Ashwagandha is a revered herb of the Indian Ayurvedic system—an alternative form of medicine developed in accordance with Indian principles of healing. In Ayurveda, Ashwagandha is used as a Rasayana (rejuvenator) and is widely used to relieve stress, improve cognitive function, and increase energy.
In the last few decades, Ashwagandha, or Withania Somnifera, has become a popular tonic ingredient, latte additive, and general health supplement for westerners. But what are the herb’s specific health benefits?
We break down five health benefits of Ashwagandha, below.
What is Ashwagandha?
Native to India and North Africa, the Ashwagandha plant is a small shrub with yellow flowers. Traditionally, its roots or leaves are harvested to make medicinal tinctures or powder supplements.
Adaptogenic Properties of Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha is classified as an adaptogen. Therefore, the herb is best known for its stress reducing qualities and its ability to promote a calmer, more ‘present’ sense of being.
Recent research has also shown the herb may also have the ability to lower blood sugar levels, increase VO2max, and reduce cortisol, among other things.
Below, we break down 5 intriguing health benefits of Ashwagandha.
5 Health Benefits of Ashwagandha
1. Reduces stress and anxiety
Chronic stress can lead to underperformance in your work and life. It could even lead to adverse clinical conditions. Adaptogens such as Ashwagandha are herbs that help in combating stress.
In one study, aiming to “evaluate the safety and efficacy of a high-concentration full-spectrum extract of Ashwagandha roots in reducing stress and anxiety…”, researchers found that: “a high-concentration full-spectrum Ashwagandha root extract safely and effectively improves an individual’s resistance towards stress and thereby improves self-assessed quality of life.”
In the study, 64 participants with a history of chronic stress took two 300 mg capsules of high-concentration full-spectrum Ashwagandha root extract, twice a day.
2. Can Improve Sleep Quality
In an eight-week, prospective, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, sixty male and female participants were randomized to receive different doses of Ashwagandha extract—250 mg/day; 600 mg/day; or a placebo for eight weeks. Along with a reduction in cortisol levels, participants who received either dose of Ashwagandha experienced a significant improvement in sleep quality compared to the placebo group.
3. May Reduce Blood Sugar Levels
Ashwagandha has been shown to decrease or stabilize blood sugar levels. Reducing blood sugar when it’s too high or increasing it if too low.
4. May Increase VO2max
A systematic review of five studies done of the effect of Ashwagandha supplementation on VO2max—with a total of 162 participants—and meta-analysis of four of those studies—with a total of 142 participants—was published in April (2020).
The study concluded that “Ashwagandha supplementation might improve the VO2max in athlete and non-athlete people. However, further research is need to confirm this hypothesis since the number of studies is limited and the heterogeneity was high.”
5. Can Have Anti-inflammatory Effects
Ashwagandha contains a spectrum of diverse phytochemicals. Thus, it has a broad range of biological implications, including anti-inflammatory properties. These properties have the potential to be useful in the treatment of conditions such as arthritis.
Consistency is Key
The potential health benefits of ashwagandha are intriguing. However, it's important to remember that adaptogens such as ashwagandha are most effective when taken regularly and in accordance with specific dosage recommendations provided by a medical professional.
Is Ashwagandha Safe?
Preliminary studies have found that ashwagandha exhibits a variety of therapeutic effects with little or no associated toxicity. However, it is recommended to consult with your physician or nutritionist before incorporating adaptogens into your routine. And if you are pregnant, nursing, or have a pre-existing medical condition, you should check with your doctor before taking ashwagandha.
West of Wild: Evening Rituals
One of our favorite ways to take ashwaganda is by incorporating it into a relaxing evening ritual. We love it added to homemade hot cocoa or moon milk to ease the process of getting to bed.
One of the touted effects of Ashwaganda is that the herb “gives you what you need”. Thus, if you need sleep, it may help you drift off more easily.
Pink Macadamia Moon Milk Recipe
- 8 ounces macadamia nut milk or oat milk
- 4 ounces unsweetened Montmorency tart cherry juice
- 1 heaping tablespoon raw local honey
- 1/2 teaspoon ashwagandha powder
- ½ teaspoon reishi powder
- dried culinary rose petals
- Heat macnut milk and tart cherry juice over low heat in a small pot.
- Remove from heat, and whisk in honey, reishi, and ashwagandha. (for extra froth, mix all ingredients in a blender for about 5-10 seconds).
- Top with rose petals and enjoy warm.
- Sip on your moon milk while treating yourself to one of our favorite homemade adaptogenic masks or soaking in an Epsom salt bath.
Important Information To Read Before Using Adaptogens
Please note that the information in this article is intended only as a general reference for further exploration, and is not a replacement for professional health advice. This content does not provide dosage information, format recommendations, toxicity levels, or possible interactions with prescription drugs. Accordingly, this information should be used only under the direct supervision of a qualified health practitioner such as a naturopathic physician.