Does Ashwagandha Help with Weight Loss?

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    Ashwagandha is an ancient herb originating in India. Its benefits may include supporting healthy weight loss.

    You may have heard of the well-known herb, ashwagandha. Ashwagandha has been used for thousands of years in traditional Ayurvedic medicine to promote physical and mental well-being. This article will share how ashwagandha may support your health and weight loss journey.

    Ashwagandha is most recognized as an “adaptogen,” supporting the body in adapting to occasional stress. Aside from its stress-relieving properties, ashwagandha has been used to help with sleep patterns, athletic performance, cognition, and possibly even healthy weight loss.

    It’s important to note that achieving health goals, especially around weight, includes a variety of factors. Proper nutrition, hydration, adequate sleep, and exercise are the foundation of a balanced, healthy lifestyle. There is no magic pill for health or for weight management. Always talk with your doctor about additional resources to support you in your health journey.

    What is Ashwagandha?

    Ashwagandha originated in India, but it can also be found in the Middle East and parts of Africa. It has many names including Withania somnifera or Indian Ginseng. It is a small evergreen plant with yellow flowers. Its roots and flowers can be made into an extract or powder form for supplementation.

    Ashwagandha translates to “smell of the horse” in Sanskirt. This refers to the root’s strong odor and its ability to increase strength and vitality. Ashwagandha has many proposed benefits. In recent years, many have started to suggest that ashwagandha can help with weight loss.

    While ashwagandha has a lot of history, current clinical studies are still small. More extensive research is needed to establish the proposed benefits of this supplement.

    Health benefits of Ashwagandha

    As mentioned, ashwagandha’s most well known benefit is lowering stress levels and enhancing well-being. It may help reduce cortisol levels in the body, which is significant, because cortisol is our body’s natural stress hormone. High cortisol levels over a long period of time can result in healthy stress levels, along with negative consequences for our health.

    Engaging in stress-relieving activities and other forms of self-care is an important part of physical and mental well-being. Ashwagandha can play a part, too, but we’ll get to more on that later.

    The benefits of ashwagandha are many. Ashwagandha may not only relieve occasional stress, but it may also support sexual health.

    In traditional Ayurveda, ashwagandha has been used as an aphrodisiac herb to support sexual function and desire. A 2015 study of 50 women showed that those taking 300 mg of ashwagandha twice daily saw a significant improvement in orgasms, arousal, and satisfaction. This study also suggests a positive impact on men through an increase in testosterone levels.

    Ashwagandha may support men and women in different ways, but appears to improve sexual function for all individuals.

    How can ashwagandha be used for weight loss?

    Weight loss is a dynamic process. There is no quick fix for a weight loss journey. It is important to consider all of the lifestyle factors that may be impacting your health.

    There is a lot of marketing for an “all-in-one solution” to lose weight. Be wary of such advertising – no such solution exists. One single supplement or factor cannot be the magic answer to your long-term health goals.

    At Care/of, we recognize the importance of a balanced lifestyle that encompasses a healthy diet, regular movement, restful sleep, stress management, and more. Give attention to different areas of your life, so all of your buckets are filled.

    Guidance from a health professional, like a registered dietitian, can provide the support needed to lose weight in a healthy, sustainable way. With that being said, supplements may enhance daily lifestyle habits. Let’s take a look at how ashwagandha may be able to complement your health and wellness goals.

    Reduces stress

    Ashwagandha’s ability to reduce occasional stress appears promising.

    This 60-day study showed that participants taking 240 mg of ashwagandha daily had lower morning cortisol levels. Furthermore, findings from this study showed improvements in cortisol levels when taking a high-concentration ashwagandha root in stressed individuals. As mentioned, cortisol is our body’s stress hormone.

    This study also suggests that ashwagandha can provide stress-relieving benefits through its benefit on the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis – our body’s main stress response system.

    Cortisol has been known to increase our “fight or flight” response in the sympathetic nervous system. This fight-or-flight survival mode can increase appetite and the desire to indulge in certain foods. Less mindfulness towards nutrition can affect the balance of our food choices. It may be difficult to prioritize healthful habits when your body is overwhelmed about other areas of your life.

    More studies with a larger, more diverse sample size along with varying dosages will be important to support these findings.

