(Natural News) Adaptogens are natural substances that help your body manage stress. Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), a popular adaptogenic herb, offers nnumerous health benefits for your body and brain.
Listed below are 12 of the science-backed benefits of ashwagandha.
Ashwagandha is a natural stress reliever.
Ashwagandha is an important herb in Ayurveda, a form of alternative medicine based on Indian principles of natural healing. Since ancient times, ashwagandha has been used to relieve stress, boost energy levels, and enhance concentration.
Ashwagandha is also called Indian ginseng or winter cherry. Plant extracts or powder made from the plant’s root or leaves are often used to relieve different conditions.
It is believed that ashwagandha’s high concentration of withanolides, which can prevent inflammation and tumor growth, are responsible for the herb’s many benefits.
The herb has a slightly bitter and astringent flavor. If you want a more palatable way of adding ashwagandha to your daily routine, you can take it as a pill. Alternatively, you can use ashwagandha powder to make energy bites, tea, or smoothies.
Ashwagandha can boost testosterone levels and improve fertility in men.
Taking ashwagandha supplements can help increase sperm count and motility in men. Additionally, the adaptogen can increase both testosterone and antioxidant levels.
In a study published in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, researchers found that ashwagandha can increase antioxidant levels in male participants and improve sperm quality. Three months after treatment, 14 percent of the participant’s partners got pregnant.
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Ashwagandha has anti-cancer properties.
According to animal and test-tube studies, ashwagandha helps induce apoptosis or programmed cell death in cancer cells.
The herb can also prevent the growth of new cancer cells in the following ways:
- Ashwagandha can generate reactive oxygen species (ROS) that are toxic to cancer cells but not to normal cells.
- The herb can also make cancer cells less resistant to apoptosis.
Animal studies suggest that ashwagandha can be used to treat several types of cancer such as brain, breast, colon, lung, and ovarian cancer.
Ashwagandha can lower blood sugar levels.
Some studies have shown that ashwagandha helps reduce blood sugar levels. In a test-tube study, researchers noted that the herb helps boost insulin secretion and improves insulin sensitivity in muscle cells.
Other studies have reported that ashwagandha can lower blood sugar levels in both healthy people and individuals with diabetes.
Ashwagandha helps lower cortisol levels.
The adrenal glands release cortisol, a stress hormone, in response to stress and when blood sugar levels get too low. Sometimes, cortisol levels are chronically elevated. When this happens, a person’s blood sugar increases, causing them to store more fat in their abdomen.
Research suggests that taking ashwagandha can help reduce cortisol levels, especially among people who are chronically stressed.
Ashwagandha can lower cholesterol and triglycerides.
Ashwagandha helps boost cardiovascular health by lowering your cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Data from a 60-day study involving chronically stressed adults showed that participants who took the highest dosage of standardized ashwagandha extract had a 17 percent decrease in “bad” LDL cholesterol and an 11 percent decrease in triglycerides.
Ashwagandha helps reduce anxiety and stress.
Ashwagandha is a popular stress reliever. In an animal study, researchers discovered that the herb helps block the stress pathway in the brains of rats by regulating the chemical signaling in their nervous system.
Meanwhile, in controlled studies, scientists found that ashwagandha can address the symptoms of stress and anxiety disorders. (Related: Ashwagandha: Discover the health benefits of this popular ancient adaptogen.)
Ashwagandha can reduce the symptoms of depression.
According to several studies, ashwagandha can help alleviate depression.
In a controlled 60-day study involving 64 stressed adults, those who took 600 milligrams (mg) of high-concentration ashwagandha extract per day had a 79 percent reduction in severe depression symptoms. On the other hand, the placebo group experienced a 10 percent increase.
Ashwagandha can increase muscle mass and strength.
A study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition showed that participants who took ashwagandha had significantly greater gains in muscle strength and size. The researchers added that consumption of the herb also more than doubled the reduction in the participants’ body fat.
Ashwagandha helps minimize inflammation.
Animal studies have demonstrated that the herb helps minimize inflammation.
Ashwagandha can also boost the activity of natural killer cells (NK cells) in humans. NK cells are immune cells that fight infection.
Ashwagandha helps decrease markers of inflammation, like C-reactive protein (CRP). CRP is associated with a greater risk of developing heart disease.
Ashwagandha can boost brain function and memory.
Findings from test-tube and animal studies demonstrate that the consumption of ashwagandha can help reduce memory and brain function problems due to disease or injury.
In a controlled study, researchers found that healthy male participants who took 500 mg of standardized ashwagandha extract daily reported significant improvements in reaction time and task performance, unlike volunteers who were given a placebo.
Ashwagandha is a safe and widely available remedy.
While most people can safely take ashwagandha, pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid it.
Individuals with autoimmune diseases (e.g., Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and Type 1 diabetes) and people taking medication for thyroid disease should be careful when taking ashwagandha.
Take note that the recommended dosage for ashwagandha depends on the type of supplement. Extracts are more effective than crude ashwagandha root or leaf powder. When taking ashwagandha, follow the instructions on the product label. Standardized ashwagandha root extracts are often taken as 450 or 500 mg capsules once or twice per day.
Consider supplementing with ashwagandha to reduce anxiety and stress, prevent depression, and improve brain function.