There is some evidence to suggest that the herb can have neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory effects. Inflammation underpins many health conditions, and reducing inflammation can protect the body against a variety of conditions.
For example, people use ashwagandha to help treat the following:
Different treatments make use of different parts of the plant, including the leaves, seeds, and fruit.
This herb is gaining popularity in the West. Today, people can buy ashwagandha as a supplement in the United States.
There is some evidence to support the use of ashwagandha for the following:
Stress and anxiety
Ashwagandha may have a calming effect on anxiety symptoms when compared with the drug lorazepam, a sedative and anxiety medication.
A 2000 study suggested that the herb had a comparable anxiety-reducing effect with lorazepam, suggesting that ashwagandha might be as effective for reducing anxiety. However, the researchers conducted this study in mice, not humans.
In a 2019 study in humans, researchers found that taking a daily dose of 240 milligrams (mg) of ashwagandha significantly reduced people’s stress levels when compared with a placebo. This included reduced levels of cortisol, which is a stress hormone.
In another 2019 study in humans, taking 250 mg or 600 mg of ashwagandha per day resulted in lower self-reported stress levels, as well as lower cortisol levels.
Although this research is promising, scientists need to collect much more data before recommending the herb to treat anxiety.
Ashwagandha may act as a pain reliever, preventing pain signals from traveling along the central nervous system. It may also have some anti-inflammatory properties.
For this reason, some research has shown it to be effective in treating forms of arthritis, including rheumatoid arthritis.
A small 2015 study in 125 people with joint pain found the herb to have potential as a treatment option for rheumatoid arthritis.
Some people use ashwagandha to boost their heart health, including:
- lowering high blood pressure
- lowering high cholesterol
- easing chest pain
- preventing heart disease
However, there is little research to support these benefits.
One 2015 study in humans suggested that ashwagandha root extract could enhance a person’s cardiorespiratory endurance, which could improve heart health. However, more research is necessary.
According to a 2011 review, several studies have examined ashwagandha’s ability to slow or prevent loss of brain function in people with neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease.
As these conditions progress, parts of the brain and its connective paths become damaged, which leads to loss of memory and function. This review suggests that when mice and rats receive ashwagandha during the early disease stages, it may be able to offer protection.
The same 2011 review also describes a few promising studies that found that ashwagandha might be able to stop cell growth in certain cancers. This includes reducing lung tumors in animal studies.
Different studies have used different dosages. Some research suggests that taking 250–600 mg per day can reduce stress. Other studies have used much higher dosages.
Capsule dosages often contain between 250 and 1,500 mg of ashwagandha. The herb comes in the form of a capsule, powder, and liquid extract.
In some cases, taking high doses can cause unpleasant side effects. It is best to speak with a healthcare professional about safety and dosage before taking any new herbal supplements, including ashwagandha.
Pregnant women should avoid using ashwagandha because it may cause distress for the fetus and premature labor.
Another potential concern for Ayurvedic herbs is that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) do not regulate the manufacturers. This means that they are not held to the same standards as pharmaceutical companies and food producers.