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"Enhancing Athletic Performance Naturally: The Potential of Ashwagandha in Sports"

by Sarbjeet Singh 01 Aug 2023
"Enhancing Athletic Performance Naturally: The Potential of Ashwagandha in Sports"

Health Benefits of Ashwagandha: A Comprehensive Review Based on Research

Ashwagandha, a powerful herb rooted in the ancient Indian system of medicine called Ayurveda, has garnered much attention in recent years for its potential health benefits. With its botanical name Withania somnifera, ashwagandha is also known as "Indian ginseng" and "winter cherry." Let's explore the extensive research that highlights the various health benefits of this remarkable herb.

1. Stress and Anxiety Reduction: Ashwagandha is classified as an adaptogen, a substance that helps the body adapt to stress and promotes balance. Several studies have suggested that ashwagandha may be effective in reducing stress and anxiety levels. It may regulate stress mediators, including heat shock proteins (Hsp70), cortisol (the stress hormone), and stress-activated c-Jun N-terminal protein kinase (JNK-1). Additionally, it can reduce the activity of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which plays a crucial role in the body's stress response.

In a study involving 58 participants, those who took ashwagandha extract for 8 weeks experienced significantly reduced perceived stress and lower cortisol levels compared to the placebo group. Another study with 60 participants found that ashwagandha supplementation for 60 days led to significant reductions in anxiety levels. It was also associated with improvements in sleep quality.

2. Athletic Performance Enhancement: Research indicates that ashwagandha may offer benefits for athletic performance. Athletes and fitness enthusiasts often seek supplements that can enhance physical performance and improve endurance. Studies have shown that ashwagandha can increase strength, improve oxygen utilization during exercise, and boost maximum oxygen consumption (VO2 max) in healthy adults and athletes.

A 2015 study demonstrated that male participants who took ashwagandha and engaged in resistance training experienced greater gains in muscle strength and size compared to a placebo group.

3. Mental Health Conditions: Ashwagandha shows promise in potentially reducing symptoms of certain mental health conditions. In studies involving individuals with schizophrenia and depression, ashwagandha supplementation was associated with significant reductions in depressive symptoms and anxiety levels.

However, it is essential to acknowledge that while the early research is promising, more extensive and well-controlled studies are necessary to establish ashwagandha's effectiveness as a standalone treatment for mental health conditions.

4. Male Fertility and Testosterone Boost: For men, ashwagandha has been linked to potential benefits in enhancing fertility and increasing testosterone levels. Studies have found that ashwagandha supplementation may lead to increased testosterone levels and improved sperm concentration, semen volume, and sperm motility.

A study with males aged 40-70 showed that taking ashwagandha extract led to a significant increase in DHEA-S, a sex hormone involved in testosterone production. Participants also experienced a substantial increase in testosterone levels compared to the placebo group.

5. Blood Sugar Regulation: Limited evidence suggests that ashwagandha may have positive effects on blood sugar levels, making it potentially beneficial for individuals with diabetes or high blood sugar levels. Some studies have indicated that ashwagandha may help reduce blood sugar, hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c), insulin levels, blood lipids, and oxidative stress markers.

Researchers speculate that certain compounds in ashwagandha, including withaferin A (WA), may stimulate cells to take in glucose from the bloodstream, thus helping to regulate blood sugar levels.

6. Anti-Inflammatory Properties: Ashwagandha contains compounds with potential anti-inflammatory properties. Animal studies have shown that it may reduce levels of inflammatory proteins, and preliminary human research has indicated similar results.

For instance, a study involving individuals with COVID-19 found that an Ayurvedic drug containing ashwagandha and other herbs reduced inflammatory markers compared to a placebo.

7. Cognitive Function and Memory Enhancement: Research suggests that ashwagandha may positively impact cognitive function and memory, particularly in certain populations. Studies have shown improvements in executive functioning, attention, reaction time, and cognitive task performance among those taking ashwagandha.

A review of five clinical studies revealed that ashwagandha could improve cognitive functioning in older adults with mild cognitive impairment and people with schizophrenia. The antioxidant effects of compounds in ashwagandha, such as WA, are believed to contribute to its potential cognitive health benefits.

8. Sleep Improvement: Ashwagandha is commonly used to promote restful sleep, and some evidence supports this claim. Studies have shown that ashwagandha supplementation may improve sleep quality, reduce anxiety levels, and enhance morning alertness.

A study with adults aged 65-80 found that taking ashwagandha root daily for 12 weeks led to significant improvements in sleep quality and mental alertness upon waking compared to a placebo.

Safety and Side Effects:

While ashwagandha is generally considered safe when used for up to three months, its long-term effects are not well-documented. Pregnant or breastfeeding women, individuals with hormone-sensitive prostate cancer, and those with certain medical conditions or taking specific medications should exercise caution and consult with a healthcare professional before using ashwagandha supplements.

Some reported side effects of ashwagandha include upper gastrointestinal discomfort, drowsiness, diarrhea, and vomiting. As with any supplement, it is crucial to follow recommended dosages and consult with a healthcare professional before use.


The appropriate dosage of ashwagandha may vary depending on the specific health condition being treated. Studies have used doses ranging from 250 mg to 1,250 mg per day. It is essential to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the appropriate dosage for your individual needs and health circumstances.


Ashwagandha is a potent herb with a wealth of potential health benefits, backed by various scientific studies. While the research is encouraging, more extensive and well-controlled studies are necessary to fully understand its efficacy for different health conditions. As with any supplement or herbal remedy, it's essential to use ashwagandha responsibly and seek guidance from a qualified healthcare professional to ensure its safety and appropriateness for your specific health needs. Incorporating ashwagandha into a well-rounded and healthy lifestyle may offer numerous advantages, but individual results may vary.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered as medical advice. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this article.



  1. Chandrasekhar, K., Kapoor, J., & Anishetty, S. (2012). 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. Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine, 34(3), 255–262.

  2. Salve, J., Pate, S., Debnath, K., & Langade, D. (2019). Adaptogenic and anxiolytic effects of ashwagandha root extract in healthy adults: A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical study. Cureus, 11(12), e6466.

  3. Wankhede, S., Langade, D., Joshi, K., Sinha, S. R., & Bhattacharyya, S. (2015). Examining the effect of Withania somnifera supplementation on muscle strength and recovery: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 12, 43.

  4. Raut, A. A., Rege, N. N., Tadvi, F. M., Solanki, P. V., Kene, K. R., Shirolkar, S. G., ... & Vaidya, A. B. (2012). Exploratory study to evaluate tolerability, safety, and activity of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) in healthy volunteers. Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine, 3(3), 111–114.

  5. Kulkarni, S. K., Dhir, A. (2008). Withania somnifera: An Indian ginseng. Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry, 32(5), 1093–1105.

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