One of the finest herbs known to man with incredible health benefits, ashwagandha is regarded as the “ King of Plants” in the herbal kingdom. The powerful herb is loaded with plenty of unique properties that the human body may require for a healthy run.
The name “ Ashwagandha” is formed by the union of two Sanskrit words, “ Ashwa” meaning horse, and “ Gandha” meaning smell. So, Ashwagandha describes the “ smell of horse urine”. The scientific name of ashwagandha is Withania somnifera. Besides, it also has other names including “ Indian Ginseng”, withania, winter cherry, etc.
The ancient medicinal herb, ashwagandha grows widely in many parts of India, parts of Africa, and the Middle east. The roots along with the fruits, leaves, and seeds of this plant are used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. As a matter of fact, Ayurveda extensively uses ashwagandha to treat a variety of health conditions including diabetes, stress, gastrointestinal problems, insomnia, nervous breakdowns, etc.
So, let's discuss the health benefits associated with ashwagandha.
#1. Brain Function Enhancement and Sleep Promotion
Are you a victim of insomnia? If affirmative, you can try incorporating ashwagandha in your diet to curb the problem. The wonder herb, ashwagandha is used in Ayurveda for enhancing brain function. Now, modern science has also begun supporting its claims by conducting so many trials and studies to find the efficacy of the herb.
In studies, researchers found that ashwagandha increased the level of acetylcholine in the brain. It is correlated with enhanced brain function, memory as well as intelligence (1)
Not only brain function but ashwagandha can also promote sleep. How? Recent studies reflect the plant extracts to possess properties to induce deep and restful sleep. And guess what they didn’t mark any drowsiness associated with several herbs or pharmaceutical medications (2)
#2. Nerve Cell Regeneration
Ashwagandha is shown to possess life-extending properties by contributing to nerve cell regeneration. There are so many studies conducted to prove this benefit of ashwagandha and continuing till date.
Likewise, research studies conducted in Japanese universities show the herb to regenerate nerve cells as well as dendrite growth all over the brain and body (3).
As a result, ashwagandha becomes a powerful and frontline herb towards the process of treatment of certain neurogenerative diseases, for instance, Parkinson and Alzheimer’s disease (4).
In addition to this, the magical herb ashwagandha can also stimulate the capacity of your body to heal nervous system damage. Similarly, it also improves coordination and communication between your nerve cells.
#3. Positive Effects on Stress, Anxiety, And Depression
Are you struggling at the entire positivity game? Do you rely on the whole bunch of anti-depressants? This is the time my friend that you must give a try to ashwagandha.
The reason is that the herb contains positive results on stress, anxiety, and depression. This claim is not just made in the thin air, but there are a relevant number of studies chanting the potent effects of this herb.
As per studies, ashwagandha extracts produce some anxiety-relieving effects powerful enough to provide anti-depressant properties (5).
According to a study on rats, researchers reported that ashwagandha blocked the pathway of stress in rat brains by regulating chemical signals in their nervous system (6).
In a similar fashion, controlled human studies showcased that the herb can reduce the symptoms of anxiety and stress disorders (7).
#4. Boosting Strength and Increasing Muscle Mass
Are you a fitness freak and searching for herbal supplements? Do you want to increase your muscle mass? Ashwagandha can be a great alternative for you instead of those wallet-burning supplement counterparts.
Speaking of studies on ashwagandha, it reflects that the herb might improve the composition of your body as well as increase your strength (8).
In another study, scientists found that volunteers who took ashwagandha showed significant muscle gains in terms of size and strength. Additionally, they also witnessed body fat percentage reductions almost twice than the placebo group (8).
#5. Supporting Longevity and Rejuvenation
Ashwagandha is not just an herb with properties to calm you down when stressed. But it has natural properties that can boost your stamina and restore balance in your body. Furthermore, it stimulates your immune system and increases the production of white blood cells.
Needless to say, white blood cells help you fight diseases and as a result, increases your immunity. Researches have showed the herb to elevate the two most powerful antioxidants, for instance, glutathione and dismutase (9).
