Ashwagandha: An ayurvedic herb with science-backed health benefits

Researchers are in the process of figuring out the efficacy of ashwagandha against COVID-19, thanks to the immune boosting properties of this ayurvedic herb. Here is all you need to know about it.

Ashwagandha is one of the four AYUSH formulations that have been chosen for a COVID-19 clinical trial. This ayurvedic herb is being used for thousands of years to manage stress and anxiety. It's a great immune booster too. Researched extensively, ashwagandha is known for being an adaptogen. This substance can make you resilient towards stress and boost your energy levels.


Botanically, ashwagandha is known as Withania somnifera root. A member of the Solanaceae (nightshade) family, it is also called the Indian ginseng. Mostly, the root and leaves of this herb are used for their medicinal properties and its health benefits can be attributed to the presence of withanolides, a group of naturally occurring steroids. Literally, ashwagandha means the 'smell of a horse'. It is named so because its roots apparently smell like a horse. The popular belief about ashwagandha is that you will gain the strength of a horse if you start having this herb.


Ashwagandha is loaded with health friendly components such as flavonoids and antioxidants. It also comes with alkaloids, amino acids (including tryptophan), neurotransmitters, so on and so forth. A study published in the International Journal of Home Science suggests that 1,000 milligrams of dehydrated ashwagandha root powder offer:

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2.5 calories

0.04 gram protein

0.032 gram fibre

0.05 gram carbohydrates

0.03 milligram iron

0.02 milligram calcium

0.08 microgram carotene

0.06 milligram vitamin C


This herb allows you to maintain an equilibrium even when you are under physical or psychological stress and that is the reason behind its popularity. However, ashwagandha's health benefits are not limited to stress control only. It has multifarious positive impacts on your health. Starting from balancing your hormones and controlling your blood sugar levels to fuelling your weight loss mission, ashwagandha does it all for you. Here are the top health benefits of ashwagandha.

Beats stress and anxiety

Ashwagandha can be your no-drug solution to these mental health conditions. A PLOS One journal study found that the impact of this herb as good as certain medicines used to treat anxiety and stress, minus the side effects. The participants of this 12-week study experienced a 55 per cent decrease in anxiety after they took ashwagandha. The research also observed significant increase in their concentration, vitality, fatigue, etc. Drugs used for depression and anxiety come with a host of side effects like drowsiness, insomnia, loss of sexual desire and increased appetite, among other side effects.

Boosts brainpower

Apart from being a stress reliever, ashwagandha can protect your brain from cell degeneration that can result in neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's Disease. This health benefit of can be attributed to the high antioxidant content of ashwagandha which fight free radical damage. Moreover, its naturally occurring steroids are instrumental in improving your cognitive function. They can even reverse behavioural deficits and plaque build-up, find animal model studies. Additionally, it can improve the memory of people with compromised cognitive capacity, increase attention span and speed up brain's data processing capacity, finds a pilot study published in the Journal of Dietary Supplements.

Boosts Immune Function

Several animal model studies have observed that ashwagandha can produce immunoglobulin and enhance your body's immune response. It also boost your body's defence mechanism by suppressing pro-inflammatory elements like cytokines. That's why it is used to treat several inflammatory diseases too. All these make ashwagandha a potential candidate for COVID-19 trial by the Ministry of AYUSH.

Keeps your blood sugar levels tamed

A growing body of research shows that the flavonoids present in ashwagandha can keep your blood sugar levels in control. The root and leaf extracts are particularly helpful in this regard. Several studies also suggest that this herb can prevent insulin resistance and glucose spike in your blood, important factors that can up your risk of diabetes.

Improves the function of your thyroid gland

Being an adaptogen herb, ashwagandha is good for people with an underactive thyroid gland. A research featured in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine observes that this ayurvedic herb can help people with subclinical hypothyroidism. During this 8-week study, study participants who received 600 milligrams of ashwagandha root extract every days experienced an improvement in their thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) and thyroxine (T4) levels.

Fuels your weight loss goals

People living with chronic stress may expect a fringe benefit if they have ashwagandha: Weight loss. A research published in the Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that it can improve your body mass index and help you shed those extra kilos too apart from boosting your happiness.

Revs up your sex life

Ashwagandha is a natural aphrodisiac and science validates this notion. A study published in BioMed Research International found that supplementation with this herb improved the sexual performance of women in three parameters: their sexual performance score on three parameters: arousal, lubrication and orgasm. It also improves sperm count and testosterone levels of men, evidences from several studies suggest.


If you take this herb in doctor-prescribed dosage, it is not unsafe. However, you may experience certain side effects like an upset tummy, vomiting and diarrhea. Stop taking it if you find these manifestations. If you are on medication for conditions like diabetes, thyroid and blood pressure, consult your doctor before taking ashwagandha. It is also not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women. Some evidences suggest that it may lead to miscarriage.


You will get ashwagandha root and leaf extracts in the forms of capsules, powders, and tinctures. There is no recommended dosage for ashwagandha. A study published in the Journal of Ayurvedic and Integrative Medicine found that it is safe to take ashwagandha capsules in gradually escalating doses from 750 milligrams per day to 1,250 milligrams per day. However, it is best to decide on the dosage of this herb after consulting an Ayurveda expert.

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