Your Ultimate Guide to Ashwagandha: Purpose & Benefits

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Are you curious about ashwagandha and want to learn more? Perhaps you've come across it in other places and have been meaning to research it? Well, look no further.

Here, we’ll give you all the information you need to know about ashwagandha, including its health benefits, recommended dosage, best timings, various types of supplements, and much more.

So, instead of searching for answers, read on to find all you need in one place—our essential Smart Protein guide.

What is ashwagandha?

This incredible plant, scientifically known as withania somnifera, as well as Indian ginseng or winter cherry, has botanical roots in India, North Africa and the Middle East. 

You might be surprised to know that it's even a part of the nightshade family, alongside the usual suspects like potatoes, tomatoes, bell peppers, and chilli peppers.

Despite its exotic origins, the ashwagandha plant offers a range of benefits for people from all walks of life. While you can use various parts of the plant, it's the root that's most commonly harnessed for its unique strengths.

For centuries, this incredible herb has been hailed for its ability to treat ailments from arthritis and anxiety to insomnia and fertility issues—and let's not forget its reputation as a powerful aphrodisiac.

But as time moved forward and new scientific research emerged, the true potential of ashwagandha has really started to shine. 

Yes, studies have uncovered a treasure trove of compounds and properties that make ashwagandha a truly special herb with a wide range of health benefits.

In recent years, ashwagandha has skyrocketed in popularity, with many celebrities touting it as a go-to supplement for overall wellness and health.

What does ashwagandha do?

Ashwagandha is a powerful adaptogen—a natural agent that can help the human body manage stress more effectively. By doing so, it may help reduce your cortisol levels, a hormone known as the stress hormone.

Some studies suggest that ashwagandha may also have the potential to alleviate anxiety and depression, promoting overall well-being.

One of the main active ingredients in ashwagandha is Withanolides. This powerful compound is mainly found in the root of the herb, and it's responsible for many of ashwagandha's amazing benefits. 

But, it's worth noting that the level of Withanolides can vary depending on the particular ashwagandha extract being used.

What is ashwagandha good for?

For over 3,000 years, this remarkable herb has been cherished for its multitude of uses and health rewards. It's basically a treasure trove of wellness waiting to be discovered.

When it comes to ashwagandha, the list of potential health benefits is truly awe-inspiring. It's been known to soothe, reduce stress, improve sleep, boost energy levels, and even enhance concentration. Talk about a powerhouse of goodness.

Over the years, ashwagandha has earned a well-deserved reputation for its stress-busting abilities, thanks to its adaptogenic properties. And if that wasn't impressive enough, it has also been linked to improved thinking abilities, such as attention and concentration levels. Way to go, ashwagandha.

But, its influence extends far beyond its origins in India. For nearly 5,000 years, it has been utilised for a wide range of conditions, including:

  • Rheumatism
  • Constipation
  • Insomnia
  • Inflamed joints
  • Chronic stress
  • Parasites
  • Hormone imbalances 
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How do you take ashwagandha?

When it comes to taking ashwagandha, the possibilities are endless. Whether you prefer a convenient capsule, a tasty gummy, ashwagandha supplements or a versatile powder, there's an option to suit every taste.

If you're feeling adventurous, you can even mix some ashwagandha powder into your favourite smoothie, juice, or milk—a delicious and nutritious way to reap the benefits of this amazing herb. For those on-the-go moments, you can even grab a bottle of liquid ashwagandha extract.

There are no hard and fast rules here. How you choose to take ashwagandha is entirely up to you and your personal preferences.

You can take ashwagandha in the form of…

  • Powder
  • Capsules
  • Tablets
  • Oil
SmartTip: Just keep in mind that the amount of ashwagandha you take and how quickly it works may depend on your specific needs and goals, so be sure to consult with a healthcare professional if you need guidance.

What dosage of ashwagandha should you take?

The dose that works best for you really depends on what you're taking ashwagandha to address. 

In fact, people have used doses ranging from 125 mg of ashwagandha extract all the way up to 5 g. Quite the scope.

In most cases, the ashwagandha dose was split up throughout the day, so instead of taking it all at once, the participants took the herbal supplement two to four times a day. This approach seems to work well for many folks.

It's important to note that there’s no specific recommended dose for ashwagandha root extract—and we're still learning about its optimal use.

Now, if you're looking for higher doses, you'll mostly find them in ashwagandha-specific supplements. To fall within these ranges, most brands recommend taking between two and three capsules each day, preferably before eating or with a meal.

Starting with a low dose can help you gauge your tolerance, and it's always a good idea to discuss the upper range with a medical professional. 

You may want to begin with one pill or capsule a day, see how your body reacts, and gradually add more until you're taking the full suggested dose.

Here's something else worth knowing: Most experimental studies observed the effects of ashwagandha over the course of 30 days. But, in some cases, people have seen positive outcomes even earlier.

How much should you take per day?

