Then there’s the other modern habit, staying up late on phones or other electronic devices. The blue light from those devices interferes with your body’s production of melatonin, the key hormone for sleep further throwing off the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle, Ashwagandha helps in getting rest full sleep.
Research shows that ashwagandha may be useful in supporting adrenal funtion and helping you to overcome adrenal fatigue. (1)
Perhaps a surprising ashwagandha benefit is its ability to increase your muscle mass and strength. For this reason, ashwagandha can be a helpful tool for people engaging in resistance training and other forms of exercise that can be strenuous on your muscles.
When feeling stressed, the body goes into a “fight or flight” response and secretes increased amounts of stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. This occurs through the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis (a central hormone pathway), which includes the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland, and the adrenal glands.
A prolonged stress response can disrupt the hormone levels in the body and lead to a number of different stress-induced symptoms.
Ashwagandha is a calming herb that helps to support the entire HPA axis, providing a subtle balancing effect on all the systems of the body.* Ashwagandha supports the hypothalamus (included in the HPA axis), which regulate important functions such as hormone levels, temperature, and sleep cycles.*
By restoring balance in the HPA axis and increasing resistance to stress in the body, ashwagandha helps to improve occasional sleeplessness and supports stress management.*
In a 60-day study in 64 people with chronic stress, those in the supplemental group reported a 69% average reduction in anxiety and insomnia, compared to 11% in the placebo group (6).
In another six-week study, 88% of people who took ashwagandha reported a reduction in anxiety, compared to 50% of those who took a placebo (7).
ashwagandha may help improve heart health by reducing cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Studies have found that it significantly decreases these blood fats.
One study in rats found that it ashwagandha lowered total cholesterol by as much as 53% and triglycerides by nearly 45% (8).
While controlled human studies have reported less dramatic results, they have observed some impressive improvements in these markers (9, 10, 11, 12).
In a 60-day study in chronically stressed adults, the group taking the highest dosage of ashwagandha experienced a 17% decrease in “bad” LDL cholesterol and an 11% decrease in triglycerides, on average (13).
It is clear that the many shades of stress can dramatically affect one’s ability to sleep. Stress can alter the circadian clock, throw off blood sugar, flood the body with stress hormones, disturb the production of neurotransmitters, alter the microbiome and deplete the body’s energy reserves — all factors linked to healthy sleep.
Ayurveda suggests that sleep issues are linked to the body lacking energy reserves, rather than having too much energy. The Ayurvedic strategy for sleep is not to sedate an already exhausted body, but to rejuvenate and rebuild its reserves so that the body has the energy it needs to sedate itself and sleep deeply, naturally.
Withaferin A and withanolide D are the two main withanolides in ashwagandha that are used to improve cognitive function.
Research has shown that it promotes antioxidant activity that protects nerve cells from harmful free radicals (32).
In one controlled study, healthy men who took 500 mg of the herb daily reported significant improvements in their reaction time and task performance, compared to men who received a placebo (33).
Another eight-week study in 50 adults showed that taking 300 mg of ashwagandha root extract twice daily significantly improved general memory, task performance and attention (34).
Studies have shown that ashwagandha can boost endurance during physical activity by sharpening brain function and reducing bodily pain.
Researchers found that ashwagandha extracts improved cardiorespiratory endurance at 8 and 12 weeks of treatment. (17)
A study involving rats found that ashwagandha was able to increase swimming performance during a physical endurance test.
Scientists believe that it’s ashwagandha’s anti-stress properties that help to improve your stamina and similar effects may take place in humans because of the herb’s ability to balance adrenal hormones that are involved in physical activity. (11)
Ashwagandha can be a helpful tool for people engaging in resistance training and other forms of exercise that can be strenuous on your muscles
Researchers found, those receiving ashwagandha also displayed significantly greater muscle size increase of the arms and chest, had a significantly greater reduction of exercise-induced muscle damage.
In another study, those who took ashwagandha had significantly greater gains in muscle strength and size. It also more than doubled the reduction in body fat percentage, compared to the placebo group (20).
An animal study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology found that supplementing with ashwagandha was correlated with an increase in white blood cells
The decreased count of white blood cells in the body after chemotherapy is a major concern because it puts cancer patients at a much higher risk of health issues like contracting an infection. This is why ashwagandha may serve as a complementary addition to conventional cancer treatments. (12)