Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), also known as winter cherry, is becoming a favorite adaptogen with many Western herbalists because of its unique nourishing and stabilizing properties. An adaptogen is an herb with overall nervine tonic benefits – energizing the body when it needs it during the day, and calming overactive nerves for easy and restful sleep at night. In the daytime, it helps support healthy weight loss, detox, cognitive function, hormone balance, sexual health, and the immune system, all of which can be negatively impacted by stress.*
Ashwagandha is a warm, heavy and sweet root that is harvested in the fall to be eaten throughout the winter. Traditionally, it was added to soups and stews to support immunity, stamina and vitality during the harsh winter months. It is also a specific rasayana, or rejuvenative, for the mamsa dhatu or muscle tissues. As such, it is useful for promoting the optimal strength and vitality of the heart, uterus, and the respiratory system.*
Suggested Use: Take 1 capsule 3 times per day before meals or as directed by your health care professional.
Ingredients: Organic Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha Root), Organic Zingiber officinale (Ginger Root)
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Does not contain: Yeast, gluten, corn, soy, milk, fish, animal products, binders, fillers, preservatives or artificial coloring.
Kosher Certified: No animal derivatives
Ashwagandha is named after its ability to help de-stress the body and support healthy sleep. The word somnifera in Latin literally means “sleep inducer.” In one study, when individuals under stress supplemented with ashwagandha, there were significant reductions in cortisol levels and weight as measured by body mass index (BMI). In that same study, the participants also experienced a reduction in perceived stress, more happiness and less food cravings. (1)
As an adaptogen, ashwagandha has shown to support the brain in response to stress-related sleep deprivation, encouraging healthy levels of locomotion, learning and memory. (2) Constituents in ashwagandha have also been shown to activate nerve cell receptors for the mood-calming neurotransmitter, GABA. (3)
Ashwagandha and Stress
Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb that has many studies showing its stress-mitigating properties. (3, 4) Ashwagandha is not a stimulant nor a sedative, but instead it provides deep rejuvenative support. Ashwagandha is also an herb that is commonly used for supporting energy before a sporting event or a stressful endeavor. (5)
In one randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 98 otherwise healthy adults with self-reported stressful lives were given ashwagandha for 60 days. The participants were divided into groups that received either:
- 125mg once a day
- 125mg twice a day
- 250mg twice a day
The results showed that all three groups that took ashwagandha were less affected by stress. (6)
- The group that took the lowest dose, at 125mg a day, demonstrated a 62% reduction in emotional strain.
- Cortisol levels during times of stress were reduced by 14.5%.
- DHEA, which is a supportive hormone for cushioning the stress response in the body, increased by 13.2%.
- All three groups that took ashwagandha saw a decrease in C-reactive protein serum levels.
The researchers concluded that daily use of ashwagandha would benefit people suffering from normal stress and emotional strain without any adverse effects. (6)
In another study, 64 chronically-stressed subjects were given 300mg of ashwagandha twice a day for 2 months. The group that ingested the ashwagandha saw a significant reduction in scores on all stress-assessment scales compared to a placebo group. (12)
Ashwagandha’s Fat-Burning Effect
One the best measures of fat metabolism is the ability to lose weight or burn fat naturally. Studies suggest that ashwagandha supports healthy weight while under heavy stress.
In one study, 52 overweight adults were given ashwagandha or a placebo for 8 weeks. At 4 and 8 weeks, they gave the subjects the Perceived Stress Scale, Food Cravings Questionnaire Oxford Happiness Questionnaire, Three-Factor Eating Questionnaire, and measured serum cortisol, body weight, and body mass index. The study showed positive outcomes on all counts, suggesting that ashwagandha root can be effectively used to combat stress and cravings, support mood and happiness, and support healthy body weight management in adults under heavy stress. (7)
Detox Your Brain
With 4 billion pounds of toxins being dumped into the American environment each year, it is important that we keep our natural detoxification pathways healthy. As environmental toxins are fat-soluble, many of them find their way into the brain where they congest brain lymphatics responsible for draining toxins during sleep.
Poor brain lymph drainage is linked to poor sleep, and poor sleep is linked to poor brain lymphatic drainage. One study showed that glycowithanolide, a bioactive constituent of ashwagandha, induced an antioxidant effect in the brain and liver, which triggered a natural protective effect against heavy metal damage, shielding the body’s main blood- and lymph-cleansing organ. (10)
A special protein in the brain called the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) has been linked to better cognitive function and memory as we age. In a study published in the journal Neurology, people who had more of this protein had a 50% lower rate of memory and cognitive function concerns as they aged, compared to those who had the lowest levels of this protein. (8) Ashwagandha is one of only a handful of herbs that contain constituents shown to boost BDNF levels in the blood. In the brain, ashwagandha has shown to support the overall health of the nervous system. (9)
Studies suggest there are constituents in ashwagandha that support healthy lipid peroxide levels (LPO) in the liver, where thyroid hormones are manufactured. Superoxide Dismutase (SOD) and Catalase (CAT) levels were also found to be significantly increased after ashwagandha supplementation. Certain constituents in ashwagandha are thought to support the natural production of these enzymes which counteract thyroid-depressing agents in otherwise healthy individuals, resulting in higher levels of T4, which are the precursor hormone to T3, which is considered the active thyroid hormone. Other studies have measured a boost in both T3 and T4 levels in correlation with ashwagandha supplementation. (11, 12)
Ashwagandha has been successfully used for years to boost sexual function, including secondary erectile dysfunction, performance anxiety, and low libido for men. Only recently has it been shown to do the same for women. For women, ashwagandha provides well-documented support for healthy sexual function, enhanced libido, arousal, lubrication, orgasm, and satisfaction. (13-16)
In one study, 50 healthy women were given either a placebo or 300mg of an extract of ashwagandha twice daily for eight weeks. The ashwagandha group reported increased arousal, lubrication, orgasm and satisfaction compared to the placebo group. (13) The ashwagandha group also experienced decreased sexual distress and an increased number of sexual encounters during the 8-week supplemental period. (13)
Researchers attributed these sexual benefits to 2 major pathways: cortisol and testosterone levels.
Stress is exhausting, which decreases sexual desire, arousal and function. Stress also increases cortisol levels, which directly deplete sexual hormone production. Ashwagandha mitigates this by helping suppress the release of cortisol during times of stress, in turn, balancing sexual hormones. (13, 17)
The second pathway is attributed to low-normal testosterone associated with the aging process. In both men and women, testosterone is required for a healthy libido and sexual function. Aging and stress can deplete testosterone and cause sexual dysfunction and decreased libido in both men and women. (13)
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