Welcome to my blog post discussing the herbal supplement ashwagandha. It is one of my favourites which I have noticed significant changes to my health by supplementing, as have numerous clients (alongside a natural and well balanced lifestyle). But even with that personal and professional experience of using and recommend this herb, I was still surprised by the research out there.
You may also be interested in a section of my blog dedicated to supplements: the supplement spotlight series. Blogs include:
- Psychobiotics: Probiotics For Mood And Mental Health: click here.
- Have You Heard About PEA (Palmitoylethanolamide): click here. (will be of interest for those with histamine intolerance!)
What Is Ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is a herb used in Ayurveda, the traditional medicine of India. It is said to confer the strength and virility of a horse (perhaps due to the root apparently having a horsey smell?).
Various parts of the plant are used, but the most common in supplements is an extract of its roots.
What Are The Benefits Of Ashwagandha?
Research has shown benefit in:
- Hormonal health.
- General memory in people with mild cognitive impairment.
- Oxidative stress (cell damage).
- Fertility and sexual function.
- Stress and anxiety levels.
- Neurodegenerative diseases.
- Improves energy levels and mitochondrial health.
- Cognitive tasks, executive function, attention, and reaction time.
- Sleep quality.
- Muscle mass and strength.
Let’s look at these in a little more detail.
Ashwagandha And Thyroid Health
Treatment with ashwagandha (600 mg daily) may be beneficial for normalising thyroid indices in subclinical hypothyroid patients (1)
Ashwagandha, Memory And Cognitive Health
May be effective in enhancing both immediate and general memory in people with mild cognitive impairment as well as improving executive function, attention, and information processing speed. (300 mg twice daily). (2)
Overall, there is some early clinical evidence, in the form of randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind trials, to support the cognitive benefits of W. somnifera supplementation. In most instances, W. somnifera extract improved performance on cognitive tasks, executive function, attention, and reaction time. (7)
May hold promise in the treatment of depression and anxiety symptoms in schizophrenia. 1,000 mg of standardized ashwagandha (10).
May be beneficial as a safe and effective adjunct to SSRIs in the treatment of OCD. 120mg/day. (13)
It has also been shown to be useful in children with memory deficit (5).
Ashwagandha And Cancer
Provides benefits against many human illnesses such as epilepsy, depression, arthritis, diabetes, and palliative effects such as analgesic, rejuvenating, regenerating, and growth-promoting effects (3).
Inhibitory properties against many cancers, (breast, colon, prostate, colon, ovarian, lung, brain) (3)
Ashwaganda And Hormones
Inhibit lipid peroxidation, improve sperm count and motility, and regulate reproductive hormone levels (4)
Ashwagandha intake was associated with an 18% greater increase in DHEA-S, and 14.7% testosterone. 21 mg of withanolide glycosides a day for 16 weeks (9).
May improve sexual function in healthy women. Included arousal, lubrication, orgasm, and satisfaction (11).
Ashwagandha And Stamina
In experimental models it increases the stamina of rats during swimming endurance test (5).
Ashwagandha And Neurodegenerative Conditions
It was also found useful in neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and Alzeimer’s diseases. It has GABA mimetic effect and was shown to promote formation of dendrites. It has anxiolytic effect and improves energy levels and mitochondrial health.
Ashwagandha And Inflammation
It is an anti-inflammatory and anti-arthritic agent and was found useful in clinical cases of Rheumatoid and Osteoarthritis (5).
Ashwagandha And Adrenal Function
Ashwagandha’s stress-relieving effects may occur via its moderating effect on the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis (6) 240 mg daily.
It has also been shown to prevent adrenal gland changes of ascorbic acid and cortisol content produce by swimming stress
Ashwagandha And Sleep
Supplementation with the standardised ashwagandha extract for six weeks improved the overall quality of sleep by significantly improving the non-restorative sleep condition in healthy subjects. 120 mg of standardised ashwagandha extract once daily for six weeks (8)
Ashwaganda And Exercise Performance
Ashwagandha supplementation is associated with significant increases in muscle mass and strength and suggests that ashwagandha supplementation may be useful in conjunction with a resistance training program. 300 mg of ashwagandha root extract twice daily. Compared to the placebo subjects, the subjects receiving ashwagandha also had significantly greater reduction of exercise-induced muscle damage as indicated by the stabilization of serum creatine kinase (12).
A 500 mg dose of an aqueous extract of Ashwagandha improves upper and lower-body strength, supports a favorable distribution of body mass, and was well tolerated (15).
Ashwagandha And Fertility
Systematically reviewed data demonstrated statistical increase in sperm concentration, semen volume, and sperm motility in oligospermic males after 90 days of ashwagandha supplementation, as well, serum testosterone and luteinising hormone levels (14).
Is It Safe To Take Ashwagandha Daily?
This question is difficult to answer because we currently lack a lot of long-term information from clinical trials. Because of its possible drug-like effects on neurotransmission, it’s difficult to rule out unintended side-effects or a loss of potency in the long-term.
What studies we do have though generally suggest that the effects of Ashwagandha on stress/anxiety continually improve for at least two months after the beginning of daily supplementation.
How Long Can I Take Ashwagandha For?
The studies that have investigated Ashwagandha range in length but it appears safe to supplement daily for at least 2-4 months.
The best way to get the same effect as has been found in the studies is obviously is to mimic the dose and dosing schedule in the study.
Who Should Not Take Ashwagandha? What Are The Side Effects?
It seems to be safe and well-tolerated at the doses used in the research (see below), but it needs more long-term research that’s specifically designed to evaluate its safety.
Speak to your health practitioner before starting a new supplement and do not take if you are pregnant or on medications.
When Should I Take Ashwagandha?
Often it is recommended to take with food, and with breakfast if taken one dose per day. This can be explored however – I typically take it one to three times a day with food (depending on the dose I am using)
How Much Ashwagandha Should I Take?
Doses seem to range from as low as 60mg per day to 1000mg per day of standardised ashwagandha.
My Recommended Products
- Efficacy and Safety of Ash. Root Extract in Subclinical Hypothyroid Patients: A Double-Blind, Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial: click here.
- Efficacy and Safety of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera (L.) Dunal) Root Extract in Improving Memory and Cognitive Functions: click here.
- Withania Somnifera and Withaferin A: Potential in Integrative Oncology: click here.
- Role of Withania somnifera in the management of male infertility: click here.
- An overview on ashwagandha: a Rasayana (rejuvenator) of Ayurveda (click here)
- An investigation into the stress-relieving and pharmacological actions of an ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) extract: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study: click here.
- A systematic review of the clinical use of Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha) to ameliorate cognitive dysfunction: click here.
- A randomized, double blind, placebo controlled study to evaluate the effects of ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) extract on sleep quality in healthy adults: click here.
- A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Crossover Study Examining the Hormonal and Vitality Effects of Ashwagandha ( Withania somnifera) in Aging, Overweight Males: click here.
- Effects of a standardized extract of Withania somnifera on depression and anxiety symptoms in persons with schizophrenia participating in a randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial: click here.
- Efficacy and Safety of Ash (Withania somnifera) Root Extract in Improving Sexual Function in Women: A Pilot Study: click here.
- Examining the effect of Withania somnifera supplementation on muscle strength and recovery: a randomized controlled trial: click here.
- Evaluation of the efficacy of Withania somnifera root extract in patients with obsessive-compulsive disorder: A randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial: click here.
- Withania somnifera (Indian ginseng) in male infertility: An evidence-based systematic review and meta-analysis: click here.
- Effects of an Aqueous Extract of Withania somnifera on Strength Training Adaptations and Recovery: The STAR Trial: click here.