5 Benefits of Ashwagandha

5 Benefits of Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha, otherwise known as Withania somnifera, is one of the most important herbs in Ayurveda, which is a traditional form of alternative medicine based on Indian principles of natural healing. There are many different ways to use this herb, including in cooking, crafting tonics and tinctures, and directly consuming it in tea or oil form, but no matter how you take it, there are many benefits that come from using it as part of your health regimen. Let’s look at the top five benefits of ashwagandha . . .

What is Ashwagandha?

In Ayurvedic medicine, ashwagandha is an adaptogen and tonic herb used for balancing all three doshas, or mind-body humors. It has been shown to have significant immune-modulating effects and can be especially beneficial for those suffering from chronic stress. Typically taken as a supplement or in tea form, ashwagandha leaves are thought to combat inflammation, treat indigestion, reduce skin problems and regulate blood sugar levels. Ashwagandha also helps improve anxiety symptoms while reducing insomnia.


Health benefits of ashwagandha

According to Ayurvedic medicine, ashwagandha helps heal everything from anxiety and insomnia to joint pain and erectile dysfunction. A study in Phytotherapy Research found that taking KSM-66 ashwagandha for 8 weeks significantly reduced fatigue, sexual dysfunction, and stress in doctors working night shifts. However, another study on female mice in Neuroendocrinology Letters found that ashwagandha didn’t improve mood or memory but did reduce anxiety. More human studies are needed to know if ashwagandha can have a positive effect on brain function. What is more likely is that ashwagandha has powerful adaptogenic properties (meaning it helps your body adapt to stress), which may promote better mental health over time. Additionally, numerous animal studies have shown it increases sperm production—a great benefit for male infertility (in fact, clinical trials using an alcohol extract of ashwagandha showed an increase in sperm count by 381 percent). There are also some reports suggesting that it may be helpful for immune system problems as well as prostate cancer (especially after surgery). But what about adverse effects? For one thing, many supplements are underdosed—which is extremely problematic given how important a good dose is! Also worrisome: In small animal experiments, high doses produced toxic symptoms such as excessive salivation and impaired coordination.


Dosage and how to take it

To get all of ashwagandha’s health benefits, you need to consume between 500 and 1,000 milligrams a day. It is taken as a capsule, extract or powder. Make sure it has been tested for lead and other heavy metals before purchasing. You can buy it in most health food stores. If you have cancer, take ashwagandha with your doctor’s consent. Some sources say that taking it daily long-term could lower white blood cell counts slightly and interfere with bone marrow production in people who have leukemia or myelodysplastic syndrome.


Side effects

Common side effects include drowsiness, fatigue, headache and gastrointestinal discomfort. Ashwagandha can also interact with certain medications and shouldn’t be used by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Allergic reactions to ashwagandha aren’t common but may occur in sensitive individuals; if you notice symptoms like swelling, itching or rashes on your skin, discontinue use immediately and contact your doctor for advice. According to research published in Cancer Letters, ashwagandha might slightly increase blood pressure levels; anyone taking blood pressure medication should speak with their doctor before supplementing with ashwagandha.


How to buy the best ashwagandha supplement

Not all ashwagandha supplements are created equal. So how do you know if you’re getting a high-quality supplement that works as advertised? Here are a few tips: (1) make sure your supplement has at least 2.5% withanolides; (2) make sure it comes from a reputable company; and (3) make sure it uses non-GMO ingredients.

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