5 Ashwagandha Benefits: Dosage & Safety

Ashwagandha is an herb with amazing benefits to your health and well-being. Ashwagandha may help to reduce anxiety, improve overall sleep, and build stress resilience. Ashwagandha is categorized as a …

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Written by: Daniel Powers, MS
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Ashwagandha is an herb with amazing benefits to your health and well-being.

Ashwagandha may help to reduce anxiety, improve overall sleep, and build stress resilience.

Ashwagandha is categorized as a herbal adaptogen and has been used for centuries in traditional medicines around the world.

In this article, we will look at the benefits of Ashwagandha, its safety, and its history.

health benefits of ashwagandha

Health Benefits of Ashwagandha:

The positive effects of Aswagandha have been confirmed by scientific research and the results are promising.

1. May Help To Reduce Stress

Ashwagandha has been shown to reduce stress due to its adaptogenic, anti-stress effects.

A clinical trial looked at the stress-relieving effect of Ashwagandha root extract in stressed healthy adults. The researchers found that Ashwagandha worked to reduce perceived stress in the study participants.

It was also shown to reduce cortisol levels (a physiological marker for stress).

Summary:

Research shows that Ashwagandha may reduce stress. Further human trials are needed to confirm this finding.

2. May Help With Anxiety

Clinical research indicates that Ashwagandha root can safely and effectively improve your resistance towards stress and thereby can improve your self-assessed quality of life. Because of this, it’s thought to be one of the best anxiety herbs.

A human clinical trial showed that taking 300mg of Ashwagandha root extract daily worked to reduce the self-reported stress levels of the study participants.

Another study showed that Ashwagandha extract helped to reduce anxiety in individuals as measured by various anxiety indexes.

Researchers speculate that Ashwagandha’s anxiety-relieving effects may occur via its moderating effect on the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis.

Summary:

Studies indicate that Ashwagandha may decrease levels of anxiety in individuals. Additional research is required in order to verify this finding.

3. May Improve Sleep Quality

Ashwagandha may have the ability to improve overall sleep quality and reduce insomnia. In fact, Ashwagandha is one of the best herbs for sleep support.

Researchers looking into the impact of Ashwagandha on sleep found that it significantly improved all sleep parameters in individuals with poor sleep quality.

Another study compared the effects of giving Ashwagandha to individuals with insomnia versus those with normal sleep patterns.

This study found that Ashwagandha helped to improve sleep quality in both the insomnia group and the healthy study group.

This makes Ashwagandha a great supplement to consider for individuals looking to improve their sleep quality.

4. May Support Hormonal Health

Research suggests that Ashwagandha benefits hormonal health, especially testosterone production.

A clinical trial involving overweight males found that Ashwagandha root helped to increase testosterone by 14.7%, compared to placebo, over the course of 4 months. The researchers noted that the study participants also had an 18% increase in DHEAS (Dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate). DHEAS plays a key role in producing sex hormones in males and females.

In a clinical trial involving trained men, 500mg of Ashwagandha was found to improve total upper and lower-body strength. The researchers also noted that Ashwagandha root also helped to build muscle mass in the study participants. They also noted that Ashwagandha was generally well-tolerated with minimal side effects.

Another clinical trial found that Ashwagandha intake is associated with increases in testosterone levels. It has also been found to aid in increasing muscle mass and strength.

Summary:

Clinical trials indicate that Ashwagandha may support hormonal health by increasing testosterone. Clinical research is needed to verify these findings.

5. May Promote Energy

Ashwagandha may be one of the best adaptogenic herbs for energy.

In one placebo-controlled study involving chronically stressed participants, it was noted that Ashwagandha root extract was able to reduce cortisol levels. The reduction of cortisol in the study participants also increased the subjects’ overall stress resistance, which benefits balanced energy levels.

In another placebo-controlled trial, Ashwagandha extract was found to improve fatigue recovery and VO2 max; these findings demonstrate Ashwagandha’s ability for improving cardiovascular endurance and recovery.

In one review investigating the effects of ashwagandha on physical performance, researchers found that supplementation with ashwagandha supported enhanced strength, improved cardiovascular fitness, and lessened fatigue.

Summary:

Several studies have found that Ashwagandha may help to improve energy and physical performance, although additional human studies are needed for confirmation.
ashwagandha health benefits

Safety:

Safety Class: 2b (not to be used during pregnancy)

Interaction Class: A (no clinically relevant reactions are expected)

Ashwagandha root extract has a relatively safe profile and is generally well-tolerated.

