When it comes to nutritional herbs, there’s one name that is taking the spotlight today: the Ashwagandha.
Ashwagandha has been used in the traditional medicine of India (Aryuveda) for thousands of years and it’s well known for its properties to counteract the effects of stress on the body. It can help with various stress-related symptoms and also has positive effects on various health conditions and illnesses.
Based on the traditional use, the list of Ashwagandha benefits is endless but not all the benefits have been scientifically proven and more human evidence is needed before supplementation can be recommended for the specific type of illness.
In this guide, we will look at all the facts and details about Ashwagandha to see who would actually benefit from taking it. Here you will also learn how Ashwagandha can help you improve your health.
What is Ashwagandha actually?
Ashwagandha (scientifically known as Withania Somnifera) is considered to be one of the most potent healing herbs in the Ayurvedic world. Since the old times, it has been utilised to treat a myriad of health conditions. However, it’s been always acknowledged that the biggest perk of this herb is its restorative effect.
When you look up the original meaning in the Sanskrit language, Ashwagandha literally means “smell of a horse.” The latter is an indicator that this herb can induce strength and invigoration that is similar to of a horse. Furthermore, it has been noted by some that the root of this herb has a lingering scent of the sweat of the horse.
Ashwagandha works as an adaptogen and tonic for the nerves. It helps to lower cortisol, a stress hormone which affects many different functions in the body, including metabolism, blood sugar levels and the immune response. In this way, Ashwagandha helps the body to manage stress better and reduces the effect of various stressors in life.
In India alone, this herb has been used for more than 5,000 years already so there is no doubt about its benefits.
The most common uses of Ashwagandha are for the treatment of insomnia, stress, constipation and rheumatism. Some evidence suggests that it can also aid infertility problems.
Ashwagandha Nutritional Composition
Ashwagandha is a shrub herb that is native to India and North Africa. It is like a miracle worker, considering the number of beneficial elements that it contains. First of all, it contains many flavonoids with a variety of antioxidants such as superoxide dismutase, catalase and glutathione peroxidase – all these antioxidants are health promoters and have specific health benefits.
Essential macronutrients such as protein and fibre are also present in Ashwagandha although the percentage of protein is small (around 4%).
Ashwagandha also contains beneficial trace minerals such as magnesium, calcium, iron, and zinc.
When all these nutrients and antioxidants work together, this brings certain benefits to your body and improves your immune system and overall health. This makes Ashwagandha a great supplement to include in your diet without causing any notable side effects.
As mentioned earlier, Ashwagandha can provide a variety of health benefits. As it contains a number of potent nutrients and minerals, there is no doubt that it can make somebody healthier and more resistant to various diseases.
Whether you are a man or a woman, the Ashwagandha is undoubtedly beneficial. You can learn more about its specific benefits in the next sections:
Ashwagandha Benefits For Women
The very first benefit of ashwagandha that women could benefit from is its ability to improve their fertility. Through its capability to curb down stress and other physical stressors, a woman’s chances of conception thoroughly increase when supplementing with ashwagandha. Ashwagandha has also been proven to boost women’s sexual function and has even been shown to keep the female reproductive organs strong and healthy (1).
Many women are prone to depression, anxiety and some even experience panic attacks. When these women take ashwagandha, their symptoms improve and their mental health is greatly enhanced (2). The best part of this is that ashwagandha will never cause any drowsiness.
If you are a woman and want to be healthier, the Ashwagandha herb can help in many different ways. For example, it can help to stabilise blood sugar and reduces your cholesterol levels. What’s more, it also helps to improve your thyroid function which is especially beneficial if you’ve been diagnosed with underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism).
When your thyroid is working the way it should, your hormones are more balanced and this results in better health (hormonal imbalances affect vital body functions such as heart rate, body weight, menstrual cycles, etc). For women, a healthier thyroid also means an improved fertility (due to a better regulation of reproductive hormones). Ashwagandha can help with all these issues.
