Withania Somnifera – Review the Latest Research

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Ashwagandha is an herb that is widely utilized in traditional treatment in India. It originates in Withania somnifera, a tiny evergreen plant native to Asia, Africa, and Europe. It's often referred to as winter cherries dunal, Solanaceae, or Indian Ginseng, even though it's not in the ginseng family.

Ashwagandha is a significant component in Ayurveda, an ancient Indian health system that relies on an integrative or whole-body approach to balance the energies in the body. For over 6,000 years, Ayurvedic practitioners have used Ashwagandha as a treatment with multiple uses to improve longevity and alleviate everything from constipation to stress. It is referred to as a Rasayana, a plant used for tonic purposes that boosts energy levels and encourages youth.

It's also gaining popularity in Western countries, such as the United States, because of the potential benefits for health. It is widely used as an application for topical treatment or as a dietary supplement and comes in many varieties.

The research is still determining whether ashwagandha can help with all illnesses it's utilized to treat. However, an increasing body of research shows many possible physical and mental advantages, including the following.

Reduces Anxiety

In Ayurvedic medical practice, ashwagandha can be known as an adaptogen. It's an elemental substance that may boost immunity and aid the body in coping with stress by reducing cortisol levels. There is some evidence to support this assertion.

Researchers looked over four studies where participants who suffered from anxiety were prescribed up to 125 milligrams (mg) up to 1000 mg of the ashwagandha plant every day for a period of one to two months. In all four research studies, those who consumed the herb reported experiencing less anxiety and stress than those who were given a placebo.

The studies were flawed in their methodology. Some were insignificant (less than 100 people), and the others were susceptible to biased results. This means that the results may not accurately reflect the way ashwagandha impacts the population at large. However, when taken together, these studies suggest that Ashwagandha can help alleviate symptoms of stress and anxiety.

Boosts Cognitive Abilities

Numerous double-blind randomized placebo-controlled studies—considered to be the gold standard in scientific research—suggest that ashwagandha can enhance certain cognitive functions.

In these kinds of studies, one group of participants consumes the active ingredient being studied (in this instance, ashwagandha). Another group is given the placebo, which is a sugar pill with no active ingredients. Researchers and participants know if they are taking the active ingredient or placebo, which can prevent bias in the results.

In one study, subjects with mild cognitive decline who took 600 mg of extracts from ashwagandha daily demonstrated improved general and immediate memory compared to those who received a placebo. A different study revealed that people who suffer from bipolar disorder performed better in tests of social cognition and memory when they took 500 mg of Ashwagandha a day for 8 weeks.

A second study showed similar results for those without cognitive limitations. Following a dose of 400 milligrams of leaf and root extract each day over a period of 30 days, users of ashwagandha had better focus and memory than placebo users. The study only included 13 participants. Therefore, bigger studies are needed to verify the findings.

Enhances Exercise Performance

Researchers looked at 12 studies to determine the impact of ashwagandha on different physical aspects, such as strength and power, as well as cardiorespiratory fitness and factors related to fatigue and recovery. In total, these studies proved an increase in ashwagandha intake between 330 and 1,250 mg of ashwagandha a day could help in:

  • Strengthen your muscles
  • Combat muscle fatigue
  • Reduce muscle soreness

A number of studies suggest that ashwagandha could help increase VO2 max. The term “VO2 max” refers to the most oxygenated level used in intense exercise. The higher the amount of oxygen you generate, the greater the intensity you'll be able to work out without feeling exhausted. Vo2 max is an indicator of fitness for cardiovascular exercise.

These results are encouraging, But further research is required.

Increases Sperm Health and Testosterone Levels

Ashwagandha might play an essential role in the health of reproductive organs. An analysis of studies conducted by researchers looked at the way that consuming ashwagandha for 90 days can affect the quality of sperm. They discovered that the supplement caused a statistically significant rise in the following aspects:

  • Concentration of Sperm: the amount of sperm per milliliter of semen
  • Semen volume: The total amount of fluid released by one Ejaculation
  • Sperm motility: How easily the sperm swims or moves
  • Humoralizing hormones or Hormones trigger the testicles to produce testosterone
  • Levels of testosterone: quantity of testosterone, which is a chemical created through the testes in the blood sample

Additionally, more extensive, well-designed studies are required to validate these conclusions.

Improves Sleep Quality

Based on a few small studies, consuming ashwagandha could aid in sleeping more comfortably. One study found that 29 patients who suffered from insomnia took 300 mg of Ashwagandha twice a day. When compared to 19 individuals who received a placebo, the test group:

  • I fell asleep earlier.
  • More time to sleep while in the bed
  • Had better sleep quality

Another study showed that people suffering from anxiety who consumed either 300 or 600 milligrams of Ashwagandha a day had better sleep than those of the control group, after four weeks as well as eight weeks.

Reduces Blood Sugar Levels

The meta-analysis, which included 24 research studies, suggests Ashwagandha might play a role in managing diabetes. According to the study consuming the herb may lower the:

  • Blood sugar is your blood's primary sugar, also called glucose. It is derived from the foods you eat
  • Insulin is a hormone the pancreas makes which regulates blood sugar levels.
  • Lipids: Fat-based compounds that are essential to various bodily functions
  • Oxidative stress markers: A sign that your body's system has inadequate antioxidants to shield it from free radicals that are unstable and dangerous.
  • Glycosylated hemoglobin: Your mean blood sugar (blood sugar) levels over the past two to three month

This is a good indication that ashwagandha may be a factor in the management of diabetes, however larger-scale, long-term studies are required.

