What Are The Health Benefits of Ashwagandha?
Popular in Ayurvedic and conventional medicine, ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb. It has been used for more than 2,500 years and has been studied a lot (used in more than 200 studies) for its ability to reduce inflammation, protect the nervous system, and control the thyroid.
It is also known as "Indian ginseng" and "winter cherry," in addition to its botanical name, Withania somnifera.
Native to India and Southeast Asia, the ashwagandha plant is a tiny shrub with yellow blooms. Extracts or powder derived from the plant's roots or leaves are used to treat various diseases, including anxiety and infertility issues. In fact, people have been taking ashwagandha for thousands of years to help them feel less stressed, have more energy, be more focused, and for other medical reasons.
This article talks about how ashwagandha has been used in the past, how much to take, and the scientific evidence for its health benefits.
Stress and Anxiety
Like that in 8th Wonder’s Sparkling Chai Tea, Ashwagandha is arguably most known for its stress-relieving properties. It is categorized as an adaptogen, a chemical that assists the body in dealing with stress. And there is scientific evidence to back up its stress- and anxiety-reducing claims.
In a 2019 human investigation, researchers discovered that a daily intake of 240 milligrams (mg) of ashwagandha considerably lowered stress levels compared to a placebo. This includes decreased levels of the stress hormone cortisol (1).
In another human study published in 2019, ingesting 250 mg or 600 mg of ashwagandha per day reduced self-reported stress levels, and researchers found that it also lowered their cortisol levels (2).
How does ashwagandha help with stress and anxiety? Ashwagandha seems to help control stress-related chemicals like heat shock proteins (Hsp70), cortisol, and stress-activated c-Jun N-terminal protein kinase (JNK-1)(3).
It also slows down the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which is a part of your body that controls how you react to stress(4,5).
And finally, a 2009 study published in PLOS One found that ashwagandha works just as well as the prescription drugs lorazepam and imipramine, but without any harmful side effects(6).
Seventy-five people with anxiety were split into a naturopathic treatment group and a regular psychotherapy intervention group for a 12-week controlled research study. Dietary advice, deep breathing exercises, relaxation techniques, a regular multivitamin, and 300 milligrams of ashwagandha twice daily were all part of the naturopathic care regimen.
Psychotherapy, deep breathing exercises, and placebo medications were all part of the daily routine for the intervention group.
After 12 weeks, those given ashwagandha reported a 55% reduction in anxiety, whereas those in the psychotherapy group reported a 30.5 percentage point reduction.
Furthermore, there were notable variations between the two groups in energy, weariness, vitality, and overall quality of life, with the ashwagandha group showing more extensive clinical advantages.
Researchers also reported that neither group saw any significant negative outcomes. Moreover, the fact that ashwagandha has little or no known side effects gives it an advantage over prescription antidepressants, often prescribed for anxiety and known to cause various adverse reactions.
Mental Health Conditions
Specific components in ashwagandha may have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects on the brain that may help improve overall cognitive function, and studies seem to support its mental benefits.
For example, according to a few small studies, ashwagandha considerably reduced participants' reaction times during cognitive and psychomotor tests, which gauged participants' capacity to follow directions and carry out specified actions(7).
Even participants' attention spans and their short- and long-term memory across a range of tests were found to be significantly improved by ashwagandha in one study (8).
In another study, researchers looked at the effects of ashwagandha on 66 people with schizophrenia who were experiencing depression and anxiety.
They found that participants who took 1,000 mg of ashwagandha extract daily for 12 weeks had more significant reductions in depression and anxiety than those who took a placebo(9).
A 2012 study also showed that people with stress who took 600 mg of ashwagandha extract every day for 60 days had a 77% drop in depressive symptoms, while the placebo group only had a 5% drop(10). So imagine what 8th Wonder’s Sparkling Chai Tea with Ashwagandha and several other superfoods can do for your mood!
Indeed, ashwagandha has been studied specifically for its potential as an antidepressant. In 2000, an experiment was done on rats to compare how well imipramine and ashwagandha treat depression. When researchers tested rats for "behavioral despair" and "learned helplessness," they found that ashwagandha had antidepressant effects similar to imipramine. (11)
So, researchers concluded that ashwagandha could be used as a mood stabilizer to treat clinical depression.
Underactive Thyroid (Hypothyroidism)
One of the most remarkable properties of adaptogenic herbs is their capacity to aid individuals with thyroid issues, and that’s undoubtedly true of ashwagandha. This miraculous herb has been shown to help people with Hashimoto's disease or an underactive thyroid.
Hypothyroidism is a common problem that affects almost 5 out of every 100 people in the United States who are 12 or older(11a). If your thyroid isn't working well, you may gain weight, feel tired, depressed, have a slower heart rate, have dry skin or hair, and much more.
