Alternative Medicine

Ashwagandha

Written by
Dr. Divya Banu M
and medically reviewed by Dr. Alka

Published on Jul 22, 2019   -  4 min read

Abstract

Abstract

Ashwagandha, also called Indian ginseng or winter cherry, has been found to have many health benefits. Read the article to know more.

Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is a popular plant used extensively in traditional system of medicine to manage or treat various problems. It is used as an adaptogen because it helps in managing stress.

Ashwagandha is a Sanskrit word meaning the smell of the horse that ultimately points toward its unique smell and the ability to increase your strength as a stallion. Its botanical name is Withania somnifera. It has many other names out of which the common ones are Indian ginseng and Winter cherry.

It is a small plant containing yellow flowers and is native to India and North Africa. It has high concentrations of withanolides that can fight against inflammation and growth of a tumor. Its root and berry are mainly used to make the Ayurvedic preparations. Though it is used to manage a number of problems in traditional system of medicine, its scientific efficacy is not yet proven in humans. However many clinical trials have proved its role in various problems.

What Are the Benefits of It?

1. It is one of the oldest herbs having medicinal properties.

It is used in Indian Ayurvedic medicine. Its use is known for more than 3,000 years in relieving stress, increasing energy and improving concentration.

2. Reduction of blood sugar levels.

Some studies have shown that it can reduce blood sugar levels. It acts by showing its effects on the secretion of insulin and insulin sensitivity.

3. Anti-cancer properties.

It has been shown in some clinical trials that it helps in stopping the growth of new cancer cells in many ways. It is believed that ashwagandha generates reactive oxygen species that are toxic to the cancer cells but do not affect the normal cells.

Secondly, it can also be known to cause cancer cells to become less resistant to the apoptosis process.

4. Reduces cortisol levels.

As we all know, cortisol is called the stress hormone as the adrenal glands release it in situations of stress and also when the blood sugar levels become low. But, in some cases, cortisol levels may become raised for long durations and in such conditions or problems, Ashwagandha can be helpful to play an effective role in reducing it.

5. Can help to reduce stress and anxiety levels.

It is seen in both animal and human studies that ashwagandha can reduce both stress and anxiety.

6. It can be used to reduce the symptoms of depression.

Though there are not enough studies to prove it, it is suggested that it can reduce depression.

7. It can increase fertility in men.

Ashwagandha supplements are believed to have positive powerful effects on testosterone levels and the men's reproductive health by increasing the sperm quality and thus, improving fertility in men.

8. Increases muscle mass and strength.

Studies show that ashwagandha can increase muscle mass and strength and reduces body fat.

9. Reduction of inflammation.

Some clinical studies showed that it increases the natural killer cell activity and also decreases the markers of inflammation.

10. Lowering cholesterol and triglycerides.

Ashwagandha is known to reduce the risk of heart diseases by decreasing the cholesterol quantity and also, triglyceride levels.

11. Improving brain function and memory.

Studies show that ashwagandha supplements can improve the functioning of the brain, memory, your reaction timings and also, your ability to perform various tasks.

12. Its safety and availability.

Since it is herbal medicine, it is safe and also, easily available. But, it is advisable to consult your physician before consuming it as some people can show negative effects too.

13. Arthritis.

Some studies showed that Ashwagandha can slow down or prevent the loss of brain functioning in patients with Alzheimer's disease, Huntington's disease, and Parkinson's disease.

However, only a limited number of clinical trials have been done and more elaborate studies are still required. So always take it after consulting your Ayurveda physician.

14. Treatment of Alzheimer's disease.

Studies show that ashwagandha can slow down or prevent the loss of brain functioning in patients with Alzheimer's disease, Huntington's disease, and Parkinson's disease.

What Are the Side-Effects of It?

It is seen that ashwagandha is tolerated well in minimum to moderate doses. Since there are not enough studies to show the side-effects, it is safer to avoid taking it during pregnancy as it may cause early delivery.

So it is always advisable to consult your physician before consuming it and explain your complete medical history to your doctor.

How Is It Consumed?

The dosage, as well as the form of taking it, depends on the condition you aim to treat. There is no standard dose put forward by any modern clinical trials. It can vary from one person to another.

It is available in powder form, liquid extract, and capsule form. Your physician can advise you after your clinical examination how much dose you need to take.

Some Safety Concerns

It is mostly safe if taken via the mouth in the short-term. Long-term safety is not known. Also, the safety with its topical application is not known. Large doses might cause nausea, vomiting, upset stomach and diarrhea.

As mentioned earlier, it is better not to take it during pregnancy, breastfeeding, diabetes, high or low blood pressure, ulcers in the stomach or any autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis, SLE, etc., before going for any surgery, thyroid disorders, etc. Kindly consult your physician before consuming it.

Interactions with Medications

Ashwagandha can interact with diabetic, pressure, immunosuppressant medications. Hence, be precautious if you are taking these medications and want to take Ashwagandha also. It is mandatory to get consent from your doctor before taking it.

As we know that Ashwagandha has many beneficial effects but also has some precautions and side-effects. Hence, getting complete details about it and obtaining your doctor's consent is important before consuming it and this can be done with the help of medical platforms at the ease of your home.

Last reviewed at:
22 Jul 2019  -  4 min read

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Related Questions & Answers


Do I have to stop taking ashwagandha before a surgery?Will it interact with anesthesia?

Query: Hello doctor, I am scheduled for sinus surgery day after tomorrow. I have been given a list of medications which should not be taken and I have followed that. However, I have been taking ashwagandha (herb supplement 470 mg once a day) to help with anxiety. I read online that this may interfere with ...  Read Full »


Dr. Vivek Chail
General Practitioner

Answer: Hi, Welcome to icliniq.com. I have read through your query in detail. Please find my observations below. 1. Ashwagandha or Indian ginseng is a well known ayurvedic herbal medicine. 2. The following constitute its important effects on the human body: It causes increase in energy levels. It m...  Read Full »

How can I overcome the warming effects of Ashwagandha?

Query: Hello doctor, I am a 38 year old male. I started taking Ashwagandha 500 mg per day, a few months ago, and it improved my memory, attention, etc. But after a month, I began to have night sweats, agitation, weird sensations in the neck area and protruding eyes. I have read that Ashwagandha is excess ...  Read Full »


Dr. Rahul Rathee
General Medicine Physician

Answer: Hello, Welcome to icliniq.com. I can understand your concern. I have carefully read all the details provided by you and here is the solution. Never take Ashwagandha with ghee. Take it with cold milk, without sugar. Take Ashwagandha only three days a week, taking it continuously in high doses for too...  Read Full »

I am on Effexor and Trazodone for depression and anxiety. Is Ashwagandha safe for me?

Query: Hello doctor, I am on Effexor 187 mg and Trazodone 50 mg at night for depression and anxiety. My depression and anxiety have been worse, and I did not want to keep going up on with more medicines. So I tried Ashwagandha 600 mg in the morning and have seen a great deal of help in my mood and anxiety...  Read Full »


Dr. Arul Amuthan
Pharmacologist

Answer: Hello, Welcome to icliniq.com. Effexor (Venlafaxine) and Trazodone are good drugs for depression and anxiety but will have some side effects. You may take Ashwagandha 600 mg (morning and night), Centella Asiatica (morning and night) as a supportive therapy. There must be one hour gap between modern ...  Read Full »

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