Ashwagandha is an herb that comes from the Ayurvedic herbal tradition in India that has received a tremendous amount of attention for its health benefits. With a history of use dating back as far as 6000 BC, ashwagandha has stood the test of time as many of its traditional uses are being validated by modern science. But what is ashwagandha? As an adaptogen that is classified as a rasayana in Ayurvedic medicine, traditional practitioners believe the herb has invigorating and tonifying effects on the body while promoting healthy aging and a healthy lifespan. As an adaptogen, ashwagandha helps the body deal with and adapt better to stress and contribute to a feeling of calm and balance. But the health benefits of ashwagandha go far beyond stress relief.
Benefits of Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha research continues to show that the herb provides support for multiple organs and systems. While stress and calming benefits are well-known, ashwagandha provides help with sleep, heart health, joint health, cognitive and brain health, and even thyroid function and metabolism, among others. Here, we highlight some crucial areas of support provided by ashwagandha.
Ashwagandha Benefits for Women and Men
Ashwagandha has multiple documented benefits extending to both men and women. Its ability to balance the body’s stress response leads to its usefulness in treating or supporting multiple systems of the body that are impacted by the hormonal changes occurring that lead to stress. Research has found that ashwagandha can benefit the mind and body and promote healthy blood pressure, cognitive function, and mood, while reducing anxiety. Furthermore, ashwagandha supports cardiovascular health, joint health, and even sleep. Ashwagandha benefits for women may also include support for the symptoms of perimenopause and menopause.
Additionally, ashwagandha benefits for men include support for sexual function and testosterone levels. Studies have shown that ashwagandha extracts can act as a natural testosterone booster. The herb provides benefits for male fertility and may in fact increase sperm count in those with lower counts, thus acting to rejuvenate male health.
It is also an excellent fitness and endurance enhancer. Research shows that ashwagandha extracts can help increase muscle strength, enhance exercise capacity and gains, and increase endurance. Thus, its benefits for athletic performance can help both men and women.
With such a wide range of activity, ashwagandha benefits for men and women have the potential to impact health across the lifespan.
The Stress-Sleep Connection
Modern lifestyles have had a tremendous impact on the stress that individuals experience. Our “always on” mindset has increased our experience of acute and chronic stress and adversely affected our ability to get healthy sleep.
Chronic stress leads to the release of hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol, which keep the body in a heightened state of alertness. These hormones are normally most active during the day; however, our lifestyles have blurred the line between night and day, leading to dysregulation in hormone levels and in many cases leading them to be constantly elevated. This leads to detrimental effects on sleep and sleep quality. The stress-sleep connection can be a self-perpetuating cycle that is often vicious. While stress leads to a decreased ability to get quality sleep, a lack of sleep also leads to heightened stress. The key is to break this cycle through lifestyle modification and taking steps to reset the normal cycle. This is also where using ashwagandha for stress can be helpful. As one of the effective adaptogenic herbs, it brings this process into balance, buttressing the body’s ability to deal with stress and at the same time improving sleep quality and satisfaction.
Stress Reduction and Mood Stabilizer
Studies on ashwagandha indicate that among active components found in the herb are compounds known as withanolides. While the root of the plant has most often been used traditionally, both the root and leaves are rich sources of withanolides. A placebo controlled clinical trial using an extract of ashwagandha from the roots and leaves of the plant found significant benefits for mental health symptoms and reducing the effects of stress, while enhancing mood.
The ashwagandha supplement was taken daily by those experiencing chronic stress for a period of 60 days. The study enrolled 130 participants and found that ashwagandha extract led to significant benefits over placebo. It was able to reduce stress and anxiety, reduce serum levels of cortisol, reduce inflammation by lowering C-reactive protein (CRP), and reduce blood pressure levels. Furthermore, ashwagandha health benefits included reducing blood sugar levels and blood lipids including cholesterol. This study indicates that ashwagandha lowers the effects of stress but is also useful for conditions associated with high stress levels and works to improve mental health and the body’s physiological resistance.
As one of the premier adaptogenic herbs, ashwagandha provides an effective and safe way to address a multitude of health issues by supporting the body’s natural stress resilience. This traditional herb that is validated by modern science is a key element for helping our body deal with several detrimental aspects of today’s modern fast-paced lifestyle.
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