Awesome biohacks: Ashwagandha
During the last few years there has been more and more focus on mental health. Especially now that many people are trapped in the office chair at home most days. Looking into a computer screen most of the day, not getting their daily fix of social stimuli or physical exercise. Yet even prior to the corona apocalypse, many members of modern day society have struggled with stress, depression and/or anxiety. If not chronically then perhaps just for a short but very hard period in their life. Modern life is demanding, it’s just the way it is.
As a reader we expect you are already familiar with our one of a kind brain beverage. But are there additional biohacks in this world to help your physiology and mind withstand the stress of your everyday life?
Working from home can be very stressful.
Training, nutrition, and the right amount of sleep are of course fundamental when caring for your body and mind. We are all about the nutritional aspects of this equation, so let’s hone in on that. Research shows that it is possible to help your organism better cope with stress, anxiety, and symptoms thereof through supplementation of something called adaptogens.
Adaptogens are substances, often plant extracts, that are non-toxic and help increase the body’s resistance towards emotional, physical, or environmental stress. Adaptogens can also help restore normal physiological function following chronic stress. Many adaptogens have been used for this purpose for centuries and are mainstays in e.g., Ayurveda (the traditional medicine of India). However, the modern term adaptogen was first used, and the substances studied, back in 1974 in the USSR in a project funded by the soviet military to find a supplement that could increase strength and performance of their troops. Nowadays more and more research has been done on adaptogens like Panax ginseng, Rhodiola rosea, and ashwagandha – and the strength of some of these substances are remarkable.
Green stems of Rhodiola-rosea in the nature.
In a world of awesome biohacks, ashwagandha, is one of the most researched adaptogens. The extract comes from the root of the plant Withania somnifera. Ashwagandha has been used in Ayurvedic medicine and translated from Sanskrit its name means “smells like a horse”. The name refers to the strong smell of the root, that (at least for some) resembles horse sweat, but also the fact that it was believed to impart the strength of a horse. Luckily, you do not have to smell the root to reap the benefits of the ashwagandha extract. Ashwagandha is what in Ayurveda is called a rasayana, meaning that it can be used to promote longevity, vitality, and that it is mood enhancing.
So far, clinical studies on the effects of ashwagandha taken as a supplement have shown that it can significantly reduce anxiety and stress, especially in people with chronic stress or anxiety disorders [1, 2]. It has also shown to lower the amount of cortisol in the body up to 27.9% in stressed (but otherwise healthy) people when taken daily for a period of 60 days. Cortisol is a biomarker of stress. Therefore, this effect on cortisol is another testament to the fact that ashwagandha can boost the body’s resistance to stress. The effects of ashwagandha have also been studied on people with insomnia. Here it showed both an anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effect and resulted in better sleep quality for the participants. The study showed a significant improvement in both sleep onset latency and a better sleep efficiency  – meaning how quickly you are able to fall asleep, and how well you sleep afterwards. This improvement in sleep quality has recently been demonstrated healthy participants in another study were the participants received ashwagandha daily for 8 weeks. The largest effect on sleep quality, however, still seems to occur for people with insomnia .
Ashwagandha roots and powder.
Besides reducing stress, anxiety, and promoting better sleep, ashwagandha has also been able to increase testosterone in infertile men. A study with infertile men resulted in significant increases in sperm count and motility. It also showed both an increase in testosterone levels of 10-22% as well as reduced levels of cortisol in infertile men . However, it should be mentioned that these effects could seem to depend on age and the general health of the individual. The largest effects on testosterone and sperm quality are seen for young and (highly) stressed but otherwise healthy men [5, 6].
There is still a lack of long-term information from clinical studies on the effects of ashwagandha . Therefore, it is not possible to draw conclusions on the long-term effects or whether there might be a loss-of potency with long-term use. However, the current studies suggest that the stress-reducing and anxiolytic effects continue to improve during at least 2 months when starting a daily intake of ashwagandha (300-500 mg).
With all this in mind we can declare that ashwagandha deserves a top tier position in the ranks of awesome biohacks.
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- Chandrasekhar, K., J. Kapoor, and S. Anishetty,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 J Psychol Med, 2012. 34(3): p. 255-62.
- Salve, J., et al.,Adaptogenic and Anxiolytic Effects of Ashwagandha Root Extract in Healthy Adults: A Double-blind, Randomized, Placebo-controlled Clinical Study.Cureus, 2019. 11(12): p. e6466.
- Langade, D., et al.,Efficacy and Safety of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) Root Extract in Insomnia and Anxiety: A Double-blind, Randomized, Placebo-controlled Study.Cureus, 2019. 11(9): p. e5797.
- Langade, D., et al.,Clinical evaluation of the pharmacological impact of ashwagandha root extract on sleep in healthy volunteers and insomnia patients: A double-blind, randomized, parallel-group, placebo-controlled study.Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 2021. 264: p. 113276.
- Mahdi, A.A., et al.,Withania somnifera Improves Semen Quality in Stress-Related Male Fertility.Evid Based Complement Alternat Med, 2009. 2011.
- Lopresti, A.L., P.D. Drummond, and S.J. Smith,A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Crossover Study Examining the Hormonal and Vitality Effects of Ashwagandha ( Withania somnifera) in Aging, Overweight Males.Am J Mens Health, 2019. 13(2): p. 1557988319835985.