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Have you ever been told you should be taking a specific supplement but have no idea why?
Guess what — you’re not alone.
Choosing what supplements to include in your regime can be challenging and frustrating based solely off the number of herbal concoctions available, never mind what brands and dosage. At first glance, ashwagandha probably looks like nothing more than a jumble of letters put together, but if you’ve never heard about it before, we’re going to help you understand why you should be taking it.
If stress, anxiety, low hormones, or decreased immunity are all concerns you struggle with, ashwagandha may be your go-to herb.
It’s that powerful.
As an adaptogen, it has the potential to help with more than just those, too.
Supplement success is also another issue. If you’ve tried several other supplements to combat your issues and had no success, ashwagandha might just change your outcome. Below, we’ve outlined 9 of the best uses for the herb and how you can get started with it.
Side bar: One simple health habit you can build is to drink this superfood green drink, which gives you a boost of energy and supplies your body with the nutrients it needs to get through the day. (You can also read the review of it here.)
What You Will Learn
- But first, what is ashwagandha?
- What is an adaptogenic herb?
- Why should you include ashwagandha in your diet?
- 1. Protective against certain types of cancers
- 2. Antioxidant and neuroprotective effect
- 3. Anti-stress and adaptogenic actions
- 4. Helps reduce signs and symptoms associated with aging
- 5. Beneficial for anxiety
- 6. May increase muscle mass and strength
- 7. May help brain function and memory
- 8. Boost immune function and help to reduce inflammation
- 9. Boost testosterone and increase fertility
- So powdered or pill, the health benefits are all the same. Where do you start?
- Wrapping it up
But first, what is ashwagandha?
Ashwagandha, pronounced exactly how it’s spelled (ash-wa-gand-ha), is an ancient adaptogenic herb that has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years. Its increasing popularity among other cultures and medicinal practices is due to the vast array of benefits it has on health, as well as both its increased safety and efficacy compared to traditional Western medical treatments.
While not the most palatable of tastes, ashwagandha has a number of powerful health benefits that make consuming it well worthwhile. If taking it directly as a powder doesn’t appeal to you, there are plenty of herbal blends that contain ashwagandha, as well as nutritional powders.
Organifi Green Juice is a drink that is loaded with 11 superfoods to increase energy and mental clarity, reduce stress, improve overall health, detoxify the body, rejuvenate the skin, and boost immunity. Not only does it contain ashwagandha, but 10 other superfoods to provide your body with everything it needs to function at its peak.
Studies have shown the herb to be beneficial for the central nervous system, endocrine system, and cardiovascular system. The main constituent of the herb, Withaferin A, is a steroidal lactone that has been implicated to have a wide range of therapeutic benefits including: immunomodulation, anti-cancer, anti-epileptic, memory enhancer, mood booster, diuretic, stress reliever, anti-aging, antioxidant, promotes good mental and physical health, as well as a potent adaptogen.
What is an adaptogenic herb?
If you’ve heard anything about this herb, it’s likely been centred around its adaptogenic property. Adaptogens are a group of herbs that help the body deal with stress. In times of increased stress (physical, mental, or emotional), adaptogens help to normalize physiological processes of the body and help with proper adaptation.
If you haven’t considered it before, ashwagandha is a great supplement to add into your daily routine. Specifically for men, it boasts some powerful properties that can help to maintain proper body function as aging comes into the picture.
Why should you include ashwagandha in your diet?
Here are 9 reasons why you may want to consider including ashwagandha as a regular supplement in your diet:
1. Protective against certain types of cancers
Many studies have been conducted on the role of ashwagandha in cancer treatment and its potential use in chemotherapy. Due to its effect on inhibiting tumour growth, studies have concluded that the herb may be able to be used as a synergizer to support conventional cancer treatments. The roots of the plant have been found to hinder cellular growth and attachment. Ashwagandha has also been found to reduce tumour cell proliferation and may mitigate any undesirable side effects.
2. Antioxidant and neuroprotective effect
The prevalence of neurodegenerative disorders are steadily increasing within society. Studies have recently shown that ashwagandha may be used as a neuroregenerative agent to treat diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s, as it has the ability to significantly reverse neuritic atrophy and synaptic loss. It’s GABA-mimicking effect also promotes the formation of new dendrites.
