Ashwagandha, also known as Indian Ginseng, has a long history of use in traditional and ayurvedic medicine.1 Known as an adaptogen, or herb that can have health impacts, ashwagandha is native to India, North Africa, and the Middle East. Although it has been used for thousands of years, it’s recently risen to mainstream popularity due to the science behind its many benefits.
So let’s dive in and find out exactly what this supplement actually does.
What are the benefits of ashwagandha?
As an ancient medicinal herb, ashwagandha has many benefits…
1. Ashwagandha can help with stress
A study done over a two-month period compared stress levels in groups who used ashwagandha supplements and those who did not.2 The study found significantly lower stress in the group who took this supplement regularly.
2. Ashwagandha can improve thyroid health
Research has shown a benefit to thyroid function in individuals whose levels were classified as nonclinical hypothyroidism.3 This is an important finding because treatment of this condition can prevent low thyroid function from progressing to more serious health outcomes.3
3. Ashwagandha may benefit weight loss
Along with improving stress levels, ashwagandha is also linked with lower cortisol levels.1 Cortisol is known as the “stress hormone” and is commonly high in individuals who are struggling to lose weight.
Lowering cortisol in addition to supporting thyroid function may work together to help with weight loss.
4. Ashwagandha use can lead to reduced body fat
Research done in healthy adults who supplemented this regularly showed reductions in body fat percentage over a 30-day period.4
Although longer term studies are needed in a larger subject grouping, this is a promising trend that could support improved body composition.
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5. Ashwagandha may support healthy cholesterol levels
The same study that showed a reduction in body fat percentage also found reduced overall cholesterol and LDL (or “bad”) cholesterol.4 Healthy cholesterol levels are important for circulation and heart health to prevent disease.
6. Ashwagandha can benefit strength and recovery time
An 8-week trial in healthy volunteers showed improved strength after taking this medicinal herb consistently as part of their strength training program.5
This trial also showed other promising benefits like less muscle damage (which translates to shorter recovery time) and increased testosterone levels (which can help with bulking).5
7. Ashwagandha may improve attention and memory
Keeping our brains healthy and well trained is as important as keeping our muscles healthy and trained. Ashwagandha was shown to improve overall memory and attention span in research done on its cognitive effects.6 This can be helpful when you need to focus on a difficult task at hand.
8. Ashwagandha may play a role in fighting other deadly diseases
Studies have shown that the active chemicals in this herbal supplement can help to fight inflammation and cardiovascular disorders that can lead to serious health issues.1
While more research needs to be done in this area, there are many potential benefits to reducing inflammation and blood vessel damage. A reduction in inflammation can also help with treatment of pain from things like arthritis.
Ashwagandha Side Effects
While many of the studies did not report negative side effects from small or medium doses, it is not well known how it may affect other medications. It’s possible that very large doses could lead to negative side effects like stomach upset or liver damage.2
However at the moment research suggests the benefits of ashwagandha outweigh the known side effects.
Always consult your GP before taking a new supplement.
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Take Home Message
While some cultures have used ashwagandha as a medicinal herb for years, the new, clinical research is promising. While studies have shown a number of positive performance and health benefits of this supplement, more research is needed to understand exactly how it works and how to take advantage of its most effective uses.