The Health Benefits of Ashwagandha
Summer has arrived in the Pacific Northwest and with the higher temperatures more people can be seen running and cycling outside. As the daylight hours increase, we will be more active and will need more energy throughout the summer months.
According to many traditions, ashwagandha (Withania somnifera, Solanaceae family) is a perfect herbal support for the 21st century male who desires more energy, stamina, and vitality for exercise and sexual function.
It has also been used in later disease states where men suffer from extreme fatigue, low libido, infertility, memory loss, insomnia, and overall exhaustion and debility from work and lifestyle. Chronic fatigue, insomnia and male infertility alone are of epidemic proportions.
To truly understand ashwagandha, we need to understand it in the context of Ayurvedic Medicine, where it has been used as an adaptogenic herb for centuries.
Ayurvedic Medicine is an ancient medicine indigenous to India dating back to 1500 BC.
Ayurvedic treatments go to the root of the patient’s physiological and psychological being, specifically their innate constitution. The goal of Ayurveda is to bring people into their own natural harmony, not to cure disease. This goes to the heart of disease and once the individual is brought into balance their disease typically is removed.
The constitution is treated by treating the main Dosha type with herbs and therapies of opposite elements to its qualities. There are three dosas. Kapha is the elements of water and earth; Vata is the elements of air and space; and Pita is fire. This is a simple explanation of a complex and intricate ancient system of medicine, where the individual is treated by herbs, nutrition, massage, exercises and other intricate therapies opposite of its elemental constitution.
In Sanskrit, ashwangandha means that which has the smell of a horse, as it gives the vitality and sexual vigor of a horse. The root of ashwagandha (common botanical name is Indian Ginseng or Winter Cherry) is used in Ayurvedic Herbal Medicine.
Ayurveda considers it the main tonic for men, and calls it a “Rasayana,” meaning a powerful rejuvevantive. It is also used as a strong aphrodisiac, tonic, nervine, sedative and astringent herb.
Ayurvedic practitioners prescribe ashwagandha for men who may suffer from exhaustion, emaciation, memory loss, nerve disease, cough, anemia, general debility, sexual debility, infertility, or insomnia. In ancient Ayurvedic Medicine it is considered a nourishing and regulating herb of the metabolic processes.
It is used in similar ways to ginseng in Chinese medicine. Ashwagandha is a great herb to keep in your medicine cabinet and to take daily to support immune function and stamina.
Ashwagandha and the Research
Recent research has shown ashwagandha is superior to ginseng as an adaptogen, and that in rats it is a cognitive enhancer showing promise as an herbal treatment for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. It is a great immune tonic herb and aids in cases of anxiety and other psychological complaints.
Other research shows its efficacy in lowering total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol and improving muscle strength. In professional athletes, ashwagandha improves hemoglobin and VO2max.
In a research group of cyclists, ashwagandha increased VO2max by 13%, decreased time of exhaustion, and improved energy efficiency and endurance of the cyclists overall.
 It shows much promise as a natural athletic performance aid and as an alternative to anabolic steroids for athletes of all ages.
Furthermore, clinical trials reveal that ashwagandha is a growth promoter with anti-anemic activity in children.
Men aged 50-59, given 3 grams of ashwagandha per day for one year under double-blind trial conditions, showed an increase in hemoglobin, red blood cell count, increased seated stature, less greying of hair, decreased serum cholesterol and inflammatory marker (ESR).
Also, 71% of subjects receiving ashwagandha root reported better sexual performance. Another clinical trial was done where 1 gram per day of ashwagandha was given to trainee mountaineers over 29 days in an uncontrolled trial.
The researchers evaluated the mountain climbers’ psychological and physiological status at various altitudes and concluded ashwagandha improved sleep patterns, alertness, responsiveness and state of awareness together with physical capabilities.
Safety of Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) can be substituted with Withania coagulans. No true contraindications, warnings or precautions exist for ashwagandha. However, high doses can cause gastrointestinal upset, diarrhea, and vomiting. A theoretical allergy can exist in individuals whom are allergic to the Solanaceae family (Nightshade family).
Male Fertility and Ashwagandha
A CDC study analyzed data from the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth and found that 7.5% of all sexually experienced men younger than age 45 reported seeing a fertility doctor during their lifetime—this equals 3.3 to 4.7 million men.
