If you’re at all familiar with ayurvedic medicine, the traditional healing practices of India, you’ve heard of ashwagandha, also called winter cherry or Indian ginseng.
It’s considered to be one of the most powerful rasayanas, or rejuvenating herbs, available and has been used to alleviate many conditions, including the effects of stress, reduced energy and sexual dysfunction.
Check out these potential benefits of ashwagandha, a dietary supplement that can be taken in capsule form or with powders and liquid extracts, which can be mixed into drinks:
Relieves anxiety and stress
This is probably the most common use for this herb going back millennia, and some modern research finds it has properties that do indeed contribute to reducing your response to stressful situations and more general anxiety.
It appears to affect cortisol and other chemicals released by the brain during stressful episodes and improve sleep when compared to a placebo.
One 2021 review from Oregon Health and Sciences University and National University of Natural Medicine found ashwagandha holds promise for treating anxiety, depression and insomnia but further research is needed on interactions with other herbs and medicines to establish the right dose.
Increases athletic performance
Ashwagandha was found in multiple small studies to improve maximum oxygen consumption (VO2 max), the highest amount your body can use while exercising. Higher VO2 max is associated with better athletic performance and overall heart and lung function and is considered an important signifier of cardiopulmonary health.
One study also found participants who took ashwagandha also had greater muscle strength after an eight-week training program than those who took a placebo.
Lowers blood sugar levels
Ashwagandha is also being studied for its potential benefits for those with diabetes and high blood sugar.
A 2020 review of 24 studies by independent researchers in India found links to lowered blood sugar, A1C levels, insulin and other key indicators of health in participants with Type 2 diabetes without negative side effects. The authors said the cumulative studies don’t indicate how the herb affects blood sugar and aren’t enough to show conclusive proof of a positive impact but the topic warrants more study.