Everything You Need to Know About Ashwagandha
What is Ashwagandha?
shwagandha (pronounced osh-wah-gun-duh) is an herb historically used in Traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic Medicine as a tonic for boosting stress resilience, energy, and performance. Now, scientific research has confirmed many of these benefits.
Ashwagandha, from the Withania somnifera shrub, is a potent medicinal herb native to India and North Africa. Ashwagandha root – known as "the rejuvenator" in Ayurvedic medicine – is a well-researched herbal supplement that’s gaining popularity in the west.
How Ashwagandha Works
Many of ashwagandha root's potent health benefits are due to its rich content of active compounds. This includes alkaloids and antioxidant compounds called withanolides.
It's known as an adaptogen, supporting the body during times of mental and physical stress by encouraging homeostasis. It assists the adrenal glands, tiny endocrine glands situated above the kidneys responsible for releasing the chronic stress hormone cortisol. Ashwagandha has been shown to lower the amount of cortisol pumped out by these glands and in doing so reducing insomnia, anxiety, over-eating, and “burn out.”
Research also suggests that ashwagandha enhances gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) signaling in the brain. GABA is an important inhibitory neurotransmitter or brain chemical, preventing the over-excitability of neurons and inducing a sense of calm.
Health Benefits of Ashwagandha
These are some of the evidence-based benefits of using ashwagandha.
Regulates Stress and Anxiety
Ashwagandha is probably most well-known for regulating the stress response and maintaining a sense of calm. Several studies have shown that ashwagandha extract reduces the feelings of chronic stress that are so common nowadays.
In a 2019 study, chronically stressed adults were given either a daily dose of ashwagandha or a placebo for two months. The results noted that ashwagandha significantly reduced feelings of stress and cortisol levels. Plus, the participants' sleep quality improved!
Boosts Energy and Metabolism
Ashwagandha boosts energy and stamina and research suggests this may be due to its positive impact on the thyroid. This endocrine gland is responsible for producing the hormone thyroxine, needed for controlling metabolism and energy production.
In the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, a study on subclinical hypothyroid patients found ashwagandha normalized levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and the active thyroid hormone thyroxine (T4).
Ashwagandha may exert these effects by minimizing the deleterious effects of chronic stress on thyroid function.
The potent antioxidants in ashwagandha – like withanolides – combat oxidative damage and quell inflammation in the body. This is significant because chronic inflammation is at the route of many chronic health conditions, including cardiovascular disease.
Improves Exercise Performance and Recovery
Ashwagandha is a useful natural supplement for athletes and exercise enthusiasts. Not only does it regulate stress and increase energy (important for optimal physical performance), but it also supports muscle strength and endurance.
The Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found taking 600mg of ashwagandha root extract combined with a resistance training program enhanced muscle strength, muscle size, and loss of body fat. Participants taking ashwagandha also had reduced markers for exercise-induced muscle damage, indicating improved exercise recovery.
Make Ashwagandha Part of Your Daily Diet
Okay you knew it was coming... time for a shameless plug. Do you think the benefits of adding ashwagandha to your daily diet could help? Create a personalized daily vitamin pack that includes ashwagandha and any other vitamins, minerals or supplements you think could help. Start by adding ashwagandha to your Kit here!