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Health & Nutrition
Zaheera Swing
Nutritional Therapist & Herbalist BSc Hons Nutritional Science + NTPD

Ashwagandha: Health Benefits, How To Use, Dosage, Side Effects & Safety

Ashwagandha is a renowned Ayurvedic herb that has been shown to effectively manage stress and anxiety, support sleep quality, and enhance vitality. Its potent bioactive constituents, known as withanolides, offer multiple health benefits, including regulating cortisol and thyroid hormone levels, reducing inflammation, enhancing cognitive function, and boosting physical performance and muscle health. Furthermore, additional benefits of ashwagandha include enhanced sperm health and increased testosterone levels in men. The typical daily dosage of ashwagandha ranges from 600mg to 1900mg in divided doses. Side effects are minimal; however, ashwagandha should be avoided during pregnancy or by those with hyperthyroidism or autoimmune conditions.

 

 

What Is Ashwagandha?

 

Ashwagandha, also known by the Latin name Withania Somnifera or Winter Cherry, is an evergreen shrub within the nightshade family and is native to India, Africa, and the Middle East. The ashwagandha plant has been used in Ayurveda, a traditional Indian medicine paradigm, for thousands of years to offer a natural solution for chronic stress and anxiety, low mood, fatigue, fertility issues, and overall vitality.

Ashwagandha is one of the most famous adaptogenic herbs, which is a type of plant believed to help the body adapt to stress and normalize physiological functions that are out of balance.

According to Ayurveda, ashwagandha is considered a rejuvenating herb or “rasayana” thanks to its nourishing and restorative effect, helping to invigorate the body to support physical and mental health. Ashwagandha is also called Indian Ginseng, likely resulting from its energizing properties.

Ashwagandha contains potent bioactive constituents known as withanolides which are the main phytochemicals within the plant that provide ashwagandha with its range of health benefits. One of the key benefits of withanolides is their ability to reduce stress and anxiety. By enhancing the activity of neurotransmitters like gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), withanolides help to calm the nervous system and promote relaxation. They have also been studied for their anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, immune-modulating, and anti-cancer activities.

In this article, we will provide detailed information about the health benefits of ashwagandha. Let's dive in.

 

 

What Are The Health Benefits of Ashwagandha?

 

1. Reduces symptoms of stress and anxiety

 

 

Ashwagandha is clinically proven to alleviate stress and reduce symptoms of anxiety. According to multiple research studies, ashwagandha significantly lowers levels of the stress hormone cortisol. By lowering cortisol, ashwagandha reduces the physical symptoms associated with stress and anxiety while ameliorating some of the negative health consequences of chronically raised cortisol levels.

One study found that after 60 days of supplementing with Ashwagandha, participants in the treatment group had a remarkable 27.9% decrease in cortisol compared to baseline levels. These results demonstrate some of the impressive stress-relieving benefits of ashwagandha [1]. Evidence that ashwagandha lowers cortisol levels has been shown time after time in multiple human trials over recent years. [2] [3] [4]

The administration of ashwagandha also significantly reduces anxiety scores on the Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale (HAM-A). This test is a widely used and well-validated tool for assessing the severity of anxiety by examining the number and severity of physiological and psychological symptoms experienced by participants.

For example, a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial found that over the course of a 60-day intervention, study participants receiving an extract of ashwagandha had a 41% decrease in their HAM-A scores, demonstrating a significant improvement in anxiety compared to the placebo group. [5]

Learn more about how ashwagandha supports anxiety here.

 

 

2. Improves low thyroid function

 

 

Studies have shown that ashwagandha supports thyroid health by regulating thyroid hormone levels in individuals experiencing low/underactive thyroid function, also known as hypothyroidism. Treatment with ashwagandha root may also reduce inflammation and provide antioxidant effects, which could further protect the thyroid gland and support overall wellness.

For example, a study focused on individuals with hypothyroidism found that taking 600 mg of ashwagandha root extract daily for eight weeks led to significant increases in essential thyroid hormones T3 and T4 compared to those taking a placebo. [6]

In an animal study of hypothyroid rats, ashwagandha was able to increase levels of T3 and T4 while reducing thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) levels, which are usually elevated in hypothyroidism.

