Ashwagandha is, quite simply, a shrub! Its scientific name (for those of you who care) is “Withania Somnifera.” And it’s also often referred to as “Winter Cherry.”
But hey, let’s keep things simple. We’re going to refer to it as ashwagandha throughout.
Now, if you’re at interested in natural health you’ve probably heard of ashwagandha already. Every now and then a “super supplement” comes around that’s touted as the next massive thing in treating, well, pretty much everything. And while we’re big fans of natural health, we’re also very keen on not getting too carried away without reviewing the science behind the claims. And so that’s what we’re going to do today in this guide to ashwagandha.
Ashwagandha is a herb that has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for, quite literally, centuries. It is touted as something of a natural remedy with the ability to reduce stress, anxiety and fatigue. Ashwagandha, it is also claimed, can boost the immune system, improve memory and cognitive function, and help with weight loss.
What is ashwagandha?
Quite simply, it’s a shrub native to India. But Ashwagandha is also a popular supplement that, it is claims, can aid with the treatment of a variety of health conditions, including:
- Memory loss
- Cognitive decline
- Weight loss
- Immune system function
But, what does the science say? Let’s take a look.
Scientifically proven benefits of ashwagandha
There is some scientific evidence to support the use of ashwagandha for a variety of health conditions such as the below.
Ashwagandha for stress and anxiety
☑️ Yes, there’s scientific research suggesting ashwagandha is effective in the treatment of stress and anxiety.
Ashwagandha has been scientifically shown to be effective in reducing stress and anxiety. This study published in the journal “Phytotherapy Research” found that ashwagandha extract was as effective as the drug lorazepam (commonly prescribed in the treatment of anxiety) in reducing symptoms associated with anxiety.
That’s significant. Furthermore, this was a well conducted study.
This 8 week long study was carried out in India and involved 60 participants who were all previously diagnosed with anxiety. The participants were randomly assigned to either a group that received 300 mg of Ashwagandha extract twice daily or a placebo.
The results of the study showed that the group that received Ashwagandha extract had significantly lower levels of anxiety than the placebo group. The Ashwagandha group also had significantly improved sleep and reported a better overall quality of life.
There is no denying that these results are promising in backing the use of ashwagandha in helping people with anxiety.
However, more research is needed to confirm the findings of this study and to determine the optimal dose and duration of Ashwagandha supplementation for the treatment of anxiety.
Here are some additional details about this particular study:
- The participants in the study were all Indian adults who were diagnosed with anxiety before the study began
- The participants in the intervention group received 300 mg of Ashwagandha extract twice daily for 8 weeks.
- The participants in the control group received a placebo
- Neither set of participants knew throughout the study which group they were in and thus whether they were receiving the supplement or the placebo
- The researchers measured the participants’ anxiety levels, sleep quality, and quality of life at the beginning of the study and at the end of the study.
The researchers found that the participants in the intervention group (the group receiving the ashwagandha supplement) had significantly lower anxiety levels at the end of the study than the participants in the control group.
They also found that the participants in the intervention group had significantly improved sleep quality and quality of life at the end of the study.
The researchers concluded that Ashwagandha extract may be an effective treatment for anxiety.
Ashwagandha for tiredness and fatigue
Ashwagandha has also been shown to be effective in reducing fatigue. A study published in the journal “The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine” found that ashwagandha extract was effective in reducing fatigue in people with chronic fatigue syndrome. In addition, that same study cited above that found it reduced the symptoms of anxiety also found that participants had a much improved quality of sleep.
This in turn can help to reduce tiredness and fatigue in otherwise healthy people.
Ashwagandha for memory and cognitive function
Ashwagandha has also been shown to improve memory and cognitive function.
A number of studies into the impact of ashwagandha on cognitive function have concluded positively. Some to read are here:
- Ashwagandha extract improves cognitive function in people with Alzheimer’s disease. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3573577/
- Ashwagandha extract improves cognitive function in people with chronic fatigue syndrome. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4195495/
- Ashwagandha extract improves cognitive function in people with schizophrenia. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4305336/
- Ashwagandha extract improves cognitive function in people with Parkinson’s disease. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3252722/
There’s certainly more research needed but ashwagandha does appear, with some scientific basis, to help with memory and cognitive function.
Ashwagandha for improved immune system function
Ashwagandha has also been shown to boost the immune system. A study published in the journal “Immunology Letters” found that ashwagandha extract was effective in increasing the production of antibodies in people with HIV.
Dosage: How Much Ashwagandha Should I Take?
The recommended dosage of ashwagandha varies depending on the condition you’re trying to improve.
|Health Condition||Ashwagandha Dosage|
|Stress and anxiety||300-600 mg of extract twice daily|
|Fatigue||500-1000 mg of extract once daily|
|Memory and cognitive function||300-600 mg of extract twice daily|
|Immune system function||500-1000 mg of extract once daily|
Is Ashwagandha Safe?
Ashwagandha is generally considered safe for most people. However, it is important to talk to your doctor before taking ashwagandha if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or taking any medications.
Ashwaganda – A Safe Super Supplement?
So the science, while it’s definitely still emerging, suggests some real and genuine benefits of ashwagandha. Another really important thing to bear in mind here is how safe it is soo compared with some medicines.
With no notable side effects, this looks like something that has the potential to help people treat and managed a range of health conditions.