lifestyle

The Health Benefits of Ashwagandha: Adaptogenic Hero

Diana Morgan

Medically reviewed by

Diana Morgan

12 min read

Ashwagandha has been cultivated and used in ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years, and now grows all over the world.

The name Ashwagandha roughly translates to ‘horse smell’ in sanskrit. Not the most appealing epithet, perhaps, but this unassuming shrub touts an impressive list of benefits from stress relief to energy support.

The ashwagandha plant itself is small and short, with velvety leaves and bell flowers that contain orange fruits, similar in appearance to a tomato; the plant also goes by “Indian ginseng” and “Indian winter cherry”.

Native to India, the Middle East, and North Africa, ashwagandha has been cultivated and used in ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years, and now grows all over the world. It can be purchased in almost any health food store or supplement aisle, usually among other herbs referred to as adaptogens.

What is an adaptogen?

To be considered adaptogenic, herbs have to meet three specific criteria:

  • Be non-toxic to the body
  • Reduce and regulate stress by helping the body adapt to it
  • Restore normal physiological function

These qualifications were developed by Russian scientist N.V. Lazarez, who studied plants that help the body adjust to stress. Lazarez is best known for discovering other adaptogens, like Siberian ginseng, and teaching research scientist Israel Brekhman, who would build a 45 year career around studying adaptogenic plants.

What are the health benefits of ashwagandha?

In Ayurveda, ashwagandha is classified as a “Rasayana”, or tonic: used for whole body rejuvenation. Rasayanas help promote a youthful state of physical and mental health and are said to enhance happiness. Among the Ayurvedic Rasayana herbs, ashwagandha holds the most prominent place.

The traditional health uses of ashwagandha are so numerous it can be a lot to process! Here are some of the ways ashwagandha has been used in Ayurvedic medicine, according to a comprehensive overview of the herb in the international journal, African Journal of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicines:

  • Digestive health
  • Sleep health
  • Immune support
  • Eye health
  • Endurance
  • Stress
  • Cognitive health
  • Energy

Today, researchers are exploring ashwagandha supplementation more than ever before, investigating new ways this small herb can impact the body.

Ashwagandha for stress

Nearly everyone experiences stress from time to time. Stress is often tied to everyday mental demands such as work and family responsibilities. According to the Mayo Clinic, common effects of stress can include fatigue, muscle tension, changes in libido, digestive concerns, and problems with naturally falling asleep. While occasional stress is normal, many seek ways to manage and reduce excessive stress in their lives.

Adaptogens are herbs that have been found to help the body adapt and adjust to stress, and stress reduction is still one of ashwagandha’s best known applications.

Supplementing with ashwagandha may help combat occasional stress as clinical trials demonstrate the herb’s effectiveness in reducing perceived stress compared to placebo. These same studies demonstrate that ashwagandha has been shown to reduce cortisol, or stress hormone levels, and boost resistance against stress.

Ashwagandha for cognitive function

Daily stressors often can slow us down and lead to a loss of focus and productivity. Enter ashwagandha. Ashwagandha has long been used in Ayurvedic medicine to help support improved memory and cognition. In fact, a recent study found participants who took a concentrated ashwagandha extract for eight weeks experienced improved immediate short-term ability to focus and information processing speeds.

Ashwagandha for sexual wellness

Stress has a habit of invading other areas of our lives, and unfortunately the bedroom is no exception. Stress can lead to irritability and frustration, which, combined can lower your sex drive.

Ashwagandha has long been used as an aphrodisiac and to support sexual wellness for both men and women. Because of this long traditional use, scientists continue to study the adaptogenic herb to get a better understanding of how it can promote a healthy sex life.

In a recent study of women experiencing sexual challenges, ashwagandha was found to improve sexual function. The benefit was wide-ranging, and impacted libido, arousal, lubrication, orgasm, and overall satisfaction with sex.

But the benefits of this tonifying herb aren’t limited to sexual wellness in women. Men might also benefit from incorporating ashwagandha into their sexual wellness regimen. Recent research has shown initial promise in men taking ashwagandha for enhancing testosterone levels and sperm count and quality. Its soothing effects on stress are also likely a contributing factor, according to further research.

Ashwagandha for muscle strength & recovery

It might surprise you to hear that stress plays an important role in your fitness routine. When you workout, your body responds and adapts to new stress by repairing and strengthening it. Resistance training (weight lifting) is a great example of cause/effect stress on your muscles, which can result in lean muscle tone and increased strength. It turns out that ashwagandha may help with occasional fitness-related stress as well—with compelling results.

In one recent study, healthy men who worked out for 8 weeks while supplementing with 600mg of ashwagandha extract daily experienced significantly greater increases in muscle strength as evidenced by bench press and leg extension exercises. Even more impressive, those who took ashwagandha also had a significant reduction in exercise induced muscle damage. Ashwagandha helped propel the participants to gains in strength and better recovery.

Ashwagandha for stamina & endurance

Turns out if you’re more of an avid cycler than a weight lifter, ashwagandha might be an excellent exercise partner. The International Quarterly Journal of Research in Ayurveda recently published a compelling study showing that ashwagandha can support healthy adults who prefer cardio for their workout.

In the study, healthy athletic adults were asked to take a concentrated ashwagandha extract for 12 weeks and were then measured by a running exercise. The results? Those in the ashwagandha group experienced gains in cardiorespiratory endurance and improved overall quality of life (measured by a survey on how the athletes were feeling).

Ashwagandha for satiety & weight management

Stress and overeating go hand in hand, but stress eating can go a long way to disrupt your weight management and fitness goals quickly if it’s not kept in check. Research has shown that ashwagandha may help lessen those cravings.

