Ashwagandha Benefits

Ashwagandha, or Withania somnifera, is an herb native to Asia and Africa. Also called “Indian ginseng,” it’s been used in traditional Indian Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years to ease pain and inflammation, treat insomnia, and boost nutrition, along with other conditions.

Ashwagandha is also considered an adaptogen. That means it helps your body better manage stress. Much of the research on ashwagandha’s benefits has been done on animals, so experts can’t say for sure how well it works. But here are some things this herbal supplement might help with.

Stress and Anxiety

There are a few human studies on its stress-relieving properties. A review of five studies found the supplement helped lower stress levels. One study showed adults who took 300 milligrams of ashwagandha daily for 8 weeks had lower levels of anxiety and fatigue. They also had an easier time concentrating than adults who did psychotherapy, or talk therapy, for the same amount of time. In another study, adults who took 300 milligrams of ashwagandha daily for 8 weeks had less stress and fewer stress-related food cravings than adults who took a placebo (fake pill) instead.

Cancer

Several studies have shown ashwagandha has compounds that may help fight certain types of cancer. Researchers aren’t sure how, but extracts in the herb seem to limit the activity of cancer cells in breast, colon, prostate, ovarian, lung, and brain cancers. It does the same for thyroid, gastrointestinal, cervix, and skin (melanoma) cancers. Ashwagandha is considered safe to use with traditional cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation. Experts say it may ease some side effects, like a weak immune system. But most of these studies have been done on cancer cells or animals with cancer.

Neurodegenerative Diseases

Studies show ashwagandha can slow, stop, and possibly reverse certain types of nerve cell damage. That’s what leads to diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s. Still, almost all of the studies on ashwagandha and nerve cell damage in the brain have been done on animals or animal cells.

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Arthritis

One study found ashwagandha eased arthritis-related symptoms like pain and joint swelling in people with rheumatoid arthritis. Animal studies have shown it may soothe inflammation.

Exercise Performance

Another study found healthy young adults who took 500 milligrams of ashwagandha daily for 8 weeks had more speed and strength during exercise than people who took a placebo. They also breathed better, taking in more oxygen.

Male Infertility

One small study found infertile men who took 5 grams ofashwagandha daily for 90 days had a higher sperm count. The health of their sperm improved, too.

Sleep

One study in humans showed taking 300 milligrams of the herb two times a day improved sleep. Another study on animals found that the triethylene glycol in ashwagandha is what brings sleep on. But more research is needed.

Before You Take Ashwagandha

Talk to your doctor before taking any herbal supplement. They could cause problems with other medications you’re taking. And they may not be safe if you’re pregnant or have certain health conditions.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD on March 17, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

African Journal of Traditional, Complimentary, and Alternative Medicine: “An Overview on Ashwagandha: A Rasayana (Rejuvenator) of Ayurveda.”

PLoS One: “Naturopathic care for anxiety: a randomized controlled trial,” “Triethylene glycol, an active component of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) leaves, is responsible for sleep induction.”

Mayo Clinic: “Herbal supplements: What to know before you buy.”

Journal of Complementary and Integrative Medicine: “Effect of Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha) root extract on amelioration of oxidative stress and autoantibodies production in collagen-induced arthritic rats.”

Indian Journal of Medical Research: “Efficacy & safety evaluation of Ayurvedic treatment (Ashwagandha powder & Sidh Makardhwaj) in rheumatoid arthritis patients: a pilot prospective study.”

Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine: “An Alternative Treatment for Anxiety: A Systematic Review of Human Trial Results Reported for the Ayurvedic Herb Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera).”

Andrologia: “Comparative evaluation of the effects of Withania somnifera with pentoxifylline on the sperm parameters in idiopathic male infertility: A triple-blind randomised clinical trial.”

Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine: “Body Weight Management in Adults Under Chronic Stress Through Treatment With Ashwagandha Root Extract: A Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial.”

The Cureus Journal of Medicine: “Adaptogenic and Anxiolytic Effects of Ashwagandha Root Extract in Healthy Adults: A Double-blind, Randomized, Placebo-controlled Clinical Study,” “Efficacy and Safety of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) Root Extract in Insomnia and Anxiety: A Double-blind, Randomized, Placebo-controlled Study.”

FDA: “Questions and Answers on Dietary Supplements.”

International Journal of Ayurveda Research: “Effects of Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha) and Terminalia arjuna (Arjuna) on physical performance and cardiorespiratory endurance in healthy young adults.”

The University of Texas at El Paso: “Herbal safety.”

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