Improves Arthritis Symptoms

A small study has shown that ashwagandha could help alleviate the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. Participants in the study reported feeling better after taking 10 grams (g) of ashwagandha powder each day for three weeks. Then, they took 100 mg of a different Ayurvedic medicine called Sidh Makardhwaj every day over the course of four weeks. Sidh Makardhwaj can be described as a mercury-based medicine used to fight rheumatoid arthritis and neurological disorders.

While this is a good result, further research is required to comprehend how ashwagandha can impact arthritis fully.

How To Take Ashwagandha

Traditional healers utilize the entire plant to treat illnesses, but most commercial products have roots or a root-and-leaf combination. This is because these parts (and stems) are a source of the plant's primary active ingredient, called withanolides. They are naturally occurring steroids proven as having healing qualities in diseases of the brain, such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases.

Commercial ashwagandha comes in various forms, including capsules, tea, and creams for moisturizing the skin. Ashwagandha powder is another popular variant, which can be blended with sweet liquids to counter the bitter taste.

There is no definitive advice on the most optimal time to consume Ashwagandha, when you should consume it with an empty stomach, or how long it will take to see results. Researchers generally observe results after 4-12 weeks of consumption.

Dosage

There aren't any official dosage guidelines for Ashwagandha, however the majority of study participants take between 300 and 1,000 mg per day for up to three months.10 More dosages could be beneficial for athletes who are undergoing the most intense exercise regimen.

If you are using an over-the-counter item, follow the directions and look for the ashwagandha root extract in the product's label. Healthcare professionals can provide recommendations for dosage depending on your specific conditions.

Is Ashwagandha Safe?

Research has shown that most people can safely consume Ashwagandha orally for up to three months. However, there is no evidence-based information regarding the effectiveness of topical treatments or the effects that oral supplementation can have over time.

Specific Ayurvedic treatments could contain mercury, lead or arsenic, in dangerous amounts.18 Yet, the laboratory test showed no dangerous levels of those compounds in an ashwagandha extract.

Certain groups should not take Ashwagandha. These include:

  • Pregnant women: Ashwagandha may cause a miscarriage.
  • Women who breastfeed are not getting enough information to understand what the effects of the herb are on nursing mothers or babies.
  • Patients who have surgery: Since ashwagandha can affect the nervous system, Anesthesia could enhance this effect.
  • Thyroid patients: This herb may raise the thyroid level.

Ashwagandha may also trigger symptoms of autoimmune disease. In the study of patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis mentioned above, the patients did not notice any worsening of symptoms following the use of the herb.

Potential Drug Interactions

Ashwagandha could interact with different kinds of drugs, such as:

  • Antidiabetes medication: Because ashwagandha may decrease blood sugar levels, using the herb along with diabetes medicines could cause blood sugar levels to fall to levels that are not enough.
  • High blood pressure medication: Ashwagandha might lower blood pressure, which could cause it to drop too much when combined with other antihypertensive (blood pressure lower) medication.
  • Immunosuppressants Ashwagandha can boost immune system activity, which may reduce the effectiveness of medications that decrease the immune system.
  • Sedatives: Ashwagandha can cause sleepiness and slow breathing, so using it with sedatives can enhance these effects.
  • Thyroid hormone: Since ashwagandha could increase the hormone production in the body, thyroid hormones, supplementing it with thyroid hormone pills could lead to an increase in thyroid hormones.

What To Look For

The FDA doesn't regulate oral products, and it's difficult to assess the quality of certain supplements. However, a number of independent certification organizations evaluate supplements for their security and ensure that they're supplying the information listed on the labels. Check for a label of the U.S. Pharmacopeia, ConsumerLab, NSF International, or US Pharmacopeial Convention (USP).

Most ashwagandha products are both cultivars and wild plants in India; however, the plant can thrive in any dry, warm climate. There is no evidence that the source of the plant is essential for its efficacy as both wild and cultivated ashwagandha are safe to eat and use to treat your skin.

Can You Take Too Much Ashwagandha?

Like most supplements, you shouldn't take in excessive quantities of Ashwagandha. Ingestion of large dosages of ashwagandha oral supplements could cause digestive issues, for example:

  • Stomach pains
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting

In a study, those who took 1,200 mg of Ashwagandha daily for six weeks complained of constipation as an adverse consequence more often than those who consumed more than 900 mg of the herb every day. But, both groups also consumed different amounts of other supplements at the same time, and it's not clear if the higher dosage of ashwagandha or a different supplement caused constipation.

Ashwagandha Side Effects

Most people who consume ashwagandha will not experience any adverse negative effects. Certain people might have mild reactions, such as:

  • Indigestion
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Itchy itchy rash
  • A lack of appetite

While it is not common, the use of ashwagandha supplements can cause liver problems that can manifest as itchy skin or jaundice.

A Quick Review

Ashwagandha is an herb that has been used for many years as a traditional remedy, mostly in India. It's also extensively used throughout the globe in various forms, such as capsules, powders, and topical creams.

Some people may use ashwagandha as a treatment that can cure many ailments. However, modern research is still looking into its effectiveness in treating various conditions. A few studies suggest it can help reduce anxiety, increase cognitive functions, enhance strength, and enhance sleep quality.

Although ashwagandha is generally safe for short-term use, its long-term effects are unknown. Always consult a medical practitioner before ingesting it or applying it topically to your skin.

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