Ashwagandha for Overall Health: Benefits, Dosage and Side Effects

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Ashwagandha, or Withania somnifera, has been used in ancient indian (Ayurvedic) medicine for thousands of years to treat ailments ranging from stress to cancer. Also known as the Indian ginseng and winter cherry, this herb is an adaptogen; its consumption fights stressors, improves physical strength, and metabolism without harsh side effects. [1][2]

Ashwagandha is commonly used in the clinical setting to treat cancer, fatigue, diabetes, epilepsy, digestive issues, rheumatoid arthritis, and reduce pain. [3] The plant has potent anti-inflammatory, antitumor, anti-stress, antioxidant, immune system, and blood health-enhancing properties. [4] This article will discuss ashwagandha recommended dose, use, benefits, and frequently asked questions.

Ashwagandha Recommended Dose & Use

The recommended dose of ashwagandha varies based on benefits goal you’re trying to achieve. The most cost effective yet effective dose range is 300-500mg daily, but 50-100mg as well as up to 6,000mg per day offers numerous benefits. [5] Lower doses are commonly used to combat the harmful effects of stress whereas higher doses are used in fighting cancer as improving muscle size, muscle strength, and hormonal profile.

Related: The Importance of Green Tea Extract for Overall Health

Aim for a high quality ashwagandha root extract like KSM-66® if you choose to supplement this compound. Extracts are also available for ashwagandha shoot, seed, and berry, but root extract has the highest concentration of alkaloids and antioxidants. [6] These extracts have a higher purity and concentration of active ingredients compared to the raw root.

Ashwagandha is most effective when consumed daily with food, split in to two to three doses, for an extended duration of time (>30 days). To assess tolerance begin with the lowest recommended dose and adjust up or down depending on your body’s response.

Ashwagandha

A Deeper Look at Ashwagandha Benefits

Ashwagandha has powerful beneficial effects on stress, body composition, fertility, hormones, and cancer. If you’re a high-stress or high-anxiety individual then ashwagandha may be just what you need.

When 64 subjects with chronic stress consumed either 300mg of ashwagandha root extract or placebo twice per day for 60 days, those using ashwagandha had significantly lower scores on all stress assessment scales as well as significantly reduced cortisol levels compared to placebo. [7]

High cortisol levels lead to slower muscle recovery and growth, increased susceptibility to sickness, lower libido, and decreased quality of life. Athletic males and females who consumed 300mg of KSM-66 ashwagandha extract daily for 12 weeks reported higher scores on the World Health Organization self-reported Quality of Life (QOL) questionnaire. [8] The QOL survey includes physical and psychological health, social relationships, and environmental factors.

When 60 infertile males consumed 5 grams of withania somnifera daily for three months they reported significantly decreased stress levels. [9] Many infertile patients experience depression with their condition, especially if they want to have children.

Ashwagandha usage may even be more effective than psychotherapy; decreasing the Beck Anxiety Inventory score by 56.5% compared to the 30.5% reduction seen in subjects undergoing psychotherapy. [10] Lower stress and anxiety levels are strongly correlated with quality of life and duration of lifespan.

For those looking to increase muscle size, strength, and athleticism consider incorporating ashwagandha in to your supplement regimen.

Bench Press

Compared to placebo, ashwagandha had a 74% greater increase in bench press and 62% more arm and chest growth.

57 untrained males between 18 and 50 years of age completed a resistance training routine and consumed either starch placebo or 300mg of ashwagandha root extract twice daily for eight weeks. Compared to placebo those consuming ashwagandha root extract had a 74% and 49% greater increase in bench press and leg extension exercises as well as 62% and 135% more growth in the arms and chest.

The subjects using ashwagandha also lost 133% more fat and increased their testosterone levels over 400% more than placebo. [11] Another small study on 18 healthy untrained individuals found significant increase in muscle strength and a trend in body fat reduction when taking 750mg, 1,000mg, or 1,250mg of ashwagandha every day for 10 consecutive days. [12]

A third study found consuming 500mg of ashwagandha root extract daily for eight weeks significantly increased exercise velocity, power, and maximum oxygen volume (VO2 max) compared to placebo. [13] Ashwagandha appears to be an incredible all-natural muscle and strength building supplement when given to untrained individuals. If you’re a trained athlete then ashwagandha may be what provide that peak performance on the field and in the gym.

Ashwagandha offers promising effects on fertility, sexual function and hormone levels in non-healthy males. When 21 male patients with low sperm count consumed 675mg of ashwagandha split in to three doses per day for 90 days they experienced a 167% higher sperm count, 53% greater semen volume, and 57% greater sperm motility compared to placebo. [2]

41 males with erectile dysfunction consumed 1,500 of ashwagandha split in to three doses per day for 60 days and 12.6% of subjects noticed significant relief from erectile dysfunction symptoms. [14] While this value isn’t high it does suggest the active ingredients in ashwagandha or the placebo effect of this compound have beneficial effects on symptoms of sexual dysfunction.

