If the Plant Kingdom was personified, ashwagandha would be a member of the royal family. You heard it right! Owing to the multitude of health benefits that ashwagandha carries, it deserves all the praise.
Ashwagandha (Withania Somnifera) is a medicinal herb that belongs to the Solanaceae family of Plant kingdom and is also known as poison gooseberry, winter cherry, or Indian ginseng. Ashwagandha is widely known for its effectiveness on stress, anxiety, and many other health problems when consumed as a medicine, and we have put all the benefits of ashwagandha in one article to make your life easy! Read on to know more.
Health benefits of Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha is known for its many health benefits but some of its health benefits are not backed up by scientific evidence. We will list all the benefits that ashwagandha may have and has.
1. Effect on stress and anxiety
- Ashwagandha is scientifically proven to reduce stress and anxiety. Studies have reported that a daily dosage of 240-600 mg of ashwagandha reduces cortisol (stress hormone) levels.
- Ashwagandha when compared with placebo and lorazepam, both medications for anxiety and stress, had almost a similar impact on human beings.
- Research is still being conducted on these effects of ashwagandha so that it can be recommended to people for therapies, anxiety, and stress on a larger scale.
2. Reduces blood sugar levels
- Ashwagandha increases blood sugar levels in people with both normal and increased sugar levels by increasing the insulin secretion, and insulin sensitivity of cells.
- Ashwagandha, due to its effect on blood sugar levels, helps people with type 2 diabetes by lowering the fasting blood sugar levels.
- It is helpful to Schizophrenic people as they too have increased blood sugar levels. Studies have found out that ashwagandha is more helpful than a placebo which is usually recommended to people who have schizophrenia.
3. Anti-cancer properties
- Ashwagandha has a high concentration of withanolides, that help in inducing apoptosis, a process that eliminates cancer and virus-inducing cells.
- A compound in ashwagandha, called withaferin, disrupts the function of cancer cells by making them less resistant to apoptosis and promoting the formation of reactive oxygen species (highly reactive chemical molecules) inside cancerous cells.
- Ashwagandha stops cancer from spreading to other organs and reduces tumour growth. This fact is backed up by studies conducted by scientists on mice.
- Although the existing research is encouraging, ashwagandha is not actively used to treat cancer in human beings as of now.
4. Reduces depression
- Ashwagandha might prove useful in reducing depression by reducing its symptoms although the evidence for this is limited.
5. Boosts testosterone levels
- Studies have shown that those men who consume ashwagandha regularly have increased sperm count and mobility which makes the overall reproductive health of men better.
- Ashwagandha also increases testosterone and antioxidant levels in which consequently reduces stress.
6. Increases strength and muscle mass
- Ashwagandha leads to a better body composition if consumed regularly.
- Ashwagandha is known to decrease body fat and increase muscle mass and strength. Some studies suggest that it almost doubles the muscle size.
7. Increases natural killer cell activity
- Studies have revealed that it enhances immunity by increasing the infection-fighting cells/ killer cells in the body
- The same property of ashwagandha is also known to reduce inflammation by decreasing the count of CRP markers.
8. Known to reduce cholesterol levels.
- The compounds found in Ashwagandha are known to reduce blood fats, triglycerides, and cholesterol levels.
- Some studies conducted on animals show that it reduced cholesterol levels by at least 50%.
- Reduced levels of cholesterol in the body have a very healthy effect on the heart and overall well being of those who consume 250 mg of Ashwagandha regularly.
9. Enhances memory and brain function
- Some scientific studies say that ashwagandha can enhance spatial memory by reducing oxidative stress on the brain.
- It is known to increase task performance more even more than placebo.
- Taking at least 300-500 mg of Ashwagandha on daily basis is known to make the memory and attention span increase significantly
- On regular usage, ashwagandha is also known to increase the reaction time.
Apart from that are based on studies and research many other health benefits of Ashwagandha are known. Some lesser-known benefits of Ashwagandha that are not scientifically proven and yet are quite common in everyday usage of people are:
- When consumed in smaller quantities, it slows down the ageing process in older people, aged 65-80
- It is known to enhance athletic performance by increasing the oxygen imbibing capacity of cells.
- It helps with side effects like the tiredness of chemotherapy.
- Helps people with bipolar disorder by enhancing their brain function
- It is known to help people with hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism by stabilizing the TSH levels in the blood.
- It increases sexual satisfaction and decreases sexual dysfunctions in women which makes reproductive health better.
- It is used as a natural remedy for treating attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
- Ashwagandha is also used for the treatment of diseases like osteoarthritis, tuberculosis, Parkinson’s disease, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Liver function, fibromyalgia, ulcers, and tumours.
Long term side effects of Ashwagandha
- If not taken in the right doses, Ashwagandha is known to cause vomiting, diarrhoea, and an upset stomach, thereby causing the opposite effects.
- Ashwagandha is not known to have side effects if used on the skin both in the long term and short term.
- There is a lack of research and evidence on the effect of Ashwagandha on breastfeeding mothers so its usage is not recommended in pregnant and breastfeeding women.
- It might lower the blood sugar levels more than required if the dosage is not monitored closely.
- People with high or low blood pressure should take Ashwagandha carefully because it might make the blood pressure unstable and hinder with medications.
Ashwagandha’s benefits outweigh its side effects by a large margin. It can be consumed as tablets, capsules, or powder. People even use it to make tea, sweets, and shrikhands. Consume it regularly to escalate your health to an unexpected level, but before that ask a doctor if it is suitable for your body or not!