The 15 Health Benefits of Ashwagandha: Adaptogenic Hero

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    Ashwagandha has been cultivated and used in ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years, and now grows all over the world.

    Used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine, ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb that has gained attention for its potential to support various aspects of well-being. From reducing stress and to boosting cognitive function, promoting heart health, and enhancing immune function, ashwagandha offers a wide range of potential benefits.

    What is an adaptogen?

    Many agree that for herbs to be considered adaptogenic, they must meet the following criteria originally developed by the scientist N. Lasarev:

    • Be non-toxic to the body
    • Reduce and regulate stress by helping the body adapt to it
    • Restore normal physiological function

    In addition to ashwagandha, other adaptogenic herbs include maca, reishi mushrooms, holy basil, rhodiola, and ginseng, among others.

    What are the health benefits of ashwagandha?

    In Ayurveda, ashwagandha is classified as a “Rasayana,” or tonic: used for whole body rejuvenation. Rasayanas help promote a youthful state of physical and mental health and are said to enhance happiness. Among the Ayurvedic Rasayana herbs, ashwagandha holds the most prominent place. Today, researchers are exploring ashwagandha supplementation more than ever before, investigating new ways this small herb can impact the body.

    1. Ashwagandha for stress

    Nearly everyone experiences stress from time to time. Stress is often tied to everyday mental demands such as work and family responsibilities. According to the Mayo Clinic, common effects of stress can include fatigue, muscle tension, changes in libido, digestive concerns, and problems with naturally falling asleep. While occasional stress is normal, many seek ways to manage and reduce stress levels in their lives.

    Adaptogens are herbs that have been found to help the body adapt and adjust to stress, and stress reduction is still one of ashwagandha’s best known applications.

    Supplementing with ashwagandha may help combat occasional stress. Clinical trials demonstrate the herb’s effectiveness in reducing perceived stress compared to placebo. These same studies demonstrate that ashwagandha can reduce cortisol, or stress hormone levels, and boost resistance against stress.

    2. Ashwagandha for cognitive function

    Daily stressors often can slow us down and lead to a loss of focus and productivity. By helping the body adapt to stress, ashwagandha may enhance cognitive function. Ashwagnadha is also known to have neuroprotective effects, promoting the growth and repair of nerve cells in the brain.

    Memory & focus

    The adaptogenic properties of ashwagandha may help reduce stress, which can help with memory and focus. One study found that ashwagandha use at a daily dose of 600 mg in those with mild cognitive impairment was associated with improvements in memory, focus, and information processing speed. Ashwagandha may be supportive for those experiencing occasional brain fog symptoms.

    In addition to ashwagandha, Care/of’s Focus Blend pack contains vitamin B12, ginseng, and ginkgo, all of which have also been shown to support stronger focus and improve memory performance.

    Executive functioning

    Executive functioning is the collection of higher order cognitive processes that are essential for the cognitive control of behavior and social interaction. Some of these functions include focusing attention, planning, pulling information from working memory, problem solving, and handling multiple tasks.

    One study found that acute supplementation of 400 mg of ashwagandha improved certain measures of executive functioning tasks compared to a placebo.

    Reaction time

    Fatigue is a major barrier to reaction time. Ashwagandha’s benefits of supporting energy are beneficial to support reaction time. The same study on executive functioning listed above showed that acute supplementation of ashwagandha helped maintain reaction times over a duration of time by minimizing mental fatigue and maintaining vigilance.

    According to this study, reaction time may also be improved by exercise. And, per this study, it may also be improved by adequate vitamin B intake.

    3. Ashwagandha for sexual wellness

    Stress can affect many parts of your life, including sexual wellness. Stress can lead to irritability and frustration, which combined can lower your sex drive.

    Ashwagandha has long been used as an aphrodisiac – a substance that enhances sexual excitement – to support sexual wellness for both men and women. Because of its long traditional use, scientists continue to study the adaptogenic herb to get a better understanding of how it can promote a healthy sex life.

