This is a perennial shrub of the nightshade family with yellow, foul-smelling flowers and orange fruits resembling physalis. And the name ashwagandha (ashwagandha) came from India (from Sanskrit Ashwagandha – “the smell of a horse”). Also sometimes the shrub is called “winter berry” and “Indian ginseng”.
For several millennia, the powder from the roots and leaves of this plant has been used in Indian medicine to relieve stress, increase immunity, increase energy and focus. Today, ashwagandha is available in supplement form, and numerous scientific studies confirm that “Indian ginseng” is really good for the body.
Benefits of Ashwagandha
Many medicinal properties of the plant are explained by the high concentration of withanolides – lactoid steroids withaferin A and withanolide A, named after the plant itself. These bioactive molecules have beneficial effects on metabolism, hormone and neurotransmitter levels.
Helps fight stress
Ashwagandha extract reduces cortisol levels by 28-30% and helps to adapt to stressors.
In a 2008 experiment, taking 125–250 mg of ashwagandha for 1–2 months significantly reduced the symptoms of chronic stress: improved sleep and appetite, and removed constant fatigue, irritability and forgetfulness, headache, and difficulty concentrating.
The same effect was seen in a later study. Two months of supplementation at 600 mg per day increased participants’ ability to deal with stress and improved their quality of life.
Relieves symptoms of anxiety and depression
Ashwagandha has a beneficial effect on the psyche. In one study, ashwagandha supplementation reduced symptoms of anxiety and depression in participants by 71.6% over 6-8 weeks.
Perhaps this effect is due to the effect on gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors in the brain. It is the main neurotransmitter that is involved in the processes of inhibition in the nervous system, and its deficiency is associated with a wide range of mental illnesses.
Improves brain function
Ashwagandha has a positive effect on memory and other cognitive functions in people with brain disorders. Some researchers believe that “Indian ginseng” supplements can be used as part of therapy for diseases such as dementia, memory loss, Parkinson’s disease, and brain damage caused by stroke.
Ashwagandha can help healthy people too. A study found that two weeks of taking 500 mg of ashwagandha per day increased the results of tests on cognitive and psychomotor functions.
Improves metabolic health
In addition, ashwagandha lowers cholesterol levels and, most importantly, low and very low density lipoproteins, compounds that increase the risk of clogged blood vessels.
Thus, taking ashwagandha supplements can serve as a prevention of metabolic disorders and diseases of the cardiovascular system, especially for people who are overweight and have a sedentary lifestyle.
Improves reproductive health for men
Taking ashwagandha increases the quality of sperm, increases the level of the male sex hormone testosterone and luteinizing hormone, which stimulates the production of testosterone in the Leydig cells in the testes.
So, in one study, taking 5 g of ashwagandha per day increased the quality of sperm in infertile men. After three months, 14% of the participants’ partners became pregnant.
Who Shouldn’t Try Ashwagandha
Although side effects from taking ashwagandha are rare, there are people who are not recommended to experiment with the Indian herb:
- pregnant women and women during lactation;
- people with autoimmune diseases
- erythematosus, autoimmune thyroiditis;
- those who take medications for thyroid diseases;
- those taking drugs that affect blood sugar and blood pressure.
How to take ashwagandha supplements
In order for this plant to bring only benefits to the body, be sure to consult with a therapist before taking it.
Ashwagandha is available in powder, tablets or capsules. As a rule, one capsule contains from 250 to 450 mg of powder from the roots and leaves of the shrub.
The daily norm of this plant has not been determined. In most studies, taking 450–500 mg of ashwagandha per day has shown good results with no side effects. When choosing a dosage, be guided by the recommendations of the doctor and the manufacturer on the package.
In terms of course duration, in scientific experiments, people have typically taken the supplement for 2-3 months. Such a period did not cause addiction or withdrawal syndrome.