If you're taking the root extract, most clinical studies use a daily dose of 120 to 1,000mg (1). The most common dosage is 300 mg twice a day. So, you might want to consider splitting your dose for the best results.

Now, if you're going for the whole root, clinical doses range between two and 10g of powdered root daily, with an average of 5g per day. Keep in mind that the powdered form is what's usually used in these studies.

If you're specifically taking ashwagandha to reduce cortisol levels (the stress hormone), it's recommended to take 500 to 600 mg per day for a period of six to 12 weeks. This gives your body enough time to respond and see the benefits.

On the other hand, if you're aiming to regulate your blood sugar levels, a daily dose of 250mg to 300mg is recommended. To make the most of it, try splitting this dose into two to three equal amounts throughout the day.

As always, it's important to take your ashwagandha supplement with food or water. This helps with absorption and ensures that you're giving your body the support it needs.

Remember, these are just general guidelines. It's always a good idea to consult with a healthcare professional to find the dosage that works best for your needs and goals.

What are the benefits of ashwagandha?

Combats stress and anxiety

First and foremost, ashwagandha is renowned for its ability to combat mental stress, a common and often overwhelming challenge in our daily lives. While a little stress can be motivating, chronic stress can wreak havoc on our physical and mental health.

By adding ashwagandha into your routine, you can effectively manage stress and maintain a healthy balance in your life.

Supports metabolism

Ashwagandha also offers support for your metabolism. Although we need more research to understand its mechanisms, studies suggest that this incredible herb has a rejuvenating effect on our bodies

It may enhance the function of mitochondria, the energy-creating powerhouses within our cells. Plus, Ashwagandha's positive impact on sleep quality and stress can further contribute to a healthy metabolism.

B vitamins, like thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), as well as B6 and B12, play a crucial role in converting food into energy. 

By including these vitamin powerhouses, along with ashwagandha, in your daily diet, you can optimise your metabolism and feel energised throughout the day.

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Helps with weight management

Ashwagandha has shown promising results in weight management. Scientific evidence (2) has indicated that supplementing with ashwagandha can impact body weight, body mass index (BMI), and waist circumference in a positive way. 

This herb indirectly supports weight loss by reducing stress while promoting better sleep, both of which contribute to a healthier metabolism and body weight.

Reduces body fat

You might be pleased to know that ashwagandha's benefits extend to body composition as well. 

By taking this herb, you may experience positive changes in body fat composition. Improved variables related to strength, power, cardiorespiratory fitness, and fatigue or recovery are also linked to a regular dose of ashwagandha.

Athletes, in particular, can benefit from this herb's ability to enhance performance and aid in recovery, leading to long-term positive effects on body composition levels.

Supports healthy cholesterol levels

Ashwagandha has shown promise in supporting healthy cholesterol levels and improving overall lipid profiles. 

Many studies show (3) its ability to decrease serum cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL (low-density lipoproteins), and VLDL (very low-density lipoproteins) cholesterol in people with pre-existing high levels. 

Surprisingly, a lower total body fat percentage has also been discovered, presenting this powerful plant as a holistic approach to maintaining a healthy heart.

Improves strength and recovery time

Looking to boost your exercise capabilities? Ashwagandha might just be the secret ingredient you need. Active and healthy people who supplement with ashwagandha tend to experience improvements in strength, power, cardiorespiratory fitness, fatigue, and recovery.

Also, this incredible herb has been linked to improved VO2 max—a key indicator of cardiovascular health in both healthy adults and athletes. Imagine how ashwagandha can elevate your physical performance and help you reach new heights.

Improves attention and memory

Ashwagandha also has the power to boost your attention and memory. Yes, this herb promotes brain health by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation, thanks to its magic plant-powered properties. 

Better sleep quality and cortisol regulation, influenced by ashwagandha, may contribute to these brain-boosting enhancements.

Supports your immune system

Ashwagandha has been traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine to support the immune system and prevent illness. 

While we need more research to fully confirm these benefits, studies suggest that ashwagandha indeed supports immune function.

Its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, combined with its ability to reduce cortisol— the stress hormone—may enhance your immune system's ability to fight infections and keep you healthy.

Ashwagandha benefits for men 

Both men and women can experience plenty of benefits from ashwagandha supplementation. 

That said, men specifically can enjoy some unique advantages from adding this powerful herb into their routine.

Increase testosterone levels

Exciting research shows that ashwagandha can improve sperm quality (4) and boost testosterone levels in men with fertility issues. In fact, participants in one study experienced an impressive 10 to 22% increase in testosterone levels, leading to a 14% increase in successful pregnancies among their partners.

Another study of 57 men found that ashwagandha supplementation of 600mg extract for eight weeks led to an impressive nearly 15% increase in testosterone levels. 

For ageing men experiencing naturally declining testosterone levels—which can drop by about 1% each year after 30—ashwagandha may be an excellent supplement to consider. 

Boost sex drive

Not only does this remarkable herb have the ability to enhance testosterone levels, but it also contributes to an amplified sexual desire.

