Healthy Living

6 health benefits of ashwagandha 

Looking to learn more about the health benefits of ashwagandha? The adaptogenic herb has been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic medicine, and its popularity is on the up in wellness spaces.

You will likely have heard of its use in teas, tinctures and even supplements. But what exactly is ashwagandha and what are its benefits? Here, we explore six key health benefits of ashwagandha – all firmly backed by science.

What is ashwagandha?

Ashwagandha, also known as winter cherry or, by its botanical name, Withania somnifera, is a bushy, evergreen shrub that grows in Asia and Africa.

It’s classed as an adaptogen. These are a group of non-toxic herbs, roots and mushrooms, which experts say ‘adapt’ their benefits to what the body most needs. They are said to adjust to our physical, chemical or biological stressors. You can learn more about adaptogens here.

You may spot ashwagandha in health stores in powdered form in supplements, as a root or even as gummies.

What are the benefits?

Relieve stress

Feeling stressed out? Ashwagandha may be able to help you.

Several pieces of research suggest that ashwagandha may be able to help to lower the levels of cortisol. This is the body’s primary stress hormone.

In one placebo-controlled study, those who took 300mg of ashwagandha two times a day showed a 33 to 44% reduction in stress levels, and a 22 to 28% reduction in blood cortisol levels.

Meanwhile, this study of 60 stressed, but otherwise healthy, adults also found similar results on stress.

Improve sleep quality

Do you often struggle to drift off at night? Ashwagandha may help you get a better night’s kip, according to the current research.

In this placebo-controlled study, participants who took ashwagandha reported a significant improvement in sleep quality when compared to their counterparts.

Researchers conducting the study also highlighted that better sleep in turn also helps to reduce stress and anxiety in the body, as previously mentioned.

This isn’t the only study suggesting the positive impact ashwagandha may have on our sleep. A study of 144 participants also concluded that those taking an extract of the adaptogen had a significant improvement in sleep quality after six weeks.

Stabilise blood sugar levels

A 2020 review noted that giving people with diabetes ashwagandha root powder could help to lower their blood glucose levels.

Meanwhile, this placebo-controlled study suggested that ashwagandha may help to improve fasting blood glucose levels in adults experiencing stress-related health conditions.

While experts agree that more research on the effects of ashwagandha on blood sugar levels is needed, the results so far certainly seem promising.

Muscle strength and recovery

Research into ashwagandha suggests that it may be able to increase muscle strength and size.

A 2012 study, conducted on healthy adults, suggested that the plant had a ‘significant’ increase of strength in muscle activity. The total body fat percentage of participants also reduced.

Similarly, this 2015 piece of research, carried out solely on healthy young men completing resistance training, had significantly greater increases in muscle strength on the bench-press and the leg-extension exercises. They also had bigger reductions in body fat percentages and muscle damage when compared to the placebo group at the end of the study.

Improved memory

Protecting our cognitive function is often a cause for concern, especially as we age. One randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study on 50 adults looked at the effects ashwagandha may have in improving memory and cognitive functioning in adults with mild cognitive impairment (MCI).

After eight weeks of study, those taking ashwagandha displayed significant improvements in both immediate and general memory when compared with the placebo group.

Researchers concluded that the herb may be effective in enhancing both immediate and general memory in people with MCI as well as improving executive function, attention, and information processing speed.

Improved sex life

One study delved into how ashwagandha supplementation may be of benefit for sexual function in women.

Results indicated that the female participants taking ashwagandha saw a positive impact on levels of arousal. There was also a positive impact on lubrication, orgasms and satisfaction, as well as the number of ‘successful’ sexual encounters.

Supplements

There are a number of supplements on the market that are already harnessing these potent powers of the herbal helper.

If you take prescribed medication, it is always important to check with your doctor before starting to take ashwagandha to be certain there are no contraindications.

Here are some of the Liz Earle Wellbeing favourites:

Read more features like this