The health benefits of Ashwagandha are plentiful. It’s one of the most powerful adaptogenic herbs and is most often used to reduce anxiety and stress, boost mood and keep our immune systems healthy. It naturally improves adrenal and thyroid function by reducing cortisol levels and thus reduces our stress levels. Ashwagandha has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for over 2,500 years. In India, ashwagandha is referred to as a “rasayana,” which means the lengthening of life in the Sanskrit language. You may know this tan root with red fruit by other names such as Indian ginseng or winter cherry. Below Further Food’s herbalists and doctors explain the 11 health benefits of ashwagandha and how it can work wonders on your mind, body, and spirit.
Ashwagandha has many benefits, but most of them fit nicely in the categories of Mind, Body, and Spirit.
ASHWAGANDHA HEALTH BENEFITS FOR THE MIND
Benefit 1: Ashwagandha is a natural remedy for anxiety.
It’s quite a relief to learn that ashwagandha is an herb that can directly impact your brain in a positive way. This was demonstrated in a 12-week study of patients with anxiety who received the same therapeutic treatments – except one group received ashwagandha supplements while the other received placebo pills (2). The study found that the group that took ashwagandha reported a reduction of 55% in their anxiety scores, while the placebo group only saw their anxiety reduced by less than a third. The study then compared ashwagandha to lorazepam and imipramine, which are pharmaceutical drugs used to combat anxiety. The ashwagandha group saw better results in other areas like better concentration, fatigue, and mental health!
And the great thing about ashwagandha, though, is that it doesn’t have the side effects that may common drugs used to treat anxiety have. Side effects from the aforementioned drugs may include insomnia, increased appetite, and drowsiness.
Benefit 2: Ashwagandha can improve mood and help treat depression
Stress and depression are intertwined and considering ashwagandha’s ability to reduce your stress naturally, supplementing with ashwagandha root may be something you want to add to your repertoire. While the connection between stress and depression is very complex involving numerous brain structures like the hippocampus and amygdala, systems like the HPA axis (the hypothallamus-pituitary-adrenal axis which is responsibile for the complex signaling between many of the hormone producing areas of the body including the adrenals, thyroid, ovaries, and testes) and signaling molecules such as corticosterone, serotonin, CRG, BDNF, and many others, recent clinical evidence demonstrates the positive impacts of ashwagandha on mood and depression. One study looked at 66 patients for 12 weeks and demonstrated the effectiveness of ashwagandha on reducing symptoms of depression. Looking for a mood-booster? Try ashwagandha.
Benefit 3: Ashwagandha can improve brain function
In Ayurvedic practice, ashwagandha has been used to boost memory. Some studies suggest this adaptogen may be able to reduce the mental issues that could arise from injury or disease, such as problems with memory function and brain function. One study involving epileptic rats found that treatment with ashwagandha resulted in an almost total reversal of impairment in spatial memory.
Ashwagandha’s effect on brain function is due to its ability to stimulate the regeneration of hippocampus cells, which can improve skills such as long term memory, the ability to focus and mood regulation. The hippocampus is an important gland because it plays a key role in not only memory, but also learning, focus, and cognition. In fact, the hippocampus is vital in the process of processing past trauma, lowering anxiety, and even healing from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Thus, supplementing with ashwagandha can help you think and focus more clearly.
Additionally, ashwagandha is an antioxidant specific to neural cells. So, ashwagandha can help slow down oxidative damage that is experienced as a result of stress and neutralize free radicals.
ASHWAGANDHA HEALTH BENEFITS FOR THE BODY
Benefit 4: Improves Fertility for Men & Women
There’s an added bonus benefit of ashwagandha that comes from its ability to support the endocrine system so well – ashwagandha has been shown to increase sperm count in men with infertility by lowering those stress hormone levels such as cortisol! The HPA axis has direct impacts on the healthy function of hormones associated with male and female fertility. Through the positive influences of ashwagandha on both male and female hormones like testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone, supplementing with ashwagandha has demonstrated improvements in sperm concentration, semen volume, and sperm motility. In women, ashwagandha helped to improve follicular stimulating hormone (it tells your body to get ready to ovulate) and luteinizing hormone (it tells your body to ovulate).
Benefit 5: Ashwagandha can help improve thyroid levels
Millions of people suffer from thyroid issues. Having poor thyroid health means that you may have trouble protecting your body from disease and illness because the thyroid is in fact responsible for a lot of regulation of your body functions, including hunger, energy, and body temperature. Thankfully, ashwagandha has the ability to promote healthy thyroid function as well!
The connection between ashwagandha and thyroid health is again the ability of ashwagandha to have a positive influence over the HPA axis. The reach of the HPA axis is far, and includes the ability to impact thyroid function. A 2018 gold standard clinical trial examined how ashwagandha works for those with thyroid concern, specifically subclinical hypothyroidism, the type of thyroid challenge so many people have and that is difficult to treat. In comes ashwagandha, which was looked at in a total of 50 patients. Supplementing with ashwagandha showed a significant positive effect on thyroid function and the balance of thyroid hormones like TSH, T3, and T4 in only 8 weeks!
Benefit 6: Ashwagandha can help you overcome adrenal fatigue
What is adrenal fatigue, you ask? Adrenal fatigue is when your adrenals, also called your endocrine glands, become overworked from having to respond to a significant amount of stress. Whether that stress be physical, mental, or emotional, adrenal fatigue often occurs with chronic stress. This can negatively affect other important hormones, leading to a downward health spiral.