Of men who sought help, 18% were diagnosed with a male-related infertility problem, including sperm or semen problems (14%) and varicocele (6%). According to renowned herbalist KP Khalsa, ashwagandha research trials have demonstrated human sperm protection qualities, improved semen quality, and could reverse infertility.
More research needs to be done to on the male fertility benefits of this plant.
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) root has many benefits for men today. It can help improve athletic performance, sexual function, fertility, energy, and also calm the nervous system for the overworked CEO or small business owner. It has many benefits. Please contact your local herbalist or licensed naturopathic physician before taking ashwagandha or other botanical medicines.
 Frawley, David & Lad, Vasant. The Yoga of Herbs: An Ayurvedic Guide to Herbal Medicine, 2nd Revised and Enlarged Edition. Lotus Press, Twin Lakes, WI. 2008. P. 10.
 Frawley, David & Lad, Vasant. The Yoga of Herbs: An Ayurvedic Guide to Herbal Medicine, 2nd Revised and Enlarged Edition. Lotus Press, Twin Lakes, WI. 2008. P. 160-161.
 KP Khalsa, AHG. Bastyr University Lecture notes. 2010.
 Sodhi, Virender. Athletic Performance Enhancement with Ayurvedic Supplements. http://ayurvedicscience.com/newsletters/athletic-performance-enhancement-with-ayurvedic-supplements/ (April 1, 2015).
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Writer Dr. Sam Madeira completed his doctorate degree in Naturopathic Medicine at Bastyr University in 2012.
His areas of specialty are botanical medicine, men’s health, endocrinology, environmental medicine, and physical medicine with a focus in pain management. He currently specializes in men’s health and bio-identical hormone replacement therapy in Seattle. Dr.
Madeira enjoys helping people find their unique path to health. Form more information, visit his web site at https://apollohealthclinic.com/about-us/.
For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease, or to sell any product.
An Overview on Ashwagandha: A Rasayana (Rejuvenator) of Ayurveda
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7 Everyday Tonics that Help Soothe Stress and Anxiety
- Apple cider vinegar
We’ve all been there — feeling there’s just some pep missing in our step. Thankfully, there’s a natural (and tasty!) solution in your pantry.
We’re big fans of brewing up healthy concoctions, whether it’s immune-boosting mushroom “coffee” or insomnia-fighting bedtime milk.
So instead of reaching for that third cup of coffee for an energy boost or a nightcap to de-stress, we rounded up seven natural tonics filled with everyday ingredients that are known as powerful remedies for fighting fatigue, anxiety, and stress. Think: apple cider vinegar, matcha, ginger, and turmeric to name a few.
Keep reading to discover your new favorite flavorful drink.
Ginger has benefits beyond flavoring your favorite stir-fry recipe or easing an upset stomach. This powerhouse plant contains 14 unique bioactive compounds and antioxidant properties. These compounds have been found to sharpen cognitive function in middle-aged women and may even protect the brain, per a study in rats, against oxidative stress-related damage.
Animal studies have also indicated that ginger can influence serotonin levels and may treat and reduce anxiety as successfully as benzodiazepine drugs.
- improved brain function
- antioxidant support
- treatment for stress
Try it: Brew this healthy ginger tonic (hot or cold) for a dose of powerful antioxidants. Fresh ginger is the way to go, but if you’re planning on supplementing, recommended doses vary.
Possible side effects
Ginger doesn’t have many serious side effects. Just make sure you’re not overdosing (more than 4 grams) as it could irritate your stomach.
Maca root is increasingly popular lately — and for good reason. This native Peruvian plant has been shown to increase sexual desire in men (and possibly sexual function, too). It’s also shown promising results for boosting exercise performance in male cyclists.
This hormone balancer is also a strong supporter against stress. Maca’s plant compounds (called flavonoids) may promote a positive mood and reduce blood pressure and depression (as shown in postmenopausal women).
- increased energy
- balanced mood
- reduced blood pressure and depression
Try it: Simply mix maca powder into your daily smoothie, cup of coffee, or hot cocoa (here’s a tasty recipe!). You can also try this Good Energy Drink featuring the root. To truly see an effect, you may need to drink about 3.3 grams every day for 8 to 14 weeks.
Possible side effects
Maca is generally safe for most people unless you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, or have a thyroid problem.
Sip matcha for a clean, jitter-free buzz. Matcha contains flavonoids and L-theanine, which is historically known for its relaxing effects. L-theanine increases the brain’s alpha frequency band, relaxing the mind without causing drowsiness.
