Ashwagandha. Withania Somnifera. Indian Ginseng. Winter Cherry. Poison Gooseberry. There is a reason that people have bothered to give it so many names over its centuries of us in Ayurvedic medicine.
It’s a sensational supplement for almost everything that ales you!
I have mentioned this wonderful shrub in several of my articles to date, albeit each time to serve different purposes, and such is the beauty of Withania!
It has numerous applications, being touted as a ‘Cure-all’ ingredient, and it is these applications, which we will focus on for the extent of this article to highlight why we could all benefit from adding a quality Ashwagandha supplement to your cupboard!
Uses and Benefits:
- Improve thyroid function (whether it is fast OR slow)
- Reduce anxiety and stress through management of cortisol
- For a sleep aid, or
- Supplement with a very potent antioxidant
Let’s delve a little further…
Whether your thyroid function is sluggish, or indeed, over active (Hypo vs Hyperthyroidism) Withania has been shown in nearly 200 studies to be a powerful adaptogen that can aid in balancing our hormonal profile to aid in this department.
Through balancing the ratios and function of the Thyroid hormones (namely TSH, T4, T3, rT3 and T2) Ashwagandha can both stimulate OR calm the function of this metabolically governing gland (1).
This makes it the perfect supplement regardless of what part of the basal metabolic bell curve you sit along!
Sleep Aid, Anxiety and Cortisol Management:
Cortisol is the body’s primary stress hormone, which is involved in generating the flight or fight response we experience in the presence of stressors of many forms. For an in-depth look at Cortisol and its many functions, see my article ‘5 Supplements to Conquer Cortisol’.
In summary, chronically elevated cortisol can lead to:
- Sleep issues
- Feelings of being generally stressed
- Decrease in muscle mass
- Increases in body fat
- Increased Estrogen
- Decreased Insulin sensitivity
The beauty of Withania is its powerful ability to lower cortisol, which over time, can help to reverse many of these symptoms, with anxiety and stress almost being the least important of all the benefits!
To draw on data on Ashwagandha for lowering Cortisol, we will look at a 2012 study.
This study found that in a group of 64 adults with a background of stress and anxiety, supplementation with Withania Somnifera for 60 days at 300mg per day led to a reduction of 27.9% in serum cortisol levels from baseline (2).
To contextualise that, influencing ANY hormone by nearly 30% will lead to very notable physiological changes and in the case of Withania and Cortisol, would make a very significant difference in anxiety, improvements in sleep, decreased fluid retention and improve hormonal profiles over time.
To further that point on sleep quality, low Cortisol levels are essential to obtain a deep, restful sleep. Being the ‘flight or fight’ hormone, it is self-evident why high cortisol levels lead to alertness and thus poor sleep quality.
Therefore, lowering cortisol with Withania will lead to an overall deeper, more regenerative sleep with waking being more energetic and getting to sleep far easier.
Oxygen, whilst necessary for all life is also a reactive element. Approximately 5% of metabolised Oxygen will be reduced into O2 derived free radicals such as Hydroxyl and Nitric Oxides, Hydrogen Peroxides or Super Peroxide (4). These free radicals begin borrowing electrons from neighbouring stable molecules to regain stability and in doing so, destabilise these molecules. This process continues until there is cellular destabilisation. Where antioxidants come into the picture is the stabilisation of these free radicals, halting the chain of electron stealing, preventing cellular disruption and damage(5).
In the case of Withania, research has shown it to be a VERY potent antioxidant by both scavenging free radicals, as well as inhibiting lipid peroxidation (protecting cells against free radical damage).
In one study, free radical scavenging activity increased by over 79% when Ashwagandha was introduced! (5)
A host of research, therefore, seems to conclusively point towards Withania as a safe, ergogenic aid to protect cells from Oxidative stress as well as increase free radical scavenging, making it an excellent supplement to implement for overall health and longevity!
So how much do you need?
Typically dosages are split into 2 to 3 times a day, with typical total supplementation being around 1000mg per day.
Taking 300mg, 2-3 times per day or 2 doses of 500mg per day are the most common dosage schedules.
The Take Home Message
This amazing herb really does do it all! As an adaptogen, it responds to your particular stressors and results in significant improvements to everything from Thyroid function to sleep quality and everything in between!
So go forth, add in a high-quality Withania Somnifera supplement into your regimen at the dosages we discussed and see if you don’t feel the world better for your efforts!
1) Panda, S. and Kar, A. (1998), Changes in Thyroid Hormone Concentrations after Administration of Ashwagandha Root Extract to Adult Male Mice. Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, 50: 1065–1068. doi:10.1111/j.2042-7158.1998.tb06923.x
2) Chandrasekhar K, Kapoor J, Anishetty S. 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. 2012;34(3):255-262. doi:10.4103/0253-7176.106022.
3) Khanam, S and Devi, K, (2005) “Antimutagenic activity of ashwagandha”., Journal of natural remedies., 5,126-131.
4) Mondal, S.K., Chakrabarthy, G., Gupta, M and Mazumder, U.K, (2006) “In vitro antioxidant activity of Diospyros malabarica kostel bark”., Indian journal of experimental biology., 44,39-44.
5) Sumathi S, Padma PR, Gathampari S, Vidhya S. FREE RADICAL SCAVENGING ACTIVITY OF DIFFERENT PARTS OF WITHANIA SOMNIFERA. Ancient Science of Life. 2007;26(3):30-34.