Ashwagandha, also known as withania somnifera, is an adaptogen of the nightshade plant family. It’s known to promote a sense of well-being while improving sports performance.
Furthermore, it can also fight off diseases while increasing your libido. Among many other amazing benefits that we’ll get into shortly. Before we look closer at ashwagandha, here’s some interesting facts surrounding this ancient medicine:
Fact number one: Did you know that ashwagandha has been used for over 3000 years for medicinal purposes? The first reported uses were in India. Fact number two: Did you know that ashwagandha can improve sperm quality and amount? Especially in men who suffer from low levels of serum and testosterone?
Fact number three: Ashwagandha has also been linked to stress-relieving benefits. These include the repair of damaged thyroid functions which can lead to weight loss.
Okay, with that into out of the way, let’s dive right into more facts surrounding ashwagandha.
What is Ashwagandha?
The nightshade family which ashwagandha derives from takes its name from Latin to mean solare. In other words, “Solare, meaning ‘to soothe’, presumably referring to the soothing pharmacological properties of some of the psychoactive species of the family.” (II)
The plant of ashwagandha has long brown roots which grow in the ground. The leaves are dark green with an orange like berry (the seed) held within a cluster of leaves. (III) It’s known as ayurvedic medicine, which means it “is one of the world’s oldest holistic (‘whole-body’) healing systems. It was developed more than 3,000 years ago in India.” (IV)
Ayurvedic medicine is based on the belief that health and wellness depend on a balance between the mind, body, and spirit. The main purpose of ashwagandha is to promote good internal health rather than fighting the actual disease. The United States has listed ashwagandha as a form of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) thanks to the research surrounding its many benefits. (V)
The Benefits of Ashwagandha
Muscle Mass and Strength
In a controlled study, which took 56 young male subjects (18–50 years old), 28 of those were given a placebo. And 28 were given 300 mg of Ashwagandha twice daily for 8 weeks. The results of their body compopsition and performance were astonishing!
The overall strength, muscle size, testosterone serum, and recovery levels improved throughout the Ashwagandha group. The study said; “Compared to the placebo subjects, the group treated with ashwagandha had significantly greater increases in muscle strength on the bench-press exercise.” (VI)
In other words, “This study reports that ashwagandha supplementation is associated with significant increases in muscle mass and strength. And suggests that ashwagandha supplementation may be useful in conjunction with a resistance training program.” (VII)
In summary, test subjects who took 300 mg of Ashwagandha twice daily for 8 weeks improved in the following areas:
Improvements in the following areas were noted in test subjects:
- Bench press
- Leg extension
- Muscle mass in the arms and chest
- Reduced muscle induced damage after training
- Increases testosterone levels
- Decreases in body fat percentage
The thyroid is responsible for regulating our metabolism. If it’s underactive, we may fail to metabolize our energy from food efficiently. Thus, leading to unwanted weight gain. On the other hand, if we have an overactive thyroid, we could be in danger of losing too much weight if not kept in check.
The thyroid is part of the endocrine system, which is made up of glands located in the throat. These produce, store, and release hormones into the bloodstream- such as growth hormone. (VIII) These hormones target the body’s cells necessary for repair and health. The thyroid gland uses iodine from the foods we eat to make two specific hormones:
- Triiodothyronine (T3)
- Thyroxine (T4)
It’s these hormones that are responsible for the metabolism of the foods we eat. Hence the reason why people who are overweight may suffer from an underactive thyroid. (IX)
Ashwagandha has been shown to normalize serum TSH, thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3) levels. (X) Kartikeya Baldwa, who monitored the study, mentioned in a press statement:
“Very few modern published papers have reported ashwagandha beneficial effects on thyroid function. This is the first clinical study that supports the traditional claim of ashwagandha as a thyroid modulator.” (XI)
Libido and Sexual Health
While many men’s health supplements boast their ability to increase sexual performance through ingredients such as vitamin D, Tribulus, and Fenugreek to name a few… But if it doesn’t contain ashwagandha, they’re missing a trick.
Ashwagandha has been reported in numerous studies to increase testosterone serum levels. Furthermore, it improves erectile dysfunction and can help you to produce higher levels of testosterone. (XII) A study which took men who suffered from premature ejaculations, and people who struggled to maintain erections, supplemented with ashwagandha.
The trial group took 500 mg of ashwagandha three times per day. While a placebo group took wheat tablets posing as ashwagandha.
The results of this study?… In most, but not all of the participants using ashwagandha resulted in 100% relief from their symptoms. (XIII) To clarify this point, ashwagandha is a supplement that can be used to treat your low libido while improving your testosterone levels.
Where endurance using ashwagandha is concerned – a study which tested cyclists over an 8 week period using the herb showed marked improvements in levels of endurance.
The study gave athletes 500 mg capsules of aqueous roots of ashwagandha twice daily for eight weeks. The results? “There was a significant improvement in the experimental group in all parameters, namely, VO2 max.” (XIV)
To highlights these results: Ashwagandha can improve your exercise capacity to train or compete for longer without experiencing fatigue.
Treatments for anxiety have ranged from yoga, meditation, and even hard prescription drugs. However, there are now studies being published that show ashwagandha as a suitable option to improve peoples lives who suffer from stress or depression using this ancient herb.
“Findings suggest that high-concentration full-spectrum Ashwagandha root extract improves an individual’s resistance towards stress and thereby improves self-assessed quality of life.” (XV)
As ashwagandha is listed as ayurvedic medicine. this means it’s shown to have natural healing properties that reduce numerous illnesses. So much so, the United States class Withania somnifera as a complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) thanks to its amazing healing properties. (XVI)
While ashwagandha is not promoted as a cure for cancer, researchers suggest that it helps cancer patients recover from chemotherapy treatment at a faster rate. For example, ashwagandha may be useful in reducing oxidative stress which has been proven to be the cause of cancer in some cases.
