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Ashwagandha

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Ashwagandha has been used for over 3,000 years and has a wide variety of names, like winter cherry and Indian ginseng. It has been praised in traditional Indian medicine for its adaptogenic properties; it is considered to help the body adapt to stress, as well as exert a normalizing effect upon bodily processes. In most cases, the roots of the ashwagandha plant are used for their medicinal properties, however, the leaves and seeds also have beneficial properties. This herb grows in the Mediterranean and across the middle east, Africa, India and Pakistan.

Body Weight Management

52 subjects were tested in a clinical study to see if ashwagandha impacts food cravings. This double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study found that patients taking ashwagandha experienced a significant reduction in food cravings when compared to the placebo group. This study also showed a reduction in cortisol for the ashwagandha group, which could be a factor in the reduction of food cravings. More studies should be performed to confirm the results of this study.

References
  1. Body Weight Management in Adults Under Chronic Stress Through Treatment With Ashwagandha Root Extract: A Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial
    Choudhary D, Bhattacharyya S, and Joshi K.,
    Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine,
    2016

Stress

A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study was performed on 64 subjects. Each subject was given 300mg of ashwagandha extract 2x per day or a placebo. The volunteers were then asked to complete a stress-assessment test. After 60 days, the volunteers taking ashwagandha expressed a 44% reduction in stress, whereas the placebo group only showed a 5.5% reduction. Levels of serum cortisol, the stress hormone, were also significantly lower in the group taking ashwagandha – a 27.9% reduction in cortisol levels after 60 days.

Another 2016 study found similar results to the study referenced above. In this study, volunteers taking ashwagandha reported improved scores on the “Perceived Stress Scale” and the “Oxford Happiness Questionnaire”. As a precursor to the studies mentioned above, ashwagandha was found to have anti-stress activity in Wistar Rats.

References
  1. 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
    Chandrasekhar K, Kapoor J, Anishetty, S,
    Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine,
    2012
  2. Body Weight Management in Adults Under Chronic Stress Through Treatment With Ashwagandha Root Extract: A Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial
    Choudhary D, Bhattacharyya S, and Joshi K.,
    Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine,
    2016
  3. Adaptogenic activity of *Withania somnifera*: an experimental study using a rat model of chronic stress
    Bhattacharyaa S.K, Muruganandamb A.V.,
    Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behavior 75,
    2003

Strength and Endurance

In 2015, 50 healthy male and female athletes were recruited for an endurance study. The athletes performed a shuttle run and their VO2 max, or maximal oxygen uptake, was recorded. Over the course of 12-weeks, the group supplementing with ashwagandha experienced a significant increase in mean VO2 max when compared to the baseline results.

A clinical study on the efficacy of ashwagandha to enhance strength was performed on 57 young male subjects with limited resistance training experience. The men were given ashwagandha or a placebo and put through a training regimen and the results were recorded over an 8-week period. The ashwagandha group showed greater improvement in leg extension and bench press strength. Additionally, they showed a greater size increase in arms and chest and improvements in testosterone. Compared to the placebo group, the ashwagandha users experienced a decrease in exercise-induced muscular damage and body fat percentage. These results are encouraging, and more research should be done on a larger population group to help confirm this benefit.

References
  1. Efficacy of Ashwagandha (*Withania somnifera [L.] Dunal*) in improving cardiorespiratory endurance in healthy athletic adults
    Choudhary B, Shetty A and Langade D.G.,
    AYU Journal - An International Quarterly Journal of Research in Ayurveda,
    2015
  2. Examining the effect of *Withania somnifera* supplementation on muscle strength and recovery: a randomized controlled trial
    Wankhede S, Langade D, Joshi K, Sinha S and Bhattacharyya S. ,
    Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition,
    2015