Ashwagandha leaf extract is derived from the Withania somnifera plant and is thought to have an array of benefits. You’ve probably seen it in your local health store in pill form but understanding a compound that is difficult to pronounce might have you baffled as to the benefits.

That said, ashwagandha is a mainstay of many people’s lifestyle, and potentially with great reason. M&F takes a closer look at some of the current research around this exciting substance.

Ashwagandha is not an easy word to pronounce, but you probably also know this compound by the name ‘Indian Ginseng.’ It’s usage dates back more than 3,000 years, and even in this modern era, we are learning that some of those obscure plants used back in the day may be legit. Science seems to agree: in conventional medicine categorization, ashwagandha is labeled as an adaptogen, meaning that it is a naturally occurring substance that may help to rejuvenate the body. While there are a bunch of unfounded claims that are made by marketers for all types of modern supplements, here are five things we know about the awesomeness of ashwagandha.

The Withania somnifera plant where ashwagandha plant also known as Indian Ginseng
Photo by Bankim Desai on Unsplash

Improved Sleep Quality (and Quantity)

A systematic review of ashwagandha dosed between 120mg and 600mg per day found that not only did participants fall asleep faster, but they had less waking events and their perceived sleep quality improved as well, meaning that the individuals taking ashwagandha likely felt better refreshed to tackle the day ahead. According to research, ashwagandha affects receptors of the neurotransmitter; GABA, and this would explain why it might be so good at promoting some shuteye. It is important to note however, that most studies have been carried out on otherwise healthy people. Work to determine whether if it is a suitable treatment for those with insomnia is currently ongoing.

Ashwagandha Contains Anti-Stress/Anxiety Compounds

The active ingredients in ashwagandha are known as ‘withanolides’. These are naturally occurring compounds that are thought improve our mental health. Reviews have found that ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) “exhibited noteworthy anti-stress and anti-anxiety activity in animal and human studies.” Results have also shown that ashwagandha may alleviate cases of depression, too. It is thought that the leaf extract modulates pathways in the brain, leading to overall better mental wellbeing.

Increased Testosterone & Sex Hormone Levels

A study conducted in 2015 found that men supplementing with 300mg of ashwagandha root twice per day had increased testosterone levels by an average 96.2 nanograms per deciliter, much higher than the placebo group of 18 ng/dL. Additional studies on infertile men have also found that 5g of ashwagandha root powder daily for 3 months showed increased levels of sex hormones such as luteinizing hormone, and a higher sperm count to boot. Numerous other studies all support ashwagandha’s ability to increase levels of testosterone and fertility. 600 mg per day for a 12-week period was shown to produce up to 1.7 times increased muscle strength and up to 2.3 times muscle mass.

Reduced Inflammation

Research has found evidence that one of this compound’s many benefits include the fact that it exhibits anti-arthritic, pain-relieving qualities. In both animals and humans, studies have shown decreased swelling, a slower degradation of skeletal joints, less pain, and overall better mobility among patients that supplemented with the leafy stuff. While this type of research is still in the early stages, it does bode well for future applications. Ashwagandha is also showing promising results for those who suffer with osteoarthritis, but there’s more work to be done.

Ashwagandha Isn’t a Fad Product

Unlike many empty supplements that have only bro-science to prop them up, ashwagandha is becoming a tried and tested compound that could benefit your body and mind. As with all changes to your diet and nutrition, it is advisable to seek the advice of a medial professional before making any drastic changes.  For the average person, 500 mg per day seems to be a well-tolerated dosage limit although this will depend on the individual, and any other medications that you may be checking. Always do your research on how a given supplement will interact with your current medication to be on the safe side, but never discount a potentially beneficial compound just because it’s not the latest product on the shelf.