Ashwagandha Root Powder: Benefits and Side Effects

ashwagandha root powder

Ashwagandha is a perennial shrub of the nightshade family with yellow, foul-smelling flowers and orange physalis-like fruits. Botanically, this plant is known as Withania somnifera. And the name Ashwagandha came from India (from Sanskrit Ashwagandha – “the smell of a horse”). Also, sometimes the Ashwagandha root powder is called “winterberry” and “Indian ginseng”.

For thousands of years, the powder from the roots and leaves of this plant has been used in Indian medicine to relieve stress, boost immunity, increase energy and focus. Today Ashwagandha is available as a supplement, and numerous scientific studies confirm that “Indian ginseng” is really good for the body.

The roots and fruits of the plant have medicinal value. They contain a wide variety of different chemicals and active ingredients. The variety of micro- and macroelements in their composition has a beneficial effect on the cardiovascular system and human hormonal activity.


  1. Steroidal lactones from Withania somnifera, an ancient plant for novel medicine
  2. A Standardized Withania Somnifera Extract Significantly Reduces Stress-Related Parameters in Chronically Stressed Humans: A Double-Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Study

Why One Should Take Ashwagandha Root Powder


Many of the plant’s medicinal properties are attributed to the high concentration of withanolides – the Lactaid steroids Vitaferin A and Vitanolide A, named after the plant itself. These bioactive molecules have beneficial effects on metabolism, hormone, and neurotransmitter levels.

#1. Ashwagandha root powder helps fight stress

High levels of the stress hormone cortisol increase the risk of cardiovascular and metabolic disease, increase belly fat, and negatively affect cognitive function.

Ashwagandha extract lowers cortisol levels by 28-30% and helps to adapt to stress factors.

In a 2008 experiment, taking 125–250 mg of Ashwagandha for 1–2 months significantly reduced symptoms of chronic stress: improved sleep and appetite, removed constant fatigue, irritability, and forgetfulness, headache and difficulty concentrating.

The same effect was observed in a later study. Two months of taking 600 mg of the supplement per day increased the participants’ ability to withstand stress and improved their quality of life.


  1. Stress Can Increase Your Risk for Heart Disease
  2. Chronic stress, metabolism, and metabolic syndrome
  3. Stress May Cause Excess Abdominal Fat In Otherwise Slender Women, Study Conducted At Yale Shows
  4. Stress Effects on Neuronal Structure: Hippocampus, Amygdala, and Prefrontal Cortex
  5. A double-blind, placebo-controlled evaluation of the anxiolytic efficacy ff an ethanolic extract of Withania somnifera
  6. 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

#2. Relieves symptoms of anxiety and depression

This plant has a beneficial effect on the psyche. For example, in one study, taking an Ashwagandha supplement reduced the symptoms of anxiety and depression in participants by 71.6% over 6-8 weeks.

Perhaps this effect is due to the effect on the receptors of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain. It is the main neurotransmitter involved in the inhibition processes in the nervous system, and its deficiency is associated with a wide range of mental illnesses.


  1. Direct evidence for GABAergic activity of Withania somnifera on mammalian ionotropic GABAA and GABAρ receptors
  2. GABA, gamma-hydroxybutyric acid, and neurological disease

#3. Ashwagandha root powder improves brain function

Ashwagandha gummies have a positive effect on memory and other cognitive functions in people with brain impairments. Some researchers believe that Indian ginseng supplements can be used as part of therapy for the following conditions:

  • dementia, 
  • memory loss, 
  • Parkinson’s disease, 
  • brain damage caused by stroke.

Ashwagandha can help healthy people too. The study found that taking 500 mg of Ashwagandha per day for two weeks increased the results of tests on cognitive and psychomotor functions.


