Updated: 6 days ago
Scientific name: Withania somnifera
Common names: Ajagandha, Indian ginseng, Winter cherry
Family: Solanaceae (Nightshade)
Ashwagandha, also known as Withania somnifera or winter cherry, is a short woody plant with yellow or green flowers that become lantern-like pods. The pods contain small orangish-red berries full of yellow seeds native to India, Africa, and the Mediterranean (1). Ashwagandha has been used for thousands of years in India's Ayurvedic, Siddha, and Unani-Tibb systems, mainly as an adaptogen to help adapt to stressful situations (2). Still, it has many other benefits.
How I Use Ashwagandha
Benefits of Ashwagandha
May Reduce Inflammation
Although inflammation is a natural bodily response, chronic inflammation can lead to detrimental health effects. Chronic inflammation has been linked with many diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, asthma, and certain cancers (3). Thankfully, several studies show Ashwagandha can help decrease inflammation. In one animal study, Ashwagandha protected inflammatory markers and insulin resistance in fructose-fed rats (4). C-reactive protein (CPR) is measured in your blood and increases when there's inflammation in your body (5). Human studies took Ashwagandha extract daily and had a 36 percent decrease in C-reactive protein compared to only 6 percent in the placebo group (6).
May Reduce Stress
Evidence suggests that acute and chronic stress is associated with increased inflammatory activity and how someone focuses on negative thoughts or events (7). If this is not taken care of, long-term and chronic inflammation can lead to many health complications, such as cancers, rheumatoid arthritis, atherosclerosis, heart disease, periodontitis, and much more (8)
Ashwagandha has been used in ancient herbal medicine throughout India's Ayurvedic, Siddha, and Unani-Tibb systems specifically for their ability to reduce stress. Researchers have regulated chemical signals in the nervous system of animals and found that Ashwagandha blocks the stress pathway of rats (9). Researchers didn't just stop at animal studies, though; they also studied humans. They found great success in reducing stress in humans by using Ashwagandha when they did a 60-day study of 64 people with chronic stress, and 69 percent reported a reduction in not just stress but anxiety and insomnia, too (10). I highly recommend Earthley's Cocoa Calm for stress-reducing benefits.
May Reduce Anxiety
Suppose you read my blog, 5 Herbs to Reduce Stress & Anxiety. In that case, you know anxiety and stress usually go hand-in-hand, so it's no wonder Ashwagandha has also successfully treated anxiety. Actually, in a 6-week study, researchers found that 88 percent of the people who took ashwagandha had a reduction in anxiety levels (11). Another study found that Ashwagandha was a viable option for naturopathic care in anxiety after 75 participants were followed for eight weeks. It had significant benefits, including their mental health, concentration levels, lack of fatigue, social functionality, vitality, and more (12). I highly recommend Earthley’s Anxiety Relief for anxiety-relieving benefits.
May Help Adrenal Fatigue
Cortisol is your body's primary stress hormone made by the adrenal glands and works with certain parts of the brain to control mood, motivation, and fear, also known as fight-or-flight. When cortisol levels become chronically elevated, your body will be on high alert, resulting in an alteration or complete shutting down of functions. Elevated cortisol levels can impair your digestive, reproductive, immune systems, and growth processes (13). In one study involving chronically stressed adults, participants supplemented Ashwagandha and found it significantly reduced cortisol levels (14), which can help improve adrenal fatigue. I highly recommend Earthley's Master Tonic for adrenal fatigue relief.
May Support Heart Health
Unfortunately, heart disease is the world's number one cause of death (15). Due to the incredibly complex determinants of heart disease and various possible contributions, it's hard to pinpoint an exact way to prevent it. Still, you can at least take steps to lower your overall risk. That’s where Ashwagandha may come into play.
Thanks to Ashwagandha's anti-inflammatory effects, it may also lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels and improve overall heart health. One animal study found ashwagandha to lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels by 53 and 45 percent in rats (16), leading researchers to believe it may do the same for humans. Although these effects haven’t been studied in humans, animal studies are promising.
May Improve Brain Functionality
Brain functionality includes speech, judgment, thinking and reasoning, problem-solving, emotions, and learning, amongst many other functions (17). Many studies have been conducted in test tubes, animals, and even humans around the possibility that Ashwagandha may improve brain function and memory.
In one study, researchers studied rats with epilepsy and found that Ashwagandha nearly completely reversed spatial memory impairment, likely caused by reduced oxidative stress (18). In another study, 50 adults were examined for eight weeks after taking Ashwagandha root extract two times a day, and the results found a significant improvement in their general memory, task performance, and even attention (19). In a test-tube study, Ashwagandha could reverse β-amyloid1-42 induced toxicity in human neuronal cells implicated in HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders (20).
May Boost Testosterone
Testosterone is vital to men’s health and regulates sex drive (libido), bone mass, fat distribution, muscle mass and strength, and the production of red blood cells and sperm (21). Testosterone levels affect several aspects of health, including body composition, sex drive, mood, and brain function (22). When testosterone levels decline with age, it can contribute to health conditions such as heart disease (23). Ashwagandha has shown promising possibilities for increasing fertility in men thanks to its ability to boost testosterone levels.
In one study, Ashwagandha improved semen quality specifically by regulating reproductive hormone levels and oxidative stress in the seminal plasma of infertile men (24). In another study, men who took ashwagandha for stress experienced higher antioxidant levels and better sperm quality, and after 90 days of consistently using Ashwagandha, 14 percent of their partners became pregnant (25). I highly recommend Earthley's Nourish Him Naturally for testosterone-boosting benefits.
