Exploring the Potential Benefits and Safety of Ashwagandha: A Comprehensive Review

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Last updated on May 13th, 2023 at 05:55 am

Ashwagandha is a potent herb used for millennia, to enhance immunity and vitality. It is one of the most important herbs in Ayurveda, known for its versatility and wide range of benefits. Recently, it has gained even more popularity as a natural relaxant, with some even considering it an aphrodisiac or a way to increase lifespan. However, not everyone understands or knows the other benefits of ashwagandha and how it may be used to treat severe health issues.

In this BlissReport, we will explore what ashwagandha is and why it is highly regarded. We will also look at the science behind ashwagandha’s benefits and some precautions to keep in mind when using this ancient herb. Join us as we uncover the secrets of this gift from nature.

What is Ashwagandha?

Ashwagandha(Withania somnifera) is a shrub that grows in temperate regions of the world including Africa, the Middle East, China, and parts of the Indian subcontinent. Also known as Indian ginseng, Ashwagandha is a perennial flowering plant that belongs to the family Solanaceae, which also includes tomatoes, eggplants, and petunias. In the West, we might be more familiar with the name “winter cherry“, as the fruits of ashwagandha resemble red cherries.

What are Ashwagandha Root Extract Benefits & is Good For?

Ashwagandha is famous for its root extract, which is extracted from the long (12-24 inches), thick, and fleshy brown roots of the ashwagandha plant. The root of ashwagandha has a slightly sweet and bitter taste; however, the root extract has a much more potent and strong flavor. Ashwagandha has been a part of Ayurveda for several millennia. In fact, two of the fundamental Ayurveda books, Charaka Samhita and Susruta Samhita, mention ashwagandha as a treatment for stress, anxiety, insomnia, and weakness. In modern times, ashwagandha became popular after research began on its effects as an anti-carcinogen, anti-stress, and antioxidant.

The health benefits of ashwagandha are attributed to several bioactive compounds found in its plant. The bioactive compounds of ashwagandha are:

  • Alkaloids (known for anti-inflammatory, analgesic, sedative effects) – including anaferine, anahygrine, cuscohygrine, and tropine.
  • Saponins (known for anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer properties) – including acylated steryl glucosides, sitoindosides, and sominone.
  • Withanolides (neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer effects) – including withaferin A, withanone, withanosides, and withanolide D.
  • Fatty acids (promotes cellular function ) – including arachidic acid, behenic acid, lignoceric acid, linoleic acid, oleic acid, palmitic acid, and stearic acid.
  • Polyphenols ( good for the heart) – including coumarins, flavonoids, and tannins.
  • Vitamins and minerals (nutrients) – including iron, calcium, and vitamin C.

One of the best ways to get these bioactive compounds of Ashwagandha for regular use is to make Ashwagandha extract from its roots.

To make the root extract of Ashwagandha, first, the root is dried and ground to make a fine powder. This powder is then dissolved in a solvent such as water or ethanol. The mixture is heated and filtered, and the remaining liquid is dried through evaporation or freeze-drying. This produces a concentrated extract of Ashwagandha roots containing all of its bioactive compounds.

Benefits of Ashwagandha

The phytonutrients present in Ashwagandha work together to promote homeostasis, which might be helpful in the treatment of several health conditions. One of the earliest modern research on ashwagandha was to assess its ability to promote better mental health.

Ashwagandha Benefits for Mental Health

One of the major uses of ashwagandha in ancient medicine was to treat mood disorders as it was considered to be able to promote health and longevity. In some studies and trials with Ashwagandha, it has been found to have anxiolytic and antidepressant effects possibly due to the presence of Withanolides. Glycowithanolides and withaferin-A present in Ashwagandha extracts have been found to have neurotransmitter-modulating properties that affect GABA, Serotonin, and Dopamine transmitters.

This anxiety-reducing effect of ashwagandha was tested in an animal model study, where rats were given Glycowithanolides for 5 days and the study found that treatment with Glycowithanolides in stressed rats reduced their anxiety levels and anxiety markers with an effect similar to that of benzodiazepine lorazepam which is a common drug used as a relaxant. In the same study, ashwagandha was found to have anti-depressants effects comparable to imipramine which is a tricyclic antidepressant medication.

Ashwagandha works as a relaxant and works to reduce stress which is known to be the root cause of several mental health issues as well as other health problems such as male infertility. When our body is under stress it activates the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis as a coping mechanism, activation of this axis leads to the release of cortisol from the adrenal glands. Prolonged release of cortisol can cause weakened brain function and low immunity.

