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7 Benefits and Side Effects of Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha, also known as Winter Cherry, is an adaptogen. The term adaptogen is applied to herbs containing phytonutrients that regulate metabolism and normalize system function when the body is disturbed by physical or mental stress, develop resistance to such stress, and restore bodily functions to a higher level, Similar plants are: Maca , ginseng , eleuthero , rhodiola , schisandra, etc.

In Evidence-Based Medicine, What Are the Benefits of Ashwagandha? Are there any side effects or contraindications? See text analysis for details.

Table of contents

What is Ashwagandha?

Ashwagandha, a common medicinal plant in Indian Ayurvedic medicine for three thousand years, is used as a tonic “rasayana” in Ayurvedic medicine.

Ashwagandha means “horse smell” in Sanskrit, probably derived from the smell of its roots. The species name Somnifera means “sleep-inducing” in Latin.

Ashwagandha/Indian ginseng contains a variety of plant active ingredients, including withanolides, saponins, alkaloids, and amino acids, etc. Potential pharmacological effects include: anti-anxiety, lowering blood pressure, sedation, immune regulation, analgesia, anti-inflammation, anti-tumor and anti-oxidation…etc.


What are the recommended empirical effects (benefits) of Ashwagandha?

1. Ashwagandha Benefits People From Relieving Stress

Stress is a general term defined as a non-specific response of the body to any change. It can make a person feel tense, anxious, or unable to respond fully and normally to the demands of the environment.

Chronic stress can unbalance a person’s mental and physical state, which can lead to other diseases such as: depression, high blood pressure, heart disease and metabolic disorders.

A systematic literature review and meta-analysis (Meta-Analysis, including 12 randomized controlled trials, 1002 participants) found that ashwagandha/ashwagandha supplements significantly reduced anxiety and stress compared to placebo level . Note 1

*Conclusion: Ashwagandha may have a positive effect on relieving stress, but limited by the low quality of existing evidence, further verification is still needed.

2. Ashwagandha Benefits People With Sleep Problems

In recent years, insomnia is a common disease that affects a large number of people and damages health. It is clinically characterized by difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, or both, and resulting in impaired daily functioning.

The clinical criteria for insomnia are an average sleep latency of more than 30 minutes, waking up more than 30 minutes after falling asleep, a sleep efficiency of less than 85%, and a total sleep time of less than 6.5 hours, which can lead to fatigue, exhaustion, inability to concentrate, and irritability.

A systematic literature review and meta-analysis (Meta-Analysis, including 5 randomized controlled trials, 400 participants) showed that Ashwagandha/Ashwagandha extract had a clinically beneficial effect on improving sleep compared to placebo (measured by sleep quality scales, sleep latency, total sleep time, wake time after falling asleep, and sleep efficiency) . Note 2

In addition, subgroup analysis showed that the relative improvement effect was more significant in adults diagnosed with insomnia, treated with a daily dose of ≥600 mg, and treated for a duration of ≥8 weeks

*Conclusion: Ashwagandha/Ashwagandha extract may have positive effects on improving sleep problems, but limited by the small sample size of the included trials, more studies are needed to confirm the safety and effectiveness of long-term use.

3. Ashwagandha Improves Male Fertility

Infertility, defined as the inability of a couple to conceive after 12 months of unprotected regular intercourse, affects an estimated 10% to 15% of couples. In almost half of these cases, a male factor was involved, but 15% to 24% had an unexplained etiology.

Most male infertility is caused by low sperm concentration and motility, and altered spermatogenesis events can lead to the release of immature or abnormal sperm during ejaculation. These individuals may be infertile due to the high number of unsuitable sperm, although the total sperm count is within the normal range.

A systematic literature review and meta-analysis (Meta-Analysis, including 4 observational trials and 1 randomized controlled trial) showed that Ashwagandha/Ashwagandha extract significantly improved semen parameters (sperm concentration, semen volume, sperm motility), hormonal profile, seminal plasma oxidation biomarkers and antioxidant vitamins, semen metal ion concentrations, and other biochemical measurements . Note 3

*Conclusion: The evaluation of data on the use of Ashwagandha/Ashwagandha/Ashwagandha extract for male infertility, although encouraging, is limited by the small number of eligible studies and further validation is needed.

4. Ashwagandha Improves Physical Performance

Physical performance tests that assess physical performance can fall into one of two categories: basic ability tests and job simulations.

Basic ability tests assess an individual’s physical abilities, including muscle strength and flexibility. Tests such as sit-ups (muscular endurance), step tests (aerobic capacity), arm dynamometers (muscular endurance), and seated stretches (flexibility) are basic aptitude tests.

Job simulations require individuals to perform simulated job tasks or components and may require equipment or tools used on the job.

A systematic literature review and meta-analysis (Meta-Analysis, 12 studies, 615 healthy adults) found that ashwagandha/ashwagandha supplements improved strength/power, cardiorespiratory fitness compared to placebo and fatigue/recovery related variables . Note 4

*Conclusion: Ashwagandha may have a positive effect on improving physical performance, but limited by the small sample size, more research is still needed for further verification.

