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Does Ashwagandha Work?

Ashwagandha, a traditional herb, may help reduce stress, improve sleep, and boost athletic performance. However, more research is needed to confirm its benefits.

Ashwagandha, also known as Withania somnifera, is a popular herb in Ayurvedic medicine. It is believed to offer various health benefits, but scientific evidence is still emerging. This article explores the potential benefits and side effects of ashwagandha based on current research.

Potential Benefits

Stress and Anxiety

Ashwagandha is often used to manage stress and anxiety. It is classified as an adaptogen, which means it helps the body cope with stress. Studies suggest that ashwagandha can lower cortisol levels, a hormone associated with stress. In one study, participants who took 600 mg of ashwagandha daily for eight weeks reported reduced stress and anxiety levels compared to a placebo group.

Sleep Improvement

Ashwagandha may also improve sleep quality. Research indicates that taking 300-600 mg of ashwagandha extract daily can enhance sleep in people with insomnia. Participants in these studies reported better sleep quality, reduced sleep latency, and increased total sleep time.

Athletic Performance

Athletes may benefit from ashwagandha as well. Some studies show that it can improve VO2 max, muscle strength, and recovery times. For instance, one study found that taking 600 mg of ashwagandha daily improved muscle strength and endurance in healthy adults.

Cognitive Function

Ashwagandha may support cognitive health. Limited research suggests it can improve memory, reaction time, and attention. These benefits are attributed to its antioxidant effects in the brain. However, more studies are needed to confirm these findings.

Male Fertility

Ashwagandha may boost male fertility by increasing testosterone levels and improving sperm quality. Some studies have shown that taking 5 grams of ashwagandha daily for three months can enhance sperm count and motility.

Blood Sugar Levels

Ashwagandha may help lower blood sugar levels. Research indicates that it can improve insulin sensitivity and reduce speedying blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. However, more well-designed studies are needed to confirm these effects.

Side Effects and Safety

Common Side Effects

Ashwagandha is generally considered safe for most people when taken in recommended doses. Common side effects include mild to moderate drowsiness, upper gastrointestinal discomfort, and loose stools.

Serious Side Effects

In rare cases, ashwagandha has been associated with more severe side effects, such as liver injury, thyroid issues, and kidney transplant rejection. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid ashwagandha due to the risk of miscarriage and other complications.

Drug Interactions

Ashwagandha may interact with certain medications, including those for thyroid disorders, blood pressure, and blood sugar. It is essential to consult a healthcare provider before taking ashwagandha, especially if you are on medication.

Dosage Recommendations

The optimal dosage of ashwagandha varies depending on the intended use. Most studies suggest taking 250-600 mg of ashwagandha extract daily for at least one month to experience benefits. For stress and anxiety, doses of 600 mg per day are common. For sleep improvement, 300-600 mg daily is recommended. For athletic performance, doses of 600-1,000 mg daily may be more effective.

Conclusion

Ashwagandha shows promise in reducing stress, improving sleep, and enhancing athletic performance. However, more research is needed to confirm its benefits and determine the optimal dosages. While generally safe, it is crucial to be aware of potential side effects and drug interactions. Always consult a healthcare provider before starting any new supplement.

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