In 2017, a pilot study was published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine that looked at how ashwagandha could help people with subclinical hypothyroidism. In this condition, there are no apparent symptoms of the disease. The treatment group took 600 milligrams of ashwagandha root extract every day for eight weeks, while the control group took a placebo. Researchers found that the levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and thyroxine (T4) in the blood were better in the treatment group(12).
It was decided that the herb may help people with hypothyroidism get their thyroid levels back to normal.
Many experts believe that most chronic diseases may be caused by long-lasting systemic inflammation. So, in theory, reducing or getting rid of this inflammation could fix many of the most painful and deadly diseases, and it appears that ashwagandha may help do that.
It turns out that ashwagandha contains chemicals with anti-inflammatory properties(13).
Withaferin A (WA), one of these substances, has been discovered to target signal molecules known as nuclear factor kappa B (NF-B) and nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 in the body (Nrf2).
Animal studies have revealed that WA may also help lower inflammatory protein levels, including interleukin-10 (IL-10)(14).
As an adaptogen that reduces the body's stress hormones, ashwagandha can enhance the immune system and reduce inflammation. In addition, research on animals and in the laboratory indicates that it can boost immune function by enhancing immunoglobulin synthesis(15).
In addition, it suppresses pro-inflammatory cytokines to foster an anti-inflammatory environment. By downregulating a compromised immune system, this adaptogenic herb may be effective for treating various inflammatory illnesses.
Insomnia is a common sleep disorder that can severely affect a person's physical and mental health. Unfortunately, most pharmaceutical sleep aids can cause adverse effects, including drug dependency.
Ashwagandha may be the answer insomniacs have been looking for. This adaptogenic herb is commonly used to encourage sound sleep, and some research indicates it may be effective for other sleep-related problems.
For instance, a study of 50 adults aged 65 to 80 revealed that taking 600 mg of ashwagandha root daily for 12 weeks greatly enhanced the quality of their sleep and their mental alertness when they awoke(16).
In a 2019 double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study on the use of ashwagandha in patients with insomnia and anxiety, researchers concluded:
“Ashwagandha extract is a natural compound with sleep-inducing potential that is well tolerated and improves sleep quality and sleep onset latency in patients with insomnia at a dose of 300 mg extract twice daily. It could be a potential candidate for treating insomnia and anxiety(17).”
Another study showed that ashwagandha lowered people's anxiety levels and made them feel more alert upon waking. The researchers observed that the effects were more pronounced in individuals with insomnia and those who took more than 600 mg daily for at least eight weeks. (18)
Research shows that ashwagandha may help fight tumors, can help stop tumor cells from multiplying, and may stop cancer cells from growing (19).
The extract has been shown to stop cancer cells from multiplying, especially breast, lung, stomach, and colon cancer cells, which are some of the most common kinds of cancer. It is believed that ashwagandha inhibits the proliferation of cancer cells due mainly to its immune-enhancing and antioxidant properties.
Several trials have shown that ashwagandha can help fight cancer. Researchers also think that the herb may help prevent the unpleasant side effects of anti-cancer drugs, which can hurt the immune system and quality of life.
According to a review published in the African Journal of Traditional, Complementary, and Alternative Medicines, ashwagandha functions as an immunomodulator that can increase the life expectancy of cancer patients, who are mainly at risk of having a weakened immune system (20).
In an animal study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, taking ashwagandha was linked to a rise in the number of white blood cells in the body. This implies that this herb enhances the immune system's ability to protect the body from sickness and hazardous invaders (21).
The decreasing number of white blood cells in the body following chemotherapy is a significant cause for concern since it places cancer patients at a much-increased risk of developing health problems, such as infection. This is why this herb may function as an adjunct to standard cancer treatments.
Where to Buy Ashwagandha
Supplements containing ashwagandha can be conveniently purchased online or at a health food store. The herb is available in pill, powder, and liquid extract forms.
The root extract is the most well-known form of the herb, but the leaf extract is also readily accessible. Ashwagandha tea or capsules can also be found in stores or ordered online. (Check out 8th Wonder’s Chai Tea with Ashwagandha, as it packs a potent one-two punch for stress relief, relaxation, and health.)
Recommended Dosage Amount
Like other herbs and supplements, ashwagandha is not FDA-approved. So, there is no recommended dosage amount. However, research indicates that certain dosages are effective for specific issues.
For example, according to some research, ingesting 250–600 mg per day helps alleviate stress. Although there is no consensus on how much ashwagandha to take, many sources suggest beginning with 300–500 mg daily and building up to 1,000–1,500 milligrams. But, again, you might want to experiment with various dosages to see which ones work for your specific issue.
Small-to moderate-sized doses of ashwagandha are generally well tolerated. However, there is insufficient long-term research to evaluate the potential adverse effects in detail.
Ashwagandha can cause digestive distress, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting when consumed in excessive quantities. This could be the result of intestinal mucosal inflammation.
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