Since ashwagandha raises levels of T3 and T4, it should be avoided in individuals with an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism), a condition in which the thyroid gland produces too many thyroid hormones.

Learn more about how ashwagandha supports low thyroid function here.

 

 

3. Improves sleep duration & sleep quality

 

 

Ashwagandha has beneficial effects on sleep quality and sleep duration by calming the central nervous system and lowering cortisol levels. This means ashwagandha can provide relief for individuals struggling with insomnia. 

A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials found that ashwagandha supplementation significantly improved overall sleep, which was demonstrated using measurements like:

  • Sleep onset latency (the amount of time it takes to fall asleep)
  • Total sleep time
  • Wake time
  • Total time in bed
  • Sleep efficiency

[7]

Learn more about the importance of sleep and ashwagandha here.

 

 

4. Enhances sperm health and male fertility

 

 

Ashwagandha supports male fertility by enhancing sperm health and sexual function. Ashwagandha's benefits for fertility have been known for thousands of years in Ayurvedic medicine, and now modern research is finally catching up to explain its ability to improve reproductive health.

Researchers have studied men with low sperm count (known as oligospermic males) who were randomized to either receive ashwagandha in the form of a full spectrum root extract for 90 days or a placebo for the same period.

At the end of the study, a semen analysis found that men taking the ashwagandha root supplement had a 167% increase in sperm count, a 53% increase in semen volume, and a 57% increase in sperm motility. These results demonstrate a truly impressive improvement in overall semen quality after taking ashwagandha. [8]

Learn more about the benefits of ashwagandha for fertility here.

 

 

5. Increases testosterone levels in men

 

 

On average, ashwagandha naturally boosts testosterone by 17% in men, according to high-quality research. Testosterone is a sex hormone that plays a vital role in regulating muscle mass and strength, sperm health, sexual function, and body composition.  [9]

The main mechanism through which ashwagandha appears to elevate testosterone levels is by lowering the stress hormone cortisol, which interferes with the normal function of the testes. This means that when cortisol levels are high, it can lead to reduced testosterone production. [10]

Ashwagandha’s scientifically proven benefits on sleep may be another mechanism by which it improves testosterone levels since just one week of reduced sleep time in men lowered daytime testosterone levels by a whopping 10-15%.  [11]

 

 

 6. Enhances focus & cognitive function

 

 

Ashwagandha supports cognitive function over time by reducing inflammation and oxidative stress in the brain. By reducing stress levels, ashwagandha also indirectly improves concentration and mental clarity. Additionally, it may increase the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that helps in the growth and development of nerve cells.

For example, a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial found that when stressed healthy adults took an ashwagandha supplement (Withania Somnifera root extract) for 90 days, they experienced enhanced focus, memory, mental well-being and reduced stress levels compared to the placebo! [12]

 

 

7. Increases physical performance & muscle health

 

 

Ashwagandha can improve physical performance in several ways by:

  • Enhancing muscle strength, growth, and endurance
  • Reducing exercise-induced muscle damage
  • Increasing oxygen capacity 

It’s thought that ashwagandha's effects on muscle strength and performance may be attributed to its ability to increase testosterone levels. 

A randomized controlled trial published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition examined the effects of ashwagandha supplementation on muscle strength in healthy young men. The study found that participants who took ashwagandha extract for 8 weeks experienced significant improvements in muscle strength compared to the placebo group. [14] 

Another study published in the Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine also reported similar findings, showing that ashwagandha supplementation led to significant improvements in muscle strength and muscle size in healthy adults. [15]

Last but not least, a study of 40 men found that ashwagandha supplementation significantly increased velocity, physical power, and oxygen capacity during exercise [13]

Learn more about ashwagandha and physical performance from an MD here.

 

 

8. Improves blood sugar balance

 

 

Ashwagandha benefits blood sugar balance by regulating glucose levels and improving insulin sensitivity, which means it may be helpful in managing diabetes alongside other treatments and lifestyle factors. A meta-analysis of multiple studies found that ashwagandha supplementation may decrease:

  • Insulin resistance 
  • Blood glucose levels
  • Glycosylated hemoglobin (the measurement of your average blood sugar level over the previous 2 months)

[14]

Chronic stress plays a significant role in blood sugar imbalances too, so by reducing levels of the stress hormone cortisol, ashwagandha can also support healthier blood sugar control over time. 

