ASHWAGANDHA: Benefits, side effects, compositions and uses

ASHWAGANDHA: Benefits, side effects, compositions and uses
ASHWAGANDHA: Benefits, side effects, compositions and uses

The Ashwagandha is an Indian traditional herb which has been used in Ayurveda since 2500 years ago. The scientific name of Ashwagandha is Withania Somnifera and is a member of the Solanaceae (nightshade)family.

Ashwagandha has thyroid modulating neuroprotective, anti-anxiety, anti-dpressant and anti-inflammatory properties and many more benefits.

Ashwagandha is called as the “Strength of the stallion” because it has been used as an immune system improver. It is also known as Indian ginseng as it increases the stamina and naturally relieves the stress. The roots and leaves of Ashwagandha are used for their medical properties. There is the presence of withanolides in it, a group of steroidal lactones which contributes to the herb’s health benefits.

Literally, the meaning of ashwagandha is “smell of horse” because the fresh root of this herb is said to smell like a horse. There are also stories that f you consume ashwagandha then you may develop the strength and vitality of a horse.

In Ayurveda, ashwagandha is called “rasayana,” which means that it is used to promote your physical, mental health and to slow down the aging process. Ashwagandha has been used in India for centuries but recent scientific studies found that it possesses anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

Benefits of Ashwagandha:

(1) Improves underactive thyroid function

One of the main feature of ashwagandha is that it helps people’s thyroid problems. It helps to recover the people diagnosed with Hashimoto’s diseases or underactive thyroid.

This study in 2017 published in the journal of Alternative and complementary medicine, the benefits of ashwagandha and its effects for the patients with subclinical hypothyroidism were evaluated.

Total 50 numbers of participants were diagnosed with a thyroid disorder, but they didn’t displayed any symptoms of thyroid deficiency.

They were given 600 mg of ashwagandha root extract daily for 8 week period. And the control group were given starch as the placebo. Researchers found that the ashwagandha improved the serum thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) and Thyroxine (T4)levels significantly compared to placebo.

In another study published in the Journal of Ayurveda and integrative medicine also found that ashwagandha has thyroid enhancing properties.

People with hyperactive thyroid such as those with Grave’s disease should not use ashwagandha as it increases thyroid function.

(2) Ashwagandha relieves Adrenal fatigue

Researchers have fou nd that ashwagandha is may be helpful in supporting adrenal function and helping you to overcome adrenal fatigue. The adrenal glands releases hormones, specifically cortisol and adrenaline, in response to stress.

If your mind is continuously under emotional, physical, and mental stress, this can lead to a condition referred to adrenal fatigue. Adrenal fatigue can disrupt the hormones in your body, including progesterone, which can cause infertility. It can also lower the levels of DHEA, a hormone which keeps your body strong and related to longevity.

(3) Lowers stress and anxiety

Ashwagandha is well known for its ability to work as a remedy to stress and anxiety.

In a 2009 sudy published in PLOS One, ashwagandha was found to be comparable to common pharmaceutical drugs lorazepam and imipramine, without the side effects.

In the 12 week controlled study, 75 participants with anxiety were divided into two groups, one that received naturopathic care and another that received standardized psychotherapy intervention. The naturopathic care groups received dietary counseling, deep breathing relaxation techniques, a standard multivitamin and 300 mg of Ashwagandha twice daily.

After the 12 week period, the group who received Ashwagandha had anxiety score decrease by 55% and the psychotherapy group’s scores decreased by 30.5%. Significant difference between the two groups were found regardiing mental health, concentration, social functioning, vitality, fatigue and overall quality of life, with Ashwagandha displaying greater clinical benefits.

They also found that there is no or minimal adverse reaction while taking Ashwagandha, compared to antidepressant and anti-anxiety medications, that may cause drowsiness, insomnia, loss of sexual desire and increased appetite, along with lots of other side effects.

(4) Improves depression

Ashwagandha does not only benefits people with chronic anxiety and stress, but it can be also helpful to overcome depression. It improved our resistance towards stress and research show that it therefore improves the quality of life.

As we know that stress is an important cause of depression, as is hormonal imbalances, Ashwagandha can be a natural remedy to cure depression.

An experimental study in 2000 involving rats, Ashwagandha efficacy was compared to the antidepressant medication imipramine.

They found that Ashwagandha has same amount of antidepressant effects as imipramine when rats were exposed to “behavioral despair” and “learned helplessness” tests.

They concluded that Ashwagandha can be used as a mood stabilizer in clinical conditions of depression.


(5) Balances Blood Sugar Level

The presence of phenolic compounds, including flavonoids makes Ashwagandha as a natural remedy for diabetic patients. Research shows that flavonoids possess hypoglycemic activities and a study involving rodents concluded that both Ashwagandha root and leaf extracts helped to achieve normal blood sugar levels in diabetic rats.

In an animal study done in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology found that when Ashwagandha was given to the fructose-fed rats, it inhibited the fructose-induced increases in glucose, insulin resistance, and inflammation.

The data suggests that Ashwagandha extracts are may be helpful in improving insulin sensitivity and reducing inflammatory markers in humans.

(6) Helps to fight Cancer

Research has found that Ashwagandha has anti-tumor effects that can help reduce tumor growth and may work to prevent cancer cells from growing. The extract also helpful to inhibit the proliferation of cancer cells specifically breast, stomach, lung and colon cancer cells.

Many researchers also suggests that AShwagandha can help to reduce the side effects of anti-cancer agents that can reduce the immune system and quality of life.

An animal study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology found that supplementary Ashwagandha was correlated with an increase in white blood cells within the body. This indicates that immune system is better able to protect the boy from disease and harmful invaders when using Ashwagandha. The decreased count of white blood cells in the body after chemotherapy is a major concern because it puts cancer patients at a much higher risk of health issues like contracting an infection.

(7) Ashwagandha Improves Memory

The stress and anxiety of all forms can have damaging effects to the brain and nervous system. Ashwagandha is not only a stress reliever, it also protects the brain from cell degeneration, which can lead to neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Ashwagandha is so effective because it has powerful antioxidants that destroy the free radicals that cause aging.

WithaferinA and Withanolide D are the two main withanolidesin ashwagandha that are used to improve cognitive function. Withanolides aare naturally occuring steroids that commonly present in the plants of nightshade family. When these steroids are injected into rodents to test their cognitive-improving abilities, researchers found that they helped to promote cell growth, reverse behavioral deficits and plaque buildup, and reduce amyloid beta burden, which is crucially involved in the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

In a 2017 pilot study in the journal of Dietary Supplements found that Ashwagandha improves the immediate and general memory in the people mild cognitive impairment.

This study involved 50 adults who either received 300 mg of ashwagandha root extract for an eight week period or placebo. Researchers found that ashwagandha treatment was able to boost memory and other cognitive skills like information proccessing speed, mental skills and improve attention.

(8) Boosts Immune function

As ashwagandha works as an adaptogen that can reduce the body’s stress hormone, it can help your immune system and reduce inflammation within the body.

Animal and laboratory research shows that ashwagandha can enhance the immune system by increasing immunoglobulin production. It is also able to produce anti-inflammatory environment by suppressing pro-inflammatory cytokines.

By downregulating the immune system when compromised, ashwagandha might be a useful herb to treat your inflammatory condition.

(9) Increases stamina and endurance

Research shows that ashwagandha can boost endurance during physical pressure by reducing bodily pain and sharpening brain’s function. In studies found that ashwagandha showed improvements in motivation, concentration, and stamina, due to its positive effects on brain and stress.

A 2015 double-blind, placebo-controlled and random study in India was evaluated to the efficacy of ashwagandha on 50 athletes in enhancing cardiorespiratory endurance. In a 20 minutes shuttle run test, the oxygen consumption of each participant peak physical exertion was measured. They were also given a questionnaire about their physical health, psychological factors, social relationships, and environmental factors to access changes in their quality of life after the treatment of ashwagandha.

They found that which athletes used ashwagandha extracts were improved cardiorespiratory endurance after 8 and 12 weeks of treatment. There was also a significant improvement in their life score and quality.

In another study in rats found that ashwagandha was able to increase swimming performance during a physical endurance test. the rats which received ashwagandha before the swim test was able to swim for a mean time of 740 minutes, while the control group swam for a mean duration of 385 minutes. the ashwagandha almost doubled the swimming time in rats.

Researchers believe that the anti-stress properties of Ashwagandha help to improve stamina and similar effects may take place in humans because of the herb’s ability to balance adrenal hormones that are involved in physical activity.

(10) Improves sexual function and fertility

Stress is one of the causative factor for infertility in men. This study was conducted to understand the role of stress in male infertility, and to test the ability of Ashwagandha to combat stress and to increase male infertility.

They selected 60 men with normal sperm but infertile for the purpose. They were further categorized as 20 heavy smokers, 20 under psychological stress and of 20 men the cause was unknown for their infertility.

These three groups were given root powder of Withania Somnifera or Ashwagandha at a rate of 5g/day for 3 months. The treatment resulted of a decrease in stress, the overall semen quality improved and also improved the anti-oxidants in a significant number of individuals. This treatment resulted that 14% of patients were able to pregnant their partners.

In another study, the researchers used high-resolution Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectroscopy to explore the scientific basis to reveal the effects of using Ashwagandha on the seminal plasma of infertile men.

Total 180 male infertile patients were administered Ashwagandha root powder at the rate of 5g/day for a 3 months period. They used proton NMR spectroscopy to measure and appraise infertility levels in men.

They found that Ashwagandha not only rebooted enzymatic activity of metabolic pathways and energy metabolism but also invigorates the harmonic balance of seminal plasma metabolites and reproductive hormones in infertile men.

They concluded that Ashwagandha can be used as a supplement to treat infertility in men.

In 2010, in another study, the researchers investigated the impact of Ashwagandha root on the semen profile, Oxidative biomarkers, and reproductive hormone levels of infertile men.

They took 75 healthy fertile men and 75 infertile men for the study.

After treating the infertile men they found that the sperm count and motility increased in them. They also found that Ashwagandha reduced stress and improved level of diverse antioxidants.

This study tried to analyze the spermatogenic activity of Ashwagandha with patients with low sperm count and the possibility of male infertility.

Total 46 number of male participated in this study. They received either 675 mg of Ashwagandha divided into 3 doses/day for a 90 days period or placebo. They estimated the serum hormone levels and semen parameters in the end.

They found that there was a 167% increase in sperm count, a 53% increase in motility among the patients who were given a placebo, the improvements were minimal.

(11)Increases Muscle strength

One of the amazing benefits of Ashwagandha is that it increases your muscles strength and mass. Therefore, it is very helpful to bodybuilders, athletes and other people engaged in resistance training and heavy exercises.

The Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition published in 2015 Ashwagandha supplementation is associated with a significant increase in muscle mass and strength. The 8 weeks study involved 57 males from the ages of 18 to 50 with little experience in resistance training. The men in the treatment group were given Ashwagandha root extract of 300 mg daily, and the control group consumed starch placebos.

The researchers found that those people who were given Ashwagandha supplement had a significantly greater increase in muscle strength on the bench press and leg extension exercise. They also displayed higher muscle size growth, an increase of the arms and chest, and had increased testosterone level and a greater decrease in body fat percentage.

The researchers also found that Ashwagandha is beneficial in joint pain, and rheumatoid arthritis without having any side effects.


Side effects of Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha has been found to enhance the sedative properties of some medications, therefore it should not be taken with sedatives and tranquilizers.

Ashwagandha may lower blood pressure and blood sugar, therefore it shouldn’t be taken by those with diabetes or with medications of low blood pressure.

The people under treatment of diabetes and thyroid are may be adversely affected by the use of Ashwagandha.

As this herb has shown some abortifacient properties, the pregnant women and lactating women shouldn’t take it.

Above all, consult a medicine specialist or doctor before taking any dosage of Ashwagandha as the supplement.

Ashwagandha Composition

According to the research published in the International Journal of Home Science, 1,000 milligrams of dehydrated Ashwagandha root powder contains the following things…

2.5 calories

.04 gram protein

.032 gram fiber

.05 gram carbohydrates

.03 mg iron

.02 mg calcium

.08 mg carotene

.06 mg vitamin C

Ashwagandha, along with these contains many other beneficial elements, including Flavonoids and antioxidants such as catalase, superoxide dismutase and glutathione, which as the “mother of all antioxidants.” It also contains alkaloids, amino acids (including tryptophan), neurotransmitters, sterols, tannins, lignans, and triterpenes.

Ashwagandha Dosage/uses

The traditional method of taking Ashwagandha is to mix the root powder with milk, ghee, and honey or adding it with tea. A more convenient method is to take it in pill form. The best Ashwagandha supplements come in capsules that contain Ashwagandha extractor powdered whole roots.

The Ashwagandha supplement dosage is 500 to 1000 milligram per day recommended by most of the sources. Even less than the recommended dosage can give you results and reap the benefits of Ashwagandha.

Buy Ashwagandha only from trusted sources and always contact a doctor or certified practitioner before taking any amount of supplement.

Conclusion:

To be conclude, Ashwagandha is a herb which is traditionally using in India for centuries in Ayurveda has many wonderful benefits.

Ashwagandha can lower stress and anxiety, lower blood sugar and blood pressure level, increases muscle, mass, boost testosterone, fights cancer and promotes overall health benefits to you.

It has anti aging properties!

And most important fact is that it has no or minimal side effects.

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