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Learn | 01.31.2024

What Is Ashwagandha? Benefits, Effects, And Safety

A timeless herb that transcends mere health fads, anchoring itself firmly in centuries of tradition.

Celebrated for its myriad benefits, ashwagandha is swiftly capturing the hearts of wellness enthusiasts around the globe. But what sets ashwagandha apart in the vast world of natural remedies?

Rooted in the ancient wisdom of Ayurvedic medicine and now embraced by modern science, ashwagandha offers a fascinating blend of historical richness and scientifically-backed benefits.

We invite you on a journey to uncover the secrets of ashwagandha, delving into its storied past, exploring its myriad health benefits, and understanding why it’s becoming a staple in the realm of natural health and wellness.

What Is Ashwagandha?

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Ashwagandha, known in the scientific community as Withania somnifera, is a revered plant in the realm of natural wellness, often called “Indian ginseng” or “winter cherry.” This versatile herb is a popular component in herbal teas, powders, and supplements and is also valued in its natural, unprocessed form.

Hailing from the adaptogen family, ashwagandha is a powerhouse bolstering the body’s resilience. Whether facing physical, chemical, or biological stressors, it enhances overall health and well-being, making it a guardian of our body’s natural equilibrium.

Flourishing in India and Southeast Asia’s rich, varied climates, ashwagandha is easily recognizable by its striking yellow flowers and sturdy demeanor. 

The History Of Ashwagandha

The story of ashwagandha begins in the ancient lands of India, where it was revered as a symbol of complete well-being, weaving together the harmony of mind, body, and spirit. The herb’s Sanskrit name, ‘ashwagandha,’ translates to “smell of the horse,” symbolizing the vigor and strength it is believed to bestow upon its users.

For thousands of years, ashwagandha has been an essential part of Ayurveda, the natural healing tradition based in India. This enduring legacy within traditional medicine underscores its potent effectiveness and esteemed stature. Celebrated for its ability to adapt to the body’s needs, ashwagandha has been a cornerstone in addressing various health challenges, offering a comprehensive approach to wellness.

With the advent of global trade and cultural exchanges, the acclaim of ashwagandha transcended Indian borders, piquing interest in scientific and wellness circles worldwide. The recent surge in popularity has sparked extensive research, lending scientific credence to its long-celebrated health benefits.

In today’s health-conscious era, ashwagandha is a dynamic and powerful natural remedy, garnering respect in traditional and modern medicinal spheres. Its evolution from an age-old healing herb to a contemporary health essential underscores its lasting significance and burgeoning role in international healthcare.

5 Main Ashwagandha Benefits

Thanks to its adaptogenic properties, Ashwagandha has a reputation as a stress-buster. Research highlights its effectiveness: a 2019 study showed that participants taking up to 600mg of ashwagandha extract daily for 8 weeks experienced significantly reduced stress and cortisol levels compared to those on a placebo. 

A review of various human trials using ashwagandha for stress and anxiety also reported that participants taking ashwagandha felt noticeably less stressed and anxious compared to placebo groups, further cementing its role as a natural aid for stress and anxiety relief.

In a notable study involving COVID-19 patients, a medication containing 0.5 grams of ashwagandha and other herbs was administered twice daily for a week. The results were promising, showing a significant reduction in inflammation markers among participants compared to those who received a placebo.

Further highlighting its potential, another study focused on human skin cells. Researchers applied an ashwagandha paste derived from a hot water extract of boiled leaves and roots of the plant and observed its effects. The findings suggested that this paste could protect against skin inflammation.

A 2020 analysis of 24 research papers, encompassing five clinical trials involving diabetic patients, revealed that ashwagandha treatments notably reduced blood sugar levels. 

The studies point to a specific compound in ashwagandha, known as withaferin A (WA), which possesses potent anti-diabetic properties. Believed to facilitate the movement of glucose from the bloodstream into the cells, WA can help stabilize blood glucose levels.

In a 2017 groundbreaking study, 50 adults with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) were split into two groups. Participants were divided into two groups, with one group receiving ashwagandha root extract twice daily at a dose of 300 mg, and the other group receiving a placebo. After eight weeks, those treated with ashwagandha showed remarkable improvements in executive function, attention, and information-processing speed. 

The study’s findings suggest that ashwagandha could be a promising immediate treatment option for individuals diagnosed with MCI.

Ashwagandha is gaining popularity as a natural aid for better sleep. A 2020 study on adults aged 65 to 80 gave 600mg of ashwagandha root extract daily for 12 weeks. The results were notable – they experienced significant improvements in both sleep quality and mental alertness, outperforming those who received a placebo.

A detailed review of various studies investigated ashwagandha’s role in enhancing sleep. The consensus was clear: ashwagandha extract has a beneficial effect on adult sleep quality. However, it’s essential to proceed with caution. The research into the extract’s potential side effects is still in the early stages. More comprehensive safety studies are essential before ashwagandha can be universally recommended as a nightly sleep aid.

Ashwagandha Dosing And Effects

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Unlocking the full potential of ashwagandha hinges on finding the ideal dosage tailored to your specific health goals. Let’s dive into the recommended dosages as per the latest research insights:

Muscle Strength and Sleep Quality

Looking to amp up your muscle strength and vitality or enjoy a restful night? Aim for a daily intake of 600-1,000 mg of ashwagandha, split across several daily doses.

Standard Dosing Approach

A frequently followed dosing routine involves consuming 600 mg of ashwagandha daily, split into two separate doses. One dose is typically taken in the morning with breakfast and the other in the evening.

General Health Benefits

For overall health benefits, most studies suggest a dosage range of 250–500 mg per day, maintained for at least a month. These doses have been linked to various positive health outcomes previously mentioned.

Opting for Higher Doses

Several studies indicate that the benefits of ashwagandha, particularly for managing stress and anxiety, appear more pronounced at dosages ranging from 500 to 600 mg per day compared to lower doses.

It’s crucial to approach ashwagandha supplementation cautiously. Consulting with a healthcare provider is essential before incorporating ashwagandha into your routine, as the optimal dosage can vary based on individual health needs and considerations.

Is Ashwagandha Safe?

When used in the short term (about 3 months), most individuals generally consider Ashwagandha safe and well-tolerated when taken in recommended dosages. However, discussing ashwagandha usage with your healthcare provider is crucial, particularly if you combine it with other medications.

Certain groups should exercise caution or avoid ashwagandha altogether, including:

  • Pregnant or breastfeeding individuals.
  • Patients with prostate cancer.
  • Individuals on specific medications, such as benzodiazepines.
  • Those preparing for surgery.
  • Individuals diagnosed with autoimmune or thyroid disorders.

Taking larger doses of ashwagandha might lead to common side effects like stomach upset, loose stools, nausea, and drowsiness. Generally, these symptoms are mild and tend to resolve without intervention.

The long-term safety of ashwagandha, particularly over months or years, is less certain. A key concern among healthcare professionals is its potential impact on liver function, with a few cases of liver toxicity reported.

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