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13 Health Benefits of Ashwagandha
By Sara Novak
Ashwa—what? It is a funny name for a fabulous herb. Ashwagandha is a show stopper in the herbal supplement world and research has only begun to demonstrate all that it can do. If you were to choose one herb to make a regular part of your routine, this may be it. Not sure what I am talking about? Read on to learn about the wonders of ashwagandha and why we love it.
What Is Ashwagandha?:
Ashwagandha is the prized herb of India, used for centuries in the practice of Ayurveda, a sister science to yoga. It is revered for its ability to heal the body and mind. In traditional medicine, Withania somnifera (ashawagandha) is a tonic for the central nervous system, with a wide variety of anti-stress, adaptogenic properties that make it an essential addition to your wellness routine. The name ashawagandha means “smells like a horse” which makes sense considering its unique smell. Still, it is totally worth the scent.
The herb, which has been used traditionally for over 3,000 years in Ayurvedic medicine to relieve stress and anxiety, is cultivated in the drier regions of India as well as Nepal, China, and Yemen. It is a perennial shrub with round green leaves, a circular white flower, and a round orange fruit.
Best Forms Of Ashwagandha:
The best forms of ashwagandha typically come from a ashwagandha root extract and the fruit of the plant. It is made into powders, tinctures, and capsules. The key to choosing the highest quality ashwagandha is ensuring that it contains enough withanolides, an important compound that is responsible for much of its healing properties. Look for supplements that contain at least 0.3-1.5 percent withanolides. Most supplements do not contain enough of this very important compound. Powders are a great form of the herb because they can be added to smoothies, oatmeal, or juices. Capsules are also great for ease of use.
How Does Ashwagandha Work In The Body?
Extracts from the ashwagandha plant, especially withanolides, work in a variety of ways in the body. They seem to have a neuro-protective impact on the brain which helps with memory retention and cognitive function while also calming the mind and reducing anxiety. The herb seems to reduce inflammation in the body, which may protect you from a host of illnesses, including heart disease and cancer. The chemicals in ashwagandha also seem to reduce blood pressure and create positive changes to the immune system, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Ashwagandha Safety And Side Effects
Ashwagandha is generally well tolerated by most, but you should talk to your doctor, especially if you are taking medications that could potentially interact with it and cause harm. It is not safe to take if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. If taken in large doses, it can cause an upset stomach and diarrhea, and, in rare cases, it can cause damage to the liver.
Read More: The Low Cortisol Lifestyle | UMZU's Guide To Fighting Stress
13 Health Benefits Of Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha has been used for 3,000 years in ayurvedic medicine. Prized in India, it is also known as Indian ginseng and used to treat any number of ailments. You know that it is beneficial for your body and mind, but here is a closer look at what ashwagandha can do for you.
1. Ashwagandha For Testosterone
Testosterone is an important hormone in the body that, in men, is largely responsible for sex drive, bone mass, strength, sperm production, and red blood cells. As men age, testosterone numbers can shrink. Research has shown the benefits of ashwagandha for testosterone. A study published in the American Journal of Men’s Health found that the herb was “associated with significant improvements in salivary DHEA-S and testosterone.” Another study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology found that it “supports the use of mucuna (velvet bean) and ashwagandha as phyto-therapeutics for improving testosterone concentrations in semen.” UMZU’S TESTRO-X can also help amp up testosterone in the body. TESTRO-X can help boost hormonal function, improve strength and muscle gain, and optimize sleep and recovery. On top of all that, you will enjoy a boost in energy all day long.
2. Ashwagandha For Cortisol Reduction
Cortisol is a stress hormone that is released in the brain. It is well known for the “fight or flight” response that it causes in the body. Also known as an acute stress response, flight or flight can cause dilated pupils, trembling, rapid heart rate, and flushed skin. In the body, cortisol impacts all sorts of systems including your circadian rhythm, stress levels, blood sugar, heart health, and inflammation, to name a few. Research published in the Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine found that cortisol levels in the blood were substantially reduced in those who took ashwagandha compared to the placebo control group. Another study published in the journal Medicine found that the use of ashwagandha was associated with a reduction in morning cortisol.
Read More: 5 Best Supplements To Reduce Cortisol
3. Ashwagandha As An Antidepressant
Ashwagandha is perhaps best known as a natural antidepressant and stress reliever. It has been used in traditional medicine for centuries and research backs up the hype. A study published in the Nepal Medical College Journal found that ashwagandha significantly reduced depression in study participants. Other research published in the journal Phytomedicine demonstrated that a main compound found in the prized herb “support[s] the use of [ashwagandha] as a mood stabilizer in clinical conditions of anxiety and depression in Ayurveda.”
4. Ashwagandha And Muscle Mass
Ashwagandha is known to increase testosterone in the body, which also has an impact on muscle mass. As we age, especially after the age of 40, lean muscle mass can start to decrease. Along with weight bearing exercises, this is a great way to rebuild or maintain your muscle mass. A study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that “ashwagandha supplementation is associated with significant increases in muscle mass and strength.” Another study published in the journal Nutrients found that ashwagandha reduced the impact of muscle atrophy that can happen as you age, while keeping muscle mass intact.