A recent study found that ashwagandha helped significantly reduce stress as has been shown in other clinical trials. What made this trial different, however, was that it also looked at markers around stress eating, including food cravings. After 8 weeks, participants taking ashwagandha showed significant improvement in perceived stress and food cravings. And as an added bonus: the group who took ashwagandha shared that they were happier after 8 weeks than their placebo counterparts.

Ashwagandha for immune health

When it comes to immune health, ashwagandha is well known in Ayurvedic tradition to be one of the most potent supporters. In fact, the University of Michigan Medicine notes that ashwagandha has immune enhancing effects, and helps support the body’s natural defense mechanisms. To understand the mechanism of action here, one animal study found that ashwagandha strengthened the immune system of mice after researchers detected an increase in the rodents’ white blood cells.

Ashwagandha for reproductive health

Stress is known to have a negative impact on fertility, which in turn, can heighten worries and doubts around conception and pregnancy. But finding ways to manage stress may help alleviate reproductive health woes. Because ashwagandha is an adaptogen, it is an ideal herb for assisting in stress response and relief from the persistent worries that may accompany and complicate the path to conceiving. Emerging research also suggests that men can also nourish their reproductive hormones and functions with ashwagandha. One recent study found that ashwagandha’s therapeutic properties supported male semen parameters and serum hormone levels.

Ashwagandha for sleep

Turns out ashwagandha’s Latin name provides some insights into one of its many benefits. The Latin name used for classifying this plant is Withania somnifera—the species name somnifera translates directly to “sleep-inducing.”

While ashwagandha has been traditionally used to help promote healthy sleep for centuries, modern research has scientifically confirmed this benefit. In fact, a review of five clinical trials found the herb had a significant effect on overall sleep and helped promote mental alertness and healthy stress levels upon waking.

Other questions about ashwagandha

Which ashwagandha should I take?

If you are going to take an herbal supplement, you want one that is manufactured with the utmost care, quality and potency. Care/of ashwagandha is sustainably grown in India and produced using a gentle extraction method that yields the highest concentration available to nourish your body.

Our ashwagandha is organic, vegan, and non-GMO. Extracted from the plant’s root, only the healthiest roots that are solid, bright and of the proper mature size are used.

The active constituents in the roots are gently extracted with water instead of harsh solvents or chemicals. This respectful extraction method is the result of over a decade of research and development and delivers a highly concentrated extract. The powder is then dried, analyzed, and shipped to the United States where it is tested and encapsulated.

Care/of ashwagandha delivers a pure supplement that you can trust, made with minimal ingredients. In our ashwagandha capsules, you will find the following ingredients: ashwagandha extract, organic brown rice flour, capsule (hypromellose) and organic rice hull concentrate.

What are the benefits of ashwagandha for men?

Ashwagandha is very beneficial to men and an easy way to consume powerful, plant-based nutrients. As previously outlined above, the benefits of ashwagandha for men are numerous and include:

  • Better adaptation to stress
  • Potentially reduced cortisol levels
  • Improved cognitive function
  • Heart health support
  • Sexual function support
  • Sperm health support
  • Body weight management

Does ashwagandha increase a man’s height?

A common question about ashwagandha for men is if it increases a man’s height.

Because of its many health and wellness benefits, ashwagandha has a bit of a legendary reputation. Although it is touted as a tonic that improves the quality of life in Ayurveda, it does not have the ability to increase someone’s height.

What are the benefits of ashwagandha for women?

In addition to helping the body adapt to stress, ashwagandha has many benefits for women including gentle hormone balancing and reproductive support. It also assists with improving mood and supporting cognitive function.

Does ashwagandha cause weight gain?

One question women commonly ask is whether ashwagandha will cause you to gain weight. Good news, research demonstrates that the opposite is actually true. Ashwagandha’s calming properties may help reduce food cravings that are brought on by stress. A clinical study in the Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine showed that people taking ashwagandha showed reductions in scores on the Food Cravings Questionnaire. The research further recommends that ashwagandha is effective for body weight management in adults.

Does ashwagandha have side effects?

One of the main characteristics of adaptogenic herbs is that they do not harm your body. But with the wide range of benefits offered by this powerful herb, it can produce a few minor side effects for some people who take the supplement for the first time.

Consumer Lab reports the most common side effects in studies reported as headache, sleepiness, and stomach upset. They also note that ashwagandha may potentially lower blood pressure and blood sugar, and increase thyroid hormone levels. That is why it is important to discuss taking new supplements with a licensed medical practitioner or your physician.

Can ashwagandha be taken on an empty stomach?

Ashwagandha can be taken on an empty stomach and some people find that it works better that way. It can also be paired with a small snack if you are concerned about digestive discomfort.

How long does it take for ashwagandha to start working?

How quickly supplements begin to work in the body greatly depends on other factors in your life. Supplements can help to nourish your body, especially in conjunction with other healthy habits. But in addition to supplements, it is essential to eat a balanced diet and get regular exercise in order for your body to receive the herbal benefits that nature has to offer.

When used in conjunction with a healthy lifestyle, ashwagandha can begin to positively impact the body within two weeks. However, depending on your individual health, it may take a few months to experience or even notice big changes.

The quality of your ashwagandha supplement is what will make the biggest difference. That means a high-concentration, full-spectrum extract will have the most significant impact in your body. A clinically relevant dose backed by modern research is also recommended to improve your experience with ashwagandha. Additionally, continued daily intake is important to allow your body to fully utilize ashwagandha and experience its benefits.

Start taking ashwagandha today

At Care/of, we believe in the power of ashwagandha and all that it has to offer. That’s why we go through great care to deliver the most potent and carefully extracted ashwagandha supplement on the planet. Our ashwagandha is suitable for vegans and vegetarians, and you can feel good about our supplement’s purity and high-quality ingredients. After reading about the many benefits of ashwagandha, why not give it a try?

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