Luckily, research has shown that ashwagandha may help assist adrenal function, thus helping combat fatigue. Ashwagandha does this by supporting the adrenals, in addition to mitigating feelings of anxiety and depression due to stress, and by reducing elevated levels of adrenaline.
Benefit 7: Ashwagandha can help boost the immune system
Ashwagandha can help your immune system in various ways. Ashwagandha has been found to increase white blood cells, specifically natural killer cells, which are specific immune cells that directly fight infection and keep your body healthy. Studies have shown Ashwagandha root can improve cell-mediated immunity, and that ashwagandha can also provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects on the body.
Ashwagandha is also classified under the term immune modulator, meaning it is not only able to activate your immune system, especially when you need it to fight off pesky pathogens, but it also helps you restore regular immune function resulting from auto-immune issues that may arise. This adaptogen is beneficial for those who are experiencing deficient or overactive immune systems!
Lastly, because ashwagandha is so beneficial for your thyroid levels, it is already improving your body’s ability to fight disease by helping the very body part that is basically your body’s regulation center!
Benefit 8: Ashwagandha can reduce and balance blood sugar levels
In 2015, about one in ten Americans had diabetes – that’s around 30.3 million people (4). As we age, the likelihood of diabetes also increases. Ashwagandha may play a role in helping to reduce blood sugar levels, thus helping to reduce the incidence of diabetes. In one study in particular, researchers found that diabetic rats were able to achieve regular blood sugar levels with the help of both ashwagandha root and leaf extracts.
Ashwagandha’s effect on reducing blood sugar levels is significant because hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar, can lead to a whole series of serious conditions like ketoacidosis, heart problems, and damaged nerves and organs. Ashwagandha may prevent these by getting to the root of the problem: blood sugar. Ashwagandha modulates blood sugar by providing support to the adrenals, and it has diuretic effects that allow cells to be re-sensitized to insulin, a hormone that enables the body to use glucose from foods we consume.
Benefit 9: Ashwagandha can increase muscle strength
Yes, this adaptogenic herb goes beyond the immune system and stress management. Studies have shown that ashwagandha can both increase muscle mass and muscle strength, all the while promoting body fat loss. One notable study of healthy men found that those who took 750 to 1,250 mg of ashwagandha root each day resulted in a gain in muscle strength in just 30 days.
Coupled with resistance training, supplementing with ashwagandha has also been shown to increase the growth of muscle tissue. This is due to ashwagandha’s ability to increase overall stamina and its rich anti-inflammatory properties that help to speed recovery (8). Ashwagandha can be a great supplement for helping to maintain a strong body.
ASHWAGANDHA HEALTH BENEFITS FOR THE SPIRIT
Benefit 10: Ashwagandha can help reduce stress
Stress is all around you and ashwagandha packs a powerful punch that helps your ability to lower cortisol levels. Why is lowering cortisol important? Great question! The chronic stress that surrounds all of us everyday stimulates the body to constantly release cortisol. Some cortisol is a good thing as it is responsible for helping your body during a “fight or flight” experience when facing stress or a threat. Cortisol helps you to focus on finishing your work or term paper or it helps you to run faster to get away from that bear! The challenge is that most of us aren’t getting stress by being chased by a bear, but by sitting in traffic, being overworked, or any of the other myriad of ways we are confronted with stress each and every day. These daily and chronic impacts of stress are where cortisol becomes a problem and depending on your body can be felt in a variety of ways, such as: fatigue, headaches, muscle soreness, blood sugar imbalances, irritability, difficulty concentrating, and much more.
While ashwagandha’s benefits of improving cortisol levels can be felt in a variety of ways, the impacts of ashwagandha supplementation on stress are quite remarkable! A recent scientific review paper screened over 60 research papers for the benefits of ashwagandha on stress. The evidence was quite strong in showing the significant positive effects ashwagandha has upon stress.
Benefit 11: Ashwagandha can improve sleep
Because ashwagandha is such a great relaxant, it may be no surprise that it can support healthy sleep. Ashwagandha may help reset your circadian rhythms, which is the 24-hour cycle in which our bodies carry out all physiological processes. Due to modern living, our circadian rhythms are sensitive to being skewed, so it’s good to have some help with relaxing the body and reducing sleep problems! Ashwagandha can help you get some quality sleep!
How To Add Ashwagandha To Your Diet
Ashwagandha is an amazing herb that carries a wide variety of benefits. Much of the benefit comes from its ability to protect the body and mind from the impacts of stress. Since we all live in a world where chronic stress has become the norm, taking ashwagandha daily is beneficial to everyone. One of the easiest ways to get ashwagandha every day is through a daily supplement such as Further Food Premium Full Spectrum Ashwagandha. Always make sure you’re taking a full-spectrum organic ashwagandha supplement made from the root, which contains all of the beneficial components – not just one – of ashwagandha, to get the full health benefits of this powerful root. It is also important that the ashwagandha is independently tested for quality and heavy metals. You can learn more about Further Food Premium Full Spectrum Ashwagandha here.
SUMMARY of Ashwagandha Health Benefits:
- Ashwagandha helps manage stress and anxiety day to day, overall enhancing your mental health, overall energy, and even brain function.
- Ashwagandha can be helpful in improving thyroid health, fertility and in helping counter adrenal fatigue.
- Ashwagandha can help both your muscles and your immune system get stronger!
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