Ashwagandha is one of the prominent and outstanding herbs in traditional Ayurvedic medicine that dates to existence more than 4000 years. Scientifically known as Withania somnifera, Ashwagandha is frequently referred to as Winter cherry and Indian Ginseng. Ashwagandha is a plant of family Solanaceae. Ashwagandha in Sanskrit means the “smell of horse” which is associated with the benefits it provides including stamina and strength.
Ashwagandha plant is a small shrub with yellow flowers and is native to India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, South Africa, Egypt and Morocco. The traditional recommended useful part of the plant is the dried root, although different sections of the plant can be used for treating ailments. Traditionally, the Ashwagandha health benefits encompasses youthful vigour, stamina, strength, and general wellbeing achieved through increased vital fluid output, muscle, blood, lymph, semen, and cells. The powdered dried root of Ashwagandha benefits in treating inflammatory illnesses, phthisis, and male impotence, according to India’s Ayurvedic pharmacopoeia.
Ashwagandha’s health benefits are outlined in Ayurveda, in various literary texts called the samhitas. Tremendously beneficial Ashwagandha is categorized as a “Rasayana”, according to Sushruta Samhita, which can slow the process of aging, boost longevity and enhance mental and physical strength. Ashwagandha is described as a “Balya”, which promotes strength and vitality, according to Charaka Samhita. Other Ayurvedic texts categorized Ashwagandha benefits as “Breehana”, enhancing muscle, and “Vajikarna” as promoting sexual wellness and acting as an aphrodisiac. Ashwagandha’s health benefits in restoring and revitalizing the body and mind pioneered it as one of the strongest adaptogenic herbs [1,2]
Modern society is affected by chronic stress due the ever-changing socio-economic conditions. Biochemically, stress is often accompanied by a rise in serum cortisol concentrations. Ashwagandha is renowned for maintaining low cortisol level. This anti-stress and adaptogenic property of Ashwagandha induces a relaxing and calming impact.
In a research carried out on 64 topics with a history of chronic stress, the administration of an 8-week daily dose of Ashwagandha root extract Led in a significant reduction in the level of serum cortisol resulting in a reduction in stress .
Ashwagandha’s ability of fighting stress can also aid in weight loss. In a study conducted on 52 individuals, Ashwagandha root extract decreased food cravings, eating and body weight .
Ashwagandha has always been beneficial as a “medharasayana”, acted as a nootropic herb in Ayurveda to improve and learning. Ashwagandha enhances brain function, response times, memory, concentration, and task performance capability.
Many studies demonstrate how alkaloids from Ashwagandha help in nerve regeneration, boost neural growth in both humans and animals. The evidences in humans is very limited in this context.
A study was carried out in 50 adults with mild cognitive impairment, a common precursor of Alzheimer’s disease. The clinical research confirmed its traditionally claimed usefulness to enhance memory .
In another research, 53 individuals with bipolar disorder took ashwagandha root extract and showed augmented working memory .
Stress is the major root cause of thyroid dysfunction. Ashwagandha has a distinctive resilience and helps the body cope with stress and modulates the hormone balances .
Research on individuals with hypothyroidism concluded that consumption of 300 mg of ashwagandha root extract resulted in significant changes in thyroid concentrations relative to the placebo .
Ashwagandha can enhance muscle mass, muscle strength and decrease body fat in conjunction with resistance training. Ashwagandha benefits through alleviating and healing the body’s damage during exercise.
In a research carried out in untrained individuals, root extract from Ashwagandha showed a substantial rise in muscle strength, muscle size and a substantial decline in exercise-induced muscle damage relative to placebo .
In another research conducted in healthy participants proposed that Ashwagandha root extract supplementation may be useful in improving muscle weakness, enhancing muscle power under certain conditions . The other recent study with healthy volunteers also demonstrated that Ashwagandha supplementation resulted in increased muscle strength and lean body mass .
Ashwagandha showed significant impact on athletic performance by improving cardiovascular stamina and strength. Ashwagandha root extract enhanced endurance, VO2 max and self-reported physical health in a study considering healthy athletic adults . Ashwagandha extracts increased ample strength in another study of done with cyclists .
Ashwagandha is linked to improving reproductive health for women. Ashwagandha regulates hormones concentrations in the body, especially reproductive hormones in both male and female. It is a proven facilitator and optimizer for better reproductive health. The use of Ashwagandha extract on females to evaluate sexual function, including happiness, excitement, lubrication and orgasm, showed that it considerably improved the sexual function of females .
Ashwagandha is a traditional, magical herb used as an aphrodisiac. Ashwagandha is a strong enhancer of men’s libido and is also used for erectile dysfunction. Ashwagandha contributes in two aspects to restoring a healthy sex life in male. First, it helps to produce testosterone and then it raises the luteinizing hormone and testosterone serum concentrations and revitalizes men’s natural sex hormone equilibrium. Secondly, as ashwagandha is known to reduce stress by inhibiting the growth of cortisol, it also helps in the delay of natural testosterone reduction. There is emerging evidence in modern science that Ashwagandha helps to boost testosterone concentrations in males and has a beneficial effect on their reproductive health.
A daily dose of Ashwagandha enhanced sperm count and motility in a 3-month research in males experiencing infertility . A research conducted in 2013 found that males with oligospermia (low sperm count) experienced rise in sperm count, increase in semen quantity and a boost in sperm motility after using an Ashwagandha root extract .
Ashwagandha roots are classified as “Rasayanas” that encourage health and longevity by promoting natural immunity and defence against diseases, slowing the aging process, revitalizing the body under adverse circumstances and thus improving the general well-being. A research conducted to assess the antioxidant capacity of Ashwagandha roots in several individuals showed an improvement in antioxidant enzyme superoxide dismutase and decreased indicators of oxidative stress. As a result, Ashwagandha’s antioxidant characteristics may possibly improve longevity . In another research, Ashwagandha successfully expanded the lifetime of a Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans) .
Telomeres are DNA sequences that form caps at the end of our chromosomes and are important aging markers. Ashwagandha was identified to boost telomerase activity in HeLa cell cultures and thus boost longevity .