Demystifying Supplements: Ashwagandha

Demystifying Supplements: Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha has grown in popularity over the past year with it now being a well-known supplement that you can buy in health food shops. But how much do you know about it? Is it worth taking? And what does it actually do? Well, we are here to tell you.

What is Ashwagandha
Ashwagandha is an ancient herb that has been used in traditional Indian medicine. It is classed as an adaptogen which means it can help your body manage stress. It also provides many benefits for your body and brain. It also has a botanical name: Withania Somnifera and also goes by the names of Indian ginseng and winter cherry. It is a small shrub with yellow flowers that are native to North Africa and India.

What are the benefits?
1.Can reduce blood sugar levels.
A study found that it increased the production of insulin and improved the sensitivity in muscle cells. Another study that had 6 people with type 2 diabetes found that if they used ashwagandha for 30 days it lowered their blood sugar levels. However, the study did not have a control group so the results could be questionable.

2. Can reduce cortisol levels
Cortisol is a stress hormone that your adrenal glands release as its response to stress as well as when your blood sugar levels get low. In some cases cortisol levels can become so elevated it can lead to high blood sugar levels and increased fat storage. Studies have shown that ashwagandha can help reduce cortisol levels.

3. May reduce stress and anxiety
Ashwagandha is best know for helping to reduce stress. Research has shown that it blocks the stress pathway in the brain of rats. It does this by regulating the chemical signal in the nervous system. And in several controlled human studies it has shown to reduce symptoms of stress and anxiety in people.

4. May increase muscle mass and strength
Researchers have found that ashwagandha can improve body composition and increase strength. There was a study done that showed that those who took ashwagandha showed greater muscle gain in strength and size. And it doubled their reductions in body fat percentage compared with the placebo group.

5. May reduce inflammation
Research has shown that ashwagandha can reduce inflammation by increasing the activity of natural killer cells which are immune cells that help your body fight infection. It has also been shown to decrease C-reactive protein (CRP) which causes inflammation.

Ashwagandha is a safe supplement for most people to take, although the long term effects are unknown. However, if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or have an autoimmune disease you should not be taking it. If you are concerned speak to your doctor beforehand. The recommended dosage varies depending on the type of supplement. Extracts are more effective than the root or leaf powder.

So should you take it?
It depends on if you need to reap in the benefits. Taking it as a supplement may be a great way to lower your stress and anxiety levels however, we recommend talking to a professional or health care assistant before you purchase it. You can get it in many forms of pill but Pukka tea has released a ‘Peace tea’ which contains it so this could be a gentle way to ease your body into taking it since this dosage is fairly low.

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