Ashwagandha is receiving increasing amounts of attention as an adaptogen, nootropic, and ergogenic aid. While not all of its reported benefits (as an Ayurvedic herb with a rather long history of use, it has quite a lot) have been thoroughly examined in the laboratory, there is mounting evidence for more than a few of them. Like rhodiola and ginseng, it has sparked interest among high performers of all sorts looking to gain a competitive edge by fueling their practice sessions and preventing burnouts because of its clinically vetted powers to reduce perceived stress, reduce physiological stress responses to physical exertion, improve athletic performance, bolster memory and cognitive function, and enhance overall well-being.
Researchers observed a 167% increase in sperm count, a 53% uptick in semen volume, and a 57% spike in sperm motility in subjects who supplemented with KSM-66 Ashwagandha (an extract of the plant which, at this time, has the largest number of studies about it) for 90 days (Ambiye et. al, 2013). There was also a significant upregulation of testosterone levels compared to the placebo. Langade et. al investigated this further by looking into AG’s impact on strength and muscular hypertrophy. They found it improved performance on the bench press, leg extensions, and subjects taken it gained appreciably more muscle mass in their arms (why they only chose to look for changes in the subjects arms is beyond me, but that was their choice) than the placebo group. Lastly the verum group saw greater reductions in body fat. Ashwagandha is also useful for cardiovascular health and athletic activities that depend more upon endurance
But Ashwagandha isn’t just for men or strength athletes. Women reported elevated arousal, greater levels of “lubrication,” and sexual satisfaction while taking it. Benefits were also seen for cardiorespiratory endurance. Chowdhary et. al found “ significant improvements compared with the placebo group in both immediate and general memory, as evidenced by Wechsler Memory Scale III subtest scores for logical memory” as well as “significantly greater improvement in executive function, sustained attention, and information-processing speed as indicated by scores on the Eriksen Flanker task (p = 0.002), Wisconsin Card Sort test (p = 0.014), Trail-Making test part A (p = 0.006), and the Mackworth Clock test (p = 0.009).” It was later shown to protect brain cells from oxidative damage and promote their differentiation (Shah, 2015)
Preliminary evidence suggests ashwagandha has anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic properties. It also appears to enhance immune system activity, stem cell production, and upregulate telomerase activity (all of these could contribute to its purported anti-aging effects). It also appears to support healthy thyroid function. In these areas more research must be done, but what does it exist is promising (Mishra et al, 2000). Like theanine and rhodiola, ashwagandha lengthens the lifespans of C. elegans. At this point only anecdotal reports for humans exist (and they may feel younger as a result of its adaptogenic properties), long-lasting cohort studies may show a similar effect in mammals including, one can hope, humans.
KSM-66 Ashwagandha is a full-spectrum ashwagandha extract developed by Ixoreal Biomedical. The extract is made using principles of “green chemistry.” In other words, no harsh solvents are involved. It contains the highest percentage of withanolides out of any It has the most certifications of any other extract, including cGMP, kosher, USDA organic, FDA recognized GRAS, and several others. It also, unlike other preparations, contains negligible amounts of Withaferin A, a potentially cytotoxic withanolide.
This is why it is one of the ingredients in MasterMind, Allysian’s flagship nootropic and performance enhancer.
Efficacy of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera [L.] Dunal) in improving cardiorespiratory endurance in healthy athletic adults Choudhary, B., Shetty, A., & Langade, D. G. (2015). Ayu, 36(1), 63.
Efficacy and Safety of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) Root Extract in Improving Sexual Function in Women: A Pilot Study Dongre, S., Langade, D., & Bhattacharyya, S. (2015). BioMed research international, 2015.
Efficacy and Safety of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera (L.) Dunal) Root Extract in Improving Memory and Cognitive Functions Choudhary, D., Bhattacharyya, S., & Bose, S. (2017). Journal of Dietary Supplements, 1-14. Chicago
Shah, Navjot, et al. “Combinations of Ashwagandha leaf extracts protect brain-derived cells against oxidative stress and induce differentiation.” PLoS One 10.3 (2015): e0120554.
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. Chandrasekhar, K., Kapoor, J., & Anishetty, S. (2012). Indian journal of psychological medicine, 34(3), 255.
Withania somnifera Root Extract Enhances Telomerase Activity in the Human HeLa Cell Line Raguraman, V., & Subramaniam, J. R. (2016). Advances in Bioscience and Biotechnology, 7(04), 199.
Mishra, Lakshmi-Chandra, Betsy B. Singh, and Simon Dagenais. “Scientific basis for the therapeutic use of Withania somnifera (ashwagandha): a review.” Alternative medicine review 5.4 (2000): 334-346.
Clinical Evaluation of the Spermatogenic Activity of the Root Extract of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) in Oligospermic Males: A Pilot Study Ambiye, V. R., Langade, D., Dongre, S., Aptikar, P., Kulkarni, M., & Dongre, A. (2013). Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2013.
Withania somnifera root extract extends lifespan of Caenorhabditis elegans Kumar, R., Gupta, K., Saharia, K., Pradhan, D., & Subramaniam, J. R. (2013). Annals of neurosciences, 20(1), 13.