 

 

 

How To Use Ashwagandha

 

Taking ashwagandha in divided doses 2-3 times a day is recommended if you want to experience its full effects. This is because ashwagandha's bioactive compounds usually start to leave the body within 4-14 hours.

Ashwagandha can be taken at any time of the day or night, with or without food. Make sure to take your ashwagandha root supplement regularly for at least 4-6 weeks in order to start seeing results since the activity of ashwagandha is known to accumulate in the body over time. This means that with continued use, its effects are likely to increase as time goes on.

Ashwagandha supplements come in many forms, such as ashwagandha extracts in capsules, ashwagandha gummies, ashwagandha tea, or ashwagandha powder. The form in which you take ashwagandha may change how effective it is.

Ashwagandha extracts are generally the most effective since they contain higher quantities of the bioactive compounds known as withanolides. The efficacy of ashwagandha may also be improved when taken alongside black pepper extract, which enhances absorption. 

 

To learn more about how to choose the right form of ashwagandha, read more here:

Ashwagandha Gummies Vs. Pills: What’s The Difference?

Exploring The Differences Between Ashwagandha Leaf & Root

 

 

What is the right ashwagandha dosage?

 

The recommended dosage of ashwagandha can vary, ranging from 500mg-1900mg per day for men and women, split into 2-3 separate doses. Certain clinical trials have used 600 mg of ashwagandha per day, while other studies suggest higher doses may be more effective such as 1300-1900 mg per day of full-spectrum ashwagandha root extract.

Make sure to speak to your doctor before adding ashwagandha to your routine, especially if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, taking medications, or have any pre-existing health conditions.

 

 

 

Safety & Side Effects of Ashwagandha

 

What are the risks and side effects of ashwagandha?

 

The safety of ashwagandha root extract has been well-studied, and most people tolerate ashwagandha just fine without experiencing any unfortunate side effects.

When taking high doses, a few individuals may experience possible side effects like:

  • Digestive upset
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Dry mouth

These side effects may be ameliorated by taking ashwagandha with a meal.

In rare cases, individuals may also experience allergic reactions to ashwagandha. If you develop symptoms such as rash, itching, or swelling, it is important to discontinue use and seek medical attention.

Remember, discussing any new supplements with your health care provider is always a good idea, especially if you struggle with a medical condition.

 

 

Who should not take ashwagandha?

 

While Ashwagandha is safe for most individuals, it should be avoided if you are:

  • Pregnant
  • Have hyperthyroidism
  • Suffer from an autoimmune condition

You should also stop taking ashwagandha at least 2 weeks before any scheduled surgeries.

 

 

Is ashwagandha safe for kids? 

 

Ashwagandha is generally considered safe for adults when taken in appropriate doses; however, there is limited research on the safety and efficacy of ashwagandha in children.

 

It is always best to consult with a healthcare professional or pediatrician before giving any herbal supplement to children. They can provide guidance on the appropriate dosage and help determine if it is safe and suitable for your child's specific needs. 

 

 

What medications should not be taken with ashwagandha?

 

Ashwagandha may interact with certain medications, such as:

  • Sedatives
  • Thyroid medications
  • Immunosuppressants

Therefore, it is crucial to inform your health care provider about any medications you are currently taking before starting an ashwagandha supplement.

 

 

Is ashwagandha addictive?

 

The good news is that ashwagandha is not considered physically addictive like drugs such as benzodiazepines or opioids. Ashwagandha works by modulating the body's stress response and promoting relaxation; however, it does not cause dependence or withdrawal once the use of ashwagandha is discontinued. 

 

 

 

NutriRise Ashwagandha: The Superior Choice

 

 

NutriRise is a health and wellness brand providing dietary supplements to support the health of your mind, body, and spirit, including our top-selling Organic Ashwagandha, used by over 1 million happy customers.

Co-founders Basim & Ramsha Mirza started NutriRise in 2016, fuelled by the desire to transform their own health through the power of nutrition and ancient wisdom. NutriRise is now backed by a world-class team of researchers, chemists, biologists, doctors, and nutritionists. Every supplement we provide is produced in the USA in a CGMP-certified facility for unparalleled safety, purity, and quality.

