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Natural wonder: 7 superstar qualities of ashwagandha
Ashwagandha has been used for thousands of years in traditional medicine to support a range of health benefits, including promoting better sleep, enhancing mental calculation and supporting sexual health. Here’s an overview of its superstar status.
1. Reduces stress and promotes sleep
Ashwagandha belongs to a unique class of powerful botanicals known as adaptogens. These improve the body’s ability to encounter, adjust to and recover from stressful situations of all kinds – physical, emotional, and psychological – by lowering cortisol (the primary stress hormone) to a healthy level. Essentially, ashwagandha can help normalize physiological processes during times of increased stress by energizing without over stimulating and calming without sedating.
And because lifestyle stress is a major contributor to a person’s ability to fall asleep, an upside of managing stress has positive associations with sleep. When you consider that ashwagandha’s species name, “somnifera”, is derived from the Latin word “somnus” meaning sleep or slumber, this makes perfect sense.
2. Promotes muscle energy and sports performance
Because ashwagandha root helps the body manage its cortisol-release timing and its stress-modulating effects, it encourages the body to be more efficient and increase energy production in muscles, through its beneficial effects on mitochondria, the structure that serves as the power plant of each cell, which in turn, can enhance cardio-respiratory endurance.
In addition, ashwagandha root is known to decrease creatine kinase (CK), an enzyme in the blood which can be a marker of muscle damage.
3. Helps to promote sexual health
As one of the most revered plants in traditional Ayurvedic medicine, Ashwagandha is known for its aphrodisiac properties, and clinical research has shown that it can improve sexual health in both men and women. A 2022 study assessed sexual function in 80 women receiving Ashwagandha root extract over an eight-week period and found a statistically significant improvement in desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasm and sexual satisfaction of the FSFI (Female Sexual Function Index) and the FSDS (Female Sexual Distress Scale) psychometric scales.1
When it comes to male sexual health, a 2022 study found that eight-weeks of supplementation with ashwagandha root extract KSM-66 may significantly increase serum testosterone levels and boost sexual function in men in areas such as sexual cognition, sexual arousal, sexual behavior, orgasm and sexual desire.2
4. Enhances memory and cognition
Ashwagandha is the most recognized natural nootropic or natural herb known to promote cognition, improve intellectual reasoning and enhance the memory and lifespan of individuals. Recent studies on ashwagandha’s effects on brain function are increasingly of interest to formulators of nootropic-focused sports and fitness products.
For example, an eight-week study by KSM-66 which explored ashwagandha’s impact on memory, visuospatial processing, executive function and attention, and information processing speed, found that participants experienced significant improvements in information processing speed, spatial span (part of working memory), executive function and immediate and general memory subsets, without any side effects.
5. Supports healthy weight management
Chronic stress has been linked to adverse health effects on the heart, brain and immune function, and most recently to weight gain. In fact, a 2017 study of more than 2,500 men and women found those with the highest levels cortisol in hair samples had larger waists, greater weight and a higher BMI; obese individuals had particularly high cortisol levels.3
Furthermore, in an eight-week clinical trial, participants with a body mass index (BMI) between 25 and 39.9, who took ashwagandha were found to have a 3% reduction in body weight, compared to only 1.4% in the placebo group.4
6. Helps to maintain normal thyroid
Extracts from ashwagandha root is often can help to normalize levels of serum thyroid hormones, suggests a pilot study from India, the first randomized double-blind placebo-controlled study that evaluated the traditional claim of ashwagandha as a thyroid modulator. The outcome of the study highlights the beneficial role of ashwagandha root extract and concludes that treatment with ashwagandha may be beneficial for normalizing thyroid indices in subclinical hypothyroid patients.5
7. Contributes to a sustainable world
As well as supporting human health, ashwagandha can serve as a model for sustainable production practices, from the field all the way through to where the extract is shipped. The relative ease of ashwagandha farming and its short life cycle (approximately six months after planting seed to harvesting) have helped the rise of this herb as a viable economic crop. And in optimal conditions, it’s cultivation and harvesting can be aligned with a truly sustainable process which encompasses organic farming, better wages, community development, extremely rigorous operating standards and clean and green extraction. Companies who acquire certified organic ashwagandha benefit from built-in traceability procedures.
1. Ajgaonkar A, Jain M, Debnath K (October 28, 2022) Efficacy and Safety of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) Root Extract for Improvement of Sexual Health in Healthy Women: A Prospective, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Study. Cureus 14(10): e30787. doi:10.7759/cureus.30787
2. Chauhan S.; Srivastava MK.; and Pathak AK. Effect of standardized root extract of ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) on well-being and sexual performance in adult males: A randomized controlled trial. Health Sci Rep. 2022 Jul 20;5(4):e741. doi: 10.1002/hsr2.741. PMID: 35873404; PMCID: PMC9297375.
3. Hair cortisol and adiposity in a population-based sample of 2,527 men and women aged 54 to 87 years Obesity: 23 Feb 2017. DOI: 10.1002/oby.21733.
4. Choudhary D.; Bhattacharyya S.; Joshi K. Body Weight Management in Adults Under Chronic Stress Through Treatment With Ashwagandha Root Extract: A Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial J Evid Based Complementary Altern Med. 2017 Jan;22(1):96-106. doi: 10.1177/2156587216641830. Epub 2016 Apr 6. PMID: 27055824; PMCID: PMC5871210.
5. Sharma AK.; Basu I.; Singh S. Efficacy and Safety of Ashwagandha Root Extract in Subclinical Hypothyroid Patients: A Double-Blind, Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial J Altern Complement Med. 2018 Mar;24(3):243-248. doi: 10.1089/acm.2017.0183. Epub 2017 Aug 22. PMID: 28829155.