  1. Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) reverses β-amyloid1-42 induced toxicity in human neuronal cells: implications in HIV-associated neurocognitive disorders (HAND)
  2. Efficacy and Safety of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera (L.) Dunal) Root Extract in Improving Memory and Cognitive Functions
  3. Withania somnifera root powder protects against post-traumatic stress disorder-induced memory impairment
  4. An Overview on Ashwagandha: A Rasayana (Rejuvenator) of Ayurveda
  5. Effect of standardized aqueous extract of Withania somnifera on tests of cognitive and psychomotor performance in healthy human participants

#4. Ashwagandha root powder improves metabolic health

ashwagandha benefits

Ashwagandha increases insulin production. As a result, cells are twice as better at absorbing glucose from the blood, which lowers sugar levels in both diabetics and healthy people.

In addition, Ashwagandha root powder lowers cholesterol and, most importantly, low and very-low-density lipoproteins, compounds that increase the risk of vascular occlusion.

Thus, taking Ashwagandha supplements can help prevent metabolic and cardiovascular diseases, especially for those who are overweight and have a sedentary lifestyle.


  1. Hypoglycemic activity of withanolides and elicitated Withania somnifera
  2. Hypoglycemic, diuretic, and hypocholesterolemic effect of winter cherry (Withania somnifera, Dunal) root
  3. Exploratory study to evaluate tolerability, safety, and activity of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) in healthy volunteers

#5. Possibly helps in the treatment of oncology

In vitro studies on animals and cancer cells have shown that Vitaferin A is capable of inducing apoptosis, the programmed death of cancer cells.

This substance allows the production of reactive oxygen species within cancer cells, thereby disrupting their function, increasing sensitivity to apoptosis, and preventing the growth of new tumors.

In an experiment on mice with ovarian cancer, taking Vitaferin A reduced the tumor by 70–80% and prevented its spread to other organs. In other studies, Ashwagandha extract has been shown to help improve breast, lung, intestinal, and brain cancers.


  1. Molecular targets and mechanisms of cancer prevention and treatment by withaferin a, a naturally occurring steroidal lactone
  2. Withaferin A Induces Cell Death Selectively in Androgen-Independent Prostate Cancer Cells but Not in Normal Fibroblast Cells
  3. Withaferin alone and in combination with cisplatin suppresses the growth and metastasis of ovarian cancer by targeting putative cancer stem cells
  4. Effect of Withania somnifera root extract on spontaneous estrogen receptor-negative mammary cancer in MMTV/Neu mice
  5. Stabilization of membrane-bound enzyme profiles and lipid peroxidation by Withania somnifera along with paclitaxel on benzo(a)pyrene-induced experimental lung cancer
  6. Immunomodulatory effects of Withania somnifera on azoxymethane-induced experimental colon cancer in mice
  7. AshwaMAX and Withaferin A inhibits gliomas in cellular and murine orthotopic models

#6. Improves reproductive health in men

Taking Ashwagandha root powder increases the quantity and quality of sperm, the level of the male sex hormone testosterone, and luteinizing hormone, which stimulates the production of testosterone in Leydig cells in the testes.

For example, in one study, taking 5 grams of Ashwagandha per day increased the sperm quality of infertile men. After three months, 14% of the partners of the participants became pregnant.


  1. Efficacy of Withania somnifera on seminal plasma metabolites of infertile males: a proton NMR study at 800 MHz
  2. Examining the effect of Withania somnifera supplementation on muscle strength and recovery: a randomized controlled trial
  3. Withania somnifera improves semen quality by regulating reproductive hormone levels and oxidative stress in seminal plasma of infertile males
  4. Withania somnifera Improves Semen Quality in Stress-Related Male Fertility

#7. Ashwagandha for men: strength and muscle mass

ashwagandha side effects

Since Ashwagandha raises testosterone levels and improves muscle sensitivity to insulin, it is good for strength performance.

One study proved that taking 0.75-1.25 grams of Ashwagandha daily for a month helped participants significantly increase the strength of the extensors of the back and quads, the muscles on the front of the thigh, as well as improve grip strength, increase muscle mass, and reduce body fat.

