Have you heard of ashwagandha?
It may sound like a word you’d hear in the opening song from “Lion King,” but this superfood is easily the king of Ayurvedic herbs!
So what is ashwagandha? And what makes this super plant nature’s answer to stress and anxiety? Continue reading to find out everything you need to know about ashwagandha, including some impressive health benefits.
Ashwagandha: a powerful medicinal herb
Ashwagandha is a medicinal herb that’s been used for over 3,000 years, especially in Ayurvedic medicine.
Known botanically as Withania somnifera, this small shrub with yellow flowers is native to India as well as North Africa. It’s also a member of the nightshade family.
In Sanskrit, ashwagandha means “smell of the horse” due to its unique smell. (It doesn’t smell like a horse per se, but it definitely has a pungent barn-like, earthy fragrance.)
Ashwagandha’s other aliases include Indian ginseng and winter cherry, just to name a couple. As far as taste goes, this herb is bitter.
7 ashwagandha benefits - backed by science!
1. It may help reduce stress
In the United States, 70% of adults report feeling stress or anxiety on a daily basis. While there’s no way to eliminate all stress, ashwagandha may help! Ashwagandha is classified as an adaptogen, which means it can help your body manage stress.
During a 60-day study, 64 participants with a history of chronic stress took two 300 mg capsules of high-concentration full-spectrum ashwagandha root extract or a placebo. Those who took the ashwagandha reduced their stress and insomnia by 69%.
Ashwagandha may also reduce cortisol aka the stress hormone, which is made in the adrenal glands. When cortisol levels are chronically elevated (or elevated for long periods of time), it can lead to storing fat in the abdomen. But studies have shown ashwagandha can reduce cortisol levels, with one study reducing cortisol levels by nearly one third!
2. It may help reduce anxiety
And according to a 2013 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, more than 1 in 6 Americans take a psychiatric drug. (Xanax being the most popular in the anti-anxiety category.)
But what if there was a natural way to reduce anxiety that didn’t require a prescription? There is — and it’s ashwagandha!
One 6 week study showed participants who took ashwagandha root extract reduced their anxiety by 88%. What’s more, unlike anti-anxiety medications which have undesirable side effects, ashwagandha has minimal or no adverse reactions.
3. It my help improve thyroid function
If you have been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s or you have an underactive thyroid, ashwagandha may be a natural remedy.*
Ashwagandha has been prescribed in Ayurveda for thyroid dysfunctions and researchers decided to put this to the test by giving participants 600mg of ashwagandha root extract over an 8-week period.
The results, which were published in the “Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine,” showed ashwagandha significantly improved serum thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) and thyroxine (T4) levels. Researchers concluded this adaptogen may be beneficial for those with hypothyroidism.
Because research shows ashwagandha increases thyroid function, it may not be suitable for those with a hyperactive thyroid.
*Consult your doctor before starting any new health routine.
4. It can improve sleep
Ashwagandha has been recommended for sound sleep for centuries.
In Latin, the somnifera in Withania somnifera translates to “sleep-inducing” — and for good reason. The leaves of the ashwagandha plant contain the active compound triethylene glycol, which promotes sleep induction.
5. It can support adrenal function
The adrenals are part of the endocrine system. These two glands, which sit on top of each kidney, are responsible for producing certain hormones. The most common are cortisol and adrenaline, which are released in response to stress.
Adrenal fatigue is a draining of the adrenals, which is a result of your body being under too much stress. Symptoms of adrenal fatigue include low energy, brain fog, and sugar cravings. Because ashwagandha is a natural stress remedy, it makes sense that this superfood would improve adrenal function.
6. It can increase muscle mass
There’s two reasons why ashwagandha means “smell of the horse” in Sanskrit: 1) it’s unique smell and 2) it makes you strong like a horse!
Research shows that ashwagandha can increase muscle mass and size — especially in men. Another benefit? The same study showed that it can reduce body fat as well!
7. It may improve sexual function & fertility
Maca isn’t the only superfood that can spice up your sex life!
In one 2010 study, researchers treated 75 infertile men with ashwagandha. The result? Increased sperm count and motility, as well as an increase in testosterone. Another study showed that ashwagandha not only improved sperm quality, but 14% of the men’s partners became pregnant following 3 months of treatment.
How to incorporate ashwagandha into your diet
Due to ashwagandha’s bitter taste and pungent smell, you’ll often find it in tablet or capsule form. It’s also available in powdered form, which is what we use in our new, limited-edition Golden Mellow mix. (We specifically use organic ashwagandha sourced from India.)
And because it’s mixed with 5 other superfoods, including turmeric, the taste and smell are masked making it a much more pleasurable experience! We love adding this mix to plant-based milk, oatmeal, smoothies and even water (yes, it’s that good!).
Note: Golden Mellow is safe for most people. However, if you are taking medication or you’re currently pregnant, consult your doctor before taking this mix.