5. Ashwagandha And Body Fat Percentage
Ashwagandha has also been shown to help you lose weight and body fat. If you are looking to tone up and gain strength while at the same time take off a few pounds of body fat, it might be worth giving it a try. The same study listed above, again, published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that “[c]ompared to the placebo subjects, those receiving ashwagandha also had a significantly greater decrease in body fat percentage.” It has also been shown to boost the body’s metabolism. Taking ashwagandha in the morning is a great way to turn your body into a fat burning machine. If you are looking to boost your metabolism, you might also consider THYRITE, to restore thyroid gland function naturally. Your thyroid is a "master gland" in the body, so when it is not functioning properly, weight loss can be more difficult. THYRITE contains a host of natural ingredients like magnesium, zinc, copper, iodine, and of course, ashwagandha.
6. Ashwagandha And Sports Performance
Whether you are a professional athlete, weight lifter, marathoner, or you are just looking to have a great workout, ashwagandha has been used in traditional medicine to increase sports performance, though this has not been adequately studied. It has also been shown to increase muscle mass and decrease recovery time after a workout. For this reason, it is a great addition to your workout routine.
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7. Ashwagandha And Fertility
If you are having trouble getting pregnant, you may want to consider trying ashwagandha. Research has shown that it boosts fertility, especially in men. A study published in the journal Fertility and Sterility found that ashwagandha reduced levels of oxidative biomarkers and improved levels of hormones found in semen improving its quality, which is a good thing for reproduction. Another study, published in the journal of Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, found it improved male factor fertility. And finally, research published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology found that poor quality semen could be improved in infertile men through ashwagandha supplementation. The authors wrote, ashwagandha “recovers the quality of semen in post-treated compared to pre-treated infertile men.”
8. Ashwagandha Reduces Blood Sugar
Ashwagandha has also been shown to reduce blood sugar. One study published in the Indian Journal of Experimental Biology found that certain compounds in ashwaghanda seemed to increase glucose uptake. “Withaferin A was found to increase glucose uptake…a 54 percent increase compared with [the] control, suggesting that withaferin A is at least partially responsible for [ashwagandha's] anti-diabetic activity.” Another very small study also published in the Indian Journal of Experimental Biology found that the “decrease in blood glucose was comparable to that of an oral hypoglycemic drug.”
9. Ashwagandha Has Anti-Cancer Properties
Several studies have shown that ashwagandha may have anti-cancer properties. While the research is still in its infancy, some early data has shown that it may impede the growth of cancer cells in the body. Several studies on animal models have shown that it may slow the growth of cancer in the breast, lung, ovaries, colon, and brain, though this research has not been proven in humans. Nonetheless it is still promising.
10. Ashwagandha Reduces Inflammation
According to Harvard Health, chronic inflammation is your body’s response to unwanted or negative substances in the body. Inflammation means your body is constantly in a state of alert which, over time, can put you at a higher risk for a host of illnesses including heart disease, cancer, and asthma, to name a few. You can reduce inflammation in the body by exercising, eating a healthy diet, sleeping enough, controlling stress, quitting smoking, and moderating your alcohol intake. Symptoms of chronic inflammation include mouth sores, rashes, abdominal pain, chest pain, fatigue, and fever. Supplementing with ashwagandha has also been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects and to help reduce chronic inflammation. Research published in the journal Reports of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology found that “[ashwagandha] normalizes hyperglycemia in fructose-fed rats by reducing inflammatory markers and improving insulin sensitivity.” Another study published in the journal of Behavioral Pharmacology found that ashwagandha may possess anti-inflammatory chemicals that reduce pain and inflammation in the body.
11. Ashwagandha Improves Memory
Ashwagandha has also been shown to improve memory retention. A study published in PLOS ONE found that ashwagandha may have a neuro-protective effect on patients vulnerable to cognitive decline as a result of their HIV status. Another study done on animal models, published in the journal Molecular Neurobiology, found that the herb had neuro-protective effects on sleep deprived rats, while another study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology found “[a]dministration of ashwagandha prevented induced memory impairment and neurodegeneration.” Studies have also shown that its neuro-protective properties could translate into an ability to stave off diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s disease.
12. Ashwagandha Helps You Sleep
If you are having trouble falling asleep at night, you might want to consider ashwagandha. A number of studies have shown that it can improve sleep in study participants. A study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology demonstrated that “ashwagandha root extract can improve sleep quality and can help in managing insomnia.” Researchers found that the herb was also well tolerated by study participants irrespective of their health condition and age. Another study published in Sleep Medicine found that the herb improved sleep quality in study participants. You may also want to consider UMZU’s sleep supplement. Made with l-theanine, evodia, lemon balm, glycine, ashwagandha, and magnesium, zuSleep: Relaxation & Deeper Sleep is the ideal product for those that want to get a better night’s rest. One scoop of the delicious apple cinnamon flavor helps you sleep deeper and stay asleep longer. You will wake up feeling fresh, not groggy, and ready to hit the ground running.
13. Ashwagandha And Sex
According to the National Institutes of Health, “Early research shows that taking ashwagandha extract daily for 8 weeks along with receiving counseling increases interest in sex and sexual satisfaction in adult women with sexual dysfunction better than counseling alone.” However, the data on this is mixed and much more research needs to be done.
For more information on the benefits of ashwagandha check out this video from our founder, Christopher Walker: