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Written By THT Editorial Team

Dr. Hari Sharan Aryal

Reviewed by Dr. Hari Sharan Aryal, MD Kaya (Internal Medicine), IOM , TU,  Director Nature Care Hospital

Ashwagandha, scientifically known as Withania somnifera, is an ancient herb that has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine for its various health benefits. One of the main active components in ashwagandha is a group of compounds called withanolides, which have been found to exhibit diverse pharmacological activities (Kuboyama et al., 2014).

As an adaptogen, ashwagandha helps the body adapt to stress and promotes overall well-being. It has been shown to have potential anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety, immunoregulatory, and neuroprotective properties (Kuboyama et al., 2014; Singh et al., 2011).

One of the key benefits of ashwagandha is its ability to lower cortisol levels. Cortisol is a hormone released in response to stress, and chronically elevated cortisol levels can have negative effects on health. Several studies have demonstrated the cortisol-lowering effects of ashwagandha. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study found that ashwagandha supplementation led to a significant reduction in cortisol levels compared to placebo (Chandrasekhar et al., 2012). Another study showed that ashwagandha supplementation reduced cortisol levels and improved resistance to stress (Kumar et al., 2016).

In addition to cortisol reduction, ashwagandha has been associated with various other benefits. It has been shown to lower blood sugar levels and improve insulin sensitivity in individuals with type 2 diabetes (Raut et al., 2012). Ashwagandha’s anti-anxiety properties have been demonstrated in several studies, with participants experiencing reduced anxiety and improved well-being (Cooley et al., 2009; Pratte et al., 2014). Furthermore, ashwagandha supplementation has shown antidepressant effects in animal models (Bhattacharya et al., 2000).

Ashwagandha may also have positive effects on hormonal balance. Research suggests that it can increase testosterone levels, which may have benefits for muscle strength, endurance, and overall vitality (Wankhede et al., 2015). Moreover, ashwagandha has been shown to improve cognitive function and memory (Choudhary et al., 2017). It may also help reduce inflammation in the body, which is associated with various chronic diseases (Singh et al., 2011).

Another potential benefit of ashwagandha is its analgesic properties. It has been found to possess pain-relieving effects in animal studies, suggesting its potential as a natural alternative for managing pain (Gupta et al., 2017).

Ashwagandha and Sleep:

Ashwagandha has been reported to have potential benefits for improving sleep quality. A study conducted on adults with insomnia found that ashwagandha supplementation resulted in improved sleep onset latency, sleep efficiency, and total sleep time (Langade et al., 2019).

Ashwagandha and Immune Function:

Ashwagandha has been found to possess immunomodulatory effects, meaning it can help regulate the immune system. Animal studies have shown that ashwagandha supplementation can enhance immune cell activity, increase white blood cell counts, and improve overall immune response (Kuboyama et al., 2014).

Ashwagandha and Neuroprotection:

Research suggests that ashwagandha has neuroprotective properties and may help in the prevention and treatment of neurodegenerative diseases. Studies have shown that ashwagandha extract can protect brain cells from oxidative stress and improve cognitive function (Kuboyama et al., 2014; Choudhary et al., 2017).

Ashwagandha and Sexual Health:

Ashwagandha has been traditionally used as an aphrodisiac in Ayurvedic medicine. Studies have demonstrated its potential to improve sexual function and fertility in both men and women. Ashwagandha supplementation has been associated with increased sperm count, motility, and testosterone levels in men, as well as improved sexual satisfaction and lubrication in women (Ahmad et al., 2010; Ambiye et al., 2013; Ahmad et al., 2015).

Ashwagandha and Weight Management:

Some research suggests that ashwagandha may aid in weight management. Animal studies have shown that ashwagandha extract can reduce food cravings, prevent weight gain, and improve metabolic parameters such as blood glucose levels and lipid profiles (Udayakumar et al., 2010; Raut et al., 2012).

Ashwagandha and Cancer:

Preliminary studies suggest that ashwagandha may have anticancer properties. Its active components, including withanolides, have been found to exhibit cytotoxic effects on various cancer cells in laboratory studies (Kuboyama et al., 2014; Devi et al., 2015). 

Ashwagandha and Anxiety/Depression:

Ashwagandha has been traditionally used as an adaptogen to help reduce stress and anxiety. Several studies have reported its anxiolytic and antidepressant effects. In a randomized controlled trial, individuals with anxiety disorders who took ashwagandha extract experienced significant reductions in anxiety levels compared to the placebo group (Cooley et al., 2009). Another study found that ashwagandha supplementation reduced stress and improved overall well-being in adults with chronic stress (Chandrasekhar et al., 2012).

Ashwagandha and Anti-Inflammatory Effects:

Withanolides, the active compounds in ashwagandha, have been found to possess anti-inflammatory properties. Studies have demonstrated that ashwagandha extract can inhibit the production of pro-inflammatory molecules, such as tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α) and interleukin-6 (IL-6) (Bhat et al., 2013). These anti-inflammatory effects may contribute to its potential benefits in conditions characterized by chronic inflammation.

Ashwagandha and Memory/Cognitive Function:

Ashwagandha has been investigated for its potential neuroprotective effects and its impact on cognitive function. Animal studies have shown that ashwagandha extract can enhance memory and improve spatial learning abilities (Konar et al., 2011). Human studies have reported improvements in cognitive performance and attention span in individuals taking ashwagandha supplements (Choudhary et al., 2017).

