Ashwagandha, also known by its scientific name Somnifera dunal, is an herb that’s been used in Ayurvedic medicine for over 2500 years. Of all known adaptogens, ashwagandha is one of the most extensively researched. It’s valued for its antidepressant, anti-anxiety, and neuroprotective properties, but those are just a few of its benefits. In this guide, you’ll learn more about ashwagandha benefits, dosing recommendations, and risks.
What Is Ashwagandha?
The plant belongs to the Solanaceae (nightshade) family. Ashwagandha also goes by a few other names, such as winter cherry, Indian ginseng, and somnifera root. The plant’s leaves and roots are commonly used for medicinal purposes, and its natural steroidal lactones contribute to its health benefits.
The word ashwagandha translates to “smell of horse” because the herb’s roots are said to smell like a horse. Many believe that, when you consume the herb alone or as part of a superfood shake, you may develop the vitality and strength of that noble animal. Its species name is Latin for “sleep inducing”. There have been numerous studies on the benefits of ashwagandha root. In the sections below, we’ll answer the question “What is ashwagandha good for?”
Improving Thyroid Function
One of the best things about adaptogens is that they can benefit those with thyroid issues. Ashwagandha has been found to support a sluggish thyroid in those diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease or a similar condition. These health benefits can also bring about weight loss, as thyroid problems may lead to fluctuations. For those who are dealing with thyroid and weight issues, a superfood powder containing ashwagandha may just be the solution they’ve been searching for.
Relieving Adrenal Fatigue
Studies also show that ashwagandha may support adrenal function and help minimize adrenal fatigue. The adrenal glands are part of the endocrine system; they release hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol as a stress response.
If your adrenal glands are overworked because of mental, physical, and emotional stress, it may lead to a condition called adrenal fatigue. When this occurs, other hormones may be affected, causing conditions such as infertility and immune suppression. A superfood mix containing ashwagandha may be a natural solution to adrenal fatigue and stress.
Fighting Anxiety and Stress
One of ashwagandha’s most well-known benefits is its ability to relieve anxiety. In a 2009 study, ashwagandha was found to be comparable to prescription drugs imipramine and lorazepam, without the potential side effects.
During the study, 75 anxiety sufferers were divided into groups. One group received naturopathic treatments (including 300mg of ashwagandha twice daily) while the other received standardized interventions. When testing was done after 12 weeks, the group receiving ashwagandha had 55% less anxiety, compared to the conventional group’s 31% decrease.
Boosting Immune Function
Because ashwagandha is an adaptogen that reduces stress hormones, it may also work to reduce bodily inflammation and boost the immune system. Lab research shows that the herb can increase immune function by raising the production of immunoglobulin.
Superfood mixes with ashwagandha can also reduce inflammation by suppressing cytokines. By regulating the function of a compromised immune system, this adaptogen may be a viable treatment for several inflammatory disorders.
Usage, Dosage, and Types
Ashwagandha supplements such as superfood blends are available in vitamin shops, health food stores, and online outlets. Root extracts are the most popular form, but leaf extracts can also be found in powder, capsule, and tea forms.
When buying ashwagandha supplements, be sure they’re standardized for our consumption. Buying quality superfoods that are produced according to high standards is the easiest way to get a potent product.
When supplementing with the best superfood powders and other products, it’s best to begin with 300 to 500 milligrams per day. Increase the dosage slowly, looking for adverse effects. Some supplements come in 1500mg dosages, and many believe that the optimal ashwagandha dosage is much higher. As with other supplements, be sure to consult your physician or naturopathic provider before taking ashwagandha.
Drug Interactions, Risks, and Side Effects
Many people wonder how to take ashwagandha, and it’s a common question. Ashwagandha consists of withanolides or steroidal lactones, including withanone, withaferin A, and withanolide A. These components are found in no other herb, and they’re responsible for many of the plant’s benefits.
Some plant parts contain more withanolides than others do, wo when choosing an ashwagandha extract, pay attention to its origins. Leaf extracts typically contain more withaferin A than those derived from the roots.
When taken in an appropriate, therapeutic dose, ashwagandha is considered one of the safest and best superfoods for human consumption. Some potential ashwagandha side effects include diarrhea, vomiting, and upset stomach. If you are suffering any of these effects, stop taking the supplement.
Women who are breastfeeding or pregnant should not take ashwagandha. There’s a bit of evidence that it may increase the risk of miscarriage, and there’s no safety information on taking the herb while breastfeeding.
Those taking blood pressure medications, diabetes drugs, immunosuppressive medicines, sedatives, and thyroid medicines shouldn’t use ashwagandha powder unless they’ve consulted a physician. It’s possible that the herb may increase the symptoms of lupus, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and other autoimmune diseases.
Avoiding Risky Side Effects
To get the most from an ashwagandha supplement, use it as directed. As mentioned previously, it’s best to start with a low dose and work up gradually. Buy products from reputable retailers, read consumer reviews, and choose products without fillers, additives, and preservatives.
It is a good idea to look for ashwagandha supplements containing one to 10 percent withanolides, which are the active ingredient in the herb. If you experience any adverse effects, consider decreasing your dose. For severe effects, stop using the supplement and consult your doctor.
Ashwagandha, known botanically as Withania somnifera, is a vital part of Ayurvedic medicine. The herb serves numerous purposes and benefits most of the body’s vital systems, including the reproductive, endocrine, neurological, and immune systems.
Of all adaptogens, ashwagandha is one of the most widely used because of its numerous benefits. The most well-known and documented health benefits of the herb include improved thyroid function, higher energy levels, reduced adrenal fatigue, lower cortisol levels, less anxiety and stress, diminished depression, and many more.