The Amazing Health Benefits Of Ashwagandha

Created by Rachael Kraus

Last Updated: September 4, 2021

If you’re like many Western consumers, you’ve probably taken supplements at least a few times in your life. Whether it’s zinc tablets to fend off a cold, or fish oil pills to keep your joints from getting creaky, you may already have a few trusty picks in your cabinet. Most people know about the positive effects of popular supplements. But what about the health benefits of ashwagandha? As you’re about to find out, there are quite a few. Who knows – this plant-based remedy could turn out to be something you never knew you needed!

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Health benefits of ashwagandha according to Ayurvedic medicine

Ashwagandha isn’t one of those plants you’re likely to find growing in a friend’s backyard. It’s actually native to India, where many ashwagandha supplements are still sourced from. Western consumers have become aware of its benefits over the past few years, but ashwagandha has been a part of Ayurvedic traditions for centuries. The primary benefits of ashwagandha are said to be reducing stress and promoting sleep. Ayurvedic medicine also recommends it for things like longevity, strength, and male sexual wellness.

Ashwagandha in stem and powder form

What is ashwagandha generally used for?

Longevity and strength are great, but modern consumers generally want something more specific. Both scientific research and anecdotal accounts have given us a lot more information on what to expect when you take ashwagandha. There’s still much more to learn, especially on the scientific side of things. We know that most users report experiencing the following effects:

  • Improved sleep
  • Lower stress levels
  • Avoidance of cortisol-related weight gain
  • Fewer headaches
  • Less overall irritability
  • Lower blood sugar
  • Reduced depression

Sounds pretty great, right? As it turns out, all of these problems can have something in common – chronically elevated cortisol. That won’t always be the issue, but if it is, balancing cortisol levels could be one of the best things you could do to improve your health. 

Health benefits of ashwagandha-powdered product example-produced in Serbia

Ashwagandha for stress

There are plenty of herbal remedies that are supposed to help you calm down, but not many of them actually target the root cause of your feelings of stress – cortisol. This stress hormone is an essential part of your biology. However, if there’s too much of it being produced on a regular basis, you’re probably going to end up tired and wired 24/7. 

Ashwagandha is an adaptogen, which means that it may help your body adapt better to stress. One of the key benefits of using an adaptogen is that your cortisol can regain balance. This means that you won’t feel like the world is ending the next time you’re 10 minutes late to an appointment. 

You may notice your general stress levels falling if you’re trying to manage them with an adaptogen. But if you want to know exactly how ashwagandha is affecting your stress hormone levels, all you have to do is get a cortisol test. It might even be informative to have it tested periodically. That way, you can see the big picture as your hormones find equilibrium. 

Berry on an ashwagandha plant

Ashwagandha for sleep

This brings us to the sleep hormone, melatonin. In general, if your cortisol is elevated, your body won’t produce enough melatonin. This can make it difficult for you to get quality sleep. If you’re using ashwagandha to lower your cortisol, though, you’ll be encouraging melatonin production at the same time. 

This isn’t just a hypothesis. There have been several studies done on the relationship between melatonin and ashwagandha, most of which showed clear benefits for sleep even in insomniacs.

What’s the right ashwagandha dosage for better sleep, though? In this study, the participants took 300 mg twice daily (for a total of 600 mg), and saw significant improvements after just 10 weeks compared to the placebo group. 

Ashwagandha for hormonal balance

Ashwagandha is thought to affect other hormones besides just cortisol and melatonin. Studies have demonstrated the benefits of ashwagandha for people with hypothyroidism, a condition that results in low levels of thyroid hormones. 

People with high insulin may also benefit from taking ashwagandha, as research shows a connection between ashwagandha and lower insulin levels. It isn’t certain whether this is a secondary benefit from reducing cortisol, or if it happened independently. Whatever the case, it’s worth looking into further.

That’s something you could hear a lot when reading about the health benefits of ashwagandha. 

“Studies have shown this effect, but we need more information to be certain”. 

For instance, many of the studies have small participant groups or only use rodents. Even if there’s only limited scientific research, ashwagandha’s long-standing use in Ayurvedic medicine is enough for many people to feel confident in its efficacy. 

Health benefits of ashwagandha-root, powder and capsules on table

Health benefits of ashwagandha for men

While ashwagandha is said to positively affect many different hormones, it may have specific benefits for men’s sexual health. Studies suggest that testosterone levels, sex drive, and sperm count can all be positively affected by ashwagandha. As with insulin, we aren’t sure if this is related to normalized cortisol levels, or if it’s a separate benefit. 

Ashwagandha negative side effects

Between studies and user reports, the most common side effects seem to be stomach upset, diarrhea, and headaches. Some people also report sweating and increased heart rate. This could be due to ashwagandha’s potential effect on the thyroid hormones, which control metabolism and heart rate (among many other things). 

However, it’s important to note that almost all adverse reactions happen at high doses. As with most dietary supplements, ashwagandha isn’t recommended for pregnant or nursing women. 

How long does ashwagandha take to work?

If you’re thinking that this could be a perfect natural substitute for your prescription sleeping pills, think again. Ashwagandha users say that it takes between 14 and 30 days to start noticing a difference. 

So, what can you do to move things along in the meantime? Tracking your progress is highly recommended, whether you’re using monthly hormone tests, a sleep app, or a good old-fashioned journal. Not only will you feel like you’re making progress even before the ashwagandha has a chance to kick in, but you’ll have an accurate record of any changes that have happened since you started the new supplement. 

What kind of ashwagandha should you get?

The best ashwagandha to get will have a few different characteristics. First, you should ensure that your chosen product has the stated amount of active ingredient. This isn’t always a given with dietary supplements. Second, you could buy ashwagandha on its own, or get a supplement that mixes ashwagandha with complementary herbs for various suggested health benefits. Third, you can choose ashwagandha in either powder or capsule form

Remember, this plant is funky enough to be named after the way a horse smells. If that’s a concern for you, then pills are the way to go. If you want to go the more traditional route, get some powdered ashwagandha and mix it into foods or drinks. Ayurvedic medicine suggests various teas, ghee, milk, and honey, but you could also sprinkle it into smoothies or over your morning oatmeal. 

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Ashwagandha is a plant-based remedy with a rich history that modern medicine is just beginning to explore. If you decide to give it a try, you can see for yourself just how many health benefits ashwagandha has to offer!

If you liked this article, check out our posts on the benefits of other plant-based superfoods such as pili nuts, sacha inchi oil, and golden milk.

If you love the power of plants, check out the plant-based superfoods kit below.

Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links. This means that if you make a purchase after clicking on one of these recommended service provider links, like an insurance broker, or a travel agent, I may earn a commission – at no extra cost to you. [For my full disclosure, please see my DISCLAIMERpage].

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Rachael Kraus

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