May Support Thyroid Health
The thyroid produces hormones that regulate the body's metabolic rate, growth, and development. When the thyroid works too fast or slow, one may notice inconsistencies with heart, muscle, and digestive function, along with brain development and bone maintenance (26).
Ashwagandha has been shown to boost a slow-producing thyroid (hypothyroidism) and also help those with Hashimoto's. During an 8-week Ashwagandha treatment period, participants experienced normalized serum thyroid indices (27). Keep in mind those with hyperthyroidism should not take Ashwagandha as it may exacerbate symptoms (I discuss this more with sources under Contraindications & Interactions). I highly recommend Earthley’s Thyroid Support tincture for hypothyroidism benefits.
Statistics say that 158.3 of every 100,000 individuals will die from cancer, but what if they didn't have to (28)? Several studies have been conducted in both test tubes and on animals regarding the potential anticancer properties of Ashwagandha. One study found Ashwagandha to play a cancer-protective role in rodents with cancer that were chemically induced (29). Another study, a test-tube study, found that Ashwagandha may cause cancer cells to become less resistant to apoptosis and disrupt the vimentin cytoskeleton, possibly inducing ROS generation, c-Fos expression, and c-FLIP(L) suppression (30).
⚠️ Warning: The Holistic Hipppie is not a functional medicine practitioner. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This content is not medical advice and should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure, or replace medical guidance. The Holistic Hipppie assumes no liability for the application of the information discussed.
Contraindications & Interactions
Ashwagandha is not recommended for those with hyperthyroidism. Ashwagandha may exacerbate symptoms by boosting T3 and T4 levels, potentially leading to thyrotoxicosis, a severe form of hyperthyroidism (31,32,33).
Mainstream sources state there isn't enough reliable information to know if ashwagandha is safe to use when breastfeeding. They also proclaim it's likely unsafe during pregnancy and that it may cause miscarriages (despite zero data on this). They also warn the long-term safety of ashwagandha is not known. Their overall recommendation is to consult your doctor before taking it, especially if you are pregnant or breastfeeding (34).
Notably, Richard Whelan, a trusted herbalist since 1989, has had no documented adverse reactions or effects with this herb. He considers Ashwagandha exceptionally safe to use in high or frequent doses. He states it can be taken by the young or old while pregnant or breastfeeding confidently (35).
How I Use Ashwagandha
When I make my own products herbal remedies, I try to buy herbs locally. When buying locally isn’t an option, I typically purchase from one of the following brands I trust:
I haven't had the opportunity to make herbal remedies with Ashwagandha, but I enjoy a few premade herbal products.
Products Recommended with Ashwagandha Ingredients
Earthley's Anxiety Relief is formulated with herbs chosen for their ability to calm the body and improve mood without unfortunate side effects. Relieve symptoms of anxiety naturally.
Earthley's Cocoa Calm combines an all-natural, antioxidant-rich cocoa powder with three key adaptogens (ashwagandha root, Rhodiola root, and eleuthero root). The result is a cocoa powder that tastes just like chocolate but helps you feel calmer and more able to deal with common daily stresses!
Earthley's Master Tonic is perfect for total body support when life gets too busy. If you’re feeling run down and need support, Master Tonic is here for you! This herbal remedy has nutrients to support all your major organs that need help when you’re overworked. Made with all-natural ingredients without any OTC medication drugs with those nasty side effects.
Earthley's Natural Balance was made for women struggling with the ups and downs of hormones. This herbal remedy can help steady hormone levels and provide you with increased energy, calmness, and better quality sleep. Made with all-natural ingredients without those OTC medications that have unwanted side effects.
Earthley's Nourish Him Naturally was curated with a man’s specific needs in mind! Earthley used herbs to support heart health, prostate health, and energy levels to make this vitamin powerhouse. You could see an overall health and wellness improvement through this natural and organic herbal supplement!
Earthley's Thyroid Support is an herbal formula for thyroid support and total body wellness. The herbs include ashwagandha, amla berry, licorice root, Brahmi leaf, and milk thistle seed. It also supports a healthy liver and stress response and is rich in vitamin C.
The Brother's Apothecary Chocodelic Trip CBD Hot Chocolate Mix combines Dutch Cocoa with an adaptogenic blend of 10 synergistic mushrooms. Delicious & healthy. Low sugar & blended with organic, fair-trade Madagascar vanilla bean.
The Brother's Apothecary Forager’s Java CBD Mushroom Instant Coffee is not your average cup of coffee. Forager’s Java is a bold blend of Arabica coffee beans, cold brewed and then spray-dried into instant crystals, plus powerful functional mushrooms. Each cup provides a smooth & rich coffee flavor that’s complemented by invigorating fungi, including Chaga, Reishi, Cordyceps, and Lion’s Mane.
The Brother's Apothecary Lover’s Latte CBD Rose Milk is a superfood made with nutty coconut milk, rose petals, Ashwagandha, and a touch of cocoa and cinnamon. This latte mixes into a uniquely vibrant pink tonic and is the perfect couple’s companion. It’s caffeine-free, and the powerful herbal ingredients inspire a sense of focus, energy, and clarity.
The Brother's Apothecary Mental Clarity CBD Capsules are formulated to support healthy, sustained energy for both body and mind. Combining CBD with antioxidant-rich ginkgo leaf and an adaptogenic trio of Ashwagandha, Shatavari, and rhodiola supports alertness and calmness, an ideal ally for today's busy, stressful world.