Health & Wellness

8 Ashwagandha Benefits and Uses

Let’s talk about one of my favorite medicinal herbs: ashwagandha. If you’re looking for an all-natural treatment for stress and its related health conditions, this may very well be the herb for you! After all, ashwagandha benefits range from fighting stress and anxiety to supporting healthy blood sugar and blood pressure levels to aiding brain function.

But before we dive into the many ashwagandha benefits, let’s review what ashwagandha actually is and how it works.

 

What Is Ashwagandha?

Due to its many benefits, ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is one of the most commonly used medicinal herbs in Ayurvedic medicine, used for millennia for its many health benefits. [1]

It’s actually known as an adaptogenic herb, meaning it improves your body’s ability to handle stress. This stress can be anything from coming down with a cold to dealing with emotionally-taxing concerns to simply managing your daily tasks.

The root and leaves of ashwagandha are most commonly used for therapeutic purposes. The root smells like a horse (“ashwa”), and is traditionally believed that someone who consumes it will “have the power of a horse.”

So, what is ashwagandha used for? Because the ashwagandha root benefits stem from its anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, anti-stress and antioxidant properties (and more!), it’s commonly used for insomnia, certain age-related issues (such as memory loss and stress-induced diseases), anxiety, joint inflammation, ulcers, skin blemishes, immune-system related disorders, and more.

It also appears to positively influence the endocrine, cardiopulmonary, and central nervous systems. [2] Ashwagandha leaves have a bitter taste and are often used to treat fevers and painful swollen areas.

It’s easy to see why ashwagandha is known as a “regenerative tonic” and often heralded as one of the most essential therapeutic herbs.

I take ashwagandha every night and have for years. I love it because it supports the adrenal function without a stimulatory effect, unlike many other adrenal herbs. You can take ashwagandha at night and it helps promote a nice sleep while giving stress-relieving benefits to the body.

One note of caution: Ashwagandha is a member of the nightshade family, which also includes tomatoes, potatoes, and eggplant. If you have a nightshade sensitivity, you should avoid taking ashwagandha.

Read on for the top scientifically-proven ashwagandha benefits.

 

8 Scientifically-Proven Ashwagandha Benefits

Here are the top 8 ashwagandha benefits supported by scientific research.

1. Supports healthy adrenal function

Ashwagandha is a well-rounded herb that helps to treat not only your adrenal glands, but also the symptoms arising from adrenal fatigue.

An animal study showed that taking an extract of ashwagandha root restored energy levels in mice who had disease-related diminished levels of energy. [3]

2. Fights stress and anxiety

Cortisol, often known as the “stress hormone,” is released by your adrenal glands during times of stress. And studies have shown that ashwagandha benefits include lowering cortisol.

In fact, in a 2012 study, 64 people with a history of chronic stress were divided into two groups; one group was given ashwagandha root supplements and the other was given a placebo. At the end of the study, researchers found that the group taking the supplement has substantially lower levels of cortisol than the placebo group. Overall, the group taking ashwagandha reported a 69 percent reduction in anxiety (as well as insomnia), compared to an 11 percent reduction in the placebo group. [4]

3. Supports healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels

In addition to fighting stress and anxiety, ashwagandha benefits extend to cardiovascular health. And numerous studies have revealed that this therapeutic herb can actually help lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure. [5]

In a 2012 study, 18 healthy volunteers took an ashwagandha supplement twice a day for 30 days. They noted “significant” reductions in both total and LDL cholesterol levels. [6] It’s also been shown to lower total cholesterol in animal studies by over 50 percent! [7]

4. Contains anti-inflammatory properties

Ashwagandha benefits those with inflammatory-related issues as well. In fact, both human and animal studies show that supplementing with ashwagandha can lower certain inflammatory markers in both humans and mice.

In a 2009 study, participants consumed ashwagandha root extract twice daily for four days. Researchers found that major changes occurred in immune cell activation within the participants, indicating that ashwagandha may help fight infection and resulting inflammation. [8]

Ashwagandha Benefits - Dr. Pingel

5. Aids cognitive function

Another huge ashwagandha benefit is its ability to promote improved cognitive function, including memory, attention span, and processing abilities.

A 2017 study featuring 50 participants found that adults who took ashwagandha root extract twice daily for eight weeks demonstrated significant improvements in immediate and general memory, attention, and mental processing speed, compared to a group taking a placebo. [9]

6. Contains anti-tumor properties

Numerous animal studies have found that both ashwagandha root and leaves can not only actually induce cancer cell death but also hinder the growth and development of new cancer cells. While human studies need to be further developed, the animal studies show great promise.

In fact, these studies show that ashwagandha may have promise as a treatment for breast, colon, lung, and ovarian cancers, among others. Researchers treated mice with orthotopic ovarian tumors ashwagandha alone or in combination with a chemotherapy drug “resulted in a 70 percent to 80 percent reduction in tumor growth and complete inhibition of metastasis to other organs” when compared to untreated mice. [10]

As a result, researchers stated that pairing ashwagandha with current cancer treatments may be more effective than using anti-cancer medications alone.

7. Fights neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s

Amazingly, ashwagandha benefits even extend to fighting neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s!

In a 2012 study, researchers found that providing a 30-day oral course of ashwagandha extract to middle-aged and old mice reversed behavioral deficits, plaque load, and the accumulation of beta-amyloid peptides and oligomers in their brains. This is especially promising for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, as plaque buildup and the accumulation of these peptides are closely linked to the development of the disease. [11]

8. Supports healthy blood sugar levels

Finally, research shows that ashwagandha benefits those with diabetes as well by supporting both healthy blood sugar and insulin levels.

In a 2013 study on people with schizophrenia, researchers found that those who supplemented with ashwagandha three times daily for a month had about three times the reduction in their fasting blood sugar level numbers than those who received a placebo. [12]


Key Takeaways

  • Ashwagandha, also known as Withania, is an adaptogenic herb that improves your body’s ability to handle stress.
  • Its root and leaves have been used for millennia to treat a wide range of health conditions, from insomnia and anxiety to memory loss to immune-system-related disorders.

Scientific research is revealing new promising uses for ashwagandha every day, including improving blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and even fighting diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s!

 

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