Ashwagandha: Benefits And Side Effects – Vigorous Herbs
Ashwagandha is a fairly uncommon plant in Europe and yet it is in our best interest to get to know it better.
Originally from India, this plant is endowed with various health benefits, but also a few side effects that
should be considered. And its benefits have been researched and used for thousands of years. So in order to
help you discover this plant, here is a quick overview of all of its effects, both good and less good.
Ashwagandha: Indian ginseng
Bearing the scientific name of Withania somnifera , ashwagandha is a plant belonging to the nightshade family.
It has its origins in India, where it has many other names, including “Indian ginseng” or “winter cherry”.
The plant is described as a relatively small-sized shrub. It has oval leaves of about ten centimeters.
This plant is particularly appreciated in traditional Indian medicine (Ayurvedic medicine),
because of its multiple effects on health.
So, what makes it so interesting is above all its unusual composition.
This is because ashwagandha contains flavonoids, which are very powerful natural antioxidants.
It also contains phenolic acids (gallic, palmitic, oleic, vanillic, coumaric, linoleic, benzoic, and syringic acids)
as well as fatty acids. On the other hand, this Indian plant also contains alkaloids, catechin, steroidal lactones
(including withaferin A), and kaempferol. Thus, this mixture of active and natural ingredients makes ashwagandha
one of the most powerful plants in the world! And one of the most famous in traditional Indian medicine.
The benefits of ashwagandha
Used for thousands of years in the many remedies of traditional Indian medicine,
ashwagandha is a plant that has gained in reputation over the years. Recently,
it has aroused the interest of Europeans and Americans, in particular because of
its health benefits. But what are the medicinal properties of the plant exactly?
The composition of ashwagandha is rich in nutrients and active ingredients.
Among them are therefore the withanolides as well as the sitoindosides.
These elements are known to promote the production of antioxidant enzymes
within the cerebral cortex itself. Studies on ashwagandha show that the plant
stimulates the production of these beneficial enzymes for the brain.
Their mission in our cerebral cortex is essential: it consists of reducing the
effects of oxidative stress on our brain, and therefore of preserving neurons.
On the other hand, these enzymes also play a preventive role in the face of the appearance
of lesions in the cerebral system. Treatments for neurodegenerative diseases mostly contain
extracts from the plant. In addition, ashwagandha is able to improve the cognitive abilities
of people who consume it as part of regular cures. In traditional Indian medicine,
it is then used to counter muscle and bone loss, but also the degeneration of cells and tissues of the body.
Reduced anxiety and stress
The benefits of ashwagandha are very varied, and many of them relate to our mental state.
Thus, the plant native to India helps reduce the negative effects on stress on the body.
It is an “adaptogenic” plant, just like rhodiola rosea or Asian ginseng. People who
suffer from temporary or chronic stress can therefore resort to ashwagandha for relief.
The plant significantly reduces the feeling of anxiety that oppresses them.
Researchers are comparing the effects of ashwagandha to those of drugs used to treat stress and anxiety problems.
But the calming effects of the plant are far from stopping there. Indeed, by acting on stress and on our well-being,
it also contributes to the improvement of our sleep and our rest. It is quite possible to consume ashwagandha to
fight against sleep disorders, and in particular against insomnia. It is for this reason that it is preferable to
consume this plant in the evening. In addition, Indian ginseng helps our body to reduce and fight against signs of fatigue.
As such, it very often combines a source of vitamin C.
An anti-inflammatory and antioxidant plant
One of the reasons for the use of this plant in Ayurvedic medicine is its anti-inflammatory effect.
Indeed, the plant helps prevent and fight against joint diseases, like rheumatism or arthritis .
In a way, the consumption of this plant helps reduce inflammatory pain. These anti-inflammatory
properties are just as interesting in the context of cardiovascular problems.
Ashwagandha is also world famous for its extraordinary antioxidant properties. By improving the
elimination of free radicals in the body, it helps to counter cell aging, but not only that.
The Indian plant also helps prevent various diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Ashwagandha is considered a natural anti-aging remedy, due to its benefits on cell aging. In some regions,
it even presents itself as a plant of “longevity” and youth!
The effects of the plant on fertility and libido
Ashwagandha is often presented as a natural, and particularly powerful, aphrodisiac. Its adaptogenic
properties are not foreign, since they reduce the effects of stress on the body. These are very often
the cause of sexual disorders or dysfunctions. The clinical studies carried out so far have also made
it possible to demonstrate the anti-stress effect of the plant on patients. But in these cases, the
plant also helped improve their sexual activity. Of course, Indian ginseng should not be consumed
in too large doses. Indeed, in the event of excess, its consumption can have the opposite effect of that
sought, and therefore affect the libido. Finally, the plant also appears to improve the quality and
quality of sperm in men who consume it.
Ashwagandha and sports practice
Ashwagandha is a plant that many athletes use, and which is allowed in competition. Moreover,
it is often considered as one of the best for improving the sports performance of athletes who
mobilize both their explosiveness and their strength. In addition, the plant is also effective,
to a lesser extent, on endurance and long efforts. The effectiveness of the plant is such that
it raises some debates, especially with regard to sports competitions. However, many amateur and
professional athletes are still ignorant of this plant with multiple virtues on health and physical performance.
The effects of ashwagandha on short efforts
Ashwagandha taken as a supplement helps improve the strength of people who consume it. These effects are observed as much
in athletes as in sedentary people. In addition, supplementation helps improve performance in intermittent sprinting,
both for people who train and for those who do not participate in sports on a daily basis. Finally, ashwagandha supplementation
increases testosterone production in people who have low levels of it as well as those who follow strength training programs.
