What Is Ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha (Withania Somnifera), is an evergreen shrub that grows in India, the Middle East, and parts of Africa.
It is popular for its adaptogenic properties that help your body manage stress. Other health benefits include enhancing immunity, increasing muscle strength and size, boosting brain function, and reducing symptoms of anxiety.
4 Proven Benefits of Ashwagandha
1- Stress Management
Ashwagandha is an adaptogen, and its ability to fight stress is one of its main benefits. Its anxiety-fighting properties are attributed to the withanolides compounds that can alter the body’s response to stress.
Several control studies in humans have shown that it can effectively reduce symptoms in people with stress and anxiety disorders. (1) (2)
In 2000, a 40-day study, 88% of people who took Ashwagandha reported a reduction in anxiety compared to a 50% decrease for people who took a placebo. (4)
In 2012, in a 60-day study of 64 people with chronic stress, those in the Ashwagandha group reported an average 69% reduction in anxiety and insomnia, compared to an 11% reduction in the placebo group. (3)
In addition to managing stress, a study found that participants who took Ashwagandha extract for 12 weeks had a significant reduction in depression and anxiety symptoms in persons with schizophrenia. (5)
2- Brain Function
Researchers have shown that Ashwagandha’s antioxidant content protects the nerve cells from harmful free radicals. Thus, improving immediate memory thanks to Withaferin A and Withanolide D, both of which are major Ashwagandha compounds. (6)
In 2014, a study found that participants who received a daily dose of Ashwagandha reported improved cognitive and psychomotor performance. This can help in the treatment of diseases associated with cognitive impairment. (7)
3- Blood Sugar Regulation
Several studies demonstrated Ashwagandha’s therapeutic activity in diabetic patients. (8)
In a study of 6 people with type 2 diabetes, researchers found that treatment of Ashwagandha supplements for 30 days lowered blood glucose as effectively as oral medications prescribed for diabetes. (9)
4- Muscles Enhancement
A study aimed to determine the tolerability and activity of Ashwagandha, showed that it reduced cholesterol and fat percentage, and increased strength in muscle activity. (10)
In another study, Ashwagandha showed a significant gain in muscle strength and size, in addition to a great reduction in body fat percentage. (11)
Safety And Side Effects
Ashwagandha is safe for most people except for pregnant and breastfeeding women. Also, it is not recommended for people with thyroid problems as it can increase thyroid hormone levels. As with all supplements, always consult your doctor first.
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(1)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 - PubMed (nih.gov)
(2)Naturopathic care for anxiety: a randomized controlled trial ISRCTN78958974 - PubMed (nih.gov)
(3)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 - PubMed (nih.gov)
(4)A double-blind, placebo-controlled evaluation of the anxiolytic efficacy ff an ethanolic extract of withania somnifera - PubMed (nih.gov)
(5)Effects of a standardized extract of Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha) on depression and anxiety symptoms in persons with schizophrenia participating in a randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial - PubMed (nih.gov)
(6)Frontiers | A Decade of Molecular Understanding of Withanolide Biosynthesis and In vitro Studies in Withania somnifera (L.) Dunal: Prospects and Perspectives for Pathway Engineering (frontiersin.org)
(7)Effect of standardized aqueous extract of Withania somnifera on tests of cognitive and psychomotor performance in healthy human participants - PubMed (nih.gov)
(8)Hypoglycemic activity of withanolides and elicitated Withania somnifera - PubMed (nih.gov)
(9)Hypoglycemic, diuretic and hypocholesterolemic effect of winter cherry (Withania somnifera, Dunal) root - PubMed (nih.gov)
(10)Effects of Withania somnifera in patients of schizophrenia: A randomized, double blind, placebo controlled pilot trial study - PMC (nih.gov)
(11)Exploratory study to evaluate tolerability, safety, and activity of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) in healthy volunteers - PubMed (nih.gov)