Benefits of Ashwagandha
People often use it to reduce stress and anxiety and manage several chronic conditions. Research into the efficacy of ashwagandha for these purposes is inconclusive.
For hundreds of years, people have used the roots and orange-red fruit of ashwagandha for medicinal purposes. The herb is also known as Indian ginseng or winter cherry.
The name “ashwagandha” describes the smell of its root, meaning “like a horse.” By definition, ashwa means horse.
More research is necessary; to date, promising studies into the health benefits of ashwagandha have mainly been in animals.
This article looks at the traditional uses of ashwagandha, how to take it, and the evidence behind its possible health benefits and risks.
Ashwagandha is an important herb in Ayurvedic medicine. This is one of the world’s oldest medical systems and one of India’s healthcare systems.
In Ayurvedic medicine, ashwagandha is considered a Rasayana. This means that it helps maintain youth, both mentally and physically.
There is some evidence to suggest that the herb can have neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory effects. Inflammation underpins many health conditions, and reducing inflammation can protect the body against a variety of conditions.
For example, people use ashwagandha to help treat the following:
Different treatments make use of different parts of the plant, including the leaves, seeds, and fruit.
This herb is gaining popularity in the West. Today, people can buy ashwagandha as a supplement in the United States.
Scientific studies have suggested that ashwagandha might be beneficial for a number of conditions.
That said, researchers do not know a lot about how the herb reacts within the human body. Most studies so far have used animal or cell models, meaning that scientists do not know if the same results will occur in humans.
There is some evidence to support the use of ashwagandha for the following:
Stress and anxiety
It may have a calming effect on anxiety symptoms when compared with the drug lorazepam, a sedative and anxiety medication.
A 2000 study suggested that the herb had a comparable anxiety-reducing effect with lorazepam, suggesting that it might be as effective for reducing anxiety. However, the researchers conducted this study in mice, not humans.
In a 2019 study in humans, researchers found that taking a daily dose of 240 milligrams (mg) of ashwagandha significantly reduced people’s stress levels when compared with a placebo. This included reduced levels of cortisol, which is a stress hormone.
In another 2019 study in humans, taking 250 mg or 600 mg of ashwagandha per day resulted in lower self-reported stress levels, as well as lower cortisol levels.
Although this research is promising, scientists need to collect much more data before recommending the herb to treat anxiety.
Some people use ashwagandha to boost their heart health, including:
However, there is little research to support these benefits.
One 2015 studyTrusted Source in humans suggested that ashwagandha root extract could enhance a person’s cardiorespiratory endurance, which could improve heart health. However, more research is necessary.