Ashwagandha how to use, Ashwagandha sounds exotic and it is. In distant countries the plant is cultivated and has been used as a medicinal herb for a long time. Now you too have the opportunity to benefit from the proven extracts of Ashwagandha.
For optimal effectiveness, mix 3 g Ashwagandha powder (about 1 teaspoon) daily with any juice, smoothie, water or yoghurt. But always ask your doctor for advise.
Do not exceed the recommended daily intake. Food supplements are not a substitute for a balanced and varied diet. Store in a cool, dry place, away from light. Keep out of reach of small children.
Ashwagandha and thyroid
Treat hypothyroidism with Ashwagandha. In a new study (August 2017) the treatment options for hypothyroidism with the phytotherapeutic Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) were investigated.
In the search for a gentle alternative therapy for subclinical hypothyroidism, the scientists became aware of the medicinal plant Ashwagandha, which is used in traditional medicine.
Subclinical hypothyroidism (= hypofunction of the thyroid gland) is defined as increased serum TSH levels (4.5 – 10 mlU/l) with normal fT4 levels. This is often the result of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.
In a human study, people with hypothyroidism were observed to have a daily dose of 600 mg Ashwagandha extract or a placebo for 8 weeks. After the end of the intervention period, blood levels of TSH, fT3 and fT4 were controlled. The administration of the plant extract significantly reduced serum TSH by an average of 1.85 mlU/l. An increase in fT3 and fT4 was also detected.
The cortisol-lowering effect of the plant extract is discussed as a possible functional mechanism:
Chronic stress activates the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal cortex axis under increased cortisol production, which interrupts the thyroid control cycle and causes a decrease of fT3 and fT4. Since Ashwagandha with its inhibitory effect of this “stress activation” results in a strengthening of the thyroid function cycle, the production of thyroid hormones can be normalized. In addition, the intake of the plant preparation over the entire study period was without side effects.
Ashwagandha therefore not only has great potential in the treatment of subclinical hypothyroidism, but can also be classified as a safe phytotherapeutic agent.
The medicinal plant is said to help the body regulate blood sugar levels, keep stress hormones in check, fall asleep faster and improve brain function. Ashwagandha is also used for anxiety and depression.
Ashwagandha interactions are mostly positive in nature. For example, positive ashwagandha interactions with Arjuna are known for athletic performance. Ashwagandha interactions are also known with curcumin and silymarin.
What is Ashwagandha good for?
Ashwagandha is one of the most important medicinal plants in Ayurvedic herbal medicine. For example, the shrub can relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression, lower blood sugar levels and blood lipids, improve memory and concentration and much more.
Like ginseng or Rhodiola rosea, the medicinal herb is one of the so-called adaptogens. This means that it has a balancing effect on body and mind and can help us in particular to cope better with stressful situations.
But it also offers many other advantages for our health, which we will discuss in detail in this article. For example, Ashwagandha can relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression, lower blood sugar levels and blood lipids, improve memory and concentration, and much more.
The medicinal plant Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha is also known in this country under the names Indian ginseng, winter cherry and – due to its sleep-inducing effect – sleeping berry. The botanical name of Ashwagandha is Withania somnifera.
The medicinal plant is a small shrub with yellow flowers that is native to India and North Africa. Many health effects of Whitania somnifera are due to the high concentrations of the so-called withanolides.
These active ingredients are contained in the leaves, but in even higher concentrations in the root of the shrub. For this reason the Ashwagandha extract, which is mainly available in the form of powder or capsules – more rarely also as drops – is mainly extracted from the roots.
Ashwagandha in Ayurveda
Ashwagandha is one of the most important and frequently used medicinal plants in Ayurvedic herbal medicine. Ayurveda is a traditional millennia-old Indian art of healing, to which the following central elements belong.
The medicinal plant has probably been used for more than 3000 years to reduce stress, raise energy levels and improve concentration.
The name “Ashwagandha” comes from Sanskrit and means “smell of the horse”. This is probably primarily due to the special smell of the plant, but can also be explained by the strengthening effect of the plant. In Ayurveda the horse is a symbol of power and strength.
Effects and applications
Here are some the benefits that Ashwagandha can have for our health These effects have been proven by numerous studies, but are also partly known from thousands of years of experience in Ayurveda.
Can help reduce stress
Our adrenal glands produce the stress hormones – above all cortisol and adrenaline. Cortisol is therefore released in response to stress. In addition, cortisol has another important function, namely as an antagonist of (blood sugar-lowering) insulin: it increases the blood sugar level.
In chronic stress, this dual function of cortisol can lead to elevated blood sugar levels due to increased cortisol levels. Unfortunately, this in turn can lead to increased storage of abdominal fat.
Some studies have shown that Ashwagandha can help lower our cortisol levels if they are elevated.
In a study conducted in chronically stressed adults, those who received Ashwagandha had a significantly greater reduction in cortisol compared to the control group. In those who received the highest dose of Ashwagandha, there was an average 30% reduction in cortisol levels
Can increase muscle mass and strength
Research has shown that ashwagandha can improve body composition and increase strength.
