What are the Health Benefits of Ashwagandha?
Along with being incredibly fun to say, ashwagandha is one of several herbs linked to India’s Ayurvedic system of health care that we’ve seen jump into the global nutraceutical mainstream. Now that ashwagandha's made its way into the dietary supplement spotlight, there’s one key question worth asking: What’s the story behind this 3,000-year-old supplement?
Withania sominfera (a.k.a Ashwagandha a.k.a Indian Ginseng)
Of the family of Ayurvedic herbs and supplements, ashwagandha is often recognized as being the most versatile of the bunch – which is why it's been categorized by modern researchers as an adaptogenic herb (i.e. it has the ability to "adapt" to various purposes).
Especially in recent years, the long history of anecdotal claims suggesting that ashwagandha may prove beneficial in certain situations has been matched by a growing body of scientific and clinical research.
Prior to this surge of clinical data and research, ashwagandha was recognized, more or less, as a herb that supported "overall wellbeing." Thanks to the fact that clinical studies are almost always built around hyper-specific questions and applications, we've made tremendous strides in understanding which specialized applications ashwagandha may be best suited for.
Gene Bruno, Senior Director of Product Innovation at Twinlab, does a terrific job of explaining ashwagandha's efficacy and various adaptogenic properties in a video he recorded with Natural Products Insider in May 2018:
Now, let's take a closer look at two of the specialized applications that have been explored:
Ashwagandha and Sexual/Reproductive Health
Like many of the more popular Ayurvedic herbs and supplements, ashwagandha has been recognized for millennia as a substance capable of supporting sexual and reproductive health (particularly in men).
Two separate studies, one from 2010 and the other 2013, focused on their attention on the effects of 5g of ashwagandha root powder daily over a period of three months. Both studies examined the effects of the supplement on males who were classified as infertile or as having infertility issues (as a result of several different causes).
At the conclusion of both three-month trials, researchers in both studies noted that there were significant improvements to sperm motility and quality across the majority of subjects. These findings support existing assertions that ashwagandha may be effective in supporting male reproductive health.
Ashwagandha & Anxiety
In one 2009 trial, researchers worked with 75 participants (both male and female) who suffered from anxiety disorders over an 8-week period. During that time, participants in the test group were given 300 mg ashwagandha (1.5% withanolides) and counseling while the placebo group was given a sugar pill and the same counseling.
At the end of the 8-week trial, researchers noted that those had been in the supplementation group experienced a 56.6% decrease in anxiety (when measured via the Beck Anxiety Inventory or BAI), whereas the placebo group only experienced a 30.5% drop.
Along with these drops, researchers noted that...
"Significant differences between groups were also observed in mental health, concentration, fatigue, social functioning, vitality, and overall quality of life with the NC [supplemented] group exhibiting greater clinical benefit. No serious adverse reactions were observed in either group."
The data recorded during this study also supports assertions that ashwagandha may prove to be an ingredient capable of supporting mental health in those dealing with anxiety issues.
We've also developed a handy infographic which covers the other known health benefits of Ashwagandha.
The Future of Ashwagandha
If there's one thing we know for certain it's that there's always more room for research. But as of now, the data that does exist out there is very promising.