Ashwagandha: The Adaptogen That Helps You Cope with Stress, Boost Athletic Performance, and More

Ashwagandha: The Adaptogen That Helps You Cope with Stress, Boost Athletic Performance, and More

Ashwagandha, also known as Withania somnifera, is a traditional herb used in Ayurvedic medicine for over 3,000 years. It’s classified as an adaptogen, which means it helps the body adapt to stressors and cope with anxiety. Over the years, research has shown that ashwagandha may have several health benefits, including reducing stress and anxiety, enhancing athletic performance, reducing symptoms of mental health conditions, and boosting testosterone and fertility in men.

Reducing Stress and Anxiety
Stress and anxiety can cause negative impacts on your health, including headaches, muscle tension, and difficulty sleeping. Ashwagandha may help control mediators of stress, such as cortisol and heat shock proteins, as well as reducing the activity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. Several studies have shown that ashwagandha supplements may help relieve stress and anxiety. For example, a small study with 58 participants found that those who took 250 or 600 mg of ashwagandha extract for 8 weeks had significantly reduced perceived stress and levels of the stress hormone cortisol compared with those who took a placebo.

Enhancing Athletic Performance
Research has shown that ashwagandha may have beneficial effects on athletic performance and may be a worthwhile supplement for athletes. One analysis of research included 12 studies in men and women who took ashwagandha doses between 120 mg and 1,250 mg per day. The results suggest the herb may enhance physical performance, including strength and oxygen use during exercise. Ashwagandha may also help increase muscle strength. In one study, male participants who took 600 mg of ashwagandha per day and participated in resistance training for 8 weeks had significantly greater gains in muscle strength and size compared with a placebo group.

Reducing Symptoms of Mental Health Conditions
Some evidence suggests that ashwagandha may help reduce symptoms of mental health conditions, including depression, in certain populations. Researchers found that participants who took 1,000 mg of ashwagandha extract daily for 12 weeks had greater reductions in depression and anxiety than those who took a placebo. Additionally, findings from another study suggest that taking ashwagandha may help improve total symptoms and perceived stress in people with schizophrenia. However, more research is needed.

Boosting Testosterone and Increasing Fertility in Men
Ashwagandha supplements have been shown in some studies to benefit male fertility and increase testosterone levels. In one study, the ashwagandha treatment was associated with an 18% greater increase in DHEA-S, a sex hormone involved in testosterone production. Participants who took the herb also had a 14.7% greater increase in testosterone than those who took the placebo. Additionally, a review of four studies found that ashwagandha treatment significantly increased sperm concentration.

Ashwagandha has been used for centuries in traditional medicine, and research suggests that it may have several health benefits. However, more research is needed to determine the appropriate forms and dosages for different conditions. If you’re interested in taking ashwagandha supplements, talk with your healthcare provider to determine if it’s right for you.