    In a 2015 study of women experiencing sexual challenges, ashwagandha was found to improve sexual function. The benefit was wide-ranging, and affected libido, arousal, lubrication, orgasm, and overall satisfaction with sex.

    Men might also benefit from incorporating ashwagandha into their sexual wellness regimen. Recent research has shown initial promise in men taking ashwagandha for enhancing testosterone levels and sperm count and quality. Ashwagandha’s soothing effects on stress are also likely a contributing factor, according to additional research.

    4. Ashwagandha for muscle strength & recovery

    It might surprise you to hear that stress plays an important role in your fitness routine. When you workout, your body responds and adapts to the stress of exercise by repairing and strengthening the body further. This kind of beneficial stress is called hormetic stress, in which the stressor stimulates adaptive benefits in the body, provided that the stress is kept minimal and manageable.

    Resistance training (weight lifting) is a great example of hormetic stress on your muscles, which can result in increased muscle tone and strength. It turns out that ashwagandha may help with occasional fitness-related stress as well—with compelling results.

    In one recent study, healthy men who worked out for 8 weeks while supplementing with 600 mg of ashwagandha extract daily experienced significantly greater increases in muscle strength as evidenced by bench press and leg extension exercises. Even more impressively, those who took ashwagandha also had a significant reduction in exercise-induced muscle damage. Ashwagandha helped propel the participants to gains in strength and better recovery.

    5. Ashwagandha for stamina & endurance

    Beyond weight training, ashwagandha may also support healthy adults in aerobic type exercise as well. In a 2015 study published in The International Quarterly Journal of Research in Ayurveda, healthy athletic adults took an ashwagandha extract for 12 weeks and were then measured by a running exercise. The results showed that, compared to a placebo, those who supplemented with ashwagandha experienced gains in cardiorespiratory endurance and improved overall quality of life (measured by a survey on how the athletes were feeling).

    6. Ashwagandha for satiety & weight management

    For many, stress and overeating go hand in hand, but stress eating can go a long way to disrupting your weight management and fitness goals if it’s not kept in check. Research has shown that ashwagandha may help lessen those cravings and other parameters that may support healthy weight management.

    A recent study found that ashwagandha helped significantly reduce stress as has been shown in other clinical trials. What made this trial different, however, was that it also looked at markers around stress eating, including food cravings. After 8 weeks, participants taking ashwagandha showed significant improvement in perceived stress and reduced food cravings.

    7. Ashwagandha for immune health

    When it comes to immune health, ashwagandha is well known in Ayurvedic tradition to be one of the most potent supporters. In fact, ashwagandha has immune-enhancing effects to help support the body’s natural defense mechanisms. To understand the mechanism of action here, a recent randomized controlled trial found that ashwagandha significantly improved immune markers in healthy adults and modulated both the innate and adaptive immune systems.

    8. Ashwagandha for reproductive health

    Stress is known to have a negative impact on fertility, which in turn can heighten worries and doubts around conception and pregnancy. But finding ways to manage stress may help alleviate reproductive health woes. Because ashwagandha is an adaptogen, it is an ideal herb with potential to assist in stress response and relief from the persistent worries that may accompany and complicate the path to conceiving.

    Ashwagandha extract has also been shown to improve fertility hormones including luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) in women. Emerging research also suggests that men can also nourish their reproductive hormones and functions with ashwagandha. One recent study found that ashwagandha’s therapeutic properties supported male semen parameters and serum hormone levels. Studies show potential and exciting promise.

    9. Ashwagandha for sleep

    The Latin name used for classifying ashwagandha is Withania somnifera—the species name somnifera translates directly to “sleep-inducing.”

    While ashwagandha has been traditionally used to help promote healthy sleep for centuries, modern research has scientifically confirmed this benefit. In fact, a review of five clinical trials found that the herb had a significant effect on overall sleep and helped promote mental alertness and healthy stress levels upon waking.