A second study of 46 males ranging from 22 to 40 years old with semen infertility found that the consumption of KSM-66® Ashwagandha root extract significantly increased testosterone by 17% and luteinizing hormone by 34% compared to placebo. [2] A second study of 75 healthy fertile men and 75 men showing signs of infertility found that ashwagandha significantly increased testosterone and luteinizing hormone as well as decreased follicle stimulating hormone and prolactin levels in both groups. [15]

Sufficiently high testosterone and luteinizing hormone levels ensure the body is operating at peak capacity physically, emotional, and psychologically.

A study on 51 female patients found that consuming 3,000mg of ashwagandha twice per day significantly decreased hot flashes by 41%, sleep issues by 54%, depressive mood by 41%, physical and mental exhaustion by 39%, as well as sexual problems by 18%, as measured by the Menopause Rating Scale. [16] Ashwagandha significantly improves hormone levels and sexual function in both males and females.

A mounting body of evidence indicates ashwagandha as a potent cancer cell fighter. One animal study found that withania somnifera significantly decreases tumor reproduction and growth while also extending life span. [17] Additional laboratory studies suggest ashwagandha is selective in how it affects certain types of cells; killing some cancer cells while enhancing some immune cells. [3]

The compound accomplishes this by inducing reactive oxygen species-signaling containing p53-activing tumor-inhibiting factor. [6][18] For those undergoing radiation therapy ashwagandha can enhance the therapy’s effectiveness while decreasing some of the harsh side effects. [17] Unfortunately there is very limited research on the anti-cancer effects of ashwagandha in humans but these findings are very promising and will likely lead to more research.

In addition to the benefits listed above a limited number of studies report additional benefits of ashwagandha. In a study of 18 healthy subjects consuming escalating doses of 750mg, 1,000mg, and 1,500mg daily for 30 days and split in to two daily doses, 33% reported improved sleep quality and some subjects reduced both total and low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. [12]

Ashwagandha also stimulates the thyroid gland (as measured by T3 and T4), increases antioxidant enzyme activity in the liver, and decreases triglycerides. [19][20] Ashwagandha’s antiviral and antimicrobial benefits may protect from E. coli, Alzheimers and HIV. [21][22] This might be one of the healthiest plants on the planet.

Ashwagandha FAQs

Where can I find Ashwagandha today?

Core HardYou can find ashwagandha as a standalone ingredient sold by bulk supplement retailers or as part of a blend in nootropic, recomposition, and general health supplements. Products that contain ashwagandha include:

  • Athletic Edge Steel Edge – 125mg of Sensoril® Ashwagandha (Withania Sanifria) Root and Leaf Extract per 1 scoop serving.
  • Core Nutritionals HARD – 600mg KSM-66® Full-spectrum Ashwagandha root extract (standardized to 5% Withanolides) per 3 capsule serving.
  • Human Evolution Plasma Blast – 7th of 12 ingredients in a 7,050mg Plasma Blast Proprietary Blend per 1 scoop serving.
  • Futurebiotics StressAssist – 50mg of Sensoril® Ashwagandha (Withania Sanifria) Root Extract and the 2nd of 6 ingredients in a 325mg Proprietary Stress Adaptogenic Compound blend per 2 capsule serving.
  • To Go Trim Energy – 3rd of 4 ingredients in 685mg Triple Action Blend per 1 packet serving.

Is Ashwagandha safe and is it stackable with other supplements?

Ashwagandha poses no significant documented side effects when used in moderate doses in healthy and non-healthy individuals. [5] Toxicity studies confirm the safety of ashwagandha. [4] Stack with terminalia arjuna to improve physical performance, curcumin or milk thistle to increase its antioxidant effects, and ERK/p38 or Notch 2/4 inhibitors to magnify its chemotherapeutic benefits. [5]

Ashwagandha is extremely safe to stack with staple supplements like fish oil, whey protein, multivitamins, creatine, BCAAs, caffeine, etc… Stacking with JNK inhibitors reduce or block ashwagandha’s chemotherapeutic effects and stacking with monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) will diminish the inhibitory action. [5] Do not take ashwagandha if you are pregnant or if you are taking prescription sedatives. [3]

Ashwagandha stacks well with most compounds and offers numerous health benefits with no noted significant side effects. When in doubt consult with your healthcare professional before combining prescription compounds with ashwagandha.

