Withania somnifera, commonly known as ashwagandha or Indian ginseng, is a powerful Ayurvedic adaptogenic herb. Adaptogens such as ashwagandha help to bring the body back into balance. Ashwagandha, in particular, has shown a remarkable ability to lower cortisol levels and stabilize thyroid hormones.
In India, ashwagandha has earned the nickname “Strength of the Stallions,” because it gives a boost to the immune system after illness.
Science appears to support the moniker. Over 200 studies suggest that ashwagandha may help:
- Enhance thyroid function
- Treat adrenal fatigue
- Increase endurance
- Prevent and treat cancer
- Reduce stress
- Decrease the degeneration of brain cells
- Balance blood sugar
- Lower cholesterol
- Strengthen immunity
Both men and women stand to gain numerous health benefits by supplementing with ashwagandha.
Ashwagandha Health Benefits
At the root of ashwagandha’s health benefits is its ability to help the body safely manage stress.
In times of stress, cortisol, a stress-hormone, floods the body. This mechanism is great during times of acute stress when we need to activate the fight-or-flight response and either flee or face a stressor. But when chronic stress, endemic to today’s fast-paced society, sticks around, so, too, does the cortisol.
Chronically increased levels of cortisol have been implicated in conditions such as:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Obesity and weight gain
- Immune system suppression
- Cardiovascular issues
- Gastrointestinal complications
- Fertility problems
- Thyroid disorders
Research suggests that ashwagandha may help lower cortisol production, thereby improving resistance to stress. A 2012 study made up of 64 people and published in the Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine showed that ashwagandha significantly reduced stress and cortisol levels compared to the effects of a placebo pill.
Ashwagandha Health Benefits for Men
We’ve seen how ashwagandha can help alleviate the effects of stress by balancing cortisol levels. Ashwagandha has a similar effect on other hormones, including those that affect male vitality, primarily due to ashwagandha’s positive influence on the thyroid, the organ responsible for regulating hormones.
Ashwagandha helps to stabilize hormones that affect male fertility. Research suggests that this potent herb can significantly raise serum levels of testosterone and luteinizing hormone, a hormone responsible for stimulating testosterone production.
In 2013, scientists found that supplementing with ashwagandha root powder energized enzyme activity and rejuvenated reproductive hormones of infertile men. The researchers concluded that ashwagandha “may be used as an empirical therapy for clinical management and treatment of infertility.”
Hormone balance/imbalance doesn’t just affect fertility. A healthy prostate, ideal body weight, robust erectile response, stable energy levels, sexual function, strength and muscle development, and sharp brain function all depend on healthy hormone balance.
Ashwagandha Health Benefits for Women
Women’s health likewise gets a boost from ashwagandha’s hormone-balancing effects.
Ashwagandha imparts menopausal support, for instance. A 2012 study demonstrated that ashwagandha significantly helped reduce menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, anxiety, and mood in 51 menopausal women.
When it comes to moods, ashwagandha may be a bit of a magic elixir. Research shows that it can help turn around moods as well as pharmaceutical drugs such as lorazepam and imipramine without the side effects. For 12 weeks, people with anxiety were given either 300 mg of ashwagandha twice a day or a placebo twice a day. Those given the ashwagandha showed dramatically better results in reduced anxiety, reduced stress, and decreased fatigue.
Anecdotal evidence, as well as a recent study, suggests that supplementing with ashwagandha seems to help improve energy levels, while decreasing stress-related conditions. Studies also reveal that ashwagandha may help increase sexual desire and satisfaction in women by increasing blood flow and reducing tension.
Ashwagandha also helps improve fertility in women, which is adversely affected by factors ashwagandha appears to influence—stress, hormone imbalance, illness, and nutrient deficiency.
Perhaps ashwagandha’s most exciting effect is its brain benefits. Loaded with antioxidants, ashwagandha helps protect the brain from free radicals that can lead to neurodegeneration. A study published in Phytotherapy Research explains ashwagandha’s antioxidant effects:
“Several studies have revealed that natural antioxidants, such as vitamin E, vitamin C and beta-carotene, may help in scavenging free radicals generated during the initiation and progression of this [Alzheimer’s] disease. But we found Ashwagandha afforded lipid peroxidation inhibitory effects more potent than commercial antioxidants.”
Is Ashwagandha Safe?
Ashwagandha side effects are few and far between. Because it can cause early delivery, pregnant women should not supplement with ashwagandha.
Exercise caution when choosing an ashwagandha supplement. Researchers working for the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health discovered that 21% of 193 Ayurvedic products purchased over the Internet and made in the United States and India contained toxic levels of lead, mercury, and/or arsenic.
Click here for an ashwagandha supplement free from harmful contaminants and coupled with other natural anti-aging compounds for total body rejuvenation effects.