Ashwagandha has been called the king of Ayurvedic herbs. It’s classified as an adaptogen, meaning that it can help your body manage stress. Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is an herb used in Ayurveda, the traditional medicine of India.
The name Ashwagandha is from the Sanskrit language and is a combination of the word ashva, meaning horse, and gandha, meaning smell. The root has a strong aroma that is described as “horse-like.”
Traditionally, organic ashwagandha has been prescribed as a nerve tonic and adaptogen—an agent which helps the body adapt to various emotional and physical stressors. It has classically been used in India for nearly 5,000 years for conditions such as failure to thrive in children, weakness and debility in old age, rheumatism, constipation, insomnia, nervous conditions, chronic stress, goiter, joint inflammation, parasites, hormone balance, and more. A paste made from the ashwagandha root powder can be applied topically to treat boils, ulcers, and other skin irritations and infections.
What are the health benefits of taking ashwagandha?
Modern studies have shown that ashwagandha might be beneficial for a number of uses. But a lot is still unknown about how the herb reacts within the human body. A majority of the studies so far – while very promising – have been done on animals.
Ashwagandha has a calming effect on anxiety symptoms when compared to the drug lorazepam (a sedative and anxiety medication).
The herb had the ability to reduce anxiety levels. In fact, the two treatments were found to offer a similar level of relief from anxiety as the above medication, suggesting ashwagandha might be as effective for reducing anxiety.
Ashwagandha is considered to be a pain reliever that acts on the nervous system to prevent pain signals from being sent. It’s also thought to have some anti-inflammatory properties. For this reason, some research has shown it to be effective in treating forms of arthritis.
Ashwagandha may have a variety of benefits to heart health, including treating:
High blood pressure
One human study published in the International journal of Ayurveda research found that using the herb for heart health (in combination with another Ayurvedic herb) was helpful in improving muscle strength and endurance.
According to the African Journal of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicine, several studies have examined ashwagandha’s ability to slow or prevent loss of brain function in people with diseases like Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s, and Parkinson’s. As these diseases progress, parts of the brain and its connective paths become damaged, which leads to loss of memory and function.
Some studies found that ashwagandha might be able to stop cell growth in certain cancers. Animal research showed the ability to decrease a lung tumor. There are encouraging findings that suggest the herb has potential to slow human cancers including breast, lung, kidney, and prostate.
Boosts testosterone and increase fertility in men
Ashwagandha supplements may have powerful effects on testosterone levels and reproductive health. In one study in 75 infertile men, the group treated with ashwagandha showed increased sperm count and motility. The researchers also reported that the group who took the herb had increased antioxidant levels in their blood.
In another study, men who received ashwagandha for stress experienced higher antioxidant levels and better sperm quality. After 3 months of treatment, 14% of the men’s partners had become pregnant.