In a study with the ultimate goal of determining the efficacy and safety of the dosage of Ashwagandha, healthy men who took between 750 and 1250 mg of Ashwagandha daily showed an improvement in muscle strength after 30 days.
In another study, a significant increase in muscle mass and strength was also observed when taking the medicinal plant. Another side effect was the reduction in body fat, which was more than twice as high as in the placebo group.
Can help with anxiety and insomnia
As explained above, ashwagandha has a stress-reducing effect by preventing the increased release of cortisol. This is certainly the best known effect of the medicinal plant.
But Ashwagandha also works against the symptoms of anxiety. This has been shown by several studies on humans.
In a 60-day study of 64 people with chronic stress, participants in the group receiving Ashwagandha reported an average reduction of 69% in anxiety and insomnia compared to the placebo group, where only 11% reported an improvement.
In another study, conducted over a period of 6 weeks, 88% of people taking Ashwagandha reported a reduction in anxiety, compared with only 50% of people taking placebo.
Can increase testosterone and improve fertility in men
Ashwagandha has strong effects on male testosterone levels and also improves fertility in men. In a study of 75 men classified as infertile, supplementation with Ashwagandha showed both increased sperm count and motility.
Another side effect was a significant increase in testosterone levels. The researchers also found an increase in antioxidants in the blood.
Another study, in which men under stress were given Ashwagandha, also found an increase in antioxidants and an improvement in sperm quality. Treatment with Ashwagandha even resulted in 14% of the men’s wives becoming pregnant after three months.
Can help lower the blood sugar level
The blood sugar lowering effect of Ashwagandha has already been proven in several studies. An in-vitro study could show that Ashwagandha led to the following two effects:
It increased insulin secretion, i.e. the release of insulin was increased. This means that more insulin is available in the blood to lower blood sugar. The insulin sensitivity of muscle cells improved. This means that the effect of the insulin released is increased.
Both factors help to lower blood sugar levels.
However, there are also several human studies that have shown Ashwagandha to have a blood sugar-lowering effect, both in healthy people and in people who already have diabetes.
Has an anti-inflammatory effect and can improve immune performance
Several studies in animals have shown that Ashwagandha can help reduce inflammation.
Studies in humans have found that it increases the activity of natural killer cells. Natural killer cells are immune cells that are responsible, among other things, for fighting infections.
Furthermore, there was a reduction in the inflammation marker CRP (C-reactive protein). This inflammation marker is – if increased over the long term – associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, among other things.
In a controlled study, the group taking 250 mg Ashwagandha daily showed an average 36% decrease in CRP compared to a decrease of only 6% in the placebo group.
Can lower cholesterol and triglycerides
In addition to its anti-inflammatory properties, Ashwagandha can help to improve heart health by lowering blood lipids – i.e. cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
That blood lipids are significantly reduced by taking Ashwagandha has been shown in animal studies. A study in rats showed that total cholesterol was reduced by up to 53% and triglycerides by almost 45%.
The improvements observed in controlled studies in humans were slightly lower, but still very significant. For example, in a 60-day study conducted in chronically stressed adults, there was a 17% reduction in (bad) LDL cholesterol and a reduction in triglycerides of as much as 11%.
Can improve brain performance including memory
In vitro studies (i.e. studies in the test tube) and animal studies suggest that Ashwagandha can reduce memory problems caused by brain injuries or diseases.
Research has shown that it protects nerve cells from harmful free radicals by increasing antioxidant activity.
In a study of rats suffering from epileptic seizures, an almost complete reversal of spatial memory impairment occurred after taking Ashwagandha. This is probably due to a reduction in oxidative stress.
Although the plant is traditionally used in Ayurveda to enhance memory, there have been few studies in humans in this area.
In one controlled study, healthy men who took 500 mg of the herb daily reported significant improvements in reaction time and thinking performance compared to men who received a placebo.
Another eight-week study in 50 adults showed that taking 300 mg of ashwagandha root extract twice daily significantly improved overall memory, thinking and attention.
What does Ashwagandha do?
However, some people should refrain from taking Ashwagandha or at least check with their family doctor before taking it:
Pregnant and breastfeeding women should not take Ashwagandha, because there are no studies on safety yet.
People who suffer from autoimmune diseases should discuss the intake with their treating physician. Autoimmune diseases include multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis or type 1 diabetes and many others.
People taking thyroid medicines should also be careful when taking Ashwagandha. This is because taking Ashwagandha may increase thyroid hormone levels, so the dose of the medicine would need to be adjusted.
As Ashwagandha can also lower blood sugar levels and blood pressure, people taking medication for this should talk to their doctor about possible adjustments to dosages.
The capsules on the market usually have a dose of about 250 – 500 mg. You can take one or two capsules of this daily. Always ask your doctor or alternative practitioner what dosage is good for you.
Ashwagandha is a medicinal plant whose health effects have long been known in Ayurveda. Recently, many of these effects on our health, known from experience, have also been proven in studies.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid taking Ashwagandha and also people with previous illnesses or those who regularly take medication should discuss its use with their doctor.
Otherwise the medicinal plant is considered safe and no side effects are to be expected.