Ashwagandha is an ancient medicinal herb that is classified as an adaptogen, meaning it can help the body manage stress and has been around for over 3,000 years to treat a variety of conditions. Ashwagandha can help reduce stress and anxiety, help fight depression, boost fertility and testosterone levels in men, and certain studies even suggest ashwagandha can help boost brainpower. Here are 8 amazing benefits of supplementing with ashwagandha that is supported by science-backed research.
Ashwagandha has been around for over 3,000 years and is one of the most essential herbs in Ayurveda which is an alternative form of medicine based on Indian principles of natural healing. The Ashwagandha plant is a small shrub with yellow flowers that is native to North Africa and India.
Ashwagandha is classified as an adaptogen, meaning it can effectively help the body manage stress. In a recent prospective, randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study of safety and efficacy of a high-concentration full-spectrum extract of ashwagandha root powder concluded, "a high-concentration full-spectrum Ashwagandha root extract safely and effectively improves an individual's resistance towards stress and thereby improves self-assessed quality of life." In a separate 60-day study that included "64 people with chronic stress, those in the group that supplemented with ashwagandha reported a 69% reduction in anxiety and insomnia (on average) compared with 11% in the placebo group." Ashwagandha is one of the most widely used and research-backed ingredients for effectively helping reduce anxiety levels.
Numerous scientific studies have shown that ashwagandha can help reduce cortisol (stress hormone) levels safely and effectively. Due to the high-stress environment that many of us live in today, cortisol levels may become chronically elevated, which can not only lead to high blood sugar levels but also increased fat storage in the abdomen. Ashwagandha has been shown to reduce cortisol levels in chronically stressed adults.
If left untreated chronically elevated cortisol levels can lead to:
Ashwagandha does show promise in the ability to reduce depression in certain individuals. For example, in a controlled 60-day study that included 64 stressed adults, those who took 600 mg of high-concentration ashwagandha root extract each day reported a 79% reduction in severe depression whereas the placebo group reported a 10% increase. This is one of the many reasons that ashwagandha is present in our daily fast-acting Thought Calmer™.
Ashwagandha has been shown to increase natural killer cell activity and decrease markers of inflammation. Killer cells provide rapid responses to virus-infected cells and act around 3 days after infection and also respond to tumor formation. A controlled study that was conducted in India with healthy volunteers aged 55 and older found that ashwagandha increases the activity of natural killer cells that fight off infection and help keep you healthy. Ashwagandha has also shown the ability to decrease C-reactive protein (CRP), which is a marker of inflammation and is linked to an increased risk of heart disease. A controlled study that had the group take 250 mg of standardized ashwagandha daily saw a 36% decrease in CRP compared with a 6% decrease in the placebo group. Overall, Ashwagandha has displayed a remarkable ability to help reduce inflammation throughout the body.
Research shows that ashwagandha promotes antioxidant activity the brain that protects nerve cells from harmful free radicals. Free radicals are unstable atoms that can damage cells, resulting in illness and aging. A controlled study that included healthy middle-aged men who took 500 mg of standardized ashwagandha extract daily reported significant improvements in their reaction time and task performance when compared to those who received a placebo.
In a separate prospective, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study that included 50 adult Americans who were either treated with ashwagandha root extract ( 300 mg twice daily) or a placebo for eight weeks found significant memory, task performance, and attention improvement in those who received ashwagandha root extract twice daily. The overall conclusion of the study was, "ashwagandha supplements may improve brain function, memory, reaction time, and the ability to perform tasks."
Withaferin—a compound in ashwagandha helps induce apoptosis (programmed death of cancer cells) and is believed to promote the formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) inside cancer cells thus disputing their function. Test-tube and animal studies suggest that ashwagandha may effectively help treat several types of cancer including breast, lung, colon, brain, and ovarian cancer. Although this may not be the "main" reason people supplement with ashwagandha it is certainly an added benefit.
Ashwagandha has shown a powerful ability to increase testosterone levels and boost sperm quality and fertility in men. In a study that included 75 infertile men, the group of men that was treated with ashwagandha displayed increased sperm count and motility.
Ashwagandha contains many compounds that help balance the body's physiology. The most researched phytochemicals in ashwagandha are its alkaloids and lactones which are thought to function as hormonal precursors. Ashwagandha is seen as adaptogenic, meaning it can help the body manage stress and will increase in effect when activity is low but will block excess stimulation when activity is too high. This makes ashwagandha an excellent option for those who struggle with anxiety and the wild hormonal variations that are so frequent with it.
Ashwagandha can help individuals increase muscle size and strength while simultaneously reducing body fat percentage. In addition, ashwagandha may also help reduce the risk of heart disease by decreasing cholesterol and triglyceride levels. There are numerous scientific studies that support these findings.
An 8-week, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial that included 57 young men with limited experience in weight training were randomly divided into treatment subjects (29) and placebo subjects (28). Those in the treatment group consumed 300 mg of ashwagandha root extract twice daily, while those in the control group consumed a look-alike placebo.
After the baseline measurements were complete both groups participated in weight-training for 8 weeks and measurements were at the end of week 8. The results found that compared to the placebo subjects, the group that supplemented with ashwagandha had significantly greater increases in muscle strength on the bench-press exercise and the leg-extension exercise while simultaneously significantly increasing strength in the arms.
This study, although only one of many, concluded that, "ashwagandha supplementation is associated with significant increases in muscle strength as well as muscle mass." Therefore, it can be concluded that ashwagandha supplementation may be useful in conjunction with a resistance training program.
As mentioned briefly above, ashwagandha has shown the ability to help individuals increase muscle size and strength while reducing body fat percentage. A placebo-controlled study examining the effect of Withania somnifera (ashwagandha) supplementation on muscle strength and recovery concluded, "ashwagandha supplementation is associated with significant increases in muscle mass and strength" and suggests, "Withania somnifera may, therefore, be useful for general weakness and to improve speed and lower limb muscular strength and neuro-muscular co-ordination."
Ashwagandha may help improve heart health by reducing cholesterol and triglyceride levels and improving blood flow. In a 60-day double-blind, placebo-controlled study conducted at the Central Research Institute in chronically stressed adults, aged 18-60 found that those who took the highest dosage of ashwagandha extract experienced a 17% reduction in LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. Furthermore, they also noticed an 11% decrease in triglycerides.
Ashwagandha is safe and widely accessible in health shops, supplement stores, and the Fitore Nutrition Thought Calmer™. Those who are pregnant, on thyroid medication or breast-feeding mothers should consult with their medical professional before starting an ashwagandha supplement regimen.
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