The Benefits of Ashwagandha


You might have been hearing a lot about ashwagandha lately but it’s far from a fad. 

Ashwagandha is an herb that is a major part of the traditional Indian medicinal system of Ayurveda. It’s such an important herb to this system that India has established an Ashwagandha council to promote standards, visibility, and research into this herb. So let’s take a deeper look at what ashwagandha is, its potential benefits and who it may be right for. 


What Is Ashwagandha?

The ashwagandha plant, also known as withania somnifera is an evergreen shrub that grows in Asia and Africa. The ashwagandha herb which often comes in supplement form is from the plant’s root.

The role of ashwagandha in Ayurveda has been as an adaptogen. In other words, it’s been believed to help the body adapt to mental and biological stressors. With that said, let’s take a look at some of Ashwagandha’s specific benefits. 



Ashwagandha’s nutrient profile contains anti-inflammatory compounds including withaferin A. Studies on the matter have been small scale but include a 2021 trial on COVID patients were given a drug containing ashwagandha and two other ayurvedic herbs. 7 days later, patients showed reduced inflammatory markers vs the placebo group. 


Promotes Mental Wellness (May Relieve Stress and Anxiety) 

As an adaptogen, one of the primary benefits of ashwagandha is that it may help to relieve stress by controlling stress mediators including cortisol and heat shock proteins (specifically HSP70). Ashwagandha may also reduce the activity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal system, a regulator of stress response.  

Small-scale studies with fewer than one hundred participants resulted in decreases in perceived stress, decreases in anxiety and lower cortisol levels. 


Sharpens Focus and Memory

As you might expect of an herb that reduces stress, it might also boost your mental performance. In a review of 5 clinical studies, older adults experienced the most benefit. It’s theorized the compound withaferin A has antioxidant effects on the brain helping alleviate the negative impact of inflammation. 

Specific cognitive functions that were enhanced included

  • executive functioning
  • attention
  • reaction time
  • performance on cognitive tasks


Could Slow Neurodegenerative Conditions

In addition to enhancing everyday brain function, ashwagandha might slow the cognitive decline in those with neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease, or Parkinson’s disease. 

A 2011 Overview on Ashwagandha found that when administered to mice, it helped to protect brain function against these conditions. 


May Help Improve Sleep

Ashwangandha is used by many to improve sleep quality. Those with insomnia may benefit the most from taking ashwagandha according to available research. 

A 12-week placebo-controlled study on 50 adults found that taking 600 mg improved the quality of sleep with a further study finding the same and that participants were more alert in their waking hours. 


Lowers Blood Sugar and Fat

There is some initial evidence to suggest that ashwagandha may help lower blood sugar in those with diabetes. It’s theorized that this is because the main active compound, withfarerin A, has potent anti-diabetic effects

Limited clinical evidence found that ashwagandha reduced blood sugar, blood fats, and indicators of oxidative stress among diabetes patients. 


Enhances Athletic Performance

Some of the previous entries might make it seem like ashwagandha mainly benefits those who are older or have health conditions. But this herb might universally increase athletic performance. 

Studies where participants were given ashwagandha saw increased maximum oxygen consumption also known as VO2Max, a measure that’s often discussed for endurance sports like marathon running. Having a higher VO2Max won’t just get you across the finish line faster. It’s an indicator of better heart health for athletes and non-athletes alike. 


Improves Reproductive Health

For men, ashwagandha increases fertility specifically by way of improved sperm quality through enhanced enzymatic activity in seminal plasma and decreasing oxidative stress. 

For women, ashwagandha seems to improve fertility by balancing hormones and reducing oxidative stress. This has the effect of enhancing the quality of egg production and increases the chances of conception. 


May Relieve Arthritis Symptoms

As an anti-inflammatory, ashwagandha may go some way in reducing joint pain from arthritis. A small study of 125 patients with arthritis joint pain found that after seven weeks, participants reported decreased joint tenderness, decreased swelling, and better overall mobility. 


Heart Health

In several ways, ashwagandha might have positive heart health effects. 


First, ashwagandha appears to help lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, leading indicators of heart disease. 

Because ashwagandha can help to alleviate stress, it may have the secondary effect of protecting against the negative heart health effects to which excessive stress can contribute. 

Lastly, its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties could protect against oxidative stress that could be damaging to the heart. 



Even though the list of ashwagandha’s potential benefits is long, it isn’t right for everyone. Here are some conditions for which you might want to avoid ashwagandha. 

  • Pregnant women
  • Those with allergies to nightshades like tomatoes, and eggplants
  • Those with autoimmune conditions
  • Those with thyroid conditions


Drug Interactions

Ashwagandha should be avoided for people who are taking the following medications


  • Sedatives and sleep aids (Benzodiazepines and CNS depressants) : 
  • Diabetes medications
  • Blood Pressure Medications
  • Immunosuppressants


Bottom Line

Ashwagandha is an herb that's been used for many years with a host of potential health benefits. Upon review, there are some promising results. 

One should exercise caution with this data given that it is mostly from animal studies. 


This article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be used as medical advice. If you have immediate concerns about your health, please seek the help of your physician. 

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease.