Ashwagandha root extract may boost cardiorespiratory endurance and recovery: RCT

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

© mihtiander / Getty Images
© mihtiander / Getty Images

Related tags ashwagandha athletic performance endurance athletes adaptogen stress management

Supplementation with the branded ashwagandha root extract KSM-66 may boost cardiorespiratory endurance and recovery in healthy athletic adults, while simultaneously help with stress management, says a new study.

Data published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology​ indicated that 600 mg per day of the Ashwagandha root extract for 8-weeks led to significant improvements in VO2 max compared to baseline and placebo.

In addition, double the number of participants in the ashwagandha group exhibited a “good improvement effect” when recovery from exhaustive exercise, compared to placebo, reported scientists from OM Research Centre and the M V Hospital and Research Centre in Uttar Pradesh, India.

“The study has provided appreciable evidence in improving the health conditions considered through the safe use of the test compound within the specified dosage,” ​wrote the researchers.


According to a monograph from the American Herbal Pharmacopoeia (AHP), the herb has a history of use in ayurvedic medicine that dates back as much as 4,000 years to the teaching of renowned scholar Punarvasu Atreya, and in subsequent works that make up the ayurvedic tradition. The name of the herb derives from Sanskrit, and means “smells like a horse”, which refers to the strong smell of the root which is said to be redolent of horse sweat or urine.

According to HerbalGram’s​ Herb Market Report, sales of herbal supplements with Ashwagandha topped $10,835,737 in the US Mainstream Multi-Outlet Channel for 2019, an increase of 45% over the previous year. An additional $13,661,462 in sales were reported from the Natural Channel (an increase of over 7% from 2018).

The study adds to the ever-growing body of data supporting the potential benefits of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera​), which already include supporting a healthy response to stress, cognitive function, sleep, metabolic wellness, adrenal function, sports performance, and more.

Commenting on the new paper, Kartikeya Baldwa, CEO of Ixoreal Biomed Inc, the marketer of KSM-66, said: "Cardiorespiratory endurance is well-recognized as an important mediator between exercise and top physiological functioning, improving diverse processes from brain function to heart health to immune response.

“The ashwagandha herb's root has been advocated for centuries to boost energy and vitality. It is nice to see this traditional use of the ashwagandha root stand up to scrutiny in a rigorous modern clinical trial with careful controls.

“As more and more consumers and fitness enthusiasts seek supplements for cardiorespiratory fitness support, many ingredient makers are targeting this segment,”​ added Baldwa.

“The body of published clinical evidence supporting the use of the ashwagandha root for cardiorespiratory fitness is greater than with most other herbs or even non-standard ashwagandha extracts using the leaves. This is the second published study on cardiorespiratory endurance using KSM-66 ashwagandha root extract, with a third one being under peer-review."  

Study details

The researchers recruited 50 healthy athletic adults and randomly assigned them to receive the ashwagandha root extract (KSM-66, 300 mg twice a day) or placebo for eight weeks. VO2 max was used to assess cardiorespiratory endurance, while stress management was assessed using a number of tests, including Total Quality Recovery Scores (TQR), Recovery-Stress Questionnaire for Athletes (RESTQ), and Daily Analysis of Life Demands for Athletes (DALDA) questionnaires. Antioxidant levels were also measured.

Results showed that participants in the ashwagandha group displayed significantly improved VO2 max compared to the placebo group. Specifically, VO2 max increased from 40.22 ml/kg/min at week 0 to 46.82 ml/kg/min at week 8 in the KSM-66 group, but only increased from 40.63 ml/kg/min at week 0 to 42.66 ml/kg/min at week 8 in the placebo group.

In addition, significant improvements in the TQR scores were observed following Ashwagandha consumption, compared to placebo, and differences between the groups were already measurable after four weeks of supplementation.

“DALDA questionnaire analysis in the Ashwagandha group was found statistically significant (P < 0.0001) compared to the placebo group,”​ said the reported the researchers. “RESTQ assessment also yielded better outcomes, especially for fatigue recovery (P < 0.0001), lack of energy (P < 0.0001), and fitness analysis (P < 0.0001).”

Importantly, no adverse events were reported by any of the study participants.

“The present findings suggest that Ashwagandha root extract can successfully enhance cardiorespiratory endurance and improve the quality of life in healthy athletic adults,” ​concluded the researchers.

Source: Journal of Ethnopharmacology
2021, Volume 272, 113929, DOI: 10.1016/j.jep.2021.113929​   
“A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial on the effect of Ashwagandha (​Withania somnifera dunal.) root extract in improving cardiorespiratory endurance and recovery in healthy athletic adults”
Authors: S. Tiwari et al.

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