Ashwagandha is an evergreen shrub that grows in parts of Asia and Africa. This non-toxic herb has a long history in Ayurveda, a natural, alternative system of traditional medicine from India. The practice focuses on herbal medicine, meditation, and minerals. In Ayurveda, Ashwagandha has been used to treat many conditions, including rheumatism and insomnia.
Despite being hailed as a potent adaptogen—it protects the body from both physical and mental stress—the herb's other health benefits are not as widely known.
What is Ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha is one of the plants dubbed an ‘adaptogen,’ a substance used to help resist stressors. Also called Indian ginseng, winter cherry, and Withania somnifera, this herb boasts an array of health benefits, which are most apparent when ingested as teas, powder, or in its natural state.
Modern research on ashwagandha has revealed its potent effects on the body. Here are five benefits of consuming ashwagandha.
How does Ashwagandha help your body?
Relieves stress and anxiety
Perhaps the most commonly known effect, Ashwagandha gained attention in the United States for its ability to significantly reduce and relieve stress and anxiety. Stress not only affects your mental capacity, but it often manifests in physical symptoms such as headaches, high blood pressure, and sleeping issues.
A study also indicated that the herb improves sleep quality. Participants dosed with the herb reported sleeping better compared to those who received a placebo.
Lowers blood sugar and fat
Stress is connected to cortisol levels. When you are stressed, cortisol pumps more glucose into your body by tapping into protein in your liver. High stress can contribute to elevated cortisol levels, which leads to increased blood sugar levels. Naturally, less stress equals better blood sugar control.
However, it doesn’t stop there.
Ashwagandha reduces blood glucose levels and the most common type of fat in the blood (triglycerides). One study compared the effect to diabetes medicine.
Improves strength and increases muscles
If you work out and you are looking for more gains, Ashwagandha might just help you out. Studies have shown the herb is a great way to enhance physical performance with participants experiencing increased muscle size and muscle power.
Ashwagandha also reduced body fat, reduced cholesterol levels, and lessened post-workout muscle damage. It might not be a bad idea to mix it in with your pre-workout meals.
Improves cognitive functions, including memory and focus
Although brain games are beloved among those trying to improve memory and cognitive function, adding Ashwagandha to your diet may also prove beneficial. One study revealed that Ashwagandha improved participants’ attention spans and memory. Participants reportedly responded quicker to cognition and psychomotor tests after intaking Ashwagandha. Not only were they able to understand instructions, but they also performed the actions.
Support heart health
Physically demanding exercise strain your heart and lungs. You must maintain a balance between your oxygen uptake and the exercise. VO2 max is the measurement that calculates how much oxygen your body needs during exercise.
Studies show that digesting some ashwagandha can increase VO2 max levels. The higher the VO2, the healthier the heart will be when exerting itself.
Do note that this study was done on healthy, athletic adults, so the full effectiveness is unknown.
A word of caution: although ashwagandha is a non-toxic herb, if you take other medication or you have other conditions (such as pregnancy, immunocompromised, thyroid, etc), talk to your doctor or health specialist before adding it to your diet.
How To Add Ashwagandha to Your Diet
Ashwagandha can be consumed in its raw form (roots and berries), however, it is typically found in tea, supplement capsules or tablets, powder, or tincture.
Ingesting this herb in tea form is highly recommended as it is one of the most gentle ways to introduce the adaptogen into your system. We recommend our teas Bliss and JOY blends, which both use ashwagandha. Alternately, you can add the roots, berries, or powder directly into your food. Mix the powder into nut butter, granola bars, smoothies, or oats.