Ashwagandha Root, also known as Indian ginseng, is a powerful supplement that’s popular worldwide. Ashwagandha contains a wide range of nutritional benefits and is often taken to help people deal with stress, anxiety, and depression, as well as improve overall health.
What is Ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is an ancient medicinal herb that has been used for more than 3,000 years and is native to India and North Africa.
Ashwagandha is an adaptogen (which means it helps your body manage stress) and provides your body with essential phytonutrients (plant nutrients) that provide you with a range of other benefits. Let’s take a closer look at the benefits of Ashwagandha.
9 Benefits of Ashwagandha
1. Helps You Manage Stress
Ashwagandha is believed to reduce cortisol levels. Cortisol is a stress hormone that the adrenal glands release when responding to stress stimuli or when our blood sugar levels drop too low.
Some people’s cortisol levels can become chronically high, leading to higher blood sugar levels and increased abdominal fat storage. Ashwagandha promotes antioxidant activity, protecting the nerve cells from dangerous free radicals.
Studies have reported that Ashwagandha can help reduce cortisol levels, but what this Indian plant extract is best known for is its ability to reduce stress and anxiety.
Research has reported that Ashwagandha can block our brains' stress pathway by regulating the nervous system’s chemical signalling. It has also been shown that Ashwagandha can reduce symptoms for those with anxiety, chronic stress and insomnia.
2. Helps Overcome and Manage Anxiety & Insomnia
In a 60-day study of 64 people experiencing chronic stress, those who supplemented Ashwagandha reported an average reduction in anxiety and insomnia of 69%. This was particularly impressive when compared with an 11% reduction among those who received a placebo.
3. Helps Manage Depression
In that same 60-day study, 79% of the participants reported a reduction in severe depression symptoms, while the placebo group actually reported a 10% increase. While more studies need to be done on those suffering from clinical depression rather than high-stress symptoms, these results are well worth noting if you’re looking for a natural remedy to help you manage depressive thoughts.
4. Can Balance Blood Sugar Levels
One four-week study of those living with schizophrenia also found that those treated with Ashwagandha had a much higher average reduction in fasting blood sugar levels than those who received a placebo. This study was conducted because second-generation antipsychotics are often associated with a higher risk of metabolic syndrome.
5. It Has Anti-Cancer Properties
Ashwagandha has been seen to have anti-cancer properties. One study found that withaferin, a compound in Ashwagandha, can help induce apoptosis, which causes the death of cancer cells. Withaferin is believed to encourage the body to form reactive oxygen species (ROS) inside cancer cells, disrupting their function.
A 2014 study looked at tumours treated with withaferin alone or alongside an anti-cancer drug. The tumours showed a 70–80% decrease in growth, while the treatment also stopped cancer from spreading to other organs.
6. It Has Anti-Inflammatory Properties
Another benefit Ashwagandha offers includes reducing inflammation, which is often associated with heart disease, arthritis and even cancer. Research now links chronic inflammation to almost all life-ending diseases, so the more natural anti-inflammatories you can get in your diet, the better.
7. Helps Build and Maintain Muscle Mass
Ashwagandha can also increase physical strength and muscle mass and even help you lose body fat. The studies in this area have been exclusively on men thus far, but they found that their muscle mass significantly improved and had a much larger reduction in body fat than the placebo group.
8. Helps Improve Brain Function
Ashwagandha has long been used to improve brain function, specifically memory, and studies reflect why. One study of men who took 500mg a day reported improvements in reaction time and focus, while another study of 50 adults taking 300mg twice daily reported improved memory, focus, and task performance.
9. Reduces Cholesterol
Ashwagandha can improve heart health by reducing triglyceride (blood fat) levels and cholesterol. Triglyceride and (bad) cholesterol levels can lead to a risk of heart disease when not kept at a healthy level, so it’s important to do what you can to keep your levels low.
What Type of Ashwagandha Should I Take?
Ashwagandha root extract is usually ingested in 450–500mg capsules once or twice a day. Supplementing with Ashwagandha can be an easy, healthy and efficient way to improve one’s overall health and quality of life.
We recommend taking the whole herb because it contains so many beneficial nutrients.
As with anything we put into our bodies, the organic option is almost always the healthier one. For example, organic foods tend to provide more beneficial nutrients, like antioxidants, than non-organic food. Those with allergies to certain chemicals, foods or preservatives may experience relief from these symptoms when they exclusively eat organic foods. Organic produce typically contains fewer, if any, pesticides, fungicides and herbicides, so you know you’re not also ingesting anything bad for your health.
Organic Ashwagandha is also better for those who are concerned about the planet and its inhabitants. Farmers who do not use synthetic pesticides also benefit local wildlife as there’s less chance of accidental poisoning. Organic Ashwagandha farming practices can use less energy, conserve water, reduce pollution, reduce soil erosion, and increase soil fertility. Organic Ashwagandha is also GMO-free and (ideally) doesn’t contain any other fillers or synthetic ingredients.
Ashwagandha is the ideal supplement for anyone who wants to support their overall general health, lower blood sugar levels, and/or manage their mental health. Supporting our mental health is just as important as our physical health, and Ashwagandha is one of the few natural supplements that has been seen to genuinely work for those who take it. When you choose your Ashwagandha supplement, make sure you choose an organic source to ensure your product has no filler products or pesticides, so you can get the best results possible.