDA registered facility, or even tested for its potency.

Ensure that when you are buying Ashwagandha products that they are organic,  sustainably sourced, have been tested for allergens and that the dosages are actually what they say they are on the bottle. It comes down to trust, reputation, and reviews.

Summary: Buy Ashwagandha from a trusted source and ensure that it is pure, free from allergens, free from harmful chemicals, and that it is made inside an FDA registered facility.

3 Ashwagandha may act negatively with other medications

Ashwagandha is effective in helping to regulate the adrenal gland and the secretion of cortisol. It may not be suitable to take in conjunction with other medications, particular hormone-altering medications.

For more advice on what you can and cannot consume with Ashwagandha is it always best to consult your doctor if you are currently on medication.

Summary: Ashwagandha may act negatively with other medications so it is always best to consult your doctor, who knows your current prescription, and medical history.

Recommended Dosage

1 Ashwagandha dosage

Based on the evidence that we’ve examined in the clinical studies above, the most consistent dosage of Ashwagandha administered ranges from 650mg-1300mg as a daily total.

The examples for the duration of which this is administered appear to be most consistently in the range of 60-90 days.

While there are most certainly outliers to the above ranges, in which some patients achieved the desired effect with less or more, over a shorter or longer period, these appear to be the most representative of the studies examined.

Summary:  The recommended Ashwagandha dosage to see the noticeable physiological benefit is between 650mg-1300mg total daily, with the duration of consuming it ranging being 60-90 days.

FAQs

Is Ashwagandha good for anxiety?

Due to ashwagandhas’ ability to help reduce the secretion of cortisol it helps to reduce stress-related anxiety, help fight depression, boost fertility and testosterone in men and may even help to support brain function. Consuming a regular supplement dosage of ashwagandha may be an easy and effective way to improve your health and quality of life (33).

Is Ashwagandha safe?

Overwhelming evidence suggests that Ashwagandha is safe to consume as it is non-toxic, and is on the GRAS list (generally regarded as safe) made by the World Health Organisation (34).

Is Ashwagandha a good supplement for stress?

Adaptogenic herbs such as Ashwagandha have fantastic benefits when it comes to regulating stress levels. Cortisol or the “Stress Hormone” as it is sometimes referred to, is a hormone secreted by the adrenal gland and is responsible for dealing with external stresses. (35).

Is Ashwagandha a good supplement to reduce cortisol?

Ashwagandha may be effective in helping to reduce, regulate, and lower cortisol levels. This may help to reduce stress, anxiety, and improve overall mental health.

What is the Ashwagandha dosage for thyroid issues?

Ashwagandha has also shown to be effective in helping to reduce the effect of thyroid issues. Recent studies indicate promising results regarding hypothyroidism. An 8-week study in 50 people with hypothyroidism found that taking 600 mg of Ashwagandha root extract daily led to significant improvements in thyroid levels, compared to taking a placebo. Those in the ashwagandha group showed significant increases in triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4) levels of 41.5% and 19.6%, respectively. Furthermore, thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) levels decreased by 17.5% (36).

What is the Ashwagandha dosage for anxiety?

One double-blind placebo study of adults with chronic stress suggested that consuming 300mg of full-spectrum Ashwagandha root extract, safely and effectively improves an individual’s resistance towards stress and thereby improving their ability to deal with feelings of anxiety (37).

What are the Ashwagandha benefits for men?

Ashwagandha is an effective herbal remedy in helping to increase sperm count, sperm quality, and increase testosterone when consumed in 225mg dosages thrice daily over 90 days (38).

Where to buy Ashwagandha?

Nuzena Organic Ashwagandha + formula contains a high-quality blend of ashwagandha and organic pepper for premium ashwagandha benefits and optimal absorption. You can view this product here.

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