Since many of these diseases are characterized by marked oxidative damage to brain and nervous tissue, adequate levels of free-radical scavengers must be present to combat them. Compounds within Withania somnifera (WS) have been shown to be powerful antioxidants, increasing amounts of three natural antioxidant enzymes: superoxide dismutase, catalase, and glutathione peroxidase. Its antioxidant activity is linked to its ability to protect nerve cells from harmful free radicals and therefore oxidative damage.
The active components of ashwagandha, sitoindosides VII-X and withaferin A, have also been tested for antioxidant activity using the major free-radical scavenging enzymes: superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase (CAT), and glutathione peroxidase (GPX). When these enzymes are decreased, it results in toxic accumulation of free radicals and degenerative effects. However, when ashwagandha is supplemented daily, increased levels of enzymes were observed, demonstrating that WS may have an antioxidant effect in the brain.
3. Anti-stress and adaptogenic actions
Stress is something we all experience, but how our bodies handle stress differs from person to person. While your body may be capable of dealing with acute stress, it doesn’t deal well with chronic stress, which causes rapid depletion of vitamins and minerals when under these circumstances. That said, one of the main functions of ashwagandha, and the most well studied, is as an anti-stress herb and adaptogen — a substance that helps the body adapt to any sort of stresses placed on it.
Serum cortisol levels are a good marker of stress levels. When we undergo stress, physically or mentally, heart rate and blood pressure increase, which stimulates gluconeogenesis, glycogenolysis, lipolysis and hepatic glucose secretion. These, in turn, cause an increase in catecholamines and cortisol levels in the body. Stress also causes an increase in ACTH secretion, which in turn increases cortisol levels further. Results of several studies indicate that ashwagandha root extract helps to reduce levels of serum cortisol, which are elevated during stressful conditions.
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4. Helps reduce signs and symptoms associated with aging
While it’s great to think that an herb can help halt the process of aging, that’s just not realistic to say. But as it turns out, there is research showing ashwagandha has properties that may help to lessen the symptoms and progression of specific health problems associated with aging.
This includes increasing the production of melanin in hair cells, which decreases the rate at which they turn grey; improve scalp circulation and strengthen hair follicles to prevent hair loss; and it can even help to reduce dry skin on the scalp and get rid of dandruff.
Additionally, clinical trials conducted with ashwagandha have demonstrated significant improvements in hemoglobin, red blood cell count, hair melanin, and improved in sexual performance after taking 3g daily for one year.
5. Beneficial for anxiety
Anxiety is a disorder that many people struggle with, ranging from very mild to very severe. Usually treated with prescription drugs, it need not be. Ashwagandha has been shown to have a powerful effect, similar to anti-anxiety medications, on reducing symptoms and attacks by helping to balance the hormones that contribute to anxiety — it suppresses the stimulatory hormones, namely cortisol.
In a study conducted on the anti-anxiety effects of ashwagandha versus a placebo, results demonstrated that the group taking root extract experienced a significant reduction in anxiety scores and increase in resilience to stress in a period of two months compared to the placebo group. Most notably, serum cortisol levels were reduced substantially.
Ashwagandha has also been shown to be superior for mood stabilization in patients with behavioural disturbances when compared with the leading anti-depressant and anti-anxiety drugs. Many of the anti-anxiety effects of ashwagandha are attributed to its GABA-like activity, inhibiting the neurotransmitter; it decreases neuron activity and inhibits nerve cells from firing, which exhibits a calming effect on the body.
6. May increase muscle mass and strength
Ashwagandha may also be beneficial for improving body composition and strength. In a study conducted on the effects of Withania somnifera on exercise performance, results showed that it increased velocity, power, and VO2 max, as well as lowering resting systolic blood pressure. It was concluded that supplementation may be beneficial for improving generalized muscle weakness and for improving lower limb muscular strength and neuromuscular coordination.
Another study showed that when used in conjunction with a resistance training program, supplementing with ashwagandha may help to improve muscle mass and strength. When compared with a placebo group, subjects taking supplementation showed greater increase in strength on a bench press and leg extension, as well as great muscle size increase in the arms and chest. Additionally, exercise-induced muscle damaged was also reduced in test subjects compared to the placebo controlled group.
While supplementing solely with ashwagandha may not make you ‘ripped,’ it may help to increase performance levels.
7. May help brain function and memory
Ashwagandha has long been used to help improve memory, but it has recently been the focus of studies looking at how it can help improve overall cognitive function. It has been found to enhance the regeneration of neurons and reconstruction of synapses, therefore acting to boost brain function and enhance memory.
In a study conducted on the effects of ashwagandha on cognitive performance and memory, results showed that the treatment group supplemented with the herb demonstrated significantly greater improvements in executive functioning, sustained attention, and speed of information processing.
8. Boost immune function and help to reduce inflammation
Inflammation is one of the leading underlying factors present in many chronic diseases and studies have shown ashwagandha constituents to be beneficial for reducing inflammation levels. The active compound in ashwagandha, the withanolides, have both analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties due to COX-2 inhibition properties, an enzyme that acts to speed up the production of prostaglandins, which are pro-inflammatory chemicals. Therefore, when the COX-2 enzyme is blocked, inflammation levels decrease.
Ashwagandha has also been shown to enhance nitric oxide production of macrophages, the molecules that aid in immune response, which in turn increases microbial killing power of these immune cells. In doing so, the cell mediated immune response is enhanced. This herb has also been shown to have immunosuppressive effects, helping to inhibit delayed hypersensitivity (allergic reactions).
Studies have also shown compounds present in the plant to have antimicrobial and antibacterial properties, being effective against several strains of bacteria and microbes. It can also help to strengthen immunity against common colds, flus, and other common infections.
9. Boost testosterone and increase fertility
As men age, hormone levels, mainly testosterone, start to decrease. But studies have shown that ashwagandha has a powerful effect on boosting testosterone levels and increasing fertility in men.
In a study that looked at how stress impacts male fertility, they discovered that stress, whether physical or psychological, has a definite role in male fertility. Results showed that by supplementing ashwagandha root powder daily for a period of 12 weeks, there was a significant decrease in stress levels, improved number of antioxidants, and improved overall semen quality.
Another study conducted on the effects of ashwagandha on infertile men found that, comparing pre- and post-treatment, it can recover the quality of semen in infertile men. The findings reveal that WS reboots enzymatic activity of metabolic pathways and energy metabolism, as well as invigorates the balance of seminal plasma metabolites and reproductive hormones, suggesting it as a possible therapy for male infertility.
Supplementing regularly with ashwagandha can also improve sperm count and motility, recover seminal plasma levels of antioxidant enzymes, vitamin A, C, and E. This specific study also concluded that ashwagandha supplementation can help to reduce oxidative stress that is associated with infertility and improve markers of semen quality (T, LH, FASH, PRL).
As you can see, there are quite a few reasons why including ashwagandha into your supplement regime is a good idea. But more often than not, powders aren’t the most palatable of all choices. Need not worry, there are a few options available to include it in your diet.
So powdered or pill, the health benefits are all the same. Where do you start?
When it comes to choosing the right supplement source for you, it’s very individual. Ashwagandha is said to have a very strong “horse-like” taste and is therefore not appealing to everyone in its powdered form.
Pills or capsules
Capsules are probably the best choice for supplements when you’d prefer not to taste the herb itself. Depending on the brand you choose, the dosage in which you receive will differ. It’s important, however, that you look for a supplement that contains minimal ingredients, as you don’t want to be ingesting preservatives and fillers. If you can find 100% pure ashwagandha capsules, that will be your best bet.
As mentioned, ashwagandha doesn’t have the most appeal in powdered form — it has a rather strong taste and odour, and can tend to be overpowering. If you can stand the taste, powder is a great option. Not only is it a pure product, but it is also quite versatile. You can take it straight up by mixing it with warm water, add it to smoothies (where you can also mask some of the taste), or throw it into a baking concoction. The options aren’t limited.
Component in a superfood blend (Organifi Greens)
Another great option to include Ashwagandha in your diet is getting in the form of a superfood drink blend. Not only will you be getting the benefits of the herb itself, but you’ll also be getting all the benefits of whatever else is in the mix.
Organifi Green Juice is a great product that contains 11 superfoods blended together to support optimal health. Produced from the highest quality ingredients, it’s not only tastes great, but supports every aspect of the body from hydration and mental clarity, to hormone balancing and detoxification.
Besides ashwagandha, here’s what else you’re getting:
Wrapping it up
From fighting stress and aging to boosting testosterone and strength, the benefits of ashwagandha are endless for men. While there are many alternatives that can be taken to address each issue on its own, everything listed above comes from a single herb — no additives, fillers, preservatives, or chemicals; simply an herb in its natural form with the ability to work wonders.