Scientific studies have proven that this herb improves strength and helps increase muscle mass in people who perform muscle
building (or weight training). The results are significant and make it possible to confirm that the use of the plant is
useful and beneficial in a sports setting.
Ashwagandha as a dietary supplement also helps improve balance, power, maximum velocity, and maximum oxygen consumption in athletes.
The same goes for the muscle strength of the back, legs and hands.
Ashwagandha and long-lasting efforts
The effects of ashwagandha on athletic performance primarily concern short and intense efforts.
However, the elements available to us to date also allow us to underline its effectiveness in sports
performance during long-term efforts (aerobic type). Likewise, the plant has a beneficial effect on the
maximum capacity of oxygen consumption: VO2MAX. Regarding this ability, it allows a slight improvement.
In addition, ashwagandha-based supplementation can delay the attainment of exhaustion during long efforts.
In other words, the plant helps improve stamina. As such, it acts on cardiovascular endurance.
Athletes who follow a cure of this plant can thus improve their cardiorespiratory endurance.
An adaptogenic plant
Herbal medicine is now widely used in sports. And this, in order to take advantage of the benefits of plants
on physical performance. Adaptogenic plants are among the favorites in this area, such as Korean ginseng,
rhodiola or even ashwagandha. Adaptogenic plants help the body to adapt to all stressful situations.
In this, they help to improve sports performance and endurance. But not only. They also help to optimize
recovery after intense physical effort. Athletes particularly appreciate the effects of ashwagandha on inflammation.
The other benefits of the plant
The virtues and benefits of ashwagandha on health are still numerous. Indeed, it has not been used for thousands
of years in vain! This plant is for example known to reduce the blood glucose level, in particular in the context
of diabetes. It is also used for its protective effects on the heart, and the prevention of heart disease.
Ashwagandha helps reduce the risk of necrosis in people with heart disease. She is a benefactor of the heart.
It is also very interesting to consume before a sports training as a booster to improve physical performance and concentration.
Ashwagandha: side effects
Ashwagandha is considered a safe herb as long as it is consumed in a reasonable way. In the long term,
its use does not generate any particular health problem or symptoms. However, plants such as ashwagandha
are very potent: their effects should not be underestimated. Especially when the recommended dosages are not
respected. In addition, its consumption is the subject of some contraindications that it is important to remember.
Side effects of ashwagandha
Consuming ashwagandha can, in some cases, lead to symptoms, also known as “side effects”. Relatively safe,
they are still to be taken into consideration. In high doses, this Indian plant can cause various intestinal
disorders: diarrhea, constipation, etc. Always in high doses, ashwagandha generates a hypnotic effect.
It is therefore always necessary to take care to start an ashwagandha cure with reduced doses, and to
increase them over the weeks. It is best to take ashwagandha in the evening: it can have sedating effects
at too high a dose. Finally, it should still be remembered that ashwagandha is very well known to scientists.
At the recommended doses, it does not represent any danger.
Contraindications to its consumption
The presence of alkaloids in the composition of ashwagandha makes it a plant not recommended
for pregnant and breastfeeding women. In India, pregnant and breastfeeding women sometimes use it,
but they always do so in very low doses. When in doubt, it is best to avoid it. On the other hand,
ashwagandha is often not recommended for people with intestinal disorders, hyperthyroidism or hemochromatosis.
Finally, people who are taking antidepressant-based treatment should also seek the advice of their doctor
before starting a cure of ashwagandha or any other plant. If in doubt, follow your doctor’s advice.
Ashwagandha: effective against cancer?
Scientists are still interested in the potential anti-cancer effects of the plants, fruits, vegetables
and other plants they study. Therefore, the effects of ashwagandha on the disease have also been the subject
of clinical studies. During these trials, the researchers discovered the presence of withaferin A in the plant,
as well as its effects. And it seems to block a protein involved in the development of cancer cells.
Consuming ashwagandha (and withaferin) therefore limits the effects of this protein on the cells of our body.
And naturally prevent the development of cancer and other types of diseases.
How to consume ashwagandha?
So, how should you consume ashwagandha to take full advantage of its benefits and avoid the appearance of side effects?
Note that there are different dosages, which depend mainly on the products made from this plant,
but also on people. First of all, it is important to start a cure with reduced doses, and to
increase them over the weeks in the absence of side effects. On the other hand, if symptoms
related to the plant appear, the daily doses should be reduced. And even completely stop its
consumption if they persist. With plants as powerful as ashwagandha, the ideal is always to go gradually.
Tincture, extracts, powder …
There are different products made from ashwagandha. The tincture is consumed in drops, which should be
taken between one and three per day. Here, the ideal dosage is between thirty and sixty drops: start
with the minimum, and increase the dose week after week. When it comes in the form of a powder (infusion, capsules, decoction…),
ashwagandha can be consumed every day. Be careful, here, do not exceed the daily dose of five grams. Two infusions per day are
more than enough. Finally, know that this ashwagandha powder can integrate various culinary preparations: yogurt, cereals,
smoothies, fruit or vegetable juices, compotes, etc.
Ashwagandha is also found in dry, pulverized root or dry, standardized root. In the first case, it is usually tablets (food supplements).
The dosage to be respected is always found on the product packaging. In the second case, the plant is consumed in capsules. Same instructions here.
What you must remember
It is at the recommended doses that the benefits of ashwagandha are really felt.
It is a powerful plant, which you must know how to use and consume sparingly.
Do not hesitate to seek the advice of a health professional or a specialist in herbal
medicine to find the most suitable ashwagandha dosage. And thus, enjoy the benefits of
the plant without feeling side effects!