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What is Ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha, botanically known as Withania somnifera, is a small evergreen shrub mostly grown in the Middle East, India, and parts of Africa. It is an ancient medicinal herb that has been used for decades for its health benefits. Its benefits expand to both mind and body.
It belongs to the Ayurvedic system of medicine and possesses anti-arthritic properties. It helps the body in managing stress and is therefore classified as an adaptogen. If you are still unsure about its power benefits below are some more to help you add this herb to your diet.
What are the benefits?
- Reduces Cortisol Levels
Ashwagandha supplements are known to reduce cortisol levels in people with chronically high levels of this stress hormone. Our bodies produce this in reaction to a stressful event and when blood sugar levels get low.
Increased production of the hormone results in problems like increased fat storage in the abdomen as well as high levels of stress. Ashwagandha has been proved to reduce the high level of cortisol.
According to a study, chronically stressed adults who received the highest dose of the herb experienced a 30% reduction in their cortisol levels.
- Reduces Blood Sugar Levels
Ashwagandha has been proven to be extremely beneficial for diabetes patients as it reduces blood sugar levels, increases absorption of insulin and sensitivity of muscle cells towards insulin.
- Can bring potential improvement in brain function.
According to some animal studies, Ashwagandha helps to reduce problems associated with brain function and memory loss caused by disease or injury. It has been used in Ayurvedic medicine to boost memory, and it is known for promoting antioxidant activity in brain cells to fight against free radical damage.
- May reduce high levels of cholesterol.
In a 60-day study conducted on chronically stressed adults, the person receiving the highest dose of Ashwagandha experienced a 17% decrease in bad cholesterol, also known as LDL.
Several studies reported impressive reductions in the cholesterol levels of participants who were given this herb. Therefore, it can be safely assumed that it helps in promoting a healthy heart.
- It can potentially strengthen muscles.
Research has found that Ashwagandha can improve muscle strength and gain mass. It has been known to help improve overall body composition and reduce body fat percentage.
In one of the studies conducted, men who consumed Ashwagandha experienced a significant increase in muscle strength, size, and mass as compared to those who did not. Their body fat percentage also reduced at double the rate.
- May possess anticancer properties.
Ashwagandha contains a compound that helps in killing cancer cells. It has been found to be effective against different types of cancers, including lung, brain, colon, and ovarian cancer. Not only does it help in killing old cancer cells, but it also inhibits the growth of new ones.
- Has the potential to reduce symptoms of depression.
Some studies suggest that Ashwagandha may be effective against symptoms of depression. This could have to do with the herbs anti-stress properties. In one of the studies, adults who took 600gm high concentrated extracts of the herb reported a reduction of 79% in their depression.
- Helps in reducing anxiety and stress.
A study conducted on rats blocked stress pathways in their brains through the regulation of chemicals in the nervous system. Similarly, even studies conducted with humans reported a reduction in the symptoms of stress and anxiety disorders for those suffering from these mental diseases.
- Improves fertility in men and increases testosterone levels.
This herb has proven to be beneficial for reproductive health and can increase testosterone levels in the body. Research has shown that besides increasing antioxidants in the body, it also improves sperm quality.
In one of the studies with 75 infertile men, usage of the herb resulted in an increase in sperm count as well as motility.
- Can reduce inflammation.
Many studies have demonstrated that Ashwagandha decreases inflammation by reducing inflammation compounds such as C-Reactive Protein (CRP). This marker is also connected with heart diseases.
Apart from that, this herb is also known to boost the activity of killer cells, making the immune system strong by fighting and killing infection-causing bacteria inside the body.
In A Nutshell
Conclusively speaking, Ashwagandha is an extremely beneficial and effective ancient medicinal herb. It has not only been used in Ayurvedic medicine but also has proven to be beneficial for several health problems by science.
Largely, the herb is safe for all, including children. However, before using it as a treatment for any medical problem, it is important to take your doctor’s advice.