I was recently introduced to the amazing benefits of ashwagandha root, also sometimes referred to as Indian Ginseng, and since then, have spent considerable time researching the health benefits of this herb. These days we often hear about “superfoods” or “miracle” foods and herbs, and it seems every supplement claims to be the best one. But can they all be the best? Ashawagandha just might be! This herb can treat a wide array of ailments and assist our bodies with many vital functions.
This herb is an adaptogen, which means that it helps your body tackle stress by lowering cortisol levels, managing fatigue and mental fog, and improving concentration. These are all things that I have been struggling with, and inevitably what led me to try this herb in the first place. Once I started taking it, I immediately noticed a difference in how my body was handling stress.
Really, there are too many benefits of ashwagandha to name, so here are just a few of the many it offers, backed by science.
1. It Is an Ancient Medicinal Herb
Ashwagandha is a very important herb in Ayurveda and has been used for over 3,000 years to relieve stress, increase energy levels, and improve concentration.
2. It Can Reduce Blood Sugar Levels
Ashwagandha has been shown to lower blood sugar levels in several studies. A test tube study found that it increased insulin secretion and improved insulin sensitivity in muscle cells.
Human studies have shown its ability to reduce blood sugar levels in both diabetics and healthy individuals.
A small study — conducted on just six people with type 2 diabetes and six with high cholesterol — had participants supplementing with ashwagandha for 30 days, and found it lowered fasting blood sugar levels just as much as an oral diabetes medication.
3. It Can Reduce Cortisol Levels (Stress Hormone)
Cortisol, otherwise known as the stress hormone, is released in response to stress and low blood sugar. For many people, cortisol levels become chronically elevated, which can lead to both high blood sugar levels and increased fat storage in the abdomen.
Multiple studies have shown that ashwagandha can help to reduce cortisol levels.
In a controlled study conducted on chronically stressed adults, the group given ashwagandha saw significantly greater reductions in cortisol levels than the control group. The group taking the highest dose of the supplement had an average of a 30% reduction.
From my own experience, I have already noticed this effect, and have found that I no longer get stressed as easily or for as long.
5. It May Help Reduce Anxiety
Because ashwagandha is best known for its ability to combat stress and bring about a calm, clear state of mind, it also can reduce anxiety levels as well.
One study, conducted over a 60 day period on 64 people with chronic stress, showed that those taking ashwagandha reported an average of 69% reduction in anxiety and insomnia, compared to only 11% in the placebo group.
And a six-week study showed that 88% of people who took ashwagandha reported a reduction in their anxiety levels compared to 50% from those who took a placebo.
6. It May Reduce Symptoms of Depression
More research needs to be done to provide a solid case for this claim, but preliminary studies have shown promising results.
A controlled 60-day study conducted on adults reporting high levels of stress showed that those who took 600 mg per day of ashwagandha reported an astounding 79% reduction in severe depression. The placebo group reported a 10% increase.
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7. It Can Boost Testosterone and Fertility in Men
One study conducted on 75 infertile men showed an increase of sperm count and mobility on the group treated with ashwagandha.
Another study showed that the men who received ashawagandha for stress ended up experiencing higher levels of antioxidants and better sperm quality. After only three months of treatment, 14% of the men’s partners had become pregnant.
8. It Can Improve Memory and Brain Function
Some studies on animals suggest that ashwagandha may reduce memory and brain function issues caused by a disease or injury. This supplement promotes antioxidant activity and protects nerve cells from free radicals.
One study conducted on epileptic rats found a near complete reversal of spatial memory impairment after being given ashwagandha. They believe this was a result from a reduction in oxidative stress.
Ashwagandha has been used traditionally in Ayurvedic medicine to boost memory, though more research needs to be done on humans to determine whether it does function in this capacity. In one controlled study, however, researchers gave healthy men a 500 mg supplement daily and noticed significant improvements in their reaction time and task performance compared to men who received only a placebo.
9. Stimulates the Thyroid Gland
In cases of hypothyroidism, ashwagandha can be used to stimulate the thyroid gland. One study determined that daily supplementation could increase the secretion of thyroid hormones.
10. Promotes Muscle Growth
One study showed an increase of muscle mass and a decrease in fat after just 30 days of taking between 750-1250 mg of ashwagandha.
Another study showed that those taking the herb had significantly greater gains in muscle strength and size. They also had more than double the reduction in body fat compared to the placebo group. This study was relatively small, however, only conducted on 57 young males, so more research needs to be done.
There are many potential benefits to gain from supplementing with ashwagandha. To determine if it’s right for you, be sure to talk to your supplement expert at your local health food store, or your ayurvedic medicine practitioner, to find out the dosage best suited for you and your needs.
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