Combined with caffeine, L-theanine may have positive effects on mood and cognition. Considering matcha is also packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and nutrients, it can be a powerful tonic for beating fatigue and boosting your overall health.
- positive effects on mood
- promotes relaxation
- provides sustained energy
Try it: Brew a cup of matcha tea with convenient tea bags or whip up this Magic Matcha Tonic using matcha powder. The caffeine in matcha is fairly strong! You may be able to feel the effects within the hour.
Possible side effects
Just as you can be over-caffeinated on coffee, it’s possible to drink too much matcha. While it may be healthier, stick to just one or two cups a day.
Reishi mushrooms, nicknamed “nature’s Xanax,” are a great natural way to de-stress. This mushroom contains the compound triterpene, which is known for its calming properties. It also possesses anticancer, anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety, and antidepressant qualities.
This magic mushroom may also promote better sleep (as shown in studies on rats), leaving you more rested and focused throughout your day.
- promotes more restful sleep
- has antidepressant and anti-anxiety properties
- possesses powerful calming agents
Try it: Use a spoonful of reishi powder to make a warm, healing tonic or tea.
Possible side effects
While research around the benefits of reishi’s is still lacking, what’s available shows that they may be associated with liver damage.
Other than that, the side effects are minor (such as an upset stomach).
Talk to your doctor if you’re considering supplementing with these mushrooms as people who are pregnant or breastfeeding, those with a blood problem, or anyone needing surgery should avoid it.
Apple cider vinegar has uses beyond that tasty vinaigrette. This vinegar can have a direct impact on your blood sugar levels, helping you maintain even energy and preventing fatigue. Apple cider vinegar also contains essential minerals potassium, which has a direct correlation on our energy levels.
- controls blood sugar
- maintains even energy levels
- may help promote overall health
Try it: Simply mix apple cider vinegar into warm or cold water or try making this Apple Cider Vinegar Tea Tonic. After drinking 1 gram, you may feel the effects within 95 minutes.
Possible side effects
Large doses of apple cider vinegar may cause some side effects, including digestive issues, damaged tooth enamel, and throat burns. It may also interact with your medications, so talk to your doctor if you’re planning to drink it regularly.
Turmeric lattes are all over the internet, but are they backed by science or just trendy? We’re happy to report that turmeric stands up to its popularity — especially in terms of mental health.
Curcumin, the bioactive compound found in turmeric, has been linked to treating anxiety, depression, and more — possibly due to it boosting serotonin and dopamine levels. Research has suggested that it may actually be just as effective as Prozac with far fewer side effects.
- boosts serotonin levels
- can help relieve anxiety and depression
- may be just as effective as antidepressants
Try it: Try this refreshing anti-inflammatory Turmeric Tonic for something a little different. The results may not be immediate, but if you drink it 1000 milligrams daily for six weeks, you may start feeling a difference then.
Possible side effects
For the most part, turmeric is safe to eat. But you may want to avoid too much of it and make sure you’re getting it from a trusted source. High doses of turmeric may cause kidney stones, and untrustworthy sources tend to have fillers.
If you’re not familiar with this adaptogen, it’s a good time to learn. Adaptogens are naturally occuring substances that help our bodies deal with and adapt to stress.
Ashwagandha in particular is a stress-fighting superstar. This adaptogen has been shown to aid in anxiety relief, fight fatigue, and reduce cortisol levels.
- reduces body’s stress hormone
- relieves anxiety
- prevents stress-related fatigue
Try it: Sip this Ashwagandha Tonic to sleep sound and melt stress. It may take drinking two cups a day (with 150 milligrams of ashwagandha) for a month before you feel the effects.
Possible side effects
There aren’t enough studies to say exactly what the side effects of this herb are, but those who are pregnant will want to avoid it, as it can cause early delivery. Another risk of taking ashwagandha is the source. Untrustworthy sources tend to have harmful additives.
As always, check in with your doctor first before adding anything to your everyday routine. While most of these herbs, spices, and teas are safe to consume, drinking too much in a day may be harmful.
So, with all of these amazing stress-fighting tonics to choose from, which one are you most excited to try first?
Tiffany La Forge is a professional chef, recipe developer, and food writer who runs the blog Parsnips and Pastries. Her blog focuses on real food for a balanced life, seasonal recipes, and approachable health advice. When she’s not in the kitchen, Tiffany enjoys yoga, hiking, traveling, organic gardening, and hanging out with her corgi, Cocoa. Visit her at her blog or on Instagram.