Ashwagandha is often used as a traditional medicine from India believed to have the ability to give someone the ‘power of the horse’ through its various possible health benefits. Although the research is limited, it is suggested that ashwagandha may combat anxiety and stress, as well as enhance strength performance, improve glucose metabolism, and increase testosterone levels to a certain degree. More research is needed, but let’s take a look at some of ashwagandha’s potential, drawbacks, and side effects.
So, what is it?
Ashwagandha is a herb used mostly in Ayurveda, a traditional system of Indian medicine, which has been around for approximately 6000 years. For most of that time, ashwagandha was used as Rasayana – a Sanskrit medical term that refers to techniques for lengthening someone’s lifespan and invigorating the body. It’s literal meaning is “smell of horse” – sounds lovely, right?
Although most parts of the plant are used, the root – the horse smelling part – is what is often used in supplements. It is this part of ashwagandha that is regarded as a tonic, aphrodisiac, narcotic, and stimulant, which is often used as a tonic for children (when combined with milk), debility from old age, rheumatism, constipation, insomnia, nervous breakdowns, and a range of other health issues. The ashwagandha root is usually mushed into a paste, but it can be taken in other forms (taking 300-500mg of root extract with breakfast has been known to have some effect on users) in more modern supplements.
However, the roots are not the only part of ashwagandha that is used. The flowers and seeds are thought to have their own health benefits, including as an aphrodisiac, a depurative, and for hysteria or anxiety.
The benefits of ashwagandha
There have been several studies that show some success in ashwagandha lowering anxiety – it seems to lower cortisol levels. However, in order to build a better understanding of its effects more research is needed to create more solidified and definitive results, especially in terms of optimal dosages.
Furthermore, ashwagandha has been known to reduce symptoms of depression, as well as insomnia and fatigue, but there isn’t great research on these effects to say for certain.
Additional studies – once again limited in their findings – suggest that ashwagandha could also be useful for increasing the power output of untrained subjects in anaerobic exercise, as well as minimally lowering blood glucose levels, blood pressure, and LDL-cholesterol (HDL-cholesterol has an alleged increase). It has also been known to increase testosterone and sperm quality in infertile men.
Dosage and side effects of ashwagandha
It is seemingly safe to take ashwagandha, but without more lengthy studies into its long-term effects it is difficult to say for certain what side effects it causes. For example, it may cause drowsiness for some people.
Similarly, it is difficult to know what dosage of ashwagandha is the best to recommend due to the same reasons. Its drug-like effects on neurotransmission make it difficult to dismiss unintentional side effects and a long-term loss of potency. The studies that do exist, however, suggest that ashwagandha continually improves symptoms of stress and anxiety continually over 2 months if it is taken daily.
As these studies are based on daily usage of ashwagandha, it is recommended that you mimic the frequency and the dosage used in the trials to gain similar results. There is no evidence so far that could suggest the effectiveness of ashwagandha when it is taken every two days, for instance, or with a smaller or larger dose.
If you are looking to use ashwagandha, it may be a good idea to speak to a doctor or dietician, as well as doing your own research into finding effective and trusted supplement brands that may help you get the desired results.
Ashwagandha is a herbal supplement used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine for a variety of health complaints.
It has been known to help with anxiety and stress, as well as marginally lower blood glucose, blood pressure, and LDL-cholesterol, while HDL-cholesterol gets a slight increase.
There is limited research on ashwagandha, however, so the effects, side effects, frequency, and dosages are only guides – there is no definitive recommended dosage information yet.