    Care/of’s Sleep Blend contains ashwagandha as a main ingredient, along with melatonin and other sleep-supporting herbs.

    10. Ashwagandha for improving athletic performance

    Clinical studies have shown that ashwagandha supplementation can support increases in strength levels during resistance training, as well as reducing exercise-induced muscle damage over time. In particular, a randomized controlled trial found that male participants with little prior experience in resistance training experienced significant increases in muscle mass and strength when supplementing with 300 mg of ashwagandha twice daily for 8 weeks compared to placebo, while both groups underwent resistance training. Ashwagandha may be useful when used in conjunction with a resistance training regimen.

    11. The impact of Ashwagandha on VO2 max (maximum oxygen consumption)

    VO2 max is a measure of maximum oxygen uptake during breathing at levels of high intensity exercise. This marker of aerobic capacity is important since increased VO2 max is associated with a multiple of benefits, including heart health, quality of life with aging, and cognitive health.

    One double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized study examined the effect of 600mg ashwagandha on cardiorespiratory performance. Taking ashwagandha resulted in increases in VO2 max, a key factor when it comes to endurance because muscles need oxygen to produce energy.

    12. Ashwagandha for heart health

    Ashwagandha has been added to the ranks of helpful supplements for heart health for its multitude of benefits to the cardiovascular system. As an adaptogen, ashwagandha can help reduce cortisol levels in the body, which can help relax blood vessels and support blood pressure maintenance. It can also help reduce oxidative stress, which can have negative effects in all parts of the body including the cardiovascular system.

    Heart health is also greatly affected by adequacy of sleep, so ashwagandha’s beneficial impact on sleep may be another reason to consider this herb for cardiovascular support.

    13. Ashwagandha for joint health

    Ashwagandha contains compounds called withanolides, which have been found to possess analgesic, or pain relieving, properties, potentially providing relief from joint discomfort. Additionally, ashwagandha's antioxidant-like properties may help protect joint tissues from oxidative damage. While further research is needed to fully understand the effects of ashwagandha on joint health, it could be a beneficial natural supplement to consider. Additional nutrition and lifestyle support for joint health include maintaining a healthy weight, eating a nutrient-dense diet, and engaging in low-impact exercise.

    For joint health, there is stronger evidence for Care/of Veg. Collagen Joint, which contains eggshell membrane. Research has shown that eggshell membrane promotes healthy cartilage and joint flexibility while also being fast-acting for joint comfort in as little as 7-10 days!

    14. Ashwagandha for healthy skin

    Having glowing, strong healthy skin can be best achieved through a good skincare routine and healthy diet rich in antioxidants, healthy fats, and adequate protein. You may want to consider including ashwagandha in your routine to complement these skin care practices.

    Ashwagandha contains antioxidants that may help protect the skin against oxidative stress. In fact, a study found that healthy adults with photo-aged skin (skin affected by UV light) who applied a topical lotion containing ashwagandha experienced improved skin parameters compared to placebo. The herb’s stress-adaptation benefits may also have a positive impact on skin health via collagen synthesis, since stress can impact collagen formation and other aspects of skin health.

    15. Ashwagandha for managing mood swings

    Ashwagandha is well regarded as a potent adaptogen with stress-reducing properties. An 8-week, prospective randomized controlled trial studied the use of both 250 mg and 600 mg daily doses of ashwagandha extract compared to placebo. The study found that those who took the ashwagandha experienced reduction in perceived stress and anxiety, reduced cortisol levels, and even improved sleep quality. These results showcase ashawagandha’s potent impact on mood and may help those looking to manage PMS-related mood swings with its adaptogenic properties.

    Other questions about ashwagandha

    Which ashwagandha should I take?

    If you are going to take an herbal supplement, you want one that is manufactured with the utmost care, quality and potency. Care/of’s Ashwagandha supplement has 600 mg per capsule and is certified C.L.E.A.N, vegan, and non-GMO. The herb is sustainably grown in India and produced using a gentle extraction method without harsh chemicals that yields the highest concentration available to nourish your body. The powder is tested and encapsulated in the United States.

