If you've ever looked into natural remedies for anxiety or adrenal fatigue, chances are you've come across mentions of Ashwagandha before. It is, after all, one of the most popular Ayurvedic herbs on the market, and it's backed by centuries of medicinal use.
Here, we'll answer some important questions–what is Ashwagandha? Is there any evidence to back up it's purported benefits? And if so, how can you use it safely in your own wellness routine?
Let's go:Table of Contents
Ashwagandha is an ancient remedy that's been at the center of Ayurvedic healing for centuries. Historically, Ashwagandha root has been used to relieve stress, balance energy levels, improve focus, and even address fertility issues.
The ashwagandha plant is a low growing shrub native to southern areas of Asia. It's typically harvested for its root, though the leaves, seeds, stems, and flowers of the plant can also be used in various preparations.
Although Ashwagandha historically has a wide range of therapeutic uses, modern research has only recently begun to dive into its medical potential. There’s still more research to be done, but here are some potential Ashwagandha benefits that have been researched:
Ashwagandha’s calming effects are one of its selling points for many consumers, and there are a few studies to back up it’s potential anxiety-reducing benefits. A 2000 study found the root supplement to have a comparable effect to lorazepam, a popular anti-anxiety medication.
A 2019 study found that patients who took 240 mg of Ashwagandha root daily experienced significantly reduced stress levels compared to the placebo group. Another 2019 study showed similar results–subjects experienced significantly reduced levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) when taking doses of either 250 mg or 600 mg of Ashwagandha daily.
More research is needed to understand the full benefits of using Ashwagandha to relieve stress or anxiety, but the current results look promising.
Some evidence suggests that Ashwagandha may act as a pain reliever that blocks pain signaling and helps to ease inflammation. One 2015 study found the herb to have positive results in treating rheumatoid arthritis related joint pain. However, this study consisted of a small sample size of only 125 people, so further research is needed to confirm these effects.
Some anecdotal evidence also suggests that Ashwagandha could be heart healthy, claiming that it may help lower blood pressure and cholesterol, ease chest pains, and possibly even prevent heart-related disease. One 2015 study explored Ashwagandha’s heart health benefits and found that the root extract may enhance cardiorespiratory endurance, but research is otherwise limited in this area.
Some evidence suggests that Ashwagandha could help improve brain health, and may even be a useful preventative in the case of neurodegenerative disorders. A 2011 review of a collection of studies exhibits Ashwagandha’s potential ability to help slow the loss of brain function in patients with neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s disease or Parkingson’s Disease. However, this research involved mice, so human trials are necessary to confirm these benefits.
The same 2011 review also found that Ashwagandha may have some promising benefits for preventing or managing cancer. One study examined in this comprehensive review specifically found that Ashwagandha may help prevent or reduce the growth of tumors in lung-cancer infected animals. Again, human trials are necessary before and concise conclusions can be drawn.
Read "Ashwagandha Benefits" for more information.
We mentioned that almost every part of the Ashwagandha plant can be used in various therapeutic preparations, but you’ll often find that the root of the plant offers the most purported benefits. Before you choose an Ashwagandha supplement to add t your wellness routine, consider the following:
The quality of your wellness supplements is incredibly important, especially since supplements are not regulated the same way as prescription medications. Ensure that the Ashwagandha supplement you buy comes from a trustworthy manufacturer, specifically that uses a third-party testing process to ensure quality. You may also look for a company that is experienced with wellness supplements and uses a cGMP compliant manufacturing facility.
Because Ashwagandha needs to be taken regularly and may have a positive impact on energy levels, it’s best taken in the morning around the same time each day. It’s especially important to take it daily for the most benefits since it may take about two weeks to feel the effects of Ashwagandha root supplements.
The amount of Ashwagandha needed to experience the full benefits of its effects varies for every person, but most human studies exhibit promising results with doses between 300 and 600 mg of Ashwagandha root extract per day. It may be best to start at the low end of this dosing spectrum and increase your dose over a few weeks until you experience the full effects you’re after.
Read "Ashwagandha Dosage" to learn more.
You may find different supplements, like teas and capsules, made from various parts of the Ashwagandha plant, but people commonly seek Ashwagandha root either in powder or capsule form for therapeutic use. Many people prefer the powdered form of Ashwagandha root because it can be mixed into a morning beverage, like a coffee or a smoothie.
In the research available, Ashwagandha is generally well-tolerated by both humans and animals. There is currently little research available that evaluates the safety of Ashwagandha in depth, but we do know of some circumstances where Ashwagandha root could be potentially unsafe.
Ashwagandha can impact thyroid function by converting T4 to T3, which means it may be dangerous for anyone with a hyperactive thyroid. There is also no evidence to support the safety of Ashwagandha for pregnant women or breastfeeding women. If you fall into these categories or suffer from an autoimmune disease, discuss taking Ashwagandha with your doctor first.
The primary concern for Ashwagandha consumers should be the quality of the products they choose. Ashwagandha, on its own, is likely safe for most people, but low-quality formulas could contain other ingredients that pose a higher risk. Sourcing Ashwagandha from a high-quality manufacturer can help reduce that risk.
Read "Ashwagandha Side Effects" for more information.
Ashwagandha is an ancient herbal remedy that may offer health benefits like mood management, anti-anxiety effects, improved blood sugar, lower inflammation, and more. More human trials are necessary to understand the full extent of Ashwagandha’s potential benefits and risks.
Yes, taking Ashwagandha daily is safe so long as you purchase a clean, well-made supplement. Some products may contain impurities like dirt or metals left over from an unsafe manufacturing process, so it’s important to ensure that you purchase a clean form of Ashwagandha.
Ashwagandha is likely safe for most people, but those with autoimmune disorders, thyroid disorders, blood pressure disorders, or who are pregnant or breastfeeding should talk to their doctor first.
Some people experience benefits from Ashwagandha after only a few days, but others claim that it took up to two weeks to feel the full effects. The amount of time it takes depends on the benefits that you seek. For instance, you may experience increased energy after only one dose, but you may need to wait 6-10 weeks to experience the full benefits of it’s sleep enhancing potential.
It’s possible that Ashwagandha might cause sleepiness, especially when combined with other medications that have sedative-like effects. In general, most people report having more balanced energy levels throughout the day while taking Ashwagandha regularly.
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