Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera (L.) Dunal), also known as Winter Cherry or Indian Ginseng, is an adaptogenic herb that has been widely used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic medicine for its neuroprotective, anti-anxiety, antidepressant and anti-inflammatory properties. It has also been used to support the immune system, improve sleep quality, help balance the thyroid hormones, and increase stamina, strength and endurance. Ashwagandha is also thought to help in the prevention or slowing of degenerative diseases
Many scientific research studies support the use of ashwagandha and indicate it may have some of the following benefits:
1. Enhance cognitive function (1,2)
2. Improve memory (1,3)
3. Improve focus (3)
4. Brain protection (4,5,6,7,8,9)
5. Immune system support (10)
6. Improve physical performance (11,12)
7. Enhance muscle strength and recovery (12,13)
8. Improve cardiovascular performance (14)
9. Increase energy by improving mitochondrial function (15)
10. Improve sleep quality (16,17,18,19,20)
11. Reduce effects of stress and anxiety (20)
12. Suppress neuroinflammation (21)
13. Possible neuroregeneration (22,23)
Scientific Studies Cited
1. Improvements in memory and cognitive function
“Results: After eight weeks of study, the ashwagandha treatment group demonstrated significant improvements compared with the placebo group in both immediate and general memory…The treatment group also demonstrated significantly greater improvement in executive function, sustained attention, and information-processing speed…Conclusions: Ashwagandha may be effective in enhancing both immediate and general memory in people with MCI as well as improving executive function, attention, and information processing speed.”
Dnyanraj Choudhary, Sauvik Bhattacharyya & Sekhar Bose (2017) Efficacy and Safety of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera (L.) Dunal) Root Extract in Improving Memory and Cognitive Functions, Journal of Dietary Supplements, 14:6, 599-612, DOI: 10.1080/19390211.2017.128497
2. Can improve cognitive and psychomotor performance
“Conclusion: These results suggest that Withania somnifera extract can improve cognitive and psychomotor performance and may, therefore, be a valuable adjunct in the treatment of diseases associated with cognitive impairment.”
Pingali U, Pilli R, Fatima N. Effect of standardized aqueous extract of Withania somnifera on tests of cognitive and psychomotor performance in healthy human participants. Pharmacognosy Res. 2014 Jan;6(1):12-8. doi: 10.4103/0974-8490.122912. PMID: 24497737; PMCID: PMC3897003.
3. Improvements in memory and focus
“Treatment with one Ashwagandha SR capsule once daily for 90 days improved memory and focus, psychological well-being, and sleep quality, reduced stress levels, and was safe and well-tolerated.”
Gopukumar K, Thanawala S, Somepalli V, Rao TSS, Thamatam VB, Chauhan S. Efficacy and Safety of Ashwagandha Root Extract on Cognitive Functions in Healthy, Stressed Adults: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2021;2021:8254344. Published 2021 Nov 30. doi:10.1155/2021/825434
4. Neuroprotective effects
“…acts as a neuroprotectant, thereby introducing a potential agent for the treatment or prevention of neurodegenerative diseases.”
Wongtrakul J, Thongtan T, Kumrapich B, Saisawang C, Ketterman AJ. Neuroprotective effects of Withania somnifera in the SH-SY5Y Parkinson cell model. Heliyon. 2021;7(10):e08172. Published 2021 Oct 13. doi:10.1016/j.heliyon.2021.e0817
5. Ameliorates neurodegeneration
“can be used as a promising natural therapeutic remedial for the prevention of neurodegeneration and cognitive impairments associated with peripheral inflammation and neuroinflammation.”
Gupta M, Kaur G. Withania somnifera (L.) Dunal ameliorates neurodegeneration and cognitive impairments associated with systemic inflammation. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2019;19(1):217. Published 2019 Aug 15. doi:10.1186/s12906-019-2635-
6. Neuroprotective role
Results: Research reports based largely on preclinical studies as well as few clinical trials have highlighted the neuroprotective role of Ashwagandha against many neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer's, Huntington's and Parkinson's disease. The protective effects of Ashwagandha were accomplished by restoring mitochondrial and endothelial function, mitigation of apoptosis, inflammation and oxidative stress mechanisms.
Dar NJ, MuzamilAhmad. Neurodegenerative diseases and Withania somnifera (L.): An update. J Ethnopharmacol. 2020 Jun 28;256:112769. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2020.112769. Epub 2020 Mar 30. PMID: 32240781.
