# Ashwagandha is an evergreen shrub that grows in India, the Middle East, and parts of Africa. It has a long history of use in traditional medicine.
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.
Practitioners use this herb as a general tonic to boost energy and reduce stress and anxiety. Some also claim that the herb may be beneficial for certain cancers, Alzheimer’s disease, and anxiety.
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.
# What do people use ashwagandha for?
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:
- skin conditions
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.
# What are its health benefits?
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:
Ashwagandha helps relieve stress and anxiety
The healing properties of ashwagandha have often been backed by science itself. It is best known to reduce stress and anxiety in people. A study conducted in 64 people with chronic stress showed that following the use of ashwagandha, there was a 69% reduction in anxiety and insomnia in people compared to 11% reduction in stress in the placebo group.
It manages cortisol levels
Cortisol is a stress hormone that is released when the body is under a lot of stress or has a low blood sugar level. This can also lead to increased fat storage in the body, which can impact our body weight too. However, studies have shown that ashwagandha has the ability to reduce cortisol levels and manage it efficiently.
It may be effective against cancer
As is known, ashwagandha is known for its medicinal properties. That said, study has suggested that it may eradicate the growth of cancer cells.
According to many animal studies, ashwagandha contains a component known as withaferin that helps induce apoptosis, conditioned to destroy cancer cells. The chemical compound initially promotes the formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) inside cancer cells, preventing them from functioning. Then, it lets apoptosis take charge and eradicate the harmful cancer cells.
It reduces blood sugar levels
Ashwagandha is also known to reduce blood sugar levels in both healthy individuals and those suffering with diabetes. Animal studies have also suggested that ashwagandha works wonders in managing blood sugar levels.
It can increase sex drive and cure infertility in men
Ashwagandha supplements can prove beneficial for those suffering with infertility. From improving your libido to facilitating the production of testosterone, it can help men regain their sex drive and also cure infertility in them. In a research, men who took ashwagandha for stress experienced better sperm quality than those who didn’t.
It may help people suffering with depression
Apart from the many health benefits, ashwagandha also has therapeutic powers to heal people suffering with depression. As per a 60-day study, 64 individuals dealing with mental health issues were given ashwagandha extracts. It was found that these individuals experienced 79% reduction in severe depression, while the placebo group reported a 10% increase.
It may reduce inflammation in the body
Known for its anti-inflammatory properties, ashwagandha also treats severe inflammation in the body. Studies have suggested that ashwagandha triggers the production of immune cells that protects the body against inflammation causing infections and helps the body stay healthy.
It provides strength and increases muscle mass
When it comes to your body, ashwagandha helps increase strength and build muscle mass. It improves your stamina and allows you to live a healthy life, while also facilitating intense fitness exercises for weight loss.
It can lower cholesterol and avoid heart diseases
Ashwagandha can also work wonders for your heart health. It helps manage cholesterol levels which is crucial in preventing heart diseases. According to a 60-day study consisting of stressed adults, the group taking the highest dosage of standardized ashwagandha extract experienced a 17% fall in LDL (bad) cholesterol and an 11% decrease in triglycerides, on average.
It can boost memory
The healing powers of ashwagandha are not limited to just your body but also expands to your brain. It can help improve brain health and also boosts memory and concentration. Research has found that ashwagandha promotes antioxidant activity that protects nerve cells from harmful free radicals, which in turn enhances your brain efficiency.
How to use Ashwagandha?
The use of ashwagandha may depend from person to person or on the diseases you’re trying to treat. There is no standard dosage provided and different research has used different amounts of dosage up until now. Capsule dosages often contain between 250 and 1,500 mg of ashwagandha. It can come in the form of a capsule, powder, and a liquid extract. However, it is best suggested to consult your doctor before taking any amount of dosage. A medical professional can provide you with the best insight.