Withania somnifera, better known as ashwagandha or “Indian ginseng,” has been a staple of Ayurvedic medicine for over 3000 years. The herb has a wide range of activity that promotes physical and mental health, body rejuvenation, and longevity. It is known to inhibit anxiety and improve energy. In certain cases, ashwagandha may also promote healthy fertility.[1, 2]
Ashwagandha for Energy
Long distance cycling is an endurance sport that requires aerobic fitness and energy. Many products have been developed to provide energy in a quick, easy form: gel packets, energy chews, sports drinks, and more. Generally, these products just provide extra calories, which are necessary if you’re expending energy but don't actually support physical ability. In 2012, the Faculty of Sports Medicine and Physiotherapy at India’s Guru Nanak Dev University conducted an eight-week study in which forty elite cyclists supplemented with ashwagandha. By the study’s conclusion, significant enhancements in both cardiovascular and respiratory endurance were reported.
Perhaps even more importantly, research out of Malaysia found that when ashwagandha root extract was regularly administered to persons receiving chemotherapy, it had potential to relieve fatigue and improve their quality of life.
Cognitive Benefits of Ashwagandha
In Ayurvedic medicine, one of the primary uses of ashwagandha root extract is to enhance memory and improve brain function. One of the mechanisms responsible for this effect is ashwagandha’s antioxidant action. Since oxidative stress contributes to neurodegenerative disorders, lessening oxidative damage may offer neuroprotection.
Multiple studies have been performed to evaluate the neuroprotective properties of ashwagandha root extract on rats and found that it may prevent some instances of memory impairment and oxidative stress on the brain.[5, 6]
Ashwagandha to Relieve Stress
Stress affects both mind and body and can be a strain that leads to underperformance. Most people will also testify that stress affects their quality of life. Ashwagandha has been documented in Ayurvedic and Greek medicine for its stress-combating properties.
The Department of Neuropsychiatry and Geriatric Psychiatry at India’s Asha Hospital orchestrated a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study involving sixty-four subjects with a history of chronic stress. After separating the participants into control and study groups, the study group began supplementing with high-concentration, full-spectrum ashwagandha root extract. After two months, the study group reported significant improvements in all stress measurements and quality of life; all without serious side effects.
Stress and Male Fertility
Additionally, stress is known to be a contributing factor for male infertility. Along with Tribulus terrestris, Ashwagandha is prized for its stimulating effects on fertility.
The Department of Biochemistry at C.S.M. Medical University conducted a study involving sixty infertile men who, however, did have normal sperm production. Participants were given five grams of ashwagandha root powder every day for three months. At the study’s conclusion, stress reductions and improvements in semen quality were observed and 14% of the participants’ partners ended up becoming pregnant.
Supplementing with Ashwagandha
Ginseng Fuzion™ is my formula for boosting energy and promoting a positive response to stress. It offers a blend of the six best herbal adaptogens, including ashwagandha, and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Be aware that ashwagandha may cause drowsiness; if you’re taking any medications that could interact with that effect, it’s best to consult your healthcare provider before starting any new nutritional supplement programs — which, unfortunately, many conventional practitioners disregard. Will we see the day when the medical establishment accepts and promotes ashwagandha root? Time will tell.
- Kulkarni SK, Dhir A. Withania somnifera: an Indian ginseng. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2008 Jul 1;32(5):1093-105. Epub 2007 Sep 21. Review.
- Singh N, Bhalla M, de Jager P, Gilca M. An overview on ashwagandha: a Rasayana (rejuvenator) of Ayurveda. Afr J Tradit Complement Altern Med. 2011;8(5 Suppl):208-13. doi: 10.4314/ajtcam.v8i5S.9. Epub 2011 Jul 3. Review.
- Shenoy S, Chaskar U, Sandhu JS, Paadhi MM. Effects of eight-week supplementation of Ashwagandha on cardiorespiratory endurance in elite Indian cyclists. J Ayurveda Integr Med. 2012 Oct;3(4):209-14. doi: 10.4103/0975-9476.104444.
- Biswal BM, Sulaiman SA, Ismail HC, Zakaria H, Musa KI. Effect of Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha) on the Development of Chemotherapy-Induced Fatigue and Quality of Life in Breast Cancer Patients. Integr Cancer Ther. 2012 Nov 9.
- Baitharu I, Jain V, Deep SN, Hota KB, Hota SK, Prasad D, Ilavazhagan G. Withania somnifera root extract ameliorates hypobaric hypoxia induced memory impairment in rats. J Ethnopharmacol. 2013 Jan 30;145(2):431-41. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2012.10.063. Epub 2012 Dec 2.
- Prakash J, Yadav SK, Chouhan S, Singh SP. Neuroprotective Role of Withania somnifera Root Extract in Maneb-Paraquat Induced Mouse Model of Parkinsonism. Neurochem Res. 2013 May;38(5):972-80. doi: 10.1007/s11064-013-1005-4. Epub 2013 Feb 22.
- Chandrasekhar K, Kapoor J, Anishetty S. A prospective, randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study of safety and efficacy of a high-concentration full-spectrum extract of ashwagandha root in reducing stress and anxiety in adults. Indian J Psychol Med. 2012 Jul;34(3):255-62. doi: 10.4103/0253-7176.106022.
- Mahdi AA, Shukla KK, Ahmad MK, Rajender S, Shankhwar SN, Singh V, Dalela D. Withania somnifera Improves Semen Quality in Stress-Related Male Fertility. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2009 Sep 29.
†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.