If you’re interested in exploring natural health solutions, you may have come across ashwagandha. This adaptogenic Ayurvedic herb has been prized for its mind and body benefits for centuries, and modern scientific research is beginning to catch on. This article will take a closer look at some of the most well-researched ashwagandha benefits, giving you the information you need to decide if this ancient is worth adding to your wellness routine.
What is Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha, also known as Indian Ginseng, is an ayurvedic herb traditionally used to improve physical, mental and spiritual balance. It has been used in ancient ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years, prized for its powerful calming effects on the body and mind. This ayurvedic herb is believed to possess many health-promoting properties including reducing inflammation, improving sleep quality, and helping the body better adapt to stressors.
The Sanskrit name ‘Ashwagandha’ translates into ‘the smell of a horse’, named for the unique aroma of its root, and its purported ability to increase strength.
Ashwagandha is part of a class of herbs called adaptogens. Adaptogens are herbs or natural ingredients that help the body adapt to stressors, allowing it to remain balanced. They have been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years, and modern science is beginning to recognize their beneficial properties. Adaptogens work by modulating the body’s stress response system and helping it to better cope with physical, mental and emotional stress.
Improved cognitive function and memory
Ashwagandha has been increasingly studied in recent years for its effects on mental function. According to a 2020 meta-analysis of human research, consumption of ashwagandha may improve several cognitive functions including reaction time, focus, and overal executive functioning.
A study from 2017 found that people who took ashwagandha showed better verbal learning and logical performance. Participants in this study also demonstrated faster information processing and a greater ability to focus – a testament to the way ashwagandha benefits cognitive functioning.
Many studies note that the effects of ashwagandha last for weeks after ceasing supplementation, suggesting its long-term beneficial impact on brain activity. While its exact mechanism of action is unknown, researchers suspect these benefits may be tied to ashwagandha’s antioxidizing effect on the brain. With further research being conducted into the effects of ashwagandha on other aspects of mental health and brain function, it is sure to become an increasingly popular natural remedy recommended by those looking to maximize their cognitive potential.
Effects on stress and anxiety relief
Perhaps the best-known benefit of ashwagandha is its ability to reduce stress and anxiety in both the short- and long-term. Studies have revealed that ashwagandha can affect the release of stress hormones like cortisol while helping to moderate adrenal activity. This means it helps to both reduce stress and improve the body’s ability to respond to it.
In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, participants who took 250mg of ashwagandha per day showed significant reductions in cortisol. Their perceived stress levels were lower than those in the placebo group, and they also reported improvements in sleep quality.
Enhanced athletic performance
Ashwagandha has been gaining traction with athletes looking to gain an edge in the field. A meta-analysis of human trials found that ashwagandha benefits athletic performance by increasing muscle strength and improving VO2 max, a measurement of cardiovascular fitness.
In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 57 men, participants who received ashwagandha showed greater increases in muscle strength than those in the placebo group. This study also found that ashwagandha may improve muscle recovery. Compared to the placebo group, people taking ashwagandha showed less exercise-induced muscle damage.
Ashwagandha benefits blood sugar levels
Recent scientific studies have found that ashwagandha can play an important role in managing blood sugar.
A review of 24 clinical studies, including 5 specifically studying people with diabetes, confirmed ashwagandha’s ability to decrease blood sugar, insulin, and blood lipids. Researchers attribute these benefits to a compound in ashwagandha called withaferin A, which they think can stimulate cells to remove glucose from the bloodstream.
Ashwagandha is a good source of anti-inflammatory compounds
Studies have shown that supplementing with ashwagandha reduces inflammatory markers in the body. Withaferin A, the compound thought to help moderate blood glucose levels, may also be responsible for these anti-inflammatory effects.
Ashwagandha’s ability to reduce inflammation became particularly interesting during the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, researchers looked into ashwagandha as a potential treatment for the effects of “long COVID”. The study found that treatment with a blend of ayurvedic herbs, including ashwagandha, was linked to increased recovery speed and a 40% lower chance of developing long COVID.
Adding ashwagandha to your routine
Its long history of use and modern research both support ashwagandha’s benefits on both physical and mental health. As an adaptogen, it provides a natural way to help your body cope with stress, and is shown to improve cognitive function. And thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties, adding it to your resistance training routine may help increase muscle gain and speed up recovery time.
If you’re looking to add ashwagandha to your supplement stack, we’ve curated a collection of the highest-quality tinctures and powdered extracts. The products in our shop have been carefully vetted for ingredient quality and sourcing practices, so you can be confident with whichever one you choose.