Ashwagandha Root is known for reducing anxiety, boosting mood, and even gains in muscle and strength. In this video we look at the science behind the benefits of consuming Ashwagandha.
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What is Ashwagandha? For thousands of years, Ashwagandha Root (Withania somnifera) has been one of the staples of Traditional Indian Medicine.
*Always consult a doctor or physician before beginning a nutritional supplement.This video is entertainment, I am not a doctor and this video is not medical advice. If I can find them I include affiliate links.*
In traditional indian medicine it is classified as rasayana meaning it is believed to lead to long life, similarly in more modern times, medicine tends to classify it as an adaptogen. Adaptogens are compounds which allow the body to deal with the physical and chemical effects of stress.
It’s no surprise then that one of its most celebrated benefits is an apparent reduction in feelings of anxiety and a boost in mood. As people began to understand the importance of hormones, claims began to surface that ashwagandha possesses the direct ability to reduce the stress hormone cortisol.
Ayurvedic Medicine also classifies it as bhalya, signifying a belief it increases strength, and as vajikara which means something works as an aphrodisiac.
In a similar vein the strength, and bodybuilding communities often float claims that it directly increases testosterone, which could potentially lead to greater strength and fitness. There are also claims surrounding a benefit to male fertility. Including more direct claims that it is able to boost the hormone Testosterone.
One of the most common claims regarding Ashwagandha is that it helps reduce levels of the stress hormone cortisol, as well as the feelings of anxiety and depression, resulting in an overall improved feeling of well being and new positivity towards life.
In 2008 a clinical trial was conducted to address exactly this question.
They divided the participants into 4 groups, the placebo group which would consume a pill without ashwagandha in it, one group which would consume one daily dose of 125 mg of ashwagandha root powder, one group would consume 250 mg each day , and the last group would take 500mg of the root powder each day.
This way they could see if Ashwagandha would truly have the desired effect on the participants.
In the lowest dose group by day 30 their average total score dropped by 39.5%, and by day 60 it had dropped by 62.2% compared to the placebo group which saw no significant change at all.
While the questionnaires provided evidence of an effect, the researchers also measured biological changes, at the start of the study they took baseline levels of several hormones, including Cortisol, DHEAS, and C-Reactive Protein to name a few, what happened after the 60 days to these levels provides a strong clue as to how Ashwagandha is exerting its powerful effects,
Science is still figuring out exactly how Ashwagandha is able to do this, but a study on rat brains has demonstrated that consumption of Ashwagandha is able to boost the bodies natural antioxidant defenses, showing increases in levels of glutathione peroxidise, superoxide dismutase and catalase.
Through reducing neuroinflammation and thereby baseline levels of immune and stress hormones, it would make sense that the brain would also be less sensitive to stressful events through day to day life
Studies have shown decreases in blood pressure, and heart rate, as well as increases in social functioning and motivation.
Since Oxidative Stress is also a component of aging and many degenerative diseases, like arthritis and parkinson’s, the traditional beliefs about improving life expectancy could have some actual merit.
While it’s beyond the scope of this video, I should also mention there has even been study into the cancer fighting abilities of some of the active chemicals in Ashwagandha.
Now there’s one major category which we haven’t touched on yet. These would be the claims regarding boosts in Testosterone, Muscle Size, Strength, and male fertility.
In 2015 a study was published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, to take on the long standing claims of Ashwagandha boosting strength.
Compared to the placebo group, the group consuming the Ashwagandha gained significantly more strength.
While the placebo group packed an average of 26.4 kg onto their bench press over the two months, the group consuming Ashwagandha added an average of 46.0 kg. A similar difference was also seen on the leg extension. Additionally, the Ashwagandha group also gained a bit more muscle size than the placebo group did.
In terms of fertility benefits, studies on infertile men have found improvements in sperm health and quality. This coincides with both reductions in markers of oxidative stress in the testicals, and improvements in reproductive hormone levels.