At NutriRise, we ensure the quality and effectiveness of our Organic Ashwagandha Capsules and Ashwagandha Gummies by rigorous third-party testing. This stringent protocol helps us guarantee that the Ashwagandha we offer is of the highest standard. 

We also ensure you're getting the most potent and effective form of Ashwagandha by only using the root extract of the ashwagandha plant. This delivers the perfect, safe amount of bioactive withanolides for optimal stress relief, sleep and mood support, thyroid health, hormonal balance, and overall vitality, making it the superior choice. 

Finally, we go beyond just creating and selling products; at NutriRise, we care deeply about the customer experience too. Through our efficient delivery system, we ensure your Ashwagandha reaches you in perfect condition. By choosing NutriRise, you can trust in the quality and potency of each product, from our meticulous production processes to its arrival at your doorstep. 

 

 

 

Key points

 

  • Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb used to manage stress, reduce anxiety and enhance fertility and vitality.

  • Studies on ashwagandha show that it regulates cortisol and thyroid hormone levels, improving anxiety and supporting hypothyroidism.

  • Ashwagandha improves sleep and boosts cognitive function, physical performance, and muscle health.

  • Ashwagandha may be effective for enhancing sperm health and increasing testosterone levels.

  • Daily dosages of ashwagandha can range from 500 mg to 1900 mg, taken 2-3 times a day, but a doctor's consultation is advised.

  • Ashwagandha is generally safe to use, and side effects are uncommon: however, pregnant people and individuals with hyperthyroidism or an autoimmune condition should avoid using ashwagandha.

 


Note: This article is for informational purposes only and not intended for use as medical advice. Always consult your health care provider before starting any new dietary supplement to ensure safety and efficacy.

 

 

Want to find out more? Find our comprehensive directory on Ashwagandha below.

 

Dive in, explore, and learn more about this remarkable plant or check out our best-selling Organic Ashwagandha Capsules and Ashwagandha Gummies.

 

 

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Choosing The Right Ashwagandha Supplement 

Ashwagandha Gummies Vs. Pills: What’s The Difference?

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NutriRise Organic Ashwagandha 1950mg

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Mental Health & Ashwagandha 

How Can Ashwagandha Help With Anxiety?

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Ashwagandha & Meditation: The Herbal Ally To Help You Reach Deeper States

 

 

Men’s Health & Ashwagandha

Surprising Ashwagandha Benefits For Men

How Ashwagandha Root Can Help Optimize Your Fertility

Does Ashwagandha Boost Testosterone In Men?

How Much Ashwagandha To Take Per Day For A Maximum Testosterone Boost

 

 

Women’s Health & Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha For Women’s Health

How Ashwagandha Root Can Help Optimize Your Fertility

 

 

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Want Lustrous, Healthy Hair? Ashwagandha Is Here To Help

Ashwagandha Hair Oil: The Ayurvedic Secret For Lustrous, Strong Hair 

 

 

Weight Loss & Ashwagandha 

How Ashwagandha Can Support Your Weight Loss Journey

 

 

Physical Performance & Ashwagandha 

Ashwagandha & Physical Performance: What You Need To Know

 

 

Thyroid Health & Ashwagandha

The 101 On Ashwagandha For Thyroid Health

 

 

Synergistic Ashwagandha Combos For Optimal Results

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Dive Deeper

What Are Withanolides In Ashwagandha?

Uncover The Science Behind Ashwagandha: How Long Does It Stay In Your System?

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Ashwagandha Vs Bacopa: What’s The Difference Between These 2 Adaptogenic Herbs?

Adaptogenic Ashwagandha Hot Chocolate Recipe

Zaheera Swing
Nutritional Therapist & Herbalist BSc Hons Nutritional Science + NTPD
As a qualified Nutritional Therapist (BSc Hons Nutritional Science + NTPD), Zaheera Swing has a deep passion for restoring balance and harmony to the body through the modalities of nutritional science, herbalism, and holistic lifestyle practices. Using the functional medicine model coupled with wisdom from ancient paradigms, she aims to provide insight into the underlying root causes of poor health and the holistic tools we can harness to enhance the well-being of mind, body, and spirit.
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