Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), also known as Indian Ginseng, is a herb used in Ayurvedic medicine, India’s traditional medicine. Its root has a horsey odour and is said to confer horse strength and virility. Ashva means “horse” and gandha means “smell” in Sanskrit. The plant’s various parts are used, but the most common supplemental form is a root extract.

Ashwagandha is classified as an adaptogen, which means it is thought to improve the body’s resistance to stress. Although rodent and cell culture studies indicate that ashwagandha has a wide range of health benefits,[1][2] there is a lack of direct evidence in humans to support the majority of these effects.

What are the primary advantages of ashwagandha?

Ashwagandha is best known for its anti-anxiety and stress-relieving properties.

It also appears to lower cortisol levels, which is supported by a number of studies. Furthermore, a growing body of evidence supports ashwagandha’s efficacy in improving total sleep time and sleep quality in people with and without insomnia.

Athletes are also becoming more interested in ashwagandha. Ashwagandha has been shown to increase VO2max, and preliminary research indicates that it improves upper and lower body strength, lower body power, and recovery. It’s unclear whether these effects hold true in highly trained athletes. In men who are having fertility problems, ashwagandha may improve sperm quality parameters.

What are the main disadvantages of ashwagandha?

Although ashwagandha appears to be safe, more long-term research specifically designed to assess its safety is required. Some people may experience mild drowsiness and sedation from ashwagandha.

What is the action of ashwagandha?

Ashwagandha contains a wide range of bioactive compounds, including alkaloids, flavonoids, glycosides, steroids, and steroidal lactones.

Withanolides are found within the steroidal lactones and are thought to be responsible for the majority of the plant’s benefits.

The majority of ashwagandha’s benefits are due, at least in part, to its powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Ashwagandha can boost antioxidant enzyme levels such as glutathione peroxidase and superoxide dismutase while also inhibiting lipid peroxidation. See the Research Breakdown section for more information on mechanisms of action, including molecular targets.

Ashwagandha appears to influence the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, which plays a central role in the stress response, as evidenced by its ability to lower cortisol levels as part of its ability to reduce stress and anxiety.

[18] In addition, ashwagandha appears to alter the signalling of several neurotransmitters that are dysfunctional in anxiety disorders. Its ability to specifically enhance GABAA receptor signalling is thought to underpin its sleep benefits.

More research is needed to confirm the effect of ashwagandha on endurance performance by increasing haemoglobin levels (the protein in red blood cells responsible for transporting oxygen to the rest of the body).

The ability of ashwagandha to improve reproductive health is attributed to its antioxidative properties combined with its ability to increase testosterone levels. This effect is more noticeable in men who are infertile and have low testosterone levels, but preliminary evidence suggests that ashwagandha may also increase testosterone levels in healthy men.

Does ashwagandha boost testosterone levels?

What other names does Ashwagandha have?

It is worth noting that Ashwagandha is also known as:

  • Somnifera Withania
  • Ginseng from India
  • The Horse Smell
  • Cherry in Winter
  • Dunal
  • Solanaceae

This herb should not be confused with:

The plant Withania coagulans (Different Plant)

Information on Dosage

Disclaimer about medical conditions

In studies on ashwagandha, dosages of 250-600 mg/day of a root extract were used. The most common dosing protocol is 600 mg/day divided into two doses, one taken with breakfast in the morning and one in the evening.

For improving sleep, evidence suggests that 600 mg/day is superior to lower doses. Similarly, athletes undergoing an intense exercise regimen may benefit more from 600-1,000 mg/day than lower doses. More research is needed, however, to confirm the idea that doses above 600 mg/day provide greater benefits.

It is unknown whether ashwagandha loses potency over time, but given its potential drug-like effects on neurotransmission, this hypothesis cannot be ruled out. It’s also unclear whether taking breaks from ashwagandha or taking it every other day affects its efficacy.