Ashwagandha, pronounced how it’s spelled (ash-wa-gand-ha), is an ancient herb that has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine. Ashwagandha is an adaptogen.
Adaptogens are non-toxic plants that help the body resist stressors. In this case, adaption occurs by increasing resistance to stress and restoring balance to the body without affecting the stability of one specific organ or system.
6 Potential Benefits of Ashwagandha
- Improves Strength
- Reduces Anxiety
- Combats Stress
- Boosts Libido
- Increases Energy
- Improves Athletic Performance
Increased Energy Levels
Ayurvedic medicine regards ashwagandha as a potent aphrodisiac with the ability to prolong life and rejuvenate the body. Ashwagandha is an energy-enhancing tonic said to promote blood, lymph, semen, and cell production to enhance youthful vigor.
Preliminary studies also suggest that ashwagandha can be beneficial for reducing fatigue when taken before exercise.
Improved Strength and Performance
Research shows that ashwagandha may help to improve body composition and increase strength. An 8-week study published by the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition examined the effect of ashwagandha supplementation on muscle mass and strength in healthy young men who engaged in resistance training.
The study measured muscle strength, muscle size, body composition, serum testosterone, and muscle recovery rates (using creatine kinase as a marker). The study found that the group of men who took ashwagandha experienced significant strength improvements on bench-press and leg-extension exercises.
The men also experienced greater muscle growth in their arms and chests compared to the group of men who didn’t take ashwagandha. The researchers noted that participants who took ashwagandha experienced less exercise-induced muscle damage, as indicated by creatine kinase levels, and exhibited higher testosterone levels.
Another study published in the International Journal of Ayurveda Research looked at the effects of ashwagandha in healthy young adults. Results showed that after taking ashwagandha for 8-weeks, the participants’ maximum oxygen consumption increased, as well as their absolute power, and average relative power.
Anxiety and Stress Reduction
One of the main biochemical markers of stress is cortisol. People tend to exhibit higher cortisol levels in the morning, with cortisol levels steadily declining throughout the day to allow for sleep at night.
One 60-day study, published in the Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine, examined the impact of ashwagandha root extract on stress levels. The study found that participants who took ashwagandha experienced a significant decrease in stress on all stress assessment scales and a substantial reduction in cortisol levels.
Research in both animal and human studies also confirms that ashwagandha has potent anti-stress, cortisol lowering, and antioxidant properties. A study by McMaster University administered 300 mg of ashwagandha extract to people with moderate to severe anxiety. At the end of the 8-week study, participants reported a decrease in anxiety by as much as 56 percent.
Safety and Side Effects
People who take prescription medications should seek guidance from a medical professional before supplementing with ashwagandha. As ashwagandha can, in some cases, cause thyroid hormone levels to increase, and blood pressure problems. For most healthy people, however, ashwagandha is safe with no side effects.
Research shows that 600 mg of ashwagandha root extract per day, taken in two 300 mg doses, is beneficial for improving athletic performance. Alternatively, you can take a full dose of ashwagandha 30-60 minutes before activity and still experience benefits.
One study published in the Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine found that 40 elite cyclists experienced improvements in athletic performance by taking two 500 mg doses of ashwagandha over 8-weeks.
As ashwagandha root extract is more potent than pure ashwagandha root or leaf powder, a lower dose of ashwagandha root extract (450–500 mg) is required.
Effectiveness of Ashwagandha
Studies show that ashwagandha has a positive effect on energy levels. Whether you take ashwagandha to improve athletic performance, reduce your cortisol levels and stress, or enhance your general well-being, ashwagandha offers promising results.