7. Neuroprotective effects
“These findings suggest that W. somnifera root extract acts as a neuroprotectant, thereby introducing a potential agent for the treatment or prevention of neurodegenerative diseases.”
Wongtrakul J, Thongtan T, Kumrapich B, Saisawang C, Ketterman AJ. Neuroprotective effects of Withania somnifera in the SH-SY5Y Parkinson cell model. Heliyon. 2021 Oct 13;7(10):e08172. doi: 10.1016/j.heliyon.2021.e08172. PMID: 34765761; PMCID: PMC8569401.
8. Ameliorates neurodegeneration and cognitive impairments
“…promising natural therapeutic remedial for the prevention of neurodegeneration and cognitive impairments associated with peripheral inflammation and neuroinflammation.”
Gupta M, Kaur G. Withania somnifera (L.) Dunal ameliorates neurodegeneration and cognitive impairments associated with systemic inflammation. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2019 Aug 15;19(1):217. doi: 10.1186/s12906-019-2635-0. PMID: 31416451; PMCID: PMC6694620.
9. Neuroprotective effects in BPA induced cognitive dysfunction in mice
“Conclusion: These findings suggest that Ws significantly
ameliorates the level of BPA intoxicated oxidative stress thereby potentially
treating cognitive dysfunction which acts as the primary symptom in a number of
Birla H, Keswani C, Rai SN, et al. Neuroprotective effects
of Withania somnifera in BPA induced-cognitive dysfunction and oxidative stress
in mice. Behav Brain Funct. 2019;15(1):9. Published 2019 May 7.
10. Immune system support
“WS extract significantly improved the immune profile of healthy subjects by modulating the innate and adaptive immune systems. Boosting the immune system of people at risk of infection and during widespread infections can be targeted with WS extract.”
Tharakan A, Shukla H, Benny IR, Tharakan M, George L, Koshy S. Immunomodulatory Effect of Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha) Extract-A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo Controlled Trial with an Open Label Extension on Healthy Participants. J Clin Med. 2021 Aug 18;10(16):3644. doi: 10.3390/jcm10163644. PMID: 34441940; PMCID: PMC8397213.
11. Can improve physical performance
“Observations: Our study showed that Withania somnifera increased velocity, power and VO2 max…
Conclusion: Withania somnifera may therefore be useful for generalized weakness and to improve speed and lower limb muscular strength and neuro-muscular co-ordination.”
Sandhu JS, Shah B, Shenoy S, Chauhan S, Lavekar GS, Padhi MM. Effects of Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha) and Terminalia arjuna (Arjuna) on physical performance and cardiorespiratory endurance in healthy young adults. Int J Ayurveda Res. 2010 Jul;1(3):144-9. doi: 10.4103/0974-7788.72485. PMID: 21170205; PMCID: PMC2996571.
12. Improves strength
“Conclusions: A 500 mg dose of an aqueous extract of Ashwagandha improves upper and lower-body strength, supports a favorable distribution of body mass, and was well tolerated clinically in recreationally active men over a 12-week resistance training and supplementation period.”
Ziegenfuss TN, Kedia AW, Sandrock JE, Raub BJ, Kerksick CM, Lopez HL. Effects of an Aqueous Extract of Withania somnifera on Strength Training Adaptations and Recovery: The STAR Trial. Nutrients. 2018 Nov 20;10(11):1807. doi: 10.3390/nu10111807. PMID: 30463324; PMCID: PMC6266766.
13. Associated with increased muscle mass and strength
“…ashwagandha supplementation is associated with significant increases in muscle mass and strength…”
Wankhede S, Langade D, Joshi K, Sinha SR, Bhattacharyya S. Examining the effect of Withania somnifera supplementation on muscle strength and recovery: a randomized controlled trial. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2015;12:43. Published 2015 Nov 25. doi:10.1186/s12970-015-0104-9
14. Can enhance cardiorespiratory endurance
“Conclusion: The present findings suggest that Ashwagandha root extract can successfully enhance cardiorespiratory endurance and improve the quality of life in healthy athletic adults. No adverse events were reported by any of the subjects in this study.”
Tiwari S, Gupta SK, Pathak AK. A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial on the effect of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera dunal.) root extract in improving cardiorespiratory endurance and recovery in healthy athletic adults. J Ethnopharmacol. 2021 May 23;272:113929. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2021.113929. Epub 2021 Feb 15. PMID: 33600918.
