Here's What Ashwagandha Can And Can't Do For You

Ashwagandha has become increasingly popular in recent years thanks to developing wellness trends, but this medicinal herb has actually been around for centuries. According to Healthline, ashwagandha has been used for over 3,000 years in Ayurveda, an alternative form of medicine practiced on the Indian subcontinent. Ashwagandha is considered an adaptogen, or a type of herb used to help your body better adapt to stress and anxiety, which is why it's an integral part of this type of healing.

If used regularly and properly, ashwagandha helps reduce stress levels, increase your overall energy, and improve your concentration. It's typically consumed in pill or powder form as the root itself tastes bitter and has an unpleasant smell (per Everyday Health). Though ashwagandha is most commonly used to reduce stress, some studies suggest that the herb possesses significant health benefits, such as impeding cancer growth.

With so much information available about this ancient herb, it can be difficult to deduce fact from fiction. Thankfully, we're here to help you determine what ashwagandha can and can't do for you.

Ashwagandha can provide numerous health benefits for your brain and body

First, let's get into the beneficial properties of ashwagandha. According to Healthline, this ancient herb boosts your brain function, lowers your blood sugar, and decreases levels of stress and anxiety. These claims are generally supported by science and have been studied extensively through various focus groups. One study published in the Indian Journal of Exploratory Biology indicated that ashwagandha decreases blood glucose levels, particularly in patients who have been diagnosed with diabetes, without any adverse side effects.

Similarly, ashwagandha is known to reduce cortisol levels in your body. Cortisol is more commonly referred to as the stress hormone, as your adrenal glands secrete cortisol when you're experiencing stress (per WebMD). Chronically stressed adults who regularly supplemented ashwagandha were observed to have a 30% decrease in cortisol levels, according to a study published in JANA. This is extremely helpful for individuals who struggle with stress and anxiety on a consistent basis, as you can take a daily ashwagandha supplement to observe these benefits.

Additional benefits of ashwagandha studied by science include improved brain function, reduced inflammation, and lower cholesterol levels, per Healthline.

Some perceived benefits of ashwagandha haven't been proven by science yet

Proponents of ashwagandha believe the ancient herb is capable of significant healing properties, though these claims haven't been proven by science. According to WebMD, ashwagandha is used in some instances to help treat cancer, though the herb is not capable of fighting cancer by itself. Ashwagandha is often used in concurrence with other cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy, as extracts in the herb may potentially limit the activity of cancer cells and boost the immune system.

This doesn't mean ashwagandha can be used in place of common cancer treatments, only that it may be helpful in addition to chemotherapy and radiation. Some people similarly believe ashwagandha helps treat and prevent neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and Huntington's. As WebMD has pointed out, though, testing has only been done on animals and with animal cells to observe these benefits. Therefore, there isn't enough conclusive evidence to support these claims.

Before you take ashwagandha to treat any health ailments, including those previously studied by focus groups, speak with your doctor to determine if this supplement works best for you. In some instances, ashwagandha has been known to have negative interactions with other medicines, so it's best to consult your doctor first to ensure this supplement is safe to take (per Everyday Health).