Ashwagandha is a popular adaptogenic herb that's been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine.
It's classified as an "adaptogen" due to the fact that it helps the body adapt to stress (both mental and physical).
It's thought that ashwagandha may help to balance hormones, reduce inflammation, and boost energy levels.
In this article, we'll dig into the various benefits of ashwagandha.
In India, ashwagandha is one of the most popular herbs in traditional Ayurvedic medicine.
In the original Sanskrit language, the word “ashwagandha” is broken down into two words, 'ashva', meaning horse, and 'gandha' meaning smell.
Put together the word “ashwagandha” literally means "smells of a horse", which references ashwagandha's unique, strong smell.
The Latin name for ashwagandha is Withania somnifera. It’s a member of the Solanaceae (i.e. nightshade) family of plants.
Ashwagandha grows natively in parts of India, Africa, and throughout the Middle East.
While the ashwagandha contains red berries, these are not typically consumed. The root is the part of the plant where most of its medicinal properties lie.
Ashwagandha root is also rich in minerals, similar to stinging nettle. It contains many different nutrients, including:
and vitamin C
Ashwagandha is one of the key herbs that’s used in Ayurveda. It’s been used for thousands of years as a “Rasayana” herb for its wide-ranging health benefits.
Rasayanas are medicines that are said to promote a youthful state of physical and mental health and expand happiness. In India, these types of remedies are given to small children as tonics and are also taken by the middle-aged and elderly to increase longevity.
Among the ayurvedic Rasayana herbs, Ashwagandha holds the most prominent place. It is known as “Sattvic Kapha Rasayana” herb.
In India, ashwagandha is used as a “churna”, that is, a fine powder that can be mixed with water, ghee (clarified butter), or honey.
Ashwagandha Overview & Uses:
Ashwagandha has been traditionally used as an herbal adaptogen to build stress resilience within the body.
In India, it was used in traditional medicine to reduce brain fog and nervous exhaustion. It was also used to counteract memory loss and muscular energy, it has also been used to support sexual health.
Many of these traditional uses have been clinically studied.
Below are the top clinically-backed benefits of ashwagandha root.
1. May Reduce Mild Anxiety
Research shows that ashwagandha is one of the best herbs for stress management.
A clinical study demonstrated that Withania somnifera extract held promise for individuals with anxiety. The study participants were given 1000mg/day for 12 weeks. At the end of the study, the researchers reported significant improvements in anxiety scores among the study participants.
In an 8-week study with chronically stressed adults, ashwagandha was shown to regulate the HPA axis and therefore reduced anxiety and cortisol levels.
A review published in 2021 notes that ashwagandha was shown to support a healthy mood. This may be a result of ashwagandha's ability to regulate of the HPA axis and/or impact neurotransmitters within the brain.
2. May Improve Sleep Quality
Research shows that ashwagandha may have the ability to improve sleep quality and reduce insomnia. It’s thought to aid in improving sleep via its relaxing, anxiolytic properties.
A clinical trial looked at the impact of ashwagandha on sleep and anxiety. The researchers found that it significantly improved sleep quality and reduced anxiety in individuals with insomnia. It was also noted that ashwagandha also helped to reduce the amount of time it takes to fall asleep.
Another human clinical trial compared the impact of Ashwagandha on individuals with insomnia versus those with regular sleep patterns. This study found that Ashwagandha helped to improve sleep quality in both groups.
3. May Help To Modulate Stress/Cortisol
Research indicates that ashwagandha is one of the best adaptogens for stress support and cortisol management.
Research shows that ashwagandha extract may help reduce stress levels by regulating the HPA axis and thus decreasing the amount of the stress hormone cortisol that’s released in your body.
A clinical trial showed there was a decrease in fasted morning cortisol levels for people who took 240mg daily of an ashwagandha compared to the placebo.
4. May Improve Focus & Energy
Ashwagandha is said to help to improve mental focus and physical energy.
A study found that ashwagandha root helped to improve both immediate memory recall as well as general memory retention.
A clinical study found that taking ashwagandha daily helped to improve memory and focus, psychological well-being, and sleep quality.
Results of a 2016 study