15. Enhances energy expenditure via improving mitochondrial function
“…ameliorates diet-induced obesity by enhancing energy expenditure via promoting mitochondrial function in adipose tissue and skeletal muscle…”
Lee DH, Ahn J, Jang YJ, et al. Withania somnifera Extract Enhances Energy Expenditure via Improving Mitochondrial Function in Adipose Tissue and Skeletal Muscle. Nutrients. 2020;12(2):431. Published 2020 Feb 7. doi:10.3390/nu1202043
16. Improvement of general well-being and sleep
“Conclusion: The study outcomes suggest that Ashwagandha root extract was efficient in improving the QoL, sleep quality, and mental alertness as self-assessed by the elderly participants.”
Kelgane SB, Salve J, Sampara P, Debnath K. Efficacy and Tolerability of Ashwagandha Root Extract in the Elderly for Improvement of General Well-being and Sleep: A Prospective, Randomized, Double-blind, Placebo-controlled Study. Cureus. 2020;12(2):e7083. Published 2020 Feb 23. doi:10.7759/cureus.7083
17. Improves sleep quality
“…improves sleep quality and sleep onset latency…”
Langade D, Kanchi S, Salve J, Debnath K, Ambegaokar D. Efficacy and Safety of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) Root Extract in Insomnia and Anxiety: A Double-blind, Randomized, Placebo-controlled Study. Cureus. 2019;11(9):e5797. Published 2019 Sep 28. doi:10.7759/cureus.579
18. Improves sleep
“…significant decrease in time to sleep onset and increased total sleep duration…”
Murthy SV, Fathima SN, Mote R. Hydroalcoholic Extract of Ashwagandha Improves Sleep by Modulating GABA/Histamine Receptors and EEG Slow-Wave Pattern in In Vitro - In Vivo Experimental Models. Prev Nutr Food Sci. 2022 Mar 31;27(1):108-120. doi: 10.3746/pnf.2022.27.1.108. PMID: 35465115; PMCID: PMC9007714.
19. Improves quality of sleep
“Conclusions: Supplementation with the standardized ashwagandha extract for six weeks improved the overall quality of sleep by significantly improving the NRS condition in healthy subjects. No treatment related adverse events were reported in the study.”
Deshpande A, Irani N, Balkrishnan R, Benny IR. A randomized, double blind, placebo controlled study to evaluate the effects of ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) extract on sleep quality in healthy adults. Sleep Med. 2020 Aug;72:28-36. doi: 10.1016/j.sleep.2020.03.012. Epub 2020 Mar 21. PMID: 32540634.
20. Beneficial in reducing stress and anxiety
“Conclusion: Ashwagandha root aqueous extract was beneficial in reducing stress and anxiety.”
Salve J, Pate S, Debnath K, Langade D. Adaptogenic and Anxiolytic Effects of Ashwagandha Root Extract in Healthy Adults: A Double-blind, Randomized, Placebo-controlled Clinical Study. Cureus. 2019;11(12):e6466. Published 2019 Dec 25. doi:10.7759/cureus.6466
21. May suppress neuroinflammation
“Conclusions: The current data suggests that ASH-WEX and FIV inhibit microglial activation and migration and may prove to be a potential therapeutic candidate for the suppression of neuroinflammation in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases”
Gupta M, Kaur G. Aqueous extract from the Withania somnifera leaves as a potential anti-neuroinflammatory agent: a mechanistic study. J Neuroinflammation. 2016;13(1):193. Published 2016 Aug 22. doi:10.1186/s12974-016-0650-
22. Neuritic regeneration and synaptic reconstruction
“…important candidate for the therapeutic treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, as it is able to reconstruct neuronal networks.”
Kuboyama T, Tohda C, Komatsu K. Neuritic regeneration and synaptic reconstruction induced by withanolide A. Br J Pharmacol. 2005;144(7):961-971. doi:10.1038/sj.bjp.0706122
23. Increased neurite length
“Treatment with the extract resulted in an increased length of neurites projecting from the neuronal cell body after injury. W. somnifera extract treatment also resulted in reduced cell death in the model neuron TBI system. The cell death factor Bax was involved (its expression was reduced 2-fold by the treatment) and injury-induced reduction in neurite lengths and numbers was reversed by the treatment.”
Saykally JN, Hatic H, Keeley KL, Jain SC, Ravindranath V, Citron BA. Withania somnifera Extract Protects Model Neurons from In Vitro Traumatic Injury. Cell Transplant. 2017;26(7):1193-1201. doi:10.1177/096368971771432