References

1) Ven Murthy, M. R., et al. “Scientific Basis for the Use of Indian Ayurvedic Medicinal Plants in the Treatment of Neurodegenerative Disorders: Ashwagandha.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. Cent Nerv Syst Agents Med Chem., Sept. 2010. Web.
2) Ambiye, Vijay R. et al. “Clinical Evaluation of the Spermatogenic Activity of the Root Extract of Ashwagandha (Withania Somnifera) in Oligospermic Males: A Pilot Study.” Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine : eCAM 2013 (2013): 571420. PMC. Web.
3) Ashwagandha. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. N.p., 29 Dec. 2015. Web.
4) Mishra, L. C., B. B. Singh, and S. Dagenais. “Scientific Basis for the Therapeutic Use of Withania Somnifera (ashwagandha): a Review.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. N.p., Aug. 2000. Web.
5) Frank, Kurtis, et al. “Ashwagandha – Scientific Review on Usage, Dosage, Side Effects.” Examine.com. N.p., 2016. Web.
6) Widodo, Nashi et al. “Selective Killing of Cancer Cells by Ashwagandha Leaf Extract and Its Component Withanone Involves ROS Signaling.” Ed. Vladimir N. Uversky. PLoS ONE 5.10 (2010): e13536. PMC. Web.
7) Chandrasekhar, K., Jyoti Kapoor, and Sridhar Anishetty. “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 Journal of Psychological Medicine 34.3 (2012): 255–262. PMC. Web.
8) Choudhary, Bakhtiar, A. Shetty, and Deepak G. Langade. “Efficacy of Ashwagandha (Withania Somnifera [L.] Dunal) in Improving Cardiorespiratory Endurance in Healthy Athletic Adults.” Ayu 36.1 (2015): 63–68. PMC. Web.
9) Mahdi, Abbas Ali et al. “ Withania Somnifera Improves Semen Quality in Stress-Related Male Fertility.” Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine : eCAM 2011 (2011): 576962. PMC. Web.
10) Pratte, Morgan A. et al. “An Alternative Treatment for Anxiety: A Systematic Review of Human Trial Results Reported for the Ayurvedic Herb Ashwagandha (Withania Somnifera).” Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 20.12 (2014): 901–908. PMC. Web.
11) Wankhede, Sachin et al. “Examining the Effect of Withania Somnifera Supplementation on Muscle Strength and Recovery: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 12 (2015): 43. PMC. Web.
12) Raut, Ashwinikumar A. et al. “Exploratory Study to Evaluate Tolerability, Safety, and Activity of Ashwagandha (Withania Somnifera) in Healthy Volunteers.” Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine 3.3 (2012): 111–114. PMC. Web.
13) Sandhu, Jaspal Singh et al. “Effects of Withania Somnifera (Ashwagandha) and Terminalia Arjuna (Arjuna) on Physical Performance and Cardiorespiratory Endurance in Healthy Young Adults.” International Journal of Ayurveda Research 1.3 (2010): 144–149. PMC. Web.
14) Mamidi, Prasad, and A B Thakar. “Efficacy of Ashwagandha (Withania Somnifera Dunal. Linn.) in the Management of Psychogenic Erectile Dysfunction.” Ayu 32.3 (2011): 322–328. PMC. Web.
15) Ahmad, M. K., et al. “Withania Somnifera Improves Semen Quality by Regulating Reproductive Hormone Levels and Oxidative Stress in Seminal Plasma of Infertile Males.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. N.p., Aug. 2010. Web.
16) Modi, Mansi B., Shilpa B. Donga, and Laxmipriya Dei. “Clinical Evaluation of Ashokarishta, Ashwagandha Churna and Praval Pishti in the Management of Menopausal Syndrome.” Ayu 33.4 (2012): 511–516. PMC. Web.
17) Winters, M. “Ancient Medicine, Modern Use: Withania Somnifera and Its Potential Role in Integrative Oncology.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. Altern Med Rev., Dec. 2006. Web.
18) Widodo, N., et al. “Selective Killing of Cancer Cells by Leaf Extract of Ashwagandha: Identification of a Tumor-inhibitory Factor and the First Molecular Insights to I…” National Center for Biotechnology Information. Clin Cancer Res., Apr. 2007. Web.
19) Panda, S., and A. Kar. “Changes in Thyroid Hormone Concentrations After Administration of Ashwagandha Root Extract to Adult Male Mice.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. J Pharm Pharmacol, Sept. 1998. Web.
20) Agnihotri, Akshay P. et al. “Effects of Withania Somnifera in Patients of Schizophrenia: A Randomized, Double Blind, Placebo Controlled Pilot Trial Study.” Indian Journal of Pharmacology 45.4 (2013): 417–418. PMC. Web.
21) Singh, G., and P. Kumar. “Evaluation of Antimicrobial Efficacy of Flavonoids of Withania Somnifera L.” Indian Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences 73.4 (2011): 473–478. PMC. Web.
22) Kurapati, Kesava Rao Venkata et al. “Ashwagandha (Withania Somnifera) Reverses Β-Amyloid1-42 Induced Toxicity in Human Neuronal Cells: Implications in HIV-Associated Neurocognitive Disorders (HAND).” Ed. Madepalli K. Lakshmana. PLoS ONE 8.10 (2013): e77624. PMC. Web. 23 Feb. 2016.

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Name: Nick Ludlow

Bio: When it comes to fitness I enjoy reading about historic weight lifters, non-conventional weightlifting approaches, nutritional protocols, and the science behind supplements.