We are big fans of the herb ashwagandha. So we were pretty excited when the Journal of Herbal Medicine (JHM) published a detailed review of clinical trials to explore what this herb does and how effective it is.
It found significant evidence of ashwagandha’s therapeutic efficacy in the alleviation of stress and anxiety symptoms, among other things. And the results from this systematic review suggest “ashwagandha has a potentially large array of therapeutic applications.”
So let’s rewind for a second...
What exactly is Ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha is a medicinal plant with recorded uses stretching back as far as 3000 years in traditional medicine systems like Indian Ayurveda. Its botanical name is Withania Somnifera. It’s a small, shrubby plant with yellow flowers, native to India and North Africa.
Ashwagandha is packed with powerful natural compounds that have numerous uses in herbal medicine to support general health and wellbeing. Let’s look at what ashwagandha can do and uncover some easy ways to include it in your wellness routine.
Ashwagandha Can Help you Manage Stress, Anxiety and Mental Health
The JHM review identified several ways in which ashwagandha supports mental health. They include:
- Improving overall mood, with powerful boost-lifting compounds
- Reducing stress and anxiety and increasing positive emotions
- Preventing or relieving the symptoms of depression
- Possibly supporting the treatment of chronic brain disorders associated with disordered thinking (more clinical research is needed into this, but the research that does exist shows positive implications)
So incorporating ashwagandha into your diet could help you to feel calmer and happier.
Ashwagandha is a Natural Pain Reliever
Traditional medicine systems have long used ashwagandha as a natural way to relieve pain. And a randomised, double-blind placebo trial published in 2016 shows that it does have a measurable effect.
Sixty patients suffering from knee joint pain were given either an ashwagandha supplement, or a placebo, twice daily for 12 weeks. At the end of that time frame, the patients who had been given the real ashwagandha reported significantly reduced pain and stiffness and increased mobility. The placebo group reported a much smaller improvement. And the positive effects of ashwagandha were fast, too; the group taking the genuine supplement showed notable improvements, compared with the placebo group, as early as four weeks into the trial.
Ashwagandha Can Boost Cognitive Performance and Reduce Fatigue
A number of the studies assessed in the JHM review found that ashwagandha can improve your cognitive performance, while simultaneously boosting energy and reducing fatigue.
The plant appears to:
- Improve focus and concentration, enhancing performance during work or study
- Aid the process of problem-solving, helping you develop more creative solutions
- Improve memory recall
- Support steady energy and reduce dips and peaks which lead to long term fatigue
One study, published in the Journal of Dietary Supplements, found that the root extract from the ashwagandha plant can improve cognitive function in adults who have a mild impairment or memory loss. Like the pain relief trial, it used a randomised, double-blind approach to study 50 adults over a period of 8 weeks. And the group who received the real ashwagandha demonstrated improvements in short and long-term memory, as well as more sustained attention and faster information-processing speeds.
To put it in simple terms, there’s strong evidence that taking ashwagandha can make your brain work better.
Ashwagandha, Fertility, and Athletic Performance
Mental health, pain relief, and cognitive performance are just a few of the ways that ashwagandha can support your wellbeing. But this incredible plant has many more uses. A read through the JHM review brings up a whole host of potential benefits — some clearly proven, and some that show strong potential in clinical trials.
Ashwagandha has traditionally been used to increase fertility and support conception, and there is now evidence to support this. For example, a study published in the journal Evidence Based Complementary Alternative Medicine shows that the root supplement increases blood flow and improves sperm quality in men.
It’s also been shown to improve athletic performance at a range of different levels, including for elite athletes. A study of Indian professional cyclists showed significant improvement in cardiorespiratory endurance as a result of taking a 500 mg capsule of ashwagandha root twice a day for eight weeks. These findings suggest that, if you include this plant in your own routine, you can support your fitness journey by increasing your oxygen absorption and muscle recovery.
As clinical researchers around the world turn their attention to the power of plant medicine, we’re excited to see more research on ashwagandha.
If you’d like to try it for yourself, we have two suggestions. First is our Balance Supplements, which are made with a blend of ashwagandha and other calming plant ingredients, including chamomile and tulsi. These have been blended with adaptogen herbs to relieve anxiety and induce calm.
You can also try our Ashwagandha Capsules, to benefit from all of the active compounds in this incredible plant.
And we’d love to hear about your own experiences. Do you take a supplement, and have you noticed a difference in your health and wellbeing? Come and chat with us about ashwagandha on Instagram!