    Potency is important too. Many studies have used around 250-600 mg daily doses for effective results.

    What are the benefits of ashwagandha for men?

    As outlined above, the benefits of ashwagandha for men are numerous and include:

    • Better adaptation to stress
    • Potentially reduced cortisol levels
    • Improved cognitive function
    • Sexual function support
    • Sperm health support
    • Healthy weight management

    Does ashwagandha increase a man’s height?

    Because of its many health and wellness benefits, ashwagandha has a bit of a legendary reputation. Although it is touted in Ayurvedic medicine as a tonic that improves the quality of life, it does not have an evidence-based ability to increase someone’s height.

    What are the benefits of ashwagandha for women?

    In addition to helping the body adapt to stress, ashwagandha has many benefits for women including gentle hormone balancing and reproductive support. Stress is known to stimulate production of excess cortisol, which is a known disruptor of reproductive hormone production. It also assists with improving mood and supporting cognitive function.

    Does ashwagandha cause weight gain?

    One question commonly asked is whether ashwagandha will cause you to gain weight. Good news: research demonstrates that the opposite is actually true. Ashwagandha’s calming properties may help reduce food cravings that are brought on by stress.

    One study showed that people taking ashwagandha showed reductions in scores on the Food Cravings Questionnaire. Beyond its impact on food cravings, stress can play a multi-factorial role in weight gain through various mechanisms, such as impact on metabolic hormones like insulin and leptin, cortisol, and the HPA axis. The research further recommends that ashwagandha is effective for body weight management in adults along with healthy lifestyle factors such as proper nutrition, adequate exercise, sleep, and hydration.

    Does ashwagandha have side effects?

    One of the main criteria of adaptogenic herbs is that they do not harm your body. Side effects of adaptogens are rare, especially when compared to other stimulants. Consumer Lab reports the most common potential side effects of ashwagandha in studies reported were headache, sleepiness, and stomach upset. Starting with a lower dose and gradually increasing over the course of several days to weeks may help the body gently adapt to adaptogens in the rare cases of any side effects listed above. As always it is important to discuss taking new supplements with a licensed medical practitioner, such as your physician.

    Can ashwagandha be taken on an empty stomach?

    Ashwagandha can be taken on an empty stomach, and some people find that it works better that way. It can also be paired with a small snack if you are concerned about potential digestive discomfort.

    How long does it take for ashwagandha to start working?

    How quickly supplements begin to work in the body greatly depends on other factors in your life. Supplements can help to nourish your body, especially in conjunction with other healthy habits. But in addition to supplements, it is essential to eat a balanced diet and get regular exercise in order for your body to receive the herbal benefits that nature has to offer.

    When used in conjunction with a healthy lifestyle, ashwagandha can begin to positively impact the body. However, depending on your individual health, it may take a few months to experience or even notice big changes.

    The quality and dosage of your ashwagandha supplement is what will make the biggest difference. That means a high concentration, full-spectrum extract will have the most significant impact in your body. A clinically relevant dose backed by modern research is also recommended to improve your experience with ashwagandha. Additionally, continued daily intake is important to allow your body to fully utilize ashwagandha and experience its benefits.

    Start taking ashwagandha today

    At Care/of, we believe in the power of ashwagandha and all that it has to offer. That’s why we go through great care to deliver the most potent and carefully extracted ashwagandha supplement on the planet. Our ashwagandha supplement is suitable for vegans and vegetarians, and you can feel good about our supplement’s purity and high-quality ingredients.

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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.
    Victoria Peck-Gray, RD
    Freelance Contributor
    Victoria is a registered dietitian and functional nutritionist who helps people with resistant weight loss and PCOS transform their metabolic health and lose weight through a functional nutrition and lifestyle approach that addresses root causes. She is owner of her private practice, Wonderfully Made Nutrition and also leads her group metabolic coaching program for women called The 4 Method.