If you haven’t heard of ashwagandha yet — well, you’re about to. According to Food Business News, it’s one of the two most-searched superfoods on Amazon and Google. In the US last year, there was a 3995% increase in sales of ashwagandha. Even Lili Reinhart, of Riverdale and Hustlers fame, is promoting it.
So what is ashwagandha? You know, other than the obvious within the headline — an ancient medicinal herb. Well, on the science side, it’s botanical name is Withania somnifera; it’s also known as Indian ginseng and winter cherry. Ashwagandha is an adaptogen, which Nutritional Outlook says are herbs (as well as mushrooms) that help the body adapt to physical and mental stressors.
It’s been used for over 3,000 years and is one of the most important herbs in Ayurveda — a form of alternative medicine, based on Indian principles of natural healing. Studies call Ayurveda “the most ancient system of medical sciences”. Within this practice, Ashwagandha has been used for mood support and to treat anxiety.
Clinical studies on Ashwagandha have only increased in the past few years, as interest in it, and popularity around it, keeps climbing. One study from 2019, that used a high-concentration root extract, found that not only was it beneficial in reducing stress and anxiety, those who received the herb experienced significant improvement in sleep quality.
Beyond mental health, it can benefit the brain even further — specifically, in terms of neurodegenerative diseases. Scientific data shows that it’s neuroprotective; useful for conditions like Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and Alzheimer’s.
Supplementation of Ashwagandha might also improve the VO2max — the oxygen consumption measured during incremental exercise — in both athletes and non-athletes, according to one study. And for any men reading this, as recently as this month, researchers have found that the herb may be useful in boosting testosterone levels, and enhancing male fertility.