5. Ashwagandha Benefits People With OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder)

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a disturbing mental symptom, affecting about 1% to 3% of the population, with an average age of onset of about 19.5 years, and is the top ten disability factors.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is mainly manifested as periodic and intrusive thoughts or repetitive and stereotyped behaviors, which often lead to reduced work efficiency and seriously affect concentration and execution.

A double-blind controlled study (30 OCD patients treated with SSRIs for 6 weeks) showed that Ashwagandha/Ashwagandha combined with medication improved OCD scale scores further than medication alone (Yale-Brown Obsessive-Compulsive Scale), may be an option for adjuvant therapy. Note 5

The underlying mechanism is related to the enhancement of serotonin synthesis and the regulation of synaptic transmission receptors by ashwagandha. Note 6

*Conclusion: Ashwagandha/Ashwagandha/Ashwagandha combined with conventional therapy may improve the treatment effect of obsessive-compulsive disorder, but limited by the scale of the study, large-scale studies still need to be confirmed

6.Ashwagandha Improves Female Sexual Dysfunction

Sexual satisfaction is an important part of a healthy partnership, and female sexual dysfunction is often related to psychogenic performance, hormones, and neurovascular functions. Common symptoms include lack of libido (77%), loss of clitoral sensation (62.5%), vaginal dryness ( 37.5%), vaginal discomfort (41.6%) and orgasmic disorder (49%). Note 7

A preliminary double-blind controlled study (8 weeks in 50 healthy women with sexual dysfunction) found that Ashwagandha improved psychometric scale scores (orgasm, satisfaction, vaginal moistness, sexual excitement) and the number of successful sexual encounters . Note 8

The underlying mechanism may be related to reducing patient stress and increasing testosterone (androgen deficiency in women is also one of the factors for sexual dysfunction).

*Conclusion: Ashwagandha may have an effect on improving sexual dysfunction in some women, but limited by the scale of the study, it still needs to be confirmed by large-scale studies

7. Ashwagandha Benefits People With Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety disorder is mainly defined as excessive worry, aversion and fear of things in the environment. It is estimated that the prevalence rate is about 19.2% in men and 30.5% in women. Common types of anxiety include panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, social phobia, agoraphobia, generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, etc.

Animal experiments have found that Ashwagandha has similar anti-anxiety and mood-stabilizing effects as drugs. Note 9

A systematic review (including 5 randomized controlled trials) found that Ashwagandha significantly improved anxiety and stress scale scores compared with various control groups, including placebo and psychotherapy . Note 10

*Conclusion: Ashwagandha may be able to bring positive help to anxiety disorders. However, due to the potential errors and heterogeneity of some literatures, the results are still reserved, and more large-scale experiments are needed for further verification.

What Are The Ashwagandha Side Effects?

Ashwagandha is generally safe and well tolerated in small to medium doses for short-term use ( Note 11 ), but the safety of long-term use is still unknown, and high doses may cause side effects such as indigestion, nausea, diarrhea, stomach pain, etc.

Safety Precautions

  1. Pregnant women, lactating women, children, and those with liver and kidney dysfunction should not use it (because the relevant safety is unknown)
  2. It may have the effect of lowering blood pressure and blood sugar ( please pay attention to those who take related blood pressure or blood sugar lowering drugs )
  3. Do not use it for patients with autoimmune diseases (it may have the effect of activating the immune system, which will make the disease worse. Common disease names such as: rheumatoid arthritis, lupus erythematosus, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis and type 1 diabetes…etc.)
  4. It may have the effect of increasing thyroid hormone (those with thyroid disease or receiving related drug treatment please be careful), there have been cases of thyrotoxicosis after taking it, the symptoms of thyrotoxicosis range from palpitations, weight loss, heat intolerance, fine tremors, anxiety to more serious arrhythmias and heart failure may occur. Note 12
  5. Patients with gastric ulcer should not use it (may irritate the gastrointestinal mucosa)
  6. Don’t use it two weeks before surgery (may have the effect of slowing down the central nervous system, which will interfere with anesthesia and drug efficacy)
  7. Do not use in combination with sedatives, hypnotics or immunosuppressants (may interfere with or enhance drug effects)
  8. Please avoid using it in patients who have received organ transplants . There have been cases of acute rejection of male kidney transplant recipients who took ashwagandha. Note 13
  9. There have been cases of liver damage caused by taking ashwagandha supplements. The symptoms of nausea, cholestasis, abdominal discomfort, jaundice, itching, and lethargy occurred 2 to 12 weeks after the first intake. Note 14
  10. There have been cases of fixed-drug eruption after taking ashwagandha supplements. Note 15

Where to Buy the Most Recommended Ashwagandha Supplements?

In recent years, food safety problems in various countries have exploded, and what people spend money on is not health, but unscrupulous products. Therefore, European and American products with relatively strict quality control have become popular products

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