Moderate doses of Ashwagandha (~300mg daily) do not appear to be associated with any major side effects or adverse reactions.

It is also thought that Ashwagandha may enhance or increase the effect of barbiturates and thyroid hormones.

Pregnancy & Lactation:

In ethnobotanical literature, there are references to Ashwagandha as both an “abortifacient” as well as a “pregnancy tonic”.

Seeing as it’s difficult to parse the historical usage data, as well as the fact that no studies have been conducted, it appears that seeking the counsel of one’s physician is the ideal course of action.

In Ayurvedic medicine, Ashwagandha was used to promote lactation. As such, moderate doses appear to be safe when taken while lactating.

Dosing:

Tincture (1:5): 2–4 mL (40–80 drops), up to three times per day.

Decoction: Take ½ tsp. dried root in 8 oz. water. Gently simmer for 10 minutes, then steep for ½ hour. Take 4 oz. three times per day. The dried root starts to lose its activity after two years.

Capsules: One 400–500 mg capsule, twice per day.

Naming & Taxonomy:

In India, the name “Ashwagandha” is said to refer to the ‘smell and strength of a horse’.

This possibly alludes to its reputed aphrodisiac properties, although it could also relate to the smell of the root.

The scientific name for Ashwagandha is Withania somnifera. It’s a member of the Solanaceae (nightshade) family.

It is a low-growing, perennial shrub that may reach 1 to 1.5 m in height. It has ovate hair-like branches with simple, alternate leaves up to 10 cm long. The tiny, greenish-yellow flowers (approximately 1 cm) are produced in short axillary clusters.

The red fruit is smooth, spherical, and encased in a calyx (6 mm in diameter). The root is long and tuberous.

History & Traditional Use:

In Ayurveda, there are many different uses for Ashwagandha root.

It was traditionally used as an aphrodisiac and tonic, besides being useful in vata and kapha conditions and for inflammation, psoriasis, bronchitis, asthma, ulcers, insomnia, senile debility, and as a tonic for the elderly.

Not surprisingly, it has been dubbed the ‘Indian Ginseng’.

In India, Ashwagandha is described as a ‘medharasayan’, or promoter of learning and memory retrieval.

In Unani medicine, the roots are considered to have tonic, aphrodisiac, and emmenagogue qualities and are used in asthma, inflammation, bronchitis, arthritis, and fertility.

Ashwagandha root is used as a sedative and hypnotic in the Middle East, as well as for rheumatic pains.

Constituents:

•Steroidal compounds, including lactones (withaferin A, sitoindoside IX, X (carbon-27 glycowithanolides)) and acylsteryl glucosides (sitoindosides VII, VIII)

• Alkaloids: tropane-type (tropine, pseudotropine), other alkaloids (including isopelletierine, anaferine).

Ashwagandha is also said to be high in iron, but there is no recent verification of this.

Actions:

Adaptogen, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antispasmodic, antitumor, diuretic, immune amphoteric, nervine, thyroid stimulant.

Ashwagandha vs. Other Herbs:

Ashwagandha is often compared with many other different types of herbs. We have put together helpful articles going over the most common comparisons.

Ashwagandha vs. Ginseng

Ashwagandha vs. Rhodiola

Ashwagandha vs. Shilajit

Ashwagandha vs. Holy Basil

Ashwagandha vs. Valerian Root

Ashwagandha vs. Eleuthero

Aswagandha vs. L-Theanine

Aswagandha vs. Maca

Ashwagandha vs. St. John’s Wort

Ashwagandha vs. Melatonin

5 benefits of ashwagandha

Conclusion:

Ashwagandha has been used for centuries as a natural herb to help with stress, anxiety, and sleep.

It appears to be generally very safe and is considered one of the most popular herbs in Ayurvedic medicine because so many people have found relief from its use.

If you’ve had trouble sleeping lately or feel like your mind is always racing with thoughts that won’t stop bothering you, then perhaps it would be worth considering trying this popular herb.

You can find Ashwagandha supplements at your local health food store or order online.

As always, please consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet or before adding a new supplement.

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About Daniel Powers, MS

Daniel has a master's degree in herbal science from the Maryland University of Integrative Health. He has a passion for herbal medicine and how it can be used to support everyday health & wellness.