(Natural News) Do you want to boost your workout performance? Try ashwagandha – also known as Indian ginseng. A recent study published in the journal Nutrients revealed that supplementing with ashwagandha extract significantly enhances both upper- and lower-body strength.
Carried out by researchers from the Center for Applied Health Sciences and Lindenwood University, the study looked at the effects of aqueous extract of the roots and leaves of ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) on strength training performance – which includes muscle strength, body composition, muscle endurance, power, and recovery.
Earlier studies have shown that ashwagandha exhibits anti-inflammatory, anabolic, and antioxidant effects. Therefore, the researchers hypothesized that the Ayurvedic herb may also be beneficial to physical performance and muscle recovery in a sports setting.
To test their hypothesis, the researchers recruited 38 recreationally active men who were first matched according to their training experience and body weight before the intervention. Then, the researchers divided them into two groups: a treatment group and a placebo group. The treatment group received 500 milligrams (mg) of ashwagandha extract in capsules, while the placebo group received capsules containing rice flour. They took their assigned capsule every morning with 12 fluid ounces of cold water for 12 weeks.
All participants visited a clinic four times throughout the study. During their visits, they did bench presses and squats and the researchers measured how many sets each one of them could complete and for how long. The researchers also measured their power output using specialized equipment. Throughout the study, they also collected the participants’ body measurements and blood samples.
The findings of the study revealed that taking 500 mg of ashwagandha for 12 weeks significantly improved the participants’ upper- and lower-body strength, as shown through the improvements in squat power and peak bench press power. It also led to better recovery after training, reducing muscle soreness.
Other benefits of ashwagandha
Ashwagandha is an adaptogen, which is a class of ancient herbs that regulate hormones, reduce stress, and combat fatigue. Ashwagandha also provides the following health benefits:
- Boosts cognitive function: Research has shown that ashwagandha has potential in improving cognitive health and protecting the nervous system. Lab studies have shown that this herb can protect glial and neuronal cells from oxidative stress, which may help prevent cognitive decline. Moreover, ashwagandha has been reported to stimulate neural growth and regeneration in memory-impaired mice.
- Helps people with hypothyroidism: People with hypothyroidism, a condition where the thyroid does not produce enough metabolism-regulating hormones, may benefit from taking ashwagandha. This herb has been reported to increase the production of thyroid hormones, normalizing it in people with hypothyroidism.
- Lowers blood sugar levels: Stress and cortisol contribute to insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes, and ashwagandha exhibits anti-stress and cortisol-reducing properties. Therefore, ashwagandha can help reduce blood sugar spikes and regulate blood sugar levels. (Related: Feeling physically and mentally overwhelmed? Try ashwagandha – an all-around wonder herb for anxiety, stress and toxic overload.)
- Strengthens the immune system: In Ayurvedic medicine, ashwagandha is typically recommended to restore the immune system after an illness. It is believed to boost immunity that may trace back to stress, a known factor that weakens the immune system. It can also act as a powerful antioxidant that stimulates the immune system. In studies, this herb has been reported to increase cytokine levels, which is an important indicator of immune response.
Find out more about the health benefits of ashwagandha by visiting AlternativeMedicine.news.