Ashwagandha Benefits For Men
Many hard-working men experience a great stress and pressure at extreme levels and the stress-relieving benefit of the Ashwagandha herb would be really beneficial for them.
What’s more, Ashwagandha supplements can elevate the testosterone levels in men and improve their overall reproductive health. Specifically, the supplements can increase the sperm motility, semen volume and sperm count (3) – even among infertile men.
Another positive effect of Ashwagandha is that it increases the number of antioxidants in the body when taken continuously. Of course, one of its main effects is the improvement in testosterone production. Men who have difficulties impregnating their partners shouldn’t hesitate trying this herb.
Meanwhile, men who are struggling to get results from their workout routines can benefit from Ashwagandha too. Ashwagandha is known to enhance the composition of the body as it can improve muscle size and muscle strength (4).
There are several other benefits of Ashwagandha for men, for example, an improved endurance when exercising, better quality sleep and reduced cholesterol levels (the bad cholesterol).
Forms of Ashwagandha
Commercial ashwagandha is no longer in the form of the shrubs these days. However, this doesn’t mean that the efficacy of commercial ashwagandha has depreciated. Most of the manufacturers of this particular herb ensure that their products retain its original benefits regardless of the form they are in.
Ashwagandha herb is commonly taken in the form of capsules today as it’s a quick and hassle-free way of supplementing without any preparation at all. You just drink a suitable number of capsules and then enjoy its effects.
Ashwagandha also comes in the form of liquid extracts. These extracts have their own advantages as they are faster to absorb and easier to digest – this means you will start to feel the effects sooner. They also have a greater potency containing super concentrated and pure nutritional composition of the herb. To consume the Ashwagandha liquid extract, you normally mix it in warm water or with some food, just a warning: it won’t taste very pleasant.
The Ashwagandha is popularly available in the form of powder as well, but this is not for everybody. Powders are great for those who always take their water bottles with them as you can simply mix the powder into the water bottle (although you may not like the taste). Alternatively, blend the powder into some juice or a smoothie, and it will be much easier for you to consume.
When and How to Take Ashwagandha?
The recommended dosage of Ashwagandha is not set as it depends on several factors such as age, existing health conditions, and others.
For instance, if you are going to use Ashwagandha to manage stress, a dosage of 125 mg to 5 grams a day for 1-3 months is enough (5). Anxiety levels can be relieved by taking 500 mg to 600 mg of this herb for 6-12 weeks.
At this point, it is best that you consult a qualified health practitioner who can advise you about the right Ashwagandha dosage for you. Alternatively, you can refer to the manufacturer of the supplement for appropriate guidance.
Ashwagandha can be taken any time of the day with some water or food but if you want it to work for your particular concern, then you should pay attention to the time you take it. For example, if you want to sleep better at night, make sure you take Ashwagandha in the evening, a couple of hours before bed. On the other hand, if you want to improve your physical performance, consume Ashwagandha before the workout and have it after the workout to help with the recovery and to boost muscle mass.
Some people recommend taking Ashwagandha at least twice a day (500mg) for it to be effective.
Is it Safe to Take Ashwagandha Daily?
It is potentially safe to take Ashwagandha on a daily basis as long as it is short-term.
It is still unknown what are the effects of this herb if taken for extended periods. Furthermore, it is notable that Ashwagandha can cause diarrhoea and an upset stomach if it is consumed in excessive amounts.
It’s not recommended to take Ashwagandha when you are pregnant as this could result in miscarriage. If you are in doubt, the best is to consult your doctor.
Since Ashwagandha can lower blood sugar levels, you should avoid using it if you are taking diabetes medications. Their interaction might cause adverse effects. To learn more about Ashwagandha side effects, check out this article.
Overall, Ashwagandha is a quite useful herbal remedy for the treatment of stress and anxiety. It can also improve your overall health and it’s especially beneficial for those who would like to improve their fertility (this goes for both women and men).
Just remember to consult your doctor still before you take this herbal supplement. In this way, you can establish the proper dosage and extent of intake for your safety.