To clarify, a study conducted by the Journal of Complementary Medicine highlighted ashwagandha’s benefits on reducing the size of cancer tumors. (XVII)
“Mounting evidence from cell culture and animal studies suggest that WS possesses anti-tumorigenic properties. In 1967, it was first demonstrated experimentally that the root extract resulted in lowered cancer incidence.” (XVIII)
The Latin name of ashwagandha is somnifera, which means sleep-inducing, which is fitting for anyone looking to get a good nights sleep. And at the same time, reduce stress while healing the body. (XIX) Triethylene glycol (TEG) is a well-researched component that induces sleep. TEG is an active sleep-inducing part of the ashwagandha leaves, which can be useful for those suffering from insomnia.
For instance, a research group for sleep investigated different parts of the ashwagandha root to see if they could find its sleep-inducing element.
In conclusion, the study used mice which monitored their sleep using electroencephalogram and electromyography (parts of ashwagandha). In other words, the results showed that ashwagandha ‘did’ improve the quality of deep sleep the mice experienced:
“The water extract of Ashwagandha leaf, rich in triethylene glycol (TEG), significantly promoted non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep and changed rapid eye movement (REM) sleep slightly, while an alcoholic extract showed no effect on sleep.” (XX)
As we’ve seen throughout the article, dosages of up to 1000 mg of ashwagandha twice daily with food showed great results for strength, sexual improvements, and muscle mass.
There have also been reports suggesting that 3000mg per day, spaced out evenly with food and water, have also shown to provide significant health benefits. (XXI) However, smaller dosages of anywhere between 50mg up to 300 mg per day can be just as beneficial for healing in most cases. (XXII)
Sport Nutrition Expert Recommendation
Ashwagandha is a well-researched supplement that has been shown to improve your strength, stamina, sense of well-being, testosterone levels, and overall health.
In conclusion, 300 mg per day has been shown to provide good results. And even upwards of 3000 mg per day are also reported to provide amazing benefits without side effects.
Overall, I highly recommend using ashwagandha if you’re looking to improve in any of the following areas:
- Improve sleep
- Increase sex drive and testosterone levels
- More strength
- Resistance against diseases
- Promoting a sense of calm and well-being
- Reducing the stress hormone cortisol
For any questions or queries surrounding the use of ashwagandha, please feel free to message me or leave your comments below.
(I) En.wikipedia.org. (2019). Adaptogen. [online] Available at (source)
(II) “Solanaceae.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 30 Apr. (source)
(III) “Withania Somnifera.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 5 May 2019. (source)
(IV) “What Is Ayurveda? Treatments, Massage, Diet, and More.” WebMD, WebMD. (source)
(V) “Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM).” WebMD, WebMD. (source)
(VI) Wankhede, Sachin, et al. “Examining the Effect of Withania Somnifera Supplementation on Muscle Strength and Recovery: a Randomized Controlled Trial.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, BioMed Central, 25 Nov. 2015. (source)
(VII) Wankhede, Sachin, et al. “Examining the Effect of Withania Somnifera Supplementation on Muscle Strength and Recovery: a Randomized Controlled Trial.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, BioMed Central, 25 Nov. 2015. (source)
(VIII) Foundation, British Thyroid. “Home.” British Thyroid Foundation. (source)
(IX) “How Does the Thyroid Gland Work?” InformedHealth.org [Internet]., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 19 Apr. 2018. (source)
(X, XI) “Efficacy and Safety of Ashwagandha Root Extract in Subclinical Hypothyroid Patients: A Double-Blind, Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial.” Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., Publishers. (source)
(XII) Mamidi, Prasad, and A B Thakar. “Efficacy of Ashwagandha (Withania Somnifera Dunal. Linn.) in the Management of Psychogenic Erectile Dysfunction.” Ayu, Medknow Publications & Media Pvt Ltd, 2011. (source)
(XIII) Mamidi, Prasad, and A B Thakar. “Efficacy of Ashwagandha (Withania Somnifera Dunal. Linn.) in the Management of Psychogenic Erectile Dysfunction.” Ayu, Medknow Publications & Media Pvt Ltd, 2011. (source)
(XIV) Shenoy, Shweta, et al. “Effects of Eight-Week Supplementation of Ashwagandha on Cardiorespiratory Endurance in Elite Indian Cyclists.” Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine, Medknow Publications & Media Pvt Ltd, 2012. (source)
(XV) Chandrasekhar, K, et al. “A Prospective, Randomized Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study of Safety and Efficacy of a High-Concentration Full-Spectrum Extract of Ashwagandha Root in Reducing Stress and Anxiety in Adults.” Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine, Medknow Publications & Media Pvt Ltd, 2012. (source)
(XVI) “Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM).” WebMD, WebMD, www.webmd.com/balance/what-is-alternative-medicine. (source)
(XVII, XVIII) Palliyaguru, Dushani L, et al. “Withania Somnifera: From Prevention to Treatment of Cancer.” Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, U.S. National Library of Medicine, June 2016. (source)
(XIX, XXI) “Sleep-Inducing Component of Traditional Herb (Ashwagandha) Identified.” Nutrition Review, 26 Apr. 2017. (source)
(XX) Kaushik, Mahesh K, et al. “Triethylene Glycol, an Active Component of Ashwagandha (Withania Somnifera) Leaves, Is Responsible for Sleep Induction.” PloS One, Public Library of Science, 16 Feb. 2017. (source)
(XXII) Kaushik, Mahesh K., et al. “Triethylene Glycol, an Active Component of Ashwagandha (Withania Somnifera) Leaves, Is Responsible for Sleep Induction.” PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science. (source)