Ashwagandha is a small evergreen shrub with medicinal properties that grows in India, the Middle East and parts of Africa.
It has been used in Indian traditional medicine for over 3,000 years, and scientific research has demonstrated some surprising ashwagandha benefits.
While ashwagandha is increasingly popular as a dietary supplement and alternative medicine, more research is needed to confirm whether it is safe and beneficial.
Ashwagandha is renowned as one of the most important herbs in Ayurveda (Indian traditional medicine based on natural healing) and is used to treat various ailments like stress, infertility and low energy levels. While it is not approved for use as a medicine, the few known ashwagandha side effects and potential health benefits make it incredibly popular as a supplement and alternative medicine.
While it may have traditionally been brewed into teas and tonics, dietary supplements made from ashwagandha extract are the most common form of ashwagandha in the US. However, these ashwagandha pills are not regulated by the FDA, so you may get a watered-down or adulterated product if you’re not careful.
In this article, we’re looking at the effects, benefits and recommended dosage of ashwagandha to help you make the most of this powerful adaptogenic herb and find the best ashwagandha supplements for your needs.
Withania somnifera (commonly known as ashwagandha, winter cherry or Indian ginseng) is an evergreen shrub with medicinal properties that are widely used in traditional medicine. The name “ashwagandha” is Sanskrit and roughly translates into “smell of the horse”, which refers to the smell of the herb and the purported ashwagandha benefits for strength and virility.
Traditionally, the tube-like roots of ashwagandha plants were harvested, dried and ground into a powder before being mixed into teas or tinctures. However, many modern preparations (i.e. supplements like ashwagandha gummies) are now made with ashwagandha extract made by chemically extracting and refining the active compounds from the plant.
Whether the supplements are made using traditional grinding methods or modern chemical processes, the applications are generally the same as in ancient periods – strength, fertility and mental health.
Studies show that ashwagandha supplements can help improve strength, fertility and mental health, though it is probably best known for reducing stress and anxiety. Ashwagandha may also provide small benefits to physical performance, raise testosterone levels and improve fertility, but more research is needed to confirm these benefits.
Like many other herbal supplements, ashwagandha is generally considered safe, and observed ashwagandha side effects, like mild drowsiness, are nothing to worry about. Read on to learn more about the health benefits of ashwagandha, how it works, and the best way to use this medicinal herb.
Ashwagandha contains various bioactive compounds, including flavonoids, alkaloids, glycosides and steroidal lactones, which help fight oxidative damage and regulate hormone levels. Most ashwagandha benefits are linked to its potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which can help protect against oxidative damage and reduce your chances of many chronic conditions.
Ashwagandha is often called an adaptogen, as it helps your body adapt to stress, but it would also be fair to call it an antioxidant or anti-inflammatory. This medicinal herb may be most well known for its effects on stress – studies on ashwagandha pills found it reduced levels of the ‘stress hormone ‘cortisol – but it has a wide array of health benefits, with varying levels of research to back them up…
Ashwagandha is one of the most important herbs in Ayurveda for a reason: this little shrub is packed full of bioactive compounds that help support mental and physical health. Studies show that supplementing with ashwagandha – whether you take it in a traditional tea or ashwagandha gummies – has many potential health benefits and can help:
Ashwagandha is best known for its stress-reducing effects, as it can reduce biological markers of stress – including the stress hormone cortisol and heat shock proteins – and reduce perceived stress levels. Moreover, one study found that supplementing with ashwagandha improved sleep quality and reduced anxiety, meaning that ashwagandha benefits stress, anxiety, and lack of sleep.
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Studies show that supplementing with ashwagandha may enhance physical performance, including muscle strength and oxygen use during exercise. This, combined with the lack of ashwagandha side effects, makes this herbal supplement a great choice for athletes, as it can help improve physical fitness and exercise performance.
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Some studies show that supplementing with ashwagandha can reduce symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression, and it may help improve cognitive performance in people with bipolar disorder. However, there is limited evidence that ashwagandha gummies can do anything other than be a tasty way to take herbal supplements, so you shouldn’t substitute them for medication or therapy.
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Some studies have shown that ashwagandha supplements can raise testosterone levels and improve fertility in men, increasing testosterone levels by as much as 14%. These findings lend credence to the claims that ashwagandha could give users the strength and virility of a horse, though more studies are needed to confirm these benefits.
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Ashwagandha contains many compounds with anti-inflammatory effects, including withaferin A (WA), that can target inflammatory pathways and reduce levels of inflammatory proteins. Since inflammation is a major risk factor for many chronic diseases, these benefits are extremely promising. However, more research is needed to prove whether taking ashwagandha pills can reduce your long-term chances of developing chronic diseases.
Some studies have found that supplementing with ashwagandha can improve cognitive functioning, benefitting executive function, attention and reaction time. Researchers believe this is due to the antioxidant effects of many compounds in ashwagandha, so taking a few ashwagandha gummies could help improve your brain power.
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Studies show that ashwagandha may promote healthy sleep, improving sleep quality and mental alertness when waking up, with results being more pronounced in people with insomnia. Ashwagandha is also known to reduce anxiety and stress with few known ashwagandha side effects, making it a great supplement for those who struggle to fall asleep.
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While traditional Ayurvedic medicine uses Ashwagandha to treat all kinds of ailments – from inflamed joints to parasites – it is not officially approved to treat any medical conditions in the US. As such, there is no official guidance on the best way to supplement with ashwagandha or the ideal dosage for supplements like ashwagandha pills.
Most studies on ashwagandha used dosages of 250-600mg per day of a root extract, often divided into two doses – one with breakfast and one in the evening – so we can take this as general guidance. Most supplements on the market fall within this range, so you should see benefits by supplementing with ashwagandha gummies, pills or more traditional preparations at these doses.
Depending on the condition(s) you are trying to treat, doses ranging from 250-1,250mg per day are effective for:
Ashwagandha is safe for most people, and studies involving higher doses (600mg/day) did not find any serious issues after eight weeks, so it is widely considered safe. However, some people have noted mild side effects when taking ashwagandha in high doses: Ashwagandha side effects include:
Although these side effects are mild, the long-term effects of ashwagandha are unknown, and it is known to interact with certain drugs, such as barbiturates, anticonvulsants or benzodiazepines. Additionally, pregnant women are advised to avoid ashwagandha supplements, as high doses can potentially cause pregnancy loss.
Ashwagandha is a medicinal herb with a long history in Ayurvedic medicine and many potential health benefits – including improved blood sugar, inflammation, mood, memory and fertility. Although more research is needed to confirm these effects, the long list of ashwagandha benefits and few known side effects are more than enough for us to recommend this herbal supplement.
However, ashwagandha is not officially proven to treat any medical illness or health issue, and you should always seek professional medical advice before taking a new dietary supplement.