An Indian shrub used in medication for thousands of years, ashwagandha is an adaptogen herb with tons of amazing benefits, from helping with stress to lowering blood sugar, to helping with weight loss.
What is Ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha is a shrub native to India, as well as the Middle East and North Africa. The roots, leaves, and berries have been used in medicine for literally thousands of years. The name translates to “horse smell” due to the odor of the roots.
What Are The Benefits of Ashwagandha?
- Lowers stress hormones and can help with anxiety
- May help depression
- Helps with weight loss
- Helps with muscle-building
- Can reduce blood sugar
- Can help underactive thyroid
- Improves sleep
Lowers Stress Hormones and Can Help With Anxiety
Ashwagandha has been shown in studies to help lower cortisol, which is released by the body when you are stressed. This can majorly impact levels of anxiety, especially if cortisol is being released frequently. Increased cortisol can also lead to weight gain, fatigue, skin problems, high blood pressure, and even stretch marks. By reducing cortisol levels, ashwagandha not only helps with those issues but also can help your body and brain more easily cope with stress.
May Help With Depression
While there haven’t been many studies done thus far, one showed that people who took ashwagandha saw a marked decrease in depression. There is also evidence that it may help with the symptoms of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
Helps With Weight Loss
As mentioned earlier, high cortisol in the body can cause weight gain. Because ashwagandha lowers those levels, weight loss may be a side-effect of taking the herb. One study showed not only significant weight loss adults with chronic stress but also reduced food cravings.
Helps With Muscle-Building
Several studies have shown that individuals who took ashwagandha saw increased muscle mass. This may be related to ashwagandha’s cortisol lowering abilities.
Can Reduce Blood Sugar
Multiple studies have shown that ashwagandha has increased insulin sensitivity, which keeps blood sugar from getting too high. Studies were done with patients with diabetes, as well as those without, and both saw reduced blood sugar levels.
Can Help Underactive Thyroid
Ashwagandha appears to stimulate the endocrine system, which is the system in the body responsible for making hormones. Besides cortisol, the endocrine system is also responsible for creating hormones that stimulate the thyroid, which is a butterfly-shaped gland in your neck. When the levels are too low, the side-effects include weight gain, dry skin, and fatigue. While few human studies have been done as of yet, one showed that thyroid levels significantly increased in individuals with hypothyroidism, also known as an underactive thyroid.
Because ashwagandha helps with stress, this can also help insomnia and promote deep sleep. Human studies are limited, but ashwagandha did show to help increase sleep quantity and quality in animals.
Other Health-Related Benefits of Ashwagandha
- May kill cancer cells
- Increase testosterone and help sperm mobility
- May improve brain function, including in Alzheimer’s patients
- Lowers cholesterol
- Helps inflammation
How Do I Take Ashwagandha & What Should I Expect?
Ashwagandha comes in both pill and powdered form, though on its own has a bitter flavor. One method for taking ashwagandha that masks the flavor is in some moon milk before bed (our recipe is seriously delicious). Some people add it to honey to negate the natural taste, which can then be eaten plain or added to a cup of hot tea. If none of those sound appealing to you, there is a capsule version.
Ashwagandha is typically free of side-effects in the majority of people when taken in small to medium doses.
Before Taking Ashwagandha
Talk to your doctor before starting any supplement or vitamin plan to make sure it’s a healthy choice for you. In particular, if any of the following apply to you:
- Pregnant or breastfeeding. Pregnant women should not take ashwagandha due to the possibility of early delivery.
- Have an autoimmune disease: Speak to a doctor prior to taking ashwagandha if you have been diagnosed with lupus, type 1 diabetes, or other autoimmune disorders.
- Have blood pressure or insulin issues: As mentioned, ashwagandha may lower blood pressure or blood sugar, so it’s important to speak to your healthcare provider before taking it.
- On thyroid medication: Ashwagandha may raise thyroid hormone levels in some individuals.
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