    Improves sleep quality

    We may inherently feel more calm throughout the day when our stress level improves. Clinical trials have shown a potential positive correlation between reduced cortisol levels and sleep patterns. Sleep allows our body to reset, recover, and recharge. It is vital for many functions of the body.

    Cortisol makes us feel alert and awake. It is at its highest when we wake up in the morning and begin our day. Increased levels of cortisol throughout and later on in the day – due to stress – can impact the body’s natural rhythm at night. It may disrupt our ability to relax and fall asleep.

    When we get adequate and restful sleep at night, our hunger hormones stay in check. Poor sleep may result in feeling more hungry and less satisfied at meals. Sleep affects our concentration and focus, thus also potentially resulting in less mindfulness around food.

    Improves energy

    Ashwagandha may promote endurance.

    This study evaluated 50 healthy male and female athletic adults. Those taking ashwagandha root extract showed a greater increase in max VO2 compared to the placebo group.

    VO2 max measures how much oxygen the body uses during physical activity. It is a measurement of how much energy you’re able to supply to your muscles.

    Furthermore, a healthy lifestyle that incorporates stress management and adequate sleep can naturally affect our day-to-day energy levels.

    May improve muscle strength

    A 2015 study found that supplementing with ashwagandha may positively influence muscle strength and recovery.

    In this study, 57 male participants with little experience in strength training were randomized into two groups. The group that took 600 mg of ashwagandha daily experienced a greater increase in muscle strength during bench-press and leg-extension exercises. There was also a significantly greater increase in arm and chest muscle.

    Those supplementing with ashwagandha experienced an easier post-workout muscle recovery, with a greater reduction in exercise-induced muscle damage. This was evaluated based on serum creatine kinase levels. Serum creatine kinase can be a common measurement of muscle damage that is specific to muscle tissue.

    Furthermore, this study discovered significant improvements in average squat and peak bench press power, 7.5 km time trial performance, and perceived recovery score when taking 500 mg of ashwagandha over 12 weeks.

    Does Ashwagandha Cause Weight Gain?

    Ashwagandha has not been shown to lead to weight gain, and perhaps quite the opposite.

    This study saw an improvement in cravings when taking 300 mg of ashwagandha daily. There was a significant reduction in participants’ Food Cravings Questionnaire scores.

    The calming properties found in ashwagandha appear to not only help with stress, but also eating behaviors.

    Since ashwagandha may improve muscle strength, there is a possibility that weight gain could occur in the form of muscle mass. This is correlated to new muscle growth as body composition changes in a positive way.

    Potential Side Effects

    Side effects of ashwagandha are rare and minimal. It is very safe for most people. However, large doses may lead to digestive discomfort. For those who are pregnant, lactating, or actively trying to conceive, ashwagandha is an herb to avoid.

    Further, long-term studies are needed to understand long-term side effects. Be sure to speak with your doctor to avoid any significant side effects.

    The Bottom Line

    Ashwagandha is an ancient herb used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years. It has been utilized for its positive effect on physical and mental well-being and overall health promotion.

    Studies on ashwagandha suggest this herb may help with stress management, sleep patterns, energy levels, and muscle strength. All of these lifestyle factors can have an impact on your health and weight loss journey.

    More extensive studies are needed to confirm these findings.

    Speak with your doctor to find more supportive resources for your health goals. Care/of believes that proper nutrition, hydration, adequate sleep, and exercise are the foundation of a balanced lifestyle. Supplements are seen as a complement to your daily habits.

    Check out our ashwagandha to take a closer look.

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    Dr. Carla Montrond Correia ND, CNS
    Medical Content Manager
    Dr. Montrond-Correia is a licensed naturopathic physician and a certified nutrition specialist (CNS). She holds degrees from University of Bridgeport, Georgetown University, and University of Saint Joseph, and supplemented her education with internships in the health and wellness space. She's focused on research, herbal medicine, nutrigenomics, and integrative and functional medicine. She makes time for exercise, artistic activities, and enjoying delicious food.
    Annie Zappulla, RD
    Freelance Contributor
    Annie Zappulla is a registered dietitian nutritionist and certified integrative health coach. She guides her clients to achieve their health goals through a non-diet approach. Annie helps her clients align their values, interests, and goals to develop a long-term, sustainable lifestyle change. She is the owner of her private practice, A to Z Wellness Solutions, LLC, and conducts in-person and virtual consultations.