In another experiment, men who took an extract of this plant (300 mg twice a day) over eight weeks of training increased their working weight in the bench press by 43% more than in the placebo group, and in the leg extension by 32%. Moreover, in the first group, strength training caused less damage, and according to the results of the experiment, they increased much more muscle mass. In men taking Ashwagandha, arm girth increased 38% more than in the placebo group, and chest girth increased by 55%. The body fat, on the contrary, decreased – the first threw off 3.5% of fat, the second – only 1.5%.


  1. Exploratory study to evaluate tolerability, safety, and activity of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) in healthy volunteers
  2. Examining the effect of Withania somnifera supplementation on muscle strength and recovery: a randomized controlled trial

#8. Ashwagandha root powder improves endurance in athletes

Athletes who take 2 capsules of Ashwagandha root powder extract every day get stronger, according to a human study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology. Ashwagandha increases maximum oxygen uptake [VO2max], the most important predictor of endurance.

Increased cardiorespiratory endurance can help achieve better physiological, metabolic, and functional performance in humans. According to Ayurveda, Ashwagandha has such potential for improving human health.

Researchers from the OM Research Center and BMV Hospital and Research Center in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh divided 50 athletic adults aged 18-45 into 2 groups. For 8 weeks, subjects in one group took a daily placebo, while subjects in the other group took 2 capsules each containing 300 milligrams of Ashwagandha extract. In total, these subjects took 600 milligrams of the extract daily.

Research results

Just before and after the supplementation period, the researchers forced subjects to take a 12-minute Cooper test so that they could determine the subjects’ maximum oxygen uptake [VO2max].

VO2max is still the most important predictor of cardiovascular fitness and endurance.

Stress management scores were also recorded using the Total Quality Recovery (TQR), the Recovery Stress Questionnaire for Athletes (RESTQ), and the Daily Analysis of Life’s Demands for Athletes (DALDA).

Along with measuring antioxidant levels. Ashwagandha supplementation significantly increased VO2max and resulted in statistically significant increases from baseline in all measured parameters, especially for recovery from fatigue.

ashwagandha table

The study showed that the population in question responded well to Ashwagandha root extract,” the researchers write.

“These results indicate that Ashwagandha root extract can successfully increase cardiorespiratory endurance and improve the quality of life in healthy athletic adults. None of the participants in this study reported any side effects. Extensive preclinical and clinical studies are needed to establish the safety and efficacy of Ashwagandha preparations, which can provide better health for future generations.


  1. A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial on the effect of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera dunal.) root extract in improving cardiorespiratory endurance and recovery in healthy athletic adults
  2. Shashank Tiwaria Sandeep, Kumar Gupt. J Ethnopharmacol. 2021 May 23;272:113929.

Who Shouldn’t Take Ashwagandha

Although the side effects of taking Ashwagandha are rare, there are people who are not advised to experiment with the Indian herb:

  • Pregnant women and women during lactation;
  • People with autoimmune diseases: rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, systemic lupus erythematosus, autoimmune thyroiditis;
  • Those who are taking medications for thyroid diseases;
  • Those taking medications that affect blood sugar and blood pressure.

How to take Ashwagandha supplements

In order for Ashwagandha to bring only benefits to the body, be sure to consult with a therapist before taking it.

Ashwagandha comes in powder, liquid-filled capsules, and tablet pill form. Typically, one capsule contains 250 to 450 mg of powder from the roots and leaves of the shrub.

The daily allowance for this plant has not been determined. In most studies, 450-500 mg of Ashwagandha per day has been shown to have good results with no side effects. When choosing a dosage, be guided by the recommendations of the doctor and the manufacturer on the package.

In terms of course duration, in scientific experiments, people generally took the supplement for 2–3 months. This period did not cause addiction or withdrawal symptoms.

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