We all know that stress can dampen our sex drive and that anxiety symptoms negatively impact our performance between the sheets. Luckily, ashwagandha comes to the rescue by reducing stress levels in the body, and when stress is reduced, our sex drive gets a major boost.

Ongoing stress can be a major buzzkill when it comes to our sexual desires and performance. But studies have shown that ashwagandha, with its stress-relieving properties, positively impacts sex drive. A big bonus.

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Improve sperm count

Ashwagandha may also improve sperm count, motility, and overall semen quality—potentially benefiting those experiencing infertility.

In one groundbreaking three-month study, researchers analysed 75 men who were struggling with infertility. The results were remarkable—a daily dose of 5g of ashwagandha led to significant improvements in both sperm count and motility. 

Imagine the life-changing impact this herb can have on men who are struggling to start a family.

Ashwagandha benefits for women 

Support hormonal balance during ageing

Aging can be a time of great upheaval for women, with hormonal fluctuations leading to a host of uncomfortable symptoms like hot flashes, mood swings, weight gain, restlessness, night sweats, and insomnia. 

But fear not—there's a natural solution to help ease the inevitable woes of menopause: ashwagandha.

This versatile evergreen herb has been used for centuries to effectively support hormonal balance and overall wellness during menopause, making it a valuable addition to your wellness toolkit. 

It works by supporting your body's ability to regulate the production of hormones and adapt to stress, thanks to its adaptogenic properties. That's right—ashwagandha can help you navigate the ups and downs of menopause with ease.

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Improve skin health

High in antioxidants, ashwagandha combats stubborn acne, fine lines, wrinkles, and dark spots, giving you the clear and radiant complexion you've always wanted.

But there's more…ashwagandha also contains alkaloids that work wonders for your nervous system. By easing anxiety and stress, it directly impacts the health and texture of your skin. Let's explore how ashwagandha works its magic to restore your skin:

Ashwagandha's special WA compounds cleanse away impurities, dirt, and grime while deeply soothing dry skin. By improving cleansing, ashwagandha helps prevent clogged pores and pesky acne breakouts.

It also enhances the production of DHEA-Dehydroepiandrosterone, a hormone responsible for oestrogen production, increasing oestrogen and DHEA levels which work together to stimulate the production of essential proteins—promoting healthy skin hydration.

Natural fertility booster

According to recent studies (5), the isoflavones and flavonoids found in ashwagandha have the incredible ability to mimic oestrogen activity. This oestrogen-like effect can greatly support fertility, providing a natural boost to the reproductive system.

Continuing the good news—ashwagandha boasts antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. These powerful qualities make it an excellent ally when it comes to treating uterine infections and irregular vaginal discharge. By promoting a healthy reproductive environment, ashwagandha helps pave the way for your chances of conception.

What are the side effects of Ashwagandha?

Although most people can handle small-to-medium doses of this amazing herb, there's still much to learn about its long-term effects.

It's essential to keep in mind that taking excessive amounts of ashwagandha can lead to these potential side effects…

  • Indigestion
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Constipation
  • Itchy rash
  • Lack of appetite

Is ashwagandha safe to take?

Some products in this category may contain lead, mercury, or arsenic in toxic amounts. But, a lab test specifically conducted on an ashwagandha sample found no traces of these substances, helping to ensure your peace of mind.

While ashwagandha offers incredible benefits, there are specific groups of people who should avoid taking it…

If you're pregnant, ashwagandha may carry the risk of causing a miscarriage, so it's best to have pregnant women steer clear of it during this time. Plus, if you're breastfeeding, we don't have enough information to determine how ashwagandha may affect you or your baby.

If you're scheduled for surgery, it's important to be mindful of the potential adverse effects of ashwagandha. The herb has the potential to slow down the central nervous system, and when combined with anaesthesia during surgery, this effect may be intensified.

If you have thyroid disease, it's worth noting that ashwagandha has the potential to increase thyroid levels. So, it's advisable to consult with your healthcare provider before weaving ashwagandha into your routine.

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Harmonise your body and mind with Mind Calm from Smart Protein

If you’re looking to improve your physical and mental wellbeing in a big way, ashwagandha root is the ancient herb that will deliver the goods.

For a daily dose of clarity, try our dedicated Ashwagandha supplements. These ashwagandha and B vitamin-fortified tablets will give you the mental as well as physical focus you need to succeed in everything you do.

Sources

Smart Protein is committed to sourcing only the best and scientifically-backed research in our articles.

1. NIH:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8006238/

2. Cibdol:

https://www.cibdol.com/uk/blog/1330-does-ashwagandha-help-with-belly-fat#:~:text=The%20results%20showed%20a%20significant,a%20decrease%20in%20waist%20circumference.

3. NIH:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6266766/

4. Healthline:

https://www.healthline.com/health/does-ashwagandha-make-you-fertile#sperm

5. Healthline:

https://www.healthline.com/health/what-does-ashwagandha-do-for-women12

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