As a matter of fact, the two health-promoting substances are amongst the most powerful ones known to man at present. As a result, such substances can be linked with the longevity properties of this herb.
#6. Blood Sugar Regulation
Yes, there comes good news for people who have to compromise on eating sugar! The magical herb ashwagandha never fails to amaze us with its wide range of benefits. And now, to add a feather in the cap, the herb can help you in regulating your blood sugar levels.
Several studies are proof to dictate that ashwagandha can lower blood sugar levels. Besides, a test-tube study found that the herb increased the secretion of insulin and improved its sensitivity in the muscle cells (10).
On the other hand, human studies suggest that ashwagandha can diminish blood sugar levels both in healthy as well as diabetic people (11).
#7. Alleviating Cholesterol Levels
In addition to blood sugar regulation, ashwagandha could help in improving your heart health. But how? Ashwagandha has bioactive constituents that can help in reducing the levels of cholesterol and triglyceride.
In an animal study, it was found that ashwagandha could decrease the level of certain blood fats significantly. The studies performed in rats also reflected that the herb lowered total triglyceride and cholesterol levels by considerably (12).
Furthermore, controlled human trials and studies demonstrated some impressive advancements as well (13).
#8. Hormonal Balance and Escalating Fertility in Men
Not only Ashwagandha has the properties as discussed so far, but it also has deeper effects. Ashwagandha has shown to balance adrenal and thyroid glands (14). And one of the most incredible benefits of Ashwagandha lies in the fact that the herb can help people with hypo or underactive and hyper or overactive thyroid issues.
These issues are quite common these days. Ashwagandha has proved an instrumental role to normalize thyroid hormone levels as per multiple studies.
Furthermore, ashwagandha supplements could possess powerful effects on the reproductive health and testosterone levels. In a study, a group treated with the herb, ashwagandha showed an increase in the sperm count along with motility (15).
#9. Lowering Cortisol Levels
Cortisol is a stress hormone that your adrenal glands release in response to stress. Besides, it can also get released when the blood sugar levels become too low.
In some cases, unfortunately, the cortisol levels might chronically increase. As a result, it can lead to a high level of blood sugar along with increased fat storage in your abdomen area.
As per studies, ashwagandha might help in reducing the cortisol levels in your system. In a study, researchers found that people who took ashwagandha supplements showed significant reductions in cortisol levels (16).
#10. Anticancer Properties
As per WHO, cancer is the second major cause of death worldwide and took almost 9.6 million death in the year 2018 (17).
According to test-tube and animal studies, ashwagandha contains a bioactive constituent by the name withaferin which helps in inducing apoptosis (18). Now you must be thinking about what apoptosis is. It is the programmed death of those cancer cells taking millions of lives every year. Additionally, it impedes new cancer cells from growing in several ways.
Animal studies reflect that ashwagandha might be effective in different types of cancer such as breast, brain, ovarian, colon, and lung. Although no evidence exerts similar impacts on humans, the ongoing research is still encouraging (19).
Possible Side Effects
So far, ashwagandha is shown to be a safe supplement for most people globally. However, there is a need for more research to apprehend its long-term effects.
Nonetheless, some individuals must not take the herb including pregnant and breastfeeding women. Furthermore, individuals with autoimmune diseases must also avoid usage unless a healthcare provider authorizes it. Such individuals include people with rheumatoid arthritis, Type-I diabetes, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, and lupus.
Apart from it, people on thyroid medication must also be careful while taking ashwagandha and avoid the usage unless authorized.
Now that you know the benefits of magical herb ashwagandha, you can incorporate it into your life to improve your overall health along with the quality of life.
Despite ayurvedic medicines and ashwagandha remain a somewhat mystery to modern science, it cannot ignore the health benefits associated with the herb. It is true that many studies are reflecting positive effects but are primarily done on animals. Now that there is not a full certainty of its effective benefits, the promising results are not deniable either.
Thus, before you take ashwagandha supplements, make sure you consult with your doctor in the first place.