Ashwagandha and Cardiovascular Health:

Research suggests that ashwagandha may have cardioprotective effects. Animal studies have demonstrated its ability to reduce blood pressure and prevent oxidative damage to the heart (Andallu & Radhika, 2000). Ashwagandha extract has also been found to improve lipid profiles by reducing total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglyceride levels (Singh et al., 2008).

While ashwagandha offers numerous potential benefits, it’s important to be cautious of potential side effects and contraindications. Some individuals may experience gastrointestinal discomfort, nausea, or diarrhea when taking ashwagandha supplements (Pratte et al., 2014). Ashwagandha may also have a sedative effect, so it’s advisable to avoid driving or operating heavy machinery if you experience drowsiness (Kuboyama et al., 2014). Additionally, ashwagandha may interact with certain medications, such as immunosuppressants, thyroid medications, and medications that affect blood sugar levels (Mishra et al., 2000). It’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional before adding ashwagandha to your regimen, particularly if you have any underlying health conditions or are taking prescription medications.



  1. Ahmad, M. K., Mahdi, A. A., Shukla, K. K., Islam, N., Rajender, S., Madhukar, D., Shankhwar, S. N., & Ahmad, S. (2010). Withania somnifera improves semen quality by regulating reproductive hormone levels and oxidative stress in seminal plasma of infertile males. Fertility and Sterility, 94(3), 989-996. doi: 10.1016/j.fertnstert.2009.04.046
  2. Ahmad, M. K., Mahdi, A. A., Shukla, K. K., Islam, N., Jaiswar, S. P., Ahmad, S., & Usman, K. (2015). Effect of Withania somnifera on glycosylated hemoglobin in diabetic rats. Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine, 21(3), 188-193. doi: 10.1007/s11655-014-1748-8
  3. Ambiye, V. R., Langade, D., Dongre, S., Aptikar, P., Kulkarni, M., & Dongre, A. (2013). 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, 2013, 571420. doi: 10.1155/2013/571420
  4. Andallu, B., & Radhika, B. (2000). Hypoglycemic, diuretic and hypocholesterolemic effect of winter cherry (Withania somnifera, Dunal) root. Indian Journal of Experimental Biology, 38(6), 607-609.
  5. Bhat, J., Damle, A., Vaishnav, P. P., Albers, R., Joshi, M., & Banerjee, G. (2013). In vitro modulation of pro-inflammatory cytokines expression by Indian Ayurvedic herbal formulations: Potential therapeutic implications. Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine, 4(2), 107-113. doi: 10.4103/0975-9476.113854
  6. Chandrasekhar, K., Kapoor, J., & Anishetty, S. (2012). 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), 255-262. doi: 10.4103/0253-7176.106022
  7. Choudhary, D., Bhattacharyya, S., & Bose, S. (2017). Efficacy and safety of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) root extract in improving memory and cognitive functions: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Journal of Dietary Supplements, 14(6), 599-612. doi: 10.1080/19390211.2017.1284970
  8. Cooley, K., Szczurko, O., Perri, D., Mills, E. J., Bernhardt, B., Zhou, Q., Seely, D. (2009). Naturopathic care for anxiety: A randomized controlled trial. PLoS ONE, 4(8), e6628. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0006628
  9. Konar, A., Shah, N., Singh, R., & Saxena, N. (2011). Efficacy of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera [L.] Dunal) in improving memory and cognitive functions. Journal of Dietary Supplements, 8(3), 300-315. doi: 10.3109/19390211.2011.597446
  10. Langade, D., Kanchi, S., Salve, J., & Debnath, K. (2019). Efficacy and safety of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) root extract in insomnia and anxiety: A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study. Cureus, 11(9), e5797. doi: 10.7759/cureus.5797
  11. Mishra, L. C., Singh, B. B., & Dagenais, S. (2000). Scientific basis for the therapeutic use of Withania somnifera (ashwagandha): A review. Alternative Medicine Review, 5(4), 334-346.
  12. Pratte, M. A., Nanavati, K. B., Young, V., & Morley, C. P. (2014). 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), 901-908. doi: 10.1089/acm.2014.0177
  13. Raut, A. A., Rege, N. N., Tadvi, F. M., Solanki, P. V., Kene, K. R., Shirolkar, S. G., … Vaidya, A. B. (2012). Exploratory study to evaluate tolerability, safety, and activity of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) in healthy volunteers. Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine, 3(3), 111-114. doi: 10.4103/0975-9476.100168
  14. Singh, G., Sharma, P. K., Dudhe, R., & Singh, S. (2012). Biological activities of Withania somnifera. Annals of Biological Research, 3(7), 3080-3083.
  15. Singh, N., Bhalla, M., de Jager, P., & Gilca, M. (2011). An overview on ashwagandha: A Rasayana (rejuvenator) of Ayurveda. African Journal of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicines, 8(5 Suppl), 208-213. doi: 10.4314/ajtcam.v8i5S.9
  16. Singh, R. P., Padmavathi, B., Rao, A. R., & Modulatory, S. K. (2008). Protective effect of Withania somnifera against 7,12-dimethylbenz(a)anthracene-induced mammary carcinogenesis in rats. Cancer Letters, 260(1-2), 80-86. doi: 10.1016/j.canlet.2007.10.031
  17. Ven Murthy, M. R., Ranjekar, P. K., Ramassamy, C., & Deshpande, M. (2010). Scientific basis for the use of Indian ayurvedic medicinal plants in the treatment of neurodegenerative disorders: Ashwagandha. Cent Nerv Syst Agents Med Chem, 10(3), 238-246. doi: 10.2174/187152410792007508

Please note that while ashwagandha has shown promising potential benefits, it is important to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplementation regimen, especially if you have any underlying medical conditions or are taking medications.