Ashwagandha extract has been proven to reduce cortisol levels and as a relaxant, it is highly likely that it inhibits the activation of the HPA axis.

Ashwagandha for Sleep And Memory

Sleep is extremely important for our health and cognitive function and ashwagandha seems to have a positive effect on both. These functions are affected by age, diet, and several other factors and may lead to mild cognitive impairment(MCI).

In a double-blind placebo-controlled study, 25 adults with MCI were given ashwagandha extract for 8 weeks and tested on 5 standardized brain function tests for memory, attention, cognitive flexibility, visual motor speed, and focus. This group showed and achieved better results on all the markers than those, who were just given the placebo.

Memory is affected by the quality of sleep, which not only causes a lack of focus and decreased immunity but many other health issues. Ashwagandha root extract has been used to treat insomnia with varying degrees of success.
One particular study found that treatment with ashwagandha extract resulted in significantly better sleep quality and duration, especially in individuals who suffered from insomnia without any major side effects.

Ashwagandha for Men to Improve Strength and Stamina

Ashwagandha has several phytonutrients that exhibit a positive effect on physical performance by improving strength, endurance, and body composition while reducing muscle damage and stress. Several research studies show it increases oxygen intake and utilization, reduces cortisol levels, and improves recovery time during physical stress.

A meta-analysis of 12 studies revealed Ashwagandha’s effectiveness in improving physical performance variables in both genders and suggests potential long-term benefits with continued supplementation.

Multiple short-term research studies have evaluated the potential of ashwagandha in body mass and strength training, showing positive effects of ashwagandha in increasing both- total weight lifted and muscle mass gained. however, it is important to note, that these results are co-dependent on regular exercise and supplementation.

Ashwagandha Improves Testosterone, Fertility, and Sexual Health

Ashwagandha is known and proven to reduce stress and stress markers, the relaxant properties of ashwagandha may have a positive effect on sperm count and quality as stress especially chronic stress leads to several neurological changes which affect sperm count and quality.

A meta-analysis of a few research studies found that supplementation with ashwagandha may lead to significant improvements in male fertility. Specifically, it significantly increased sperm count (167%), sperm motility (57%), and semen volume (59%). In addition, it improved the hormonal profile (testosterone and luteinizing hormone) and reduced oxidative biomarkers. Notably, in men with normal sperm count, ashwagandha supplementation also increased the successful pregnancy rate by more than 10%.

Ashwagandha for women

Ashwagandha shows a positive effect on female sexual function and may be used as a “sexual enhancer” as suggested by a pilot study. In the study which was conducted on 50 female participants, sexual function was evaluated using metrics such as arousal, lubrication, orgasm, satisfaction, sexual distress, and the number of successful sexual encounters, compared to a placebo. The results showed that high-concentration ashwagandha root extract improved sexual function significantly on all these metrics compared to the placebo.

Ashwagandha Dosage

There are no standardized doses for ashwagandha as it varies depending on age, health, and lifestyle. The suggestive dosage given here is based on different trials, studies, and toxicity studies of ashwagandha root extract.

General health and endurance: Up to 600 mg


Men: 250 mg – 600 mg
Women: 100mg – 300 mg

Mental health

  • Anxiety and Depression: 1400 mg – 3500 mg
  • Stress: 200 mg- 250 mg
  • Cognitive function: up to 600 mg
  • Sleep: 600 mg

Ashwagandha Side Effects

Ashwagandha is generally considered a safe herb and its extract has been used to treat several health issues for several hundred years. Still, it does present some side effects if consumed without proper guidance.

Common Side Effects:

  • Upset stomach
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Digestive system irritation
  • Drowsiness/sleepiness

Less Common Side Effects:

  • Liver problems
  • May increase the risk of miscarriage
  • Potential interaction with antihyperglycemic drugs
  • Potential interaction with drugs used to treat high blood pressure
  • Potential interaction with immunosuppressant drugs.
  • Increase in thyroid hormone levels


Ashwagandha, an Indian herb with medicinal properties, has been used for centuries in traditional Ayurvedic medicine to treat a range of ailments such as stress, anxiety, and fatigue. Its adaptogenic properties have earned it the nickname of “Indian ginseng.”

Despite limited research on ashwagandha, studies suggest it may reduce stress and anxiety and improve brain function. Other benefits of Ashwagandha include reduced inflammation, improved fertility, and more. However, it may have potential side effects like nausea and diarrhea and can interact with certain medications, and must be used under proper guidance and within recommended doses.