The What, Why, and How of Ashwagandha

Even if you don’t stay up-to-speed on the latest health trends, you’ve probably heard of what is ashwagandha at some point. It may be enjoying the spotlight right now, but given its many benefits, it’ll probably stick around long after it’s been replaced by the next trendy herbal remedy. After all, it’s unlikely that ashwagandha has any personal pretensions – its name is Sanskrit for “horse smell”. Fortunately, Western consumers haven’t judged this plant by its smell, but by the benefits it offers.

What you should know what is ashwagandha good for

  • Its main benefits lie in the reduction of stress, usually resulting in better sleep, improved energy during the day, etc.
  • Ayurvedic medicine has used ashwagandha for centuries, and the use of this plant has recently made its way around the world to Western countries
  • Cultivated for its roots and leaves, which are where the shrub’s medicinal properties are found
  • It isn’t for everyone, so consult a healthcare professional before adding it to your personal regimen
  • You can buy it online or at health food stores, usually as a powder or in capsules
  • It isn’t suitable for pregnant or nursing women, as it hasn’t been studied enough to know its effects during these stages

Why is ashwagandha suddenly so popular?

There are probably several reasons, including good marketing and a steady supply, but one thing is for sure – Western consumers are interested in the benefits of ashwagandha. Think about it this way: how many adults do you know who wouldn’t say they were frequently anxious, stressed, or sleep-deprived? Whatever your answer was, it’s probably close to zero. People want to sleep better and be less stressed, so if a plant-based remedy shows up at the health food store claiming to do just that, of course they’ll be interested.

There’s plenty of general interest in ashwagandha, but some people like to incorporate it as part of their “biohacking” efforts. Just like they make adjustments to their diets or lifestyles in order to improve their health, some of them also try natural remedies in order to figure out exactly what their bodies need. With ashwagandha, for instance, they might take it regularly as a supplement while tracking cortisol or melatonin levels from one month to the next. Not only will they discover what their baseline hormone levels are, but they’ll find out how their bodies respond to this particular supplement.

How ashwagandha works

Ashwagandha is an adaptogen, meaning it can help boost your body’s defense against stress. It’s credited with a number of benefits, most of which are the result of reducing cortisol levels.

Ashwagandha is usually described as something that can “reduce stress”, but what’s the specific mechanism? Well, ashwagandha is believed to lower cortisol levels by helping the adrenal glands regain balance. If you’re stressed, there’s a good chance that your cortisol is high – after all, it isn’t called “the stress hormone” for nothing.

If life keeps giving you lemons, you might make lemonade, but your adrenal glands will make cortisol. If you never get a chance to unwind, your constantly high cortisol levels will end up keeping you awake when you want to sleep, and tired when you need to be alert. At that point, it’s time for an intervention, and increasing numbers of people are using ashwagandha to try to fix the problem. If this is how it works, then what benefits can you expect to see? The most commonly reported benefits are related to balancing cortisol levels:

  • Better sleep quality/reduction of insomnia
  • Reduction of anxiety/depression
  • Fewer headaches
  • Less irritability
  • Avoidance of weight gain related to elevated cortisol
  • Lower blood sugar

Another much-touted benefit of ashwagandha is the improvement in male sexual health. From improving libido, to boosting testosterone, to actually increasing sperm count, research suggests some pretty exciting benefits for guys who want to take charge of their sexual health.

In addition to the cortisol-related benefits, research has indicated several other areas in which ashwagandha might be used. It’s too early to draw definite conclusions, but the studies that have been completed so far definitely point to promising results that could be found in the future. Areas of interest include:

  • Anti-cancer effects
  • Better energy levels during the day
  • Increased muscle mass
  • Reduced inflammation
  • Sharpened brain function
  • Reduced cholesterol

Drug interactions and side effects

Just like with any remedy, natural or otherwise, it isn’t all good news. Ashwagandha hasn’t been regulated by the FDA, so you won’t find any specific warnings or contraindications on the label. This doesn’t mean it’s 100% safe, though; you should always check with your doctor before adding it to the daily roundup of supplements. They’ll be able to tell you whether or not it’ll interact with something you’re already taking, which is pretty important information to have.

Drug interactions aside, you could potentially have issues with ashwagandha simply because it doesn’t agree with you, although this usually only happens at high doses. The majority of adverse reactions involve either an upset stomach, diarrhea, a headache, or some combination of the three.

How long will it take to notice the results?

Everybody wants a quick fix for their sleep problems and low energy; unfortunately, ashwagandha doesn’t offer that. Most users say that they waited a couple of weeks before seeing results, up to a month in some cases. This might seem like quite a while to take a supplement without noticing a difference; after all, that’s almost long enough for a TikTok trend to suddenly appear and then fizzle out before you can even confirm that it’s working. Even so, many people think that it’s worth the wait.

Plus, you don’t have to consider those weeks wasted time. Use them to start journaling about your daily energy levels or nightly sleep patterns. Get your cortisol tested at the beginning, so you can go back and compare after a month or two of starting supplementation. Who knows? You could end up figuring out